31 August 2011

Week of Free Access Enables Families to Discover Stories of Ancestors

PROVO, UTAH  (August 29, 2011) ? Ancestry.com, the world's largest online family history resource, has announced an entire week of free access to its popular U.S. and International Immigration and Naturalization records. The free access week began August 29th and runs through the Labor Day holiday ending September 5th. During this time, all visitors to Ancestry.com will be able to search for free the indices and images of new and updated U.S. immigration records as well as selected international immigration records from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Mexico. Millions of Americans can trace their family history to other countries, and these collections provide valuable information about the travels and journeys that brought them to America or other countries around the world.

30 August 2011

Preserving Photos

I have several old photos that have sadly started wearing away at the edges and are so frail that I am scared to pick them up.  In searching for a qualified inexpensive place to restore and preserve my photos, I stumbled upon iMemories. While  iMemoriesdoes not restore photos, they do preseve them. They will make DVDs or CDs from your originals, which they return to you. Going forward, I will definitly take care to preserve photos for my girls and their (someday - but not soon at all please) children!

Immigration

Ancestry.com has opened up its immigration and travel records for FREE through September 5. Find your immigrant ancestor today!

Discover

28 August 2011

Historic Huguenot Street Event

Food historian and author Peter G. Rose will speak on "Garden to Table" on Saturday, September 10, 7:30pm in the Deyo Hall at 6 Broadhead Avenue, New Paltz, NY. For more info on this event or the Huguenot Society, click HERE.

23 August 2011

Tombstone Tuesday -- Joseph & Anna Ruczhak


Joseph Ruczhak   1918 - 1997

Anna (nee Kurenda) Ruczhak   1917 - 2001

Holy Ghost Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetery
Chester County, PA

my paternal grandparents

22 August 2011

Military Monday - David Still

Just because your ancestor never served does not mean there isn't some kind of military record on him.

The Civil War, for example, used a draft. My great-great-great grand-uncle, David Still, never actually served. Yet, he did register. He is included on the Consolidated List of persons subject to military duty in East Fallowfield, Chester County, PA.

This record shows it was written up in June 1863. At that time he was 40 years old. The draft registration also confirms (since I already knew) that he was a white farmer born in Pennsylvania. There is a spot for notes or an indication of military service. He does not have any notes, nor was he sent.

An interesting note though about the draft is that if you had the means, you could send a substitute in your place. In this image, notice the two names with notes: John D. Shingle and William Sheeler. Both men have the note "Drafted. Sent substitute" included.

18 August 2011

The Importance of Wills

A will is a legal document dictating – to put it simple - how you want your assets divided after you pass. The will is written, signed and witnessed. If the will is decided to be legal and therefore binding, it is said to be testate.

Wills are an incredible resource when tracing a family tree. They can provide family relations. They can offer a glimpse into the day to day life of your ancestor and their economic status to a degree. Although there is no one set way to write a will, they all will provide some basic information. They will start with the person’s name and location. An executor will also be named in the will. This is the person who will physically divide the property and take care of any outstanding bills or collections.

Every will is different. I have one will – the will of William H. Still (at right) – that lists his kids and little else. From his will, dated 27 December 1913, I confirmed he had a son, William D., and two daughters: Kate Russell and Dorinda Still. William and Kate were each given $100, while everything else went to Dorinda and her heirs. The two witnesses were Wm G. Gordon and Mabel E. Entrekin. Neither name means anything to me. His children’s names however confirm that daughter Kate was married before December 1913. William H. passed in 1916. His wife – not mentioned in the will – had passed earlier. His will is short and to the point.

Gentlemen often covered their wife’s interests in their will. For example, William’s uncle George David Still, dated 25 January 1888, directed that if necessary his wife Sarah be provided in essence an allowance from the principal of his estate. He mentions his six children by name. He states that the estate shall be divided evenly among the six however he stipulates that if his son John precedes Sarah in death then the estate is to be divided evenly amongst the other five and their heirs. The other five all had children as of 1888. John, while married, provides no proof in my research of having heirs. Two of the sons: Robert B. and Frank Still are named executors. He does refer to them as his sons. The two witnesses for George’s will are David Still and John Cloud. David is his younger brother. While I have not confirmed the exact relationship of John Cloud to the family, he does also show up as the executor of George’s mother’s will in 1872.

As genealogists we all know and appreciate the importance and significance of wills. How many of us though have one of our own?

Creating a will is actually quite simple. First do an inventory of your assets. Decide what you want to happen to those items after you pass. You might want to consider who would appreciate them the most as well. If you have no heirs, perhaps consider an estate auction with the proceeds going to your favorite charity. Once you have an idea of what you want to do, you can create your will online or go the more traditional route of hiring a lawyer and writing it up at his office.

When writing your will consider too what will become of your research. You can will the fruits of your research to a specific person as well. This ensures the next generation does not have to start from fresh but rather can continue where we leave off.

16 August 2011

15 August 2011

Matrilineal Monday - Annie Groff Rice

Annie Groff Rice was the wife of T. Edgar Rice, the policeman shot by Zachariah Walker. This weekend I attended the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the lynching of Walker, put on by the Coatesville Historical Society. In most accounts, understandably so, everyone focuses on Rice or Walker, but everyone neglects the widow Rice and her five children.

Annie R. Groff was born in April 1865. She married T. Edgar Rice in 1888 or 1889. He had been born in October 1865. Their first son, Thomas E. was born in December of 1889. The young couple had two more sons: James Vincent (born August 1892) and George Harvey (December 1895). They also had two daughters: Rachel C. (born November 1872) and Elsie M. (born February 1899). In 1900 Edgar was a farmer, according to the 1900 Census, and the family lived in Newlin. They also had a servant Alfred Hess - an 18 year old farm hand - who lived with them.

The 1900 Census showed Annie had five births and all five children were alive. The 1910 Census shows her having seven births and only five children are living. Living with their parents are: James, George, Rachel and Elsie. Also living with the family is Edgar's brother in law William M. Whiteside, a 50 year old widower. Both Edgar and William are policemen for the steel company.

I often wonder what happened to the Widow Rice. No one ever mentions her. Edgar was buried up Hepzibah - alone.

According to the Chester County Index to Marriages 1885-1930, an Annie Rice, age 50, married a John Commons on March 24, 1916 in West Chester, PA. A quick search on Ancestry.com however did not show any a John and Annie Commons in Chester County, PA.

14 August 2011

Black Sheep Sunday: Charles Eckman

Charles Henry Eckman is my husband’s great grandfather. He and his wife Rosa Kirchner are my elusive couple. They lived in Lancaster City on
Manor Street
throughout their married life. They had five children together. One died a toddler. I have yet to find their burial information. However, I have found lots about his parents – John Henry and Catherine Kezia Cresswell Eckman.

His parents lived across from the Zion Reformed Church in Providence Township in Southern Lancaster County. Counting Charles, they had 11 children.  John and Catherine are buried there with everyone except Charles. One other sister, Margaret Estella Eckman is buried in the same cemetery but with her husband, Lewis Eckman. The family was well know – still is – in the church and played a large active role in it. The church is now Zion UCC.

The story goes that the family had a huge picnic one Sunday afternoon. Charles and Rosa came down from Lancaster with her parents – John Kirchner and Barbara Kuhn. The Eckmans – at least this branch – were very into the whole Temperance Movement. The Kirchners were evidently not. They – including Charles – brought beer with them to the family picnic. It was the last time they were invited down and the last anyone heard from them.

What I do know …
Charles was born 1 February 1860. He was, according to the 1880 Census, a telegraph operator in the City. He married Rosa 24 August 1881. They had five children: John Charles (my husband’s grandfather), Mary, Victor, Irene and Mina. Mary married a Charlie McCaulley. Victor died a toddler. Irene married a Paul Massing. I know nothing of Mina. John Charles married Mabel Florence Eckman. Her family is buried at Zion and the Clearfield UM Church near Smithville. Charles died 26 April 1886, according to the Eckman Family Bible.

Rosa was born 4 September 1859 in Lancaster. She passed sometime after 1924. She was Catholic.

At some point, I may just pack a picnic lunch – my kids think this is a hoot! – and we may just go visit the Catholic cemeteries in town for any Kirchners. Problem is though that in Lancaster County, Kirchner is a pretty popular name!

What I hope to find …
I want to know what came of them, where they are buried, how they passed, if Rosa remarried or remained a widow.

11 August 2011

Those Places Thursday: Ephrata Cloister

Today the Ephrata Cloister is a part of the Pennsylvania Historical Society. However, when it was founded in 1732, it was Protestant German community that began as a retreat, a way of life which supported solitude. For a time it flourished and by the mid 18th century it was well known for its printing and music and art.

The Cloister was founded by Conrad Beissel, a German. He came to America in search of religious freedom – not just to worship who he chose but also how he chose to do so. Other men and women joined him in Ephrata. Beissel felt people should focus on preparing to join God in Heaven after their parting. He felt so strongly about this purpose that he did not think people should marry, as spouses may take attention away from that purpose.

The Brothers and Sisters of the Cloister were unmarried spending their days in work and prayer.  The Sisters lived in one large communal building known as the Saron. The Brothers lived in the Bethania, a large communal home for the men. They tended gardens, made candles and baskets, and copied music. They also operated several mills and a printing office, which they were quite well known for.

Some married families with children lived outside the Cloister and visited weekly to worship but were not full members since they were not celibate.

Beissel passed in 1768. The last of the congregation passed in 1813. The families joined another local church. In 1941 the State purchased the land and buildings and preserved it. It is now a museum of not just the Cloister itself but of life in general in those early years.

On the site is the Meetinghouse, a bakery, a physician house, the weaver’s house, an academy, the printing office, a stable and a carpenter’s barn. In addition there is also a burial site. The earliest marker is 1767. The last burial was in 1961 and has not been used for burials since.

Today re-enactors (like the ones at left here) take on the roles of Brothers and Sisters and even Beissel himself in an effort to show history. Each March the State opens up the Ephrata Cloister free as part of Charter Day.

The Cloister is located on Route 322 in Ephrata, Lancaster County. For more information, visit their site at www.ephratacloister.org.

10 August 2011

Reading Estate Inventories How to Use Them by Kenneth Smith ... Hospital waiting rooms are good for something!

04 August 2011

Those Places Thursday: Sadsbury Township, Lancaster County, PA

Sadsbury Township is one of the earliest municipalities in Lancaster County. It is the rural municipality my parents moved us to when I was seven.

As early as 1744, another municipality – Bart Township – was formed from Sadsbury. The first industries included grist mills and iron forges. Later, many cottage industries popped up.

The Quakers were among the first settlers. In 1724 Andrew Moore and Samuel Miller petitioned for the establishment of a meeting house. Approved, the Sadsbury Friends built a meeting house the next year and in 1737 the Sadsbury Monthly Meeting was formed. The Quakers were – and still are – a peaceful non-combative people, believing in equality and fairness. To this end, it is no surprise then that Sadsbury Township was a known stop on the Underground Railroad in the years before the Civil War.

One such stop was the Coates House, located on the west side of Newport Avenue
. The house dates back to the late 1700s. A simple farmhouse, it belonged to the Coates family – a good Quaker family. Local tradition includes the house as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

The Underground Railroad brought many slaves through the area. On September 11, 1851, slaves from just below the Mason Dixon crossed up into Sadsbury and took refuge at the home of William Parker on Lower Valley Road.  Slaves belonging to Edward Gorsuch of Maryland had escaped and were at Parker’s. Despite rumors that slave-hunters were en route with warrants for them, the four remained. Gorsuch, his men and a US Marshall arrived and words were exchanged. Simply stated, fear and tempers exploded. A horn was sounded for locals to help; shots were fired. In the end, over 30 citizens were charged with treason and Gorsuch lie dead. For more information on what has come to be known as the Christiana Riot
click here
.

Many of the older building are still standing – including some of the older bridges too. Mercer’s Ford covered bridge, for example, was built in 1880. This bridge still remains standing intact at Creek Road
spanning the Octorara Creek. In 1980, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Devore House, along Creek Road, also now stands in ruins. This 2 ½ story farmhouse dates back to 1743.

Some admittedly are in ruins. The forge ruins along Creek Road, for example, date back to the late 1700s. The manufacturing of iron was an important industry to the area from the time of the Revolutionary War to about the mid 1800s. These particular ruins stand north of Brick Mill Road.

Sadsbury Township is west of Chester County. It surrounds Christiana Borough. It encompasses only 19.7 square miles now.

02 August 2011

Tombstone Tuesday -- Harry Pysko

Harry Pysko
1875 - 1957
buried at Holy Ghost Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetery, Coatesville, PA
with his wife Mary (1879-1962)

Harry was born 10 April 1875, according to a Chester County Marriage Index (Click here for index). The index record show his last name as Pyskor. Mary's name is given as Malania Pastornak. The two were wed in Coatesville on 13 February 1910. When I pull the record from the bride's side, her birthdate is revealed. However it is a discrepency to the stone. She was born on 5 May 1887. A quick search on Ancestry.com revealed nothing.

01 August 2011

Matrilineal Monday - Agnes Armstrong Still

Yesterday - the Sunday Obituaries - I included Agnes' Death Announcement. It was from the Village Record 13 March 1860 and read "In East Fallowfield, on the 24th ult, Mrs. Agnes Still, wife of David Still, aged 41 years and 1 month."

Agnes (nee Armstrong) died at the age of 41 in February due to pleurisy, which she had for one week. This is according to "Schedule 3 - Persons who dies in the year ending 1st June 1860 in East Fallowfield Township in the County of Chester State of Pennsylvania." According to the Mayo Clinic, pluerisy is "when the double membrane (pleura) that lines the inside of your chest cavity and surrounds each of your lungs becomes inflamed." She is buried at Hephzibah.

Agnes Armstrong and David Still were married by Rev. J. Hand on 18 February 1845, according to their marriage announcement. The two had one child: William. David remarried after her death.