28 February 2015

52 Ancestors: So close to home

Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small, challenges fellow GeneaBloggers each week with her 52 Ancestors Challenge. This week’s prompt is:  Which ancestor is the closest to where you live? Who has a story that hits “close to home”? 

The closest physically to me – there are many in Lancaster alone, let alone the County – would be Charles Eckman, his wife Rosa Kirchner and her family. Charles grew up in New Providence but moved to Lancaster City and then married Rosa in 1881. Her parents and siblings lived in Lancaster City. Her parents were both born in Germany. Charles’ family had been here for many generations when they met. 

Charles was – for the longest time – very elusive. Once he moved to Lancaster, there was little to be found of him. He shows up in the 1880 census as working for the Telegraph Co. but still living with his folks in Strasburg Township. City Directories place him and Rosa on Manor Street in the City thereafter.  

While Charles’ family attended – and were in fact founding members of – the Zion Reformed Church (now UCC) in New Providence, Rosa’s family attended St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in the City. St Joe’s was attended primarily by German immigrants and their families.  

For years I could not figure out why he just seemed like he lost contact with his family and fell off the face of the earth. Earlier this week, through the Genealogy Do Over prompt, I gave an example of the value of collateral research. Charles is another great example. The granddaughter of his sister, Margaret Estella, was Virginia Stehman who married Rev. Lester Ringer. Virginia and Lester lived, at the time I met them, across the street from the Zion UCC Church in New Providence. She lived in the same house that the Eckman family had lived for many years and that Charles had grown up in!  

Virginia is then a collateral relative. Without her, I would not have known a family story that explained SO much.

Shortly after Charles and Rosa were married, they came down for Sunday lunch/picnic. She brought her family as well. Her family brought a keg! The Eckmans, at that time according to Virginia, were very temperance minded. The family sent them home and that was the last any had contact with Charles and his growing family. 

So, for almost 20 years, I could only guess at what happened to Charles. I still do not have all the answers. I followed the Kirchners and found a record of Charles being buried at St Joseph’s Cemetery. This I confirmed both through a church record book at the Lancaster County Historical Society and through an article about his funeral mass. These two sources also revealed his death date as 26 August 1887, although I have yet to find an actual obituary. That burial puts him 11 or 14 minutes from ne physically. The difference in time is due to two cemeteries and not being able to confirm which he is in. The 14 is the New St Joseph Cemetery out on Manor Street. However when I spoke with the caretaker there, he had no record of Charles Eckman. His records, by the way, were not computerized so he literally went through a card catalog for me! The other time is the old cemetery which adjoins the church. The one is horrible. Stones have fallen victim to vandalism and the grounds are unkept.

Who has a story that hits “close to home”?

My Aunt Helen (1903-1995). I’m not sure that she has a story that hist close to home but rather she is the one who encouraged me the most starting out. Born Helen Mae Gould Still, she was an incredible woman. She was the youngest of six children so keeping the family history kind of fell to her by way of simply being the last one left and always living on the family farm. She held several jobs throughout her life. Like me, she had a variety of interests. She even reported for awhile for one of the papers I wrote for starting out!  

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is a weekly genealogical challenge issued by Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small 
© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2015
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.