Hello Followers. I wanted to check in with you since I have not written a blog in quite some time. The last real blog was March 19, so almost a month now. Like you, my family has been self-isolating. Not only from the virus but the crazier people who do not think it is a serious threat.
My son and I are both essential works so we have been working except for my Easter vacation. I am working four hours in the office and four hours at home. My son works all day in the warehouse. Neither of our companies allows outside visitors. We are both very careful as my mother, who is in her late 70s, lives with us.
Since I am working from home I have not had a lot of the extra family history time I see a lot of people talking about. But, I have tried to take advantage of the free sites and free records that have become available. It’s funny, some of the records I have run across have names that I could have used a couple of years ago. But, now I at least know I am on the right track.
I did have success with my 80 year old uncle’s tree. Back on Thanksgiving he was telling me about his brick wall with his grandparents on his mother’s side. Her father seems to have disappeared after deserting her and her brothers. The name he always went by with this family seems to actually be a nickname. In tracing the date of birth and his birthplace, we tracked down what we think is his real name.
With the help of the West Virginia Archives and History Library, we followed these coincidences and found all kinds of information on his family. But, until we find a document where he uses his nickname along with his real name, we cannot be 100% sure it is him. Or, until we can find some DNA matches. Once we entered his real name into our database, a whole slew of information and family members popped up. Including others on their public trees who seemed to have come to the same conclusion. And, here’s the kicker, it seems there is another family who this man deserted…under his real name. We hope to connect to this family to find some answers.
I’ve also been doing a lot of gardening, my other great passion. We had some umbrella palms start to take over so we had them pulled out, by the root balls. Little did I know a few years after I planted them, they would become evasive! They loved the wet clay soil, too much! I’ve since been filling the spaces in with some organic matter from my compost pile. I’ve also added a few pieces of cardboard and will mulch and soil over that. It’s like having a blank canvas to start planting in.
And, my flowers are blooming. Always a welcome sight and lifts the spirits. My garden is defintely a great boost for my mental health.
I cannot seem to concentrate enough to pull an ancestor story together for a blog, but I did want to check-in. I hope that you and your family are safe and well. As our ancestors did from their pandemics, this too shall pass.
The last couple of weeks have been busy! Sure, I am busy working my full-time job, but my dabblings with my family history, as well as other’s family history, have kept me hopping.
However, this makes it all worthwhile.
This young girl is my true young protégé! She is so very excited, as are her mother and grandparents. Showing her documents and how to read them has been amazing. It helps that she is smart as a whip.
We use Zoom, video conferencing, where I can annotate, share our screens, and make notes on a whiteboard. She has genuinely picked up on chasing the leads and picking apart the information in the records.
Johann Henrich Heilig is my 6th great grandfather. He was born in in 1700 and married Susanna De Wees Rittenhausen in 1729. I wrote about the Rittenhouse family and their papermills here. Also, join the Rittenhouse Family Descendants and Friends Facebook page and learn about all the wonderful things they are doing to preserve the Rittenhouse legacy. There is a Rittenhouse Town Board of Directors. They also manage the Homestead House (1707) and the other houses in the village, as well as a Barn that was built during WPA and the grounds.
Some historians place Henrich’s birthplace as Hannover, German. But, other more recent historians say it is Baden-Wuerttenburg, Germany. Johann arrived in Philadelphia in 1720 on the ship “Polly.” Ships were not required to furnish a list of passenger names until 1727. Since their names are not shown on any lists after 1727, they must have arrived prior. Most information I have found says 1720.
Records state his Naturalization was on 11 Apr 1747. According to the Pennsylvania Archives. The requirements at the time were that they had to be a resident of the colonies for 7 years.
Henry, as he was now called, was by trade a clockmaker. It was a skilled and respected profession. At that time, clocks were for navigation and surveying, as well as time keeping.
Henry and Susanna lived first in Cheltenham. And, bought parcels of land in 1749 and 1750. It was on the boarders of Pennsburg and Upper Hanover Townships in Montgomery County. This land was from William Parsons who was a surveyor for the Penns. The homestead passed from Henrich to his son George. George passed it on to his son George Jr. and finally passed to the Hoch family in the 1860s. The house remains in the Hoch family today.
Prior to 1684, the Lenape Indians roamed the hills and fished the streams of the land on either side of the Perkiomen Creek. In 1684, the Indians lost this land when William Penn purchased it for reportedly “two watch coats, four pairs of stockings and four bottles of cider”. In time, Pennsylvania Germans settled in the area. Around 1840, the area now know as Pennsburg began to take on the appearance of a village. The hub consisted of a general store, a carpenter and blacksmith shop and several houses.
Most of the land was owned by the Heilig Brothers. They owned and resided in the oldest house in Pennsburg located at Seminary and Fourth Streets. The Heilig Brothers took it upon themselves to refer to this village as “Heiligsville”. Residents had their own ideas, and out of loyalty to the then Pennsylvania Senator, James Buchanan, wanted to name the area Buchanansville.
As the village grew in size, a meeting was held in 1843 at the Hilleg’s family store to decide on a permanent name and lay out boundary lines. After a week long bitterly contested battle, it was finally decided to name the village “Pennsburg” after William Penn.
Henrich and Susannah had five children:
i. Heinrich Heilig, b. 1722 , ii. Jurg George Heilig, b. 1720; d. 1796, Upper Hanover Township., iii. Johannes Heilig (Source: Willbook I – 1796, 149-150.). iv. Anna Maria Heilig (Source: Willbook I – 1796, 149-150.), m. Michael Slonaker., v. Susanna Heilig (Source: Willbook I – 1796, 149-150.), b. 1726; m. Henry Deany.
Johannes or John changed the surname to Highley. The other children kept the German spelling of Heilig.
Henry is even listed in the U.S., Craftperson Files, 1600-1995.
Henry was buried along with this wife in the mostly Rittenhouse family cemetery, Methacton Mennonite Cemetery. Click here for a partial list of burials with links to tombstone photographs. Henrich’s and Susannah’s are below. This cemetery is located in Worcester Township, Montgomery County, PA.
There is a wonderfully thorough history written by Linton E. Love, a descendant of the Rittenhouse family. In it are the descendancts of Henry and Susannah. Linton has created a database extending from the 17th century up to the 21st century from Claus to his 12,810 descendants as of March 2005!
In this 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, Close to Home, I decided to write about Mary Yeula Wescott, my great grandaunt. She was born 27 December 1889 at Poyner’s Hill in Currituck, North Carolina, where her father, John Thomas Wescott, was the keeper of the Poyner’s Hill Life-Saving station. She was the third of six children born to John and a year younger than my great-grandfather, Albert.
At a very young age, Mary loved to read and write. She was first published at the age of 12 when she decided to enter a writing contest for the St. Nicholas Magazine: An Illustrated Book For Young Folks by Mary Mapes Dodge. The following was published in January of 1903:
Poplar Branch, N.C.
Dear St. Nicholas: I am a little girl twelve years old, and I live on one of the sand-bars of North Carolina, five miles from the mainland. The nearest store and post-office is five miles away. My papa is the captain of the Poyners Hill Life-saving Station. We are bounded on the north and south by sand-hills, on the east by the ocean, and on the west by the Currituck Sound. The land near and on which the station is situated belongs to the Currituck Shooting Club, the club-house is the nearest one to us except the station. The club does not allow any of the station men except papa to build on the beach. We live only a few steps from the station and a little further from the sea, while the club-house is on the other side of the beach. So you see, we have it lonely here sometimes. Inclosed [sic] find my contribution which I hope is worthy of a prize.
Mary Yeula Wescott
The poem she enclosed won her a silver badge.
BY MARY YEULA WESCOTT
My little friend Annie
Came over to play.
We stayed in the house,
As ‘t was stormy that day.
She had her doll, Susan,
And mine was named Jane ;
We dressed and undressed them
Again and again.
We made them fine bonnets
For each little head.
They wore them to parties,
Then came home to bed.
Ann stepped on my finger,
And said she was glad.
I got up and slapped her,
She ‘d made me so mad.
Then I knocked Susan’s head off,
And Annie broke Jane.
We cried, and we quarreled
Again and again.
Then I said I was sorry,
As much as could be;
So I forgave Annie,
And she forgave me.
Mary continued to send in poems and articles as did her brother, Albert, and her sister, Laura. However, it was Mary who continued to write to them until at least the age of 17.
My Dear St. Nicholas League: I am sending to you today my verses for the September competition and I am so sorry to remember that I have but three more. Does everyone get old so dreadfully fast?
Your subject appealed to me this month, for I have several relatives including my father, who are members of the Life Saving Service to which I have a reference in the poem. This small band extends along the coast of the United States and guards its coast from the ravages of the storm. They maintain a constant watch along the shore and at the appearance of a distressed vessel launch their frail boats and, pitting their strength against the force of the waves, give aid to the distressed seamen. When the sea is so high that launching a boat from the shore is impossible, the beach apparatus is used and the sailors are brought from the vessel by means of a ” breeches-buoy,” which is drawn shoreward over a cable that has been shot across the vessel from the shore and fastened to the mast of the distressed vessel.
On our part of the coast, storms are numerous, and a rescue of this kind is a frequent occurrence.
I thank you so much for the encouragement you have given me in my endeavors to win that coveted cash prize.
But whether I succeed or not, I shall ever remember with gratitude the pleasure and benefit I have derived from your interesting work. Long life to you, my dear St. Nicholas League, and best wishes from your devoted League member, Mary Yeula Wescott (age 17).
It must have been this magazine that sparked her love of books.
Mary went to school in Durham and graduated from Trinity College (now Duke University) in 1914 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, Magna cum laude. She taught Latin in local schools and went back to Trinity. In 1920, she took a leave of absence to attend and then graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree from the Simmons College of Library Science in Boston, Massachusetts in 1924, where she also worked in a government position while attending school. Mary returned to Trinity College, her alma mater, to work at Trinity College Library (now Duke University Library).
About 1932, Professor William K. Boyd organized the work of the Newspaper Department and placed Miss Allene Ramage in charge of it. Miss Ramage, aided by Miss Mary Wescott and Miss Eva E. Malone, prepared a checklist of these papers under the title Bibliographical Contributions of the Duke University Libraries: a Checklist of United States Newspapers. This publication has been of value to many librarians and scholars throughout the United States.
Part I: Alabama––Georgia
Part II: Idaho––Massachusetts
Part III: Michigan––New York
Part IV: North Carolina
Part V: North Dakota––Vermont
Part VI: Virginia––Wyoming
~LIBRARY NOTES -A BULLETIN ISSUED FOR
The Friends of Duke University Library April 1953; Number 27
She worked there until she retired in December of 1954 as Head of the Catalogue Department. A dinner was given in her honor on 14 December 1954. Among the special guests was Lawrence Quincy Mumford, Librarian of Congress. Mr. Mumford, who had known Miss Wescott since his student days, summarized well her contribution to both college and university when he spoke of her retirement as the termination of “a valuable career in librarianship.”
~LIBRARY NOTES -A BULLETIN ISSUED FOR
The Friends of Duke University Library April 1953; Number 27
“Pride in her profession, friendliness, compassion, and a delightful sense of humor — these were the characteristics that made Mary Wescott deeply loved as well as highly respected. Exactly what her personal philosophy was, one would not presume to say. One feels though that possibly she expressed it in the last stanza of a poem she wrote long ago — “The Dream of the Sea.”
O my Heart keep young, we would cross that main
With its raging tide;
We would enter those fields of glad abode
On the other side —
And we, how we long for the mighty strife
And the waves’ wild sweep —
To battle our way to the rich reward
And then to sleep! “
Seven months after Mary retired, she died in her sleep. She never married.
By the way, I have never been able to determine where the name Yeula came from. The closest I found was that it could be an Indian word meaning Upward slope. Fitting for a woman who never stopped climbing.
Well, I am still not closer to finding Abigail, although I do have a lot of feelers out. I am hoping I get a bite soon. Tracing Abigail has forced me to do something I kept reading about but didn’t think it applied to me. A research log. Yep, logging my research and tracking those I’ve contacted about an ancestor.
I didn’t think I needed it before; after all, isn’t that what my Ancestry database is there to do? Um, well, no. It sources and cites my findings once I actually find them. But, how do I keep from researching the same places maybe a year or so later? I log it!
There are many different kinds of research logs out there. Just Google, “Genealogy Research Logs,” and find one that is to your liking. I looked at a bunch and decided to make one on Google Sheets (Excel) that works for me. I named them by the person for easier access, as that is how I file other information; each person has their own electronic file.
Then I went through my emails and started logging. I know I have more and will add them as they come up. I try to use my outlook email for genealogy. But, my older contacts and older research was done through my yahoo account.
As I stated before, I’ve been cleaning up some older, researched ancestors. I feel pretty confident in at least my direct lines, that things are pretty clean, meaning the sources are there and facts are accounted for. I’ll need to do that with some of the non-direct ancestors as I come across them.
Another thing I have been working on as I clean up my sources is looking at older sources attached to my facts. I was able to locate some new (to me) information by looking over them again with more experienced eyes.
I also finished up my report for a client and sent her the latest descendant report. There is also another person who I help pro bono along the way. We private messenger each other now and then, and I give him pointers on where to look or how to navigate something. It is very satisfying being able people with their family history, whether it is to do the research for them or to tutor them on the way to experience their own journey.
It is the American Genealogical Biographical Index and one of the most essential printed genealogical sources in the United States. But, I did not always know that. It was a hint, a source in Ancestry.com that would come up periodically on my New England ancestors. I never really understood it except for it to confirm a birth or some other fact. Ah, the ignorance of the early days!
Recently, I looked back at some older entries in my family tree to see if I could find new leads on some of my more elusive ancestors. One was Margaret Car(r), my 6th great grandmother. She married John Logan, the ancestor who came to Connecticut through Massachusetts. Although I know John came from Ireland, I do not know anything about Margaret before she came to Connecticut. Although I know they married in Massachusetts.
One of the first clues I looked at again was the AGBI. In researching it, I came across a blog by Diane B. of OneRhodeIslandFamily.com. In it, she wrote, “The Boston Transcript was a Boston, Massachusetts newspaper that regularly carried a page of genealogical questions and answers. That feature ran for several decades in the late 1800s/early 1900s.” And, it is indexed in the AGBI!
Even more exciting was learning that I can order them and over 800 printed genealogies and other compiled sources from the Godfrey Memorial Library. From their website, “Godfrey Memorial Library is the owner and publisher of the American Genealogical Biographical Index (AGBI) which contains more than four million names, statistics, and sources for research including local histories, church and vital records, military lists, and more. It also includes over two million records from the Boston Transcript. AGBI is the largest and most important genealogical reference set ever published and clearly the best starting point to find any early New England settlers. This is an index to the books and periodicals on our shelves.”
Did I just stumble upon a gold mine? We’ll soon find out as I mailed out my request a couple of days ago. I printed out their order form, and for $10 each entry, I can soon find out what they know about my ancestor.
You, too, can access this gold mine at https://www.godfrey.org/agbi.html. Print and fill out the order form, then use the information from the AGBI index for each ancestor requested. I limited myself to three ancestors, including Margaret.
Another source attached to Margaret is regarding her marriage in Marshfield, Massachusetts to John, titled “Mayflower Source Records.” Upon closer inspection, it was from the New England Historical and Genealogical Register called the “Mayflower Source Records: Primary Data Concerning Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod, and the Islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard” by Gary Boyd Rogers. It’s a source of material where the majority of the descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims settled by the end of the 18th century. Am I, is Margaret, descended from a Mayflower passenger?
Exciting stuff! New revelations to dig up for sure.
Thanks for reading! Make sure you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and LinkedIn!
If you’re reading this in hopes of getting great clues on finding your brick walls, do not get too excited. I do have a few for you, though.
Today I searched more of my dead ends using some techniques given to me on my Twitter page where I follow fellow family historians and professional genealogists. They provide some great tips and websites for research.
One such tip is getting the best out of Google™ searches called “Boolean Operators.” Here are some examples.
Some others are:
Acts as a wildcard and will match any word or phrase.
Group multiple terms or search operators to control how the search is executed.
Example: (christmas OR trees) decorations
Search for prices. Also works for Euro (€), but not GBP (£) 🙁
Example: Samsung $329
A dictionary built into Google.
Returns the most recent cached version of a web page (old version of a web page) (providing the page is indexed, of course).
Limit results to those from a specific website.
Find sites linked to a given domain.
Find pages with a specific word (or words) in the title. In our example, any results containing the word “samsung” in the title tag will be returned.
Similar to “intitle,” but only results containing all of the specified words in the title tag will be returned.
Example: allintitle:samsung android
Another excellent search tool in my research has been Google Books.
Go to Google search
Type a surname or subject and hit enter
Click on the “More” menu
Click on “Books”
You can leave the search as is or click on “Any Books”
Then click on “Google EBooks” to search for books online.
Again, you can use the above Boolean Operators here.
I used these techniques today, searching for brick walls of mine and some of my clients, family, and friends. I was able to find some information that may help, but I have many names which have me stumped at the moment. Here is just a sample of my particular toughies:
Abigail Soper (cannot find proof of last name)
Daniel Logan’s marriage record to the above Abigail
Margaret Johnson Carr
Letitia Porterfield and John Rowan
John McMahan and Margaret Hargrove
Horace Case (could be John Horace Case)
Himan Chapman and his wife, Ann
Kezia(h) who married Isaac Burns
Williams Morrison and Christina Spiker
Charles William Davis and Eliza Wake’s parents
Franz Sierotzki’s family
Jesse Decatur Simmons (researching for my uncle) 😉
There are many more, but these are more of my frustrating names at this point. I hope those searching these same names will find this blog, and we can collaborate.
I have many, many emails to different historical societies, churches, and county clerks trying to gather information or possible avenues for me to search.
For instance, go to that website and type in the search engine, “Wood County, Ohio.” You get 1,147 results! Once you click a book or similar, you can then search inside the book itself.
And, always, always work sideways! Research the siblings, the aunts, the uncles, and cousins. You will be amazed at what you can find. You can even find others who are researching the same family.
So, do not give up, keep trying and dig, dig, dig. I have broken many brick walls, it has taken years sometimes, but it happened.
To all those that are reading, have a very Merry Christmas, Festivus, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, Ōmisoka, or other holiday you celebrate, or not. Make beautiful memories together and while you’re at it, write them down for your descendants!
Lately, I have been helping several people with their family history. One thing that they have all in common is the same issue I ran into when I first started. They did not take full advantage of the document hint that was given to them when they were researching.
For instance, a man and I had both located a census on his relative. He took it at face value, only looking at the page that, in this instance, Ancestry® had provided. It showed the page of his ancestor and their children. However, when I looked at the same document, I was able to find the wife’s family in the same census record. How? By using the back and forward arrows to look at the other pages in the census.
Most families tended to stay in the same neighborhood if not living together. In this case, they were neighbors. I’ve found where both sides of the family were neighbors up and down the street. Of course, with the inventions of cars, airplanes, and other transports, this won’t be the case for our generations and those that come after us; we move around more often.
Another common mistake is to look at the index only for information rather than looking at the whole record. For instance, take this death record of my great grandmother, Caroline Stitt Logan. The index shows her relevant details, such as her date of birth, date of death, etc.
But, if you click on the document, it shows her cause of death, the informant for the certificate (my great grandfather signed it), where they lived, where her parents were from, and where her burial was.
Another example is of this obituary that came up under Caroline’s name. If you only go by this index, then you would think that it is the obituary for Caroline, but it is not. It is for her father, William.
Click on the obit and look at all the information we have. It lists William’s father’s name and William’s children, with their married names.
The most fascinating records to do this with are passenger lists and immigration paperwork. Not only can the passenger list tell you where your ancestor is going, but it can tell you where they are from and whom they are visiting. Some immigration paperwork will list family names, birth dates, etc. You may even get a picture of the immigrant, depending on the time frame.
Dissect every document you can get your hands on. You never know what you may discover.
But, what if there is no image to click on when you find an index? Look at the film number or the “source information” at the bottom of the index. For instance, here is the index for Elizabeth Hennig.
There is no document to click on and dissect. But, there is “Source Information.”
The source information tells me that the original data can be found in FamilySearch. After pulling up FamilySearch.org, click on “Search” and then “Records.” Then “Restrict Records By” “Film Number.” Enter the film number found on the Ancestry index. In this case, it is film number 527772. Once there, you click on the link it provides and then the film number from the index.
Click on the magnifying glass next to the record your researching, in this case, the 527772.
It would help if you remembered that humans indexed and scanned these records. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason as to how they scanned in the images. If you are lucky, they are by date, but sometimes they are scanned in randomly. It would serve you well if you were patient.
Then go back, as have been doing, and look at older records that you may have placed an index hint to and see if you can get more information out of that source. You may be surprised!
To get the most out of your family history takes time. You need to research and verify facts and sources. Sometimes you need to order documents. But, what you get out of it is so much more than the time and money you spend. It helps you to understand your family members a little bit more, and it may just help you to understand yourself a bit too.
And, don’t underestimate your children. As I explained in my Family History for Children blog, children are very curious and avid learners of their history. A good age, in my opinion, is about 4th grade.
There are many online programs out there to help you find records but do not ignore the many other outlets that can help you. I have reached out to many other researchers and genealogists in the past to help guide me in the right direction. Some I have hired to look up documents for me in a place I was not able to go to myself. Also, see my post on using Facebook to help you in your research.
Maybe you are not curious enough about your family roots to spend hours digging through historical databases. That is where Family History Researchers like myself can help.
At www.loganalogy.com, there are many ways in which I can assist you in your family history research. I not only blog about my ancestors and family research in general, but I also offer other services.
An online genealogy basics class, I provide one-on-one tutoring as well as group tutoring in the Clay County, FL area, online consultations, and I offer my Family History Research Specialist service.