Roadtrips


The last installment on my Pennsylvania road trip…

Where Gettysburg was a somber experience my next stop was invigorating. The next morning I got up bright and early in the city of York to do research at the York County Heritage Trust. Again, I had emailed ahead to see what I might expect and had received a very positive reply from the head archivist indicating that there was a substantial amount of information on the Helsel/Heltzel/Hoetzel families. I parking at a local ramp and walked a couple blocks to the Museum and Archives. It’s another repository that charges a daily fee for non-members and asks you to put the majority of your materials away in lockers before fully entering the premises—but it’s so worth it.

I could have spent a week here—and as it was I opted to change my plans and spend half the following day there versus making other stops on my last research day. I went in focused on the Helsel family and was very impressed with their systematic approach. With the proliferation of German names they have control spellings and numbers for their research files so, for example, the Helsel’s control spelling was “Heltze”l and the number was 2636. Armed with that, a volunteer pulled a clippings file, and the appropriate sections of cemetery, tax, estate, and vital card files. And the card files in turn led me to detailed transcriptions and facsimiles of relevant church records. And as I started going through those I realized that I could find information on almost all of my German lines within their collection. As I said, I could have stayed a week.

I spent all of day one on the Helsel’s or working through the church records. And the staff didn’t have to twist my arm to get me to come back the next morning—despite the huge one day parking garage bill. In the end that too, could have been helped if I’d asked the right questions up front. When I paid for my copies at the end of the day the receptionist told me that they had access to free parking in a temporary lot behind the building. I’m chalking the day one bill up to a city donation for having such a fabulous research facility.

Christ Lutheran Church, York, PennsylvaniaChrist Lutheran Church Cemetery, York, PennsylvaniaOn the second day, I got up a little earlier so that I had time to walk down to Christ Lutheran Church (where one branch of the family worshiped) and take photographs. At the archives I spent time on my Mohr, Morningstar, Glass, and Kuntz families—all solidly intermingled long before the same families are marrying in again upon migrating to Ohio. If I had more time I would have spent even more time researching my Dice, Coppenhaver, and Grove families. I have no doubt there would be materials to find. Maybe next trip?

Happy hunting,

Jess

Monument to the 24th Michigan Infantry at Gettysburg, PennsylvaniaI’d never really been interested in the Civil War… not really. American history in general was never really my cup of tea. But researching my family has brought those parts of history alive for me as I began to understand how events affected my ancestors directly. So, when I realized my route lead me right by it, I added a stop in Gettysburg to my road trip.

I’m told the way to go is to hire a tour guide at the Museum and Visitor’s Center and have him or her hop in your car with you. As a solo traveler that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I made sure I had a book, in this case Mark Grimsley’s Gettysburg: A Battlefield Guide (older but useful), and due to weather considerations (overcast with periodic downpours) I made a very short list of sites or monuments I wanted to visit: the two monuments to the Michigan 24th Infantry and the National Cemetery.

When coming in US Route 30/Lincoln Highway I stopped off first at the memorial’s commemorating the fighting on 01 Jul 1863. I turned down a heavily wooded Stone-Meredith Road and pulled off to take photos of the primary monument to the Michigan 24th, which, as a part of the Iron Brigade, initially turned back the first Confederate offensive of the battle through Herbst’s Woods. Unfortunately, they were outnumbered and eventually outflanked. At the end of the day the 24th’s casualties alone were 363 (dead, wounded, captured) of 496 including a mortally wounded Edward M. Cory, my 4th Great Uncle. To stand there on a gray, rainy day and read the monuments and try to make sense of that much carnage was very moving.

Marker to the 24th Michigan Infantry at Gettysburg, PennsylvaniaI also made sure to drive to the National Cemetery and walk the loop. My timing was good. I was in between school bus groups enjoying year-end field-trips so mostly it was a peaceful walk. I did end up soaked to my ankles because I left the path to walk the headstones of the Michigan wing.  But it was otherwise dry until I made it back to my car—at which point the heavens let loose again. When it lightened up a bit I did a last drive around the southeast part of the battlefields including Culp’s Hill and past the second Michigan monument at its foot.

It was a somber but enlightening day!

Happy hunting!

Jess

Day 2 of my recent Pennsylvania Roadtrip.

I started the day with a quick side trip before the Franklin County Historical Society in Chambersburg opened at 10 am. I drove north of town up to the Emmanuel Lutheran Church Cemetery in Upper Strasburg, Letterkenny Township right on Upper Strassburg Rd. This relatively small cemetery was full of Dice family relatives—including my 6th Great Grandparents John Michael and Margaret (Besore) Dice (headstones below). It was a lovely quiet morning and a peaceful time to be wandering through and taking pictures.

MichaelMargaretDiceHeadstones
Afterwards, I drove back to Chambersburg to try the Historical Society Library which is situated in the upper floor of the Old Cuunty Jail. When I arrived I was greeted by a very helpful volunteer who was there just long enough to set up me and my fellow researchers for the morning. The space for researchers is small—especially when you have guests in from Washington State, Iowa and Michigan—but they have a detailed collection of surname files, area historical records and abstracts, etc. I spent most of my time in the surname files researching the Dice and Grove lines and their allied families. I was thrilled to find abstracts and transcriptions of wills that have helped piece together connections between the Dice, Grove, Foltz and Reith families (among others). Just as a heads up, the society asks for a five dollar donation for researching on site but it is more than worth it. And they allowed scanning which was really helpful—although I killed both phone and tablet using a scanner app.

Old Franklin County Jail, Chambersburg, PennsylvaniaI genuinely thought I would be in the position of running out of time but come to find out it was the Society’s late night and the afternoon volunteer kindly stayed through the hour they would normally close for us out-of-towners. I stayed until about 7:30 pm along with the ladies from Washington.

I had actually meant to stop early because Chambersburg looked so appealing—including great old architecture, a nearby library and a river. I had really hoped to stop and walk around a little. But by the time I finally left I was exhausted and ready for dinner. Best I got were a few lovely pictures outside the Old Jail.

Happy hunting,

Jess

 

Between work and the weather it’s been forever since I’ve been out on the road for research but I was finally able to hop in the car and drive away. Destination-wise Pennsylvania won out (heavily influenced by longtime friends and honorary nieces). I went through my entire database and tried to narrow down the families I wanted to work on.  I went in focusing on two lines: The Helsel/Heltzel/Hoetzel family and the Dice/Tice/Theiss family. Then I plotted out a route on GoogleMaps including any locations I had for them.

PennDutchTrail

 

There were obvious groupings in certain counties—Bedford and York Counties for the Helsels, and Franklin and Berks County for the Dice family. So, my next step was to locate possible libraries or archives to visit, as well as any relevant cemeteries.  I identified the Bedford County Historical Society, the Franklin County Historical Society in Chambersburg, the York County Heritage Trust, and the Tuplehocken Settlement Historical Society. And I wanted to throw in Gettysburg, as it was right in the middle of my route, and we had at least one family casualty from the battle.

Once I’d figured out a route and places to stay (which I was changing up to the day before I left) I packed my essentials and the next morning got up early and hit the road.

Day 1

After a driving day my first true stop of the trip was Bedford County Historical Society in Bedford, Pennsylvania. I’d sent an email ahead and lucked out with a quick positive reply. They certainly had materials on my Helsel/Hoetzel/Heltzel family and their research coordinator, Dr. Jackson, had just been researching the line and was happy to meet me on my first morning in the area. Pioneer Library was relatively easy to find and a lovely space for display and research. This is a well-maintained collection with helpful and knowledgeable volunteers. I spent about 4 or 5 hours going through their Helsel files and county materials, finding great information on my lines. I also took a little time to try and look into a couple of the peripheral families—like the Imlers and Tobias Jr’s descendants.  I came away with a good stack of photocopies that I’ve only made a quick pass back through.

I also took the time to hunt down the HelselJohnAlbrightCemeterycemetery where Tobias Jr. and family are buried—the Albright Cemetery at Dutch Corner. And, like at least once every trip, I got lost trying to find it. I had a map which somehow didn’t help, a tablet with the Google Map App that kept crashing, and my phone GPS that told me I was headed in the wrong direction. After a bit of wandering on winding, hilly roads I did finally track it down and pay my respects to Johan Tobias Heltzel, Jr and his wife.

Triumphant, I hopped on PA-30 for my next hotel and spent the remainder of the day working through my notes and photocopies.

Stay tuned for more on my PA trip.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Saturday was a bit more of a blur as the conference started to take a toll. It might have been a bit more clear if I had not hung out so late at the Genealogy Center or if the Michigan Breakfast hadn’t started well before 7 am. But it was a lovely morning chatting with fellow Michigan genealogists and friends. We had a quick 1812 Pension update and challenge from Curt Witcher and a state of the Archives of Michigan update from Kris Rzepczynski.

I had to pack up my stuff after breakfast but I still made it back to the Convention Center in time to sneak into the last presentation by Elizabeth Shown Mills (S-401 Finding Fathers). In it she used a particularly memorable case study where she was able to prove the paternity of a man based on following out his siblings through probate, petitions, etc. without ever finding a record specifically connecting him to his father.

I attended “Creating Family Histories for Future Generations,” presented by Thomas W. Jones (S-412) which began be encouraging people to work with the records of the day—oral history, identify your own pictures, and collect DNA—the irreplaceable legacy. But it also stressed training, practicing reading and writing, and creating family histories with BEAD—Biography, Explanation, Accuracy and Documentation.

“Truth or Fiction? Unraveling a Family Yarn” (S-418) was another interesting case study presented by Teresa Steinkamp McMillin. She was a great speaker with a fun tale to work through that reminded me of my strange family tales and their veracity.

And finally, I made it to “Staying out of copyright trouble” by Judy G. Russell (S-433) which was a fun and frustrating take on copyright law. Not Judy, she was fabulous, but copyright is an interesting and maddening topic. I came out of this with a lot of good resources to work with and a great refresher on topics I vaguely remember from grad school. It was a fun session to end on.

I had a wonderful time at FGS 2013 visiting with friends, overloading on information, and even managing a little research. Thanks to the FGS board, conference crew and volunteers. Thanks also to the exhibitors, local societies, institutions and libraries, and an outgoing and generous host city. It’s been a fabulous week and I can’t wait to do it again… well, after I catch up on my sleep.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Friday’s post got too long for me to try and catch up so I’ll shoot for a wrap up post in the next couple of days.

Friday was a LONG day! Again, I was fairly methodology heavy, catching another presentation each of Elizabeth Shown Mills and Thomas W. Jones. Mills presented an interesting range of case studies to impress upon us the importance of “trivial” information in documents, for example the minute details in an estate sale that someone didn’t deem important or slaves names that get left out of transcriptions or compilations. She stressed going back to original probate packets or collections to make sure every slip had been accounted for and challenged us to think critically about what the documents said and didn’t say.

Jones presented on documentation. As he noted, this can be a boring topic, but I very much appreciated his detail and again, common sense approach to doing citations. In many ways this is all straight out of undergrad and grad school for me but those days are a little farther behind me every time I blink so getting this refresher and lesson was fabulous.

For the midday and afternoon sessions I jumped over to the African American research track attending presentations by G. David Dilts, Tim Pinnick, Angela Y Walton-Raji, and J. Mark Lowe. Dilts’ presentation (F-322 Overcoming Brick Walls in African American Research) was effectively one on methodology offering ideas to improve attitudes and open one’s mind in approaching brickwalls, as well as offering some common problems and possible solutions.

Pinnick’s session (F-333 And the Church Said Amen) on tracking down records from African American churches was as animated and enthusiastic as the title suggested and somewhere in there he did get an, “Amen!” from the class even after telling us that the existing records weren’t quite what we were hoping for.

Walton-Raji’s session was great survey of Black benevolent societies most of which I knew nothing about beforehand. When I saw her session listing it immediately brought to mind a symbol on my Great-Grandfather’s headstone I had never looked in to. And between her and Pinnick’s sessions in particular, I have a whole new set of records to try and track down.

Finally, I attended J. Mark Lowe’s session (F-350 Following Slaves and Slaveholders…) which offered a great case study emphasizing the need to know the areas you’re researching in and know their laws relevant to your ancestors. This will help you figure out what records might exist to aid you in your research. All were great speakers, but Lowe gets points for making Pinnick hand me a fake $1000 bill in an effort to illustrate that you need to follow the money or assets (whatever they may be).

From there I went straight to the library event in support of the War 1812 Pension Project. I attended the opening remarks and quilt raffle, mingled for a few minutes near the desserts, and then made a beeline for the Genealogy Center to get in some last research for the week. I planned to leave at a reasonable hour (as I had to get it up in the morning) but I had a successful enough time that I didn’t walk back until 11:30 pm.

But now I am just tired…

Happy hunting!

Jess

I’m running a day behind. Here’s what should have posted yesterday… if I hadn’t chosen sleep over you all. Sorry!

Thursday was another day of volunteering and sessions. I started the day on the conference registration table. So, I missed the keynote. But I had a fun time with my booth mate and greeting people.

I then spent the afternoon really focused on methodology sessions.  I attended detailed presentations by Thomas W. Jones (T-202 Planning and Executing Efficient and Effective Research) and Elizabeth Shown Mills (T-213 Smiths and Joneses)—both of which really got to the heart of how to effectively and efficiently research. Really looking at records—what they say and what they don’t. Comparing records—for accuracy, reliability, and with an eye to who created the document and when. I followed those up with a session by Conference Chair Paula Stuart-Warren on creating research reports for yourself which really stressed getting down the details of what you searched, why you looked at the record, and what you found or didn’t find.

Tucked in the middle of those, I attended a fabulous presentation by Laura Prescott on finding materials at university libraries and archives (T-221 Treasures of the Ivory Tower). I’ve come across fabulous collections in the past more haphazardly—for example through footnotes (like Peter John Alison’s memoir). I went into the session looking for ways to more strategically locate materials. Prescott offered a lot of ideas and food for thought, plus she’s just a great and enthusiastic speaker. She also had my quote of the day in discussing FOBs or “Flashes of the Obvious.” It seemed to be the theme of the day… straightforward and common sense presentations that were inspiring and eye-opening.

I did take a turn through the Exhibit Hall during the Showcase. I’m pretty sure I didn’t win a door prize—you can’t always hear in the hall. Then I headed out to dinner with a large group of Michigan genealogists… who couldn’t get their headcount straight. We dined and hung out at O’Reilly’s on Jefferson until Karaoke began. That seemed to be a quick way to get everyone to head back to their hotels. Then again, Springsteen should not sound like that—not that I claim to be any more able to sing his work.

More conference highlights soon, until then…

Happy hunting,

Jess

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 357 other followers