July 2, 2014
June 26, 2014
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.
On 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?
June 25, 2014
Today marks the 30th anniversary of my Great Grandfather Robert Eugene Johnson’s death. I don’t remember him at all, though I had to have been seven when he died. I get them impression that there is still a lot of anger and hurt surrounding his and my great-grandmother’s seven year marriage but I also know that if not for that union, I would not be here.
One note on the picture: I have no idea who the woman with him is. She’s possibly a second wife before my Step-Great-Grandmother Rita?
June 18, 2014
June 16, 2014
I’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.
I 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!