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

Organized bus trip rule #1: At least 30 minutes before the bus leaves you will find the most fabulous source that you do not have time to get through or photocopy or the person in front of you at the copier will be copying the whole book, or… You get the picture. It’s Murphy’s Law applied to genealogy.

This rule was explained to me by my fellow WMGS members on my first trip to Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne a few years ago and, in general, it rings true. But I somehow always think that if I plan well enough I won’t get caught. And come Thursday morning, I genuinely thought I had a good enough plan that I wouldn’t have a problem getting finished before the bus left. So, imagine my horror at 2 pm when I realized that the 2 volume source I really wanted to go through would not be doable in the allotted time—I did the math. I had possible family on all but maybe 10 pages in each. I could, of course, copy the entire book but the last vestiges of my time working for a copyright librarian reared its head. So, now I have another set of books on my purchase wish list and at the top of my “To Do List” for the next trip. The impatient part of me wants to order them now in the hopes that they’ll clear up every bit of confusion I have about the Dice/Theis and Koppenhöfer families (not likely…but still).

But it was a relatively successful couple of days. I have a better idea about this particular set of clustered families that moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio and then a smaller batch moved on to Will County, IL. I’m not sure I’ll ever find out why my 3rd Great Grandfather was down in Will County to meet his wife (as opposed to Rockford with the rest of his family) but I feel like I’ve taken a few strong steps to understanding this branch. And the Johnson’s should note that they’re even more German than they originally thought—as the Dice, Koppenhaver, Besore, and (I’m guessing) the Grove families are probably all Palatine Immigrants.

Happy hunting,

Jess

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