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

Projects from my other time consuming pursuit (as well as work) have grabbed the majority of my time, but I did take time off from both to visit the Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show on Sunday. And I couldn’t resist purchasing a few postcards. This is notany of them. However, this was a fun find at a previous show.

        

This is a postcard from Daisy Bowers Rector to her mother Mrs. Benjamin Bowers—Dora Brainard Morningstar, the adopted child of my 5th Great Grandfather Henry Morningstar. I believe the photograph on the front is of Daisy’s husband Ernest and their adopted son Clifton Rector.

Happy Hunting!

Jess

It seems I either read (for work or pleasure) or do genealogy in a lot of my off time. This past week has been spent reading but the two weeks before that I wandered far off my path following a distant line by marriage after realizing a friend and co-worker’s family showed up a page after my own in a Kent County, Michigan.  I doubt we’re actually related but it is always fascinating to me how small the world is.

But in my “wandering”—and it truly is wandering because this is not the family living near my friend but another offshoot from the neighborhood—I found more information about the Botruff families of Kent County who are tied tightly to my Helsel and Morningstar families.

Jacob and Mary Helsel Morningstar (my 3rd Great Grandparents) had a daughter, Lavinia, also known as “Viney,” who married William Henry Botruff. William was the eldest of nine children born to Adam and Barbara (Hammer) Botruff who had come to Michigan from West Sparta, Livingston, New York in the 1850s. His next sibling, Isaac J., married Mary’s cousin (and Jacob’s sister-in-law) Melissa Helsel Morningstar.  Also, William and Viney’s daughter Alice married her first cousin once removed (and Mary’s nephew), Darius Helsel. Additionally, Mary and Jacob’s son, William, lived with Adam and Barbara Botruff at the time of the 1870 Census and that same year Norman Morningstar (I have no idea who he belongs to) lived in the next farm with Isaac’s family. The Botruffs also tie into the Magoon and Hoyt families in Kent County.

An additional fun find… I knew Isaac was a veteran of the 3rd Michigan Infantry but I found a fabulous biography of him on Steve Soper’s blog here.

Happy Hunting,

Jess

Sarah Elizabeth Morningstar (1859-1924), her husband George Erwin Porter (1856-1942) , and their youngest daughter Rhea Agnes (1903- 1974). George like his father, Seth, was a very successful miller in Kent County, Michigan. Among other endeavors he owned and operated Porter Mill at Porter Hollow on Stegman Creek in northern Kent County. Sarah and George married 15 April 1876 in Cedar Springs, Michigan. Rhea was the youngest of six children including my 2nd great grandfather, Charles Erwin Porter.

On my last trip to Ft. Wayne I was researching back from my 3rd great grandmother Amelia Grove and discovered I was a little more German than I thought. But what progress I made on the Grove, Dice, Besore and Koppenhaver families really came from my experiences researching my Morningstar and Helsel lines—also from Ohio and Pennsylvania.

I am a huge advocate for cluster genealogy. You learn so many fascinating details about your ancestors by learning about the people who travelled with them and lived in their vicinity. And I have found a ton of relatives and great stories by following those, at first glance, unrelated families. My Morningstar line is a great example of this.

The first Morningstar I came across was also a 3rd great grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth Morningstar, who married George Erwin Porter. Now the Porters of Rockford, Michigan have been well researched over the years and when I first started doing research at the Rockford Historical Museum (which has an excellent collection of genealogical and historical material) a Porter relative was working as a volunteer. So, when he knew what I was researching he gave me pictures, a detailed article and some ideas of where he thought it might be wrong. The article included the names of Sarah’s parents, Jacob and Mary Morningstar.

Now, Jacob and Mary weren’t terribly hard to track. The family had settled in Algoma Township in Kent County, Michigan in the 1840s having come to the state with a large cluster of families including the Helsels, Hull, Christy, and McFall families. At the time I truly didn’t get the significance of the group moving together or the concept of cluster genealogy but when I started to try and figure out who Mary Morningstar’s parents things got complicated. Jacob had died relatively young and by going through the census from 1850 to 1900, I was able to figure out that Mary had remarried a German-born immigrant by the name of Lewis Whitebread. Also at about the same time I was able to get Sarah’s death certificate which listed her mother’s maiden name as Helsel, so I had Mary Helsel Morningstar Whitebread. And in the 1870 Census her widowed mother, Elizabeth Helsel, was living with the Whitebread family.

Unfortunately, there were two widowed Elizabeth Helsels in the township and, since Mary was married already in 1850, I didn’t know which family she belonged to. I ended up following all the Helsel children to try and find the connection—and while I was at it I worked on all the Morningstars as well—and slowly but surely I was able to chart a web of interconnected families. We were related, at least by marriage, to all the Ohio families listed above plus a few I hadn’t realized had also moved with the crowd. And by being forced to track families through the Census, County Histories, and any other source I was able to find, I was able to figure out which Helsel I descend from—John as opposed to his brother, Jacob, I found fun and bizarre connections in Kent County I never would have noticed, and having all those connections helped me in moving back to Ohio and Pennsylvania to the Morgenstern and Holtzel families.

Lesson learned… Follow out all siblings lines as well as your direct ancestors and definitely look into the families they travel with… there’s often a solid connection and your research will be the richer for it.

Happy Hunting,

Jess

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