Category Archives: Personal Family History/Research

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday – Charles M. James

So, I haven’t posted for a few weeks. What can I say — it’s summer and I’ve been taking a little break from the blog. I decided to try to start easing back in with a Wordless Wednesday post. I always enjoy doing these because I get to make a 4×6 scrapbook page and go through my ancestor/vintage photos! This week’s post features one of my great-great grandfathers – Charles Morgan James. I think this photo may date from the 1870s, but I’m not certain about that.

Charles M. James, Chester Co., Pennsylvania

Credits: family photo that I have inherited; scrap kit is one of my own.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday – Who Are We?

Here’s another (almost) Wordless Wednesday scrapbook layout. As the name suggests, I have no idea who is pictured in the photograph. I have compared each face to photos of known family members – but no luck. Maybe it’s a club, a church youth group or a school class. It’s most likely taken in southeastern PA (Chester, Berks or Montgomery County). It looks like there’s some snow by their feet, so the time of year could be late fall or early spring. Anyone look familiar to you??

unknown group

Credits: photo is from my collection of inherited family photographs, scrap kit is my own along with elements from Gunhild Storeide

Thriller Thursday – Poor Little Thomas Bechtel

Are you up to date with all your vaccinations and immunizations? Are your children? Today’s Thriller Thursday posting is a reminder that life in the 19th century was fraught with hidden dangers. It was a time when even a minor scratch or cut could cause horrible suffering and even death…

It was late August of 1876 and eleven year old Thomas Bechtel, son of Thomas Sr. and Annie,  was enjoying the dog-days of summer. He and his younger brother were outside playing in their yard in East Coventry Township, Chester County, PA. The younger boy was holding a stick and chasing his big brother. Thomas stopped short and his younger brother accidentally poked him just above the ankle with his stick. It was a minor cut and neither the brothers nor their parents gave it much thought until a couple of days later. At that point Thomas’ leg began to swell and become inflamed. Thomas suffered terrible pain for the next few days, finally dying of lockjaw (now known as tetanus) on August 31, 1876.  His obituary was published in the Montgomery Ledger (a Pottstown newspaper) on September 5th. He was just shy of his twelfth birthday.

Thomas was my 3rd cousin, 3 x’s removed. His parents were Thomas and Annie (nee unknown) Bechtel and his paternal grandparents were Charles Bechtel and Isabella Jack. If you also have connections to this family, feel free to contact me.

Tuesday’s Tip – Bound Apprenticeship/Indentured Servant Records

Summer is definitely upon us where I live and the temperature combined with the humidity is making the outdoors suffocating. So what better way to beat the heat than to sit in the air-conditioning and do a little internet genealogy! That’s exactly what I was doing yesterday when I came across a very interesting article in Google’s Newspaper Archive.

The Reading Eagle newspaper of June 30, 1895 featured an article entitled “An Old Indenture – A Relic of the Apprentice System of the Last Century Now in Possession of Warden Kintzer.” The upshot is that a gentleman named L. Y. Kintzer purchased a bureau at the estate sale of Daniel Sohl of Womelsdorf. Inside the bureau was an old legal document. It was an Indenture binding a child named Thomas Shaner to an apprenticeship with “Wintel” Weant. The contract was entered into by Thomas’ step-father Philip Cole and his wife Mary, on January 7, 1793 with the term of the apprenticeship being 17 years, 1 month and 9 days!

In addition to expressing what I interpreted as a bit of shock for the practice of binding out a child for such a long servitude, the article provided a full transcription of the Indenture. I was actually quite interested in the document because the Shaner family is one that I’ve researched pretty extensively. But Indentured Servant documents were new to me. And my knowledge of the practice of binding out children as apprentices was limited. I couldn’t help thinking that there was significance to the term of the indenture. Generally speaking, I would not have thought it legally possible for a parent to bind out a child past the point of the child attaining the age of majority. It has been my understanding (for the time period in question) the legal age for a male was 21 and for a female was 18. But that would mean Thomas was being bound out prior to the age of 4! Would or could parents actually do that??

A Google search turned up an article on Indentured Servants written by Karen Mullian  for the Albuquerque Genealogical Society in Feb 1999 [link]. She writes that the average age for a child to be bound out was 14, but that poor children may have been bound out as young as 18 months to 3 years old. She further states that the indenture could have been as long as 18-20 years – until the child reached the age of majority. It appears to me that this is what happened in the case of Thomas.

While it makes me sad to think about the practice of binding out young children, finding this transcribed Indenture document has shown me that these documents can be a valuable resource for gathering information on poor families. Being that they are poor, they probably aren’t buying property or leaving wills, so this might be one of the few types of documents from which to glean information.

This particular Indenture provided the following facts: 1) Thomas Shaner’s parents were Henry and Mary; 2) Henry Shaner died prior to January 1793; 3) Mary remarried prior to January 1793 to a man named Philip Cole; 4) Philip and Mary lived in Marlborough Township in Montgomery County, PA; 5) Thomas was apprenticed to be a carpenter.

There was an addendum to this particular indenture dated March 27, 1807. It states that Thomas Shaner disliked the carpentry trade because he could not learn it. He and Mr. Weant mutally agreed that Weant would sign Shaner’s indenture over to John Soll and that Thomas would be bound to him for the balance of the term. So an additional fact we know is that Thomas was definitely still alive as of March 1807. And, in addition to the above facts, we can conclude that it is likely Thomas was born February 16. 1789 since his indenture is up on February 16, 1810.

On a personal research note, I have a Thomas Shaner with unknown parents in my database. On February 25, 1810 he married Elizabeth Kurz. The marriage was recorded at Falkner Swamp Reformed Church in Montgomery County, PA. One other bit of information in Karen Mullian’s article is that indentured servants and bound apprentices could not marry until there indenture was completed. Notice that Thomas married Elizabeth Kurz about a week after the indenture ended. While I can’t say with 100% certainty that Thomas, son of Henry and Mary, was the same Thomas who married Elizabeth, it sure is looking like a good possibility!

So, getting back to the Tuesday Tip – be sure to add Indenture documents to your list of resources.

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (a day late!!)

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings suggested this on his Saturday Night Genealogy Fun blog post. The mission was to list your 16 great-great grandparents, determine the country and/or state in which they resided at their birth and death, and for extra-credit make a pie chart. Well, first of all, we were out shopping for a bike rack last night (long story), and I never saw his post until very late. So I’m posting a day late! (Better late than never, right?) Since every single one of my great-great grands were born and died in Pennsyvlania, in the good ole USA, I’m skipping the pie chart. It would just be a circle!! I would break it down by counties, but living at the junction of three counties and with my ancestors moving around, I’m afraid it might not be all that accurate.

William Dilliplane, son of Thomas Delaplaine and Mary, born 1820 in Berks County, Pennsylvania; died March 18, 1897 in Berks County, Pennsylvania; married Rachel Yoder Weidner about 1845 probably in Berks County, PA,

Rachel Yoder Weidner, daughter of William P. Weidner and Susanna Yoder, born November 1824 in Berks County, Pennsylvania; died April 1902 in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Henry Boughter, son of Martin Buchter and Elizabeth Baer, born February 5, 1825 in Berks County, PA; died March 22, 1887 in Pottstown, Montgomery County, PA; married Rachel Levengood in August 1, 1847 at New Hanover Lutheran Church, Montgomery County, PA.

Rachel Levengood, daughter of Matthias Levengood and Elizabeth Reinert, born March 9, 1825 in Oley, Berks County, PA; died May 26, 1911 in Pottstown, Montgomery County, PA

Henry M. Sassaman, son of Andrew Sassaman and Lydia Moser; born October 15, 1835 in Berks County, PA; died August 29, 1922 in Pottstown, Montgomery County, PA; married Harriet Garver on April 4, 1859 at Trinity Reformed Church, Pottstown, Montgomery County, PA

Harriet Garver, daughter of Jacob Garber and Ann Campbell; born December 14, 1836 in Berks County, PA; died May 26, 1906 in Pottstown, Montgomery County, PA.

Augustus L. Bechtel, son of George Bechtel and Catherine Levengood; born August 11, 1832 in West Pottsgrove, Montgomery County, PA; died July 23, 1900 in Glasgow, Montgomery County, PA; married Catherine Bucher about 1851.

Catherine Bucher, daughter of Henry Bucher and Hannah Moser; born February 18, 1836 probably in Pottsgrove, Montgomery County, PA; died July 19, 1905 in Stowe, Montgomery County, PA.

David Garner, son of John Garner and Mary Pennypacker, born July 22, 1831 in Chester County, PA; died October 1, 1918 in Phoenixville, Chester County, PA; married Margaret Youngblood on January 31, 1861 at Brownback’s Church, Chester County, PA

Margaret Youngblood, daughter of Isaac Youngblood and Sarah Whiteside, born April 7, 1836 in Chester County, PA; died October 13, 1914 in Phoenixville, Chester County, PA.

Charles Morgan James, son of Benjamin Franklin James and Margaret Liggett, born July 3, 1837 in Marsh, Chester County, PA; died August 1, 1908 in Coventryville, PA; married Emma E. Ibach on February 28, 1861 in Pottstown, Montgomery County, PA.

Emma E. Ibach, daughter of William Ibach and Sarah Wien, born October 20, 1835 in Berks County, PA; died July 3, 1884 in Philadelphia, PA.

John P. Evans, son of Amos Evans and Catherine Keeley, born July 12, 1840 probably in Limerick, Montgomery County, PA; died October 3, 1906 in East Coventry, Chester County, PA; married Mary Newman on January 2, 1867 in Limerick, Montgomery County, PA.

Mary Newman, daughter of Abraham Newman and Rebecca Derr, born on September 3, 1846 probably in Montgomery County, PA; died August 1, 1916, probably in Pottstown, Montgomery County, PA.

Enos H. Shaner, son of Daniel Shaner and Mary Ann Hoff, born May 1, 1845 probably in North Coventry, Chester County, PA; died July 15, 1897 in Cedarville, Chester County, PA; married Adeline E. Miller January 22, 1868 at Brownback’s Church, Chester County, PA.

Adeline E. Miller, daughter of George K. Miller and Mary Ann Evans, born April 7, 1848 probably in Limerick, Montgomery County, PA; died June 28, 1923 in Cedarville, Chester County, PA.

And there you have it – my great-great-grands. Thanks, Randy, for the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun suggestion!!