Category Archives: Research Tips

Finding Enumeration Maps for Southeastern Pennsylvania Counties

This is an update to my previous post “Tuesday’s Tip – Finding an Enumeration District in the 1940 Census” [link]. In response to that post, I received an email from Ken McCrea who has added a utility to his GermanNames website to aid researchers in finding the ED maps for various southeastern Pennsylvania counties and their population centers (cities/town/townships).

Go to his website [link] and at the very top you can click go to “Guides to the 1940 Census for Southeastern Pennsylvania.” From there it is pretty self-explanatory. He is providing direct links to the maps at the NARA Online Public Access site, eliminating the need to formulate a search query. It makes finding the maps a little more straight-forward.

Tuesday’s Tip – Finding An Enumeration District in the 1940 Census

In just 34 days (April 2) the 1940 census will be released.  I have already signed up with FamilySearch.org to be an indexer. If you want to help too, you can get more information at the 1940 Census site: [link].

But what if you don’t want to wait for volunteers to build the name index? With a little effort and persistence there is apparently a way you may be able to find some of your relatives sooner. According to the National Archives site [link], NARA will be releasing  the digital images indexed to the enumeration district level. I wanted to check into this to see how feasible it would be to locate some of my relatives using the this method.

Both my maternal and paternal grandparents lived in Pottstown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania in 1940 and I have the exact street addresses. I wanted to see how easy (or hard) it is to find the enumeration district(s).

I started with the Steve Morse Unified 1940 Census ED Finder page [link]. I entered the state and county, but as it turns out, Pottstown was not one of the options on the city/town drop-down list. I had to chose other and enter Pottstown in the adjacent box. Clicking on the “Get 1940 ED numbers” box resulted in the screen below. The red box shows where I had to choose “Other” from the drop down box and then enter the town name. If the city I wanted had been available on the drop down menu, I could have entered the House Number and Street and pin pointed the ED. As it turns out, I got a list of all the ED’s in Pottstown.

In order to get more information about the EDs returned on the search screen displayed above, I clicked the 1940 ED Description radial button and the then the “More Details” button. The result is displayed below:

In reading through the ED descriptions, the boundaries are described in clock-wise rotation. I drew the red box around ED 173, which is the one containing both my paternal and maternal grandparents’ homes. You can get more information (such as the number of residences included in that ED) by clicking on the view button on the right.

The reason I was able to hone in on ED 173 is because I am familiar with the street layout in this area of Pottstown. It would, however, be easier to visualize the EDs if they were drawn on a map. So finding the map was my next step.

As it turns out, you can get an ED map display from the NARA 1940 census research site: [link]. Follow the instructions under bullet 3 on that page. It will advise you to go to the Online Public Access Page [link]. I entered “1940 census enumeration district maps pottstown pennsylvania” in the search box on the Online Public Access page, and got the following map:

By zooming in using the controls at the bottom of the map, it’s easy to confirm that ED 173 is indeed the one containing the addresses that I am interested in. So now, come April 2nd, I have the option of either waiting for the name index or browsing through the images of ED 173.

Tips and Tricks for Searching Ancestry.com

I have to say that between the new “Pennsylvania Church and Town Records, 1708-1985″ Collection on Ancestry.com and the “Pennsylvania County Marriages, 1885-1950″ on FamilySearch.org I have been filling in so many “blanks” that I’ve lost count! I’ve been finding exact birth, marriage and death dates, names of parents and maiden names of spouses! I’ll probably blog about some of my specific finds soon, but for now I wanted to post a quick tip on searching the Church and Town Collection on Ancestry.

So, I started out doing a search for “Daniel Ecker.” The following is a screen shot of a portion of the results that were returned: (hint: if a screen shot is too small to read, click on it to see a larger view)

Search Results

I then click on the top result and view the image. It turns out to be Daniel’s marriage record in the church register of Christ Episcopal Church in Pottstown, Montgomery Co, PA. Now I’m thinking I want to see what else I can find in that particular church register. Unfortunately, there’s no direct way to search just that register – the best you can do is limit the search to the entire “Pennsylvania Church and Town” collection. But there is a way to get almost what you want by setting the search parameters appropriately.

First, limit the search to the “PA Church and Town” collection. You can do this through the card catalog feature, but I find it a lot easier to do by clicking on the banner as shown in the image below.

Now you will get the following search box:

The key thing here is to use the advanced search, then on the “Any Event” option, set the location of the church and “restrict to exact.” You could also set the year and range and click “Exact only” to further limit the scope of the query. As I have the query set up, Ancestry will only return results from Pottstown, PA.  This limits the number of churches to only those in Pottstown and greatly increases the chance that the results returned will be relevant.

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.

Tuesday’s Tip – Consider ALL the Possibilities!

So you just got your hot little hands on a copy of great-great-granddad’s will and he names “his brother-in-law Joe Blow” as one of his co-executors. Do you now throw your arms up in the air and do the genealogy happy dance because you have uncovered the long sought after maiden name your great-great grandmother? It’s tempting! But maybe it’s not quite time to break out the champagne. Here’s a true story from my family files.

Sebastian Keeley (sometimes spelled Keely) was my 5X’s great grandfather. At the time of his death he lived on a “plantation” in Vincent Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. Records show he also operated a tavern. He died on November 8, 1777 at the age of 48. In his will he names as co-executors his wife Elizabeth, his son Matthias and his brother-in-law George Christman. It is my belief that this is where William Henry Egle, the Pennsylvania State Librarian who wrote a series of genealogy-related articles for the Harrisburg PA Daily Telegraph newspaper in the late 1800s, got his information. His Egle’s “Notes and Queries” is a multiple volume compilation of about 5000 pages containing historical and biographical information on families from eastern and central Pennsylvania. It is an important and widely available genealogical resource in Pennsylvania. And it says my 5x’s great grandmother was Elizabeth Christman.

So this is my starting point. Elizabeth Christman is my 5x’s great-grandmother. Now what? Well naturally I want to find her parents – my 6x’s great-grandparents. And this is where everything starts to fall apart.

The Keely family, headed by Sebastian’s father Valentine, arrived in American around 1728. Valentine settled in what would be become western Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Two of his children, Matthias and Sebastian settled across the river in Chester County when they became of age.

Daniel, patriarch of the Christman family, came to America 1730. He purchased land near Valentine Keely’s property in 1738. According to Christman genealogists, Daniel’s children were born between 1731 and 1744. Some of his children also wound up settling across the river in Chester County.

This area (i.e. northern Chester County and western Montgomery County, Pennsylvania) was not a huge population center. Despite pockets of housing developments, even in 2011 most people would characterize this area as relatively rural — particularly on the Chester County side of the river. So back in the late 1700s the population was downright sparse. This is good because there are a limited number of Keelys as well as a limited number of Christmans living in the area for us to analyze.

Now, as you’ll recall, Sebastian was born 1729. Logically, his spouse would be in the generation of Daniel’s children. There’s also a small chance Elizabeth could be a granddaughter of Daniel – particularly if he was widowed and she was a second wife. So let’s look at George Christman – Sebastian’s brother-in-law. In a deed dated 1801, the executors of the estate of Sebastian Keely sold land in Limerick township, Montgomery County to Jacob Keely (one of Sebastian’s sons). In that deed George Christman is described as a yeoman of Pikeland township. Now I have been told (correct me if I’m wrong) that in this case, the term of yeoman refers to a farmer who owned land. Through a combination of civil and church records, it can be proved that the George Christman who lived and owned land in Pikeland township, and who was of age to be an executor in 1777, was the son of Daniel Christman, the immigrant mentioned above. And George had a sister named Elizabeth!

So far so good, right? Well, let’s keep going with this. Daniel Christman died in 1760. In his will he describes his daughter Elizabeth as a spinster. So Elizabeth Christman was unmarried when her father wrote his will. So if Sebastian and Elizabeth married after Daniel’s death in 1760, all of their (legitimate) children would have been born after that and would have been under the age of 17 when Sebastian died in 1777. But baptism and other records show that Sebastian had at least 4 children born between 1754 and 1760, as well as four more between about 1762 and 1772. Egle apparently knew this. He implied that Elizabeth was the second wife of Sebastian. What he apparently did not realize, however, was that church records show that Elizabeth Christman, daughter of Daniel, married Johannes Haas/Hause on March 12, 1861. Burial records for Vincent Mennonite Cemetery (aka Rhoades Burial Ground) show that Elizabeth Hause, wife of Johannes, died in 1777.

As if that isn’t bad enough, when Elizabeth Keeley died in 1807, her son Jacob petitioned the orphan’s court to partition or sell land. Jacob was born in 1758. Jacob’s petition lists the names of his then living brothers and sisters as well as the surviving children of his deceased brother Sebastian. From the way this document is written, it would appear that Elizabeth was the mother of all of Sebastian’s known children. To top it off, the birth date of Elizabeth Christman, daughter of Daniel, as recorded in her baptism record, is inconsistent with the birth date inscribed on Elizabeth Keeley’s tombstone. It is, however, consistent with the birth date on the tombstone of Elizabeth Haas/Hause.

So where did we go wrong? Perhaps we found the wrong set of George/Elizabeth Christman siblings. But given the facts we have about George the executor, the only George Christman who possibly fits the bill is unequivocally also the son of Daniel. In the end, our entire premise for Elizabeth Keeley having the maiden name of Christman is the fact that Sebastian called George Christman his brother-in-law.

So who are your brother-in-laws? Strictly speaking your brother-in-law is the brother of your wife or the spouse of your sister. In the interest of space, in this case, George’s wife is not Sebastian’s sister. Nor did George have a deceased wife who was Sebastian’s sister. Nor did George have a deceased sister who was Sebastian’s first wife. That pretty much covers all the brother-in-law bases. Except one. My husband has three sisters. They are my sister-in-laws. Strictly speaking their husbands are not my brother-in-laws – but I’ve called them brother-in-laws. Don’t most people?

What if Sebastian’s wife and George’s wife were sisters. Would Sebastian call George his brother-in-law? Well, I think so and I think that’s exactly what happened in this case. George’s wife was Sophia Frey or Fry. I am slowly finding more information on the Frys in the area. So far, it’s all starting to fit together. There aren’t the glaring inconsistencies as there are with Daniel Christman’s daughter. But it’s still a little premature to start doing the happy dance.  Of course, there’s also the bit about Elizabeth Christman. She was declared to be Sebastian’s wife by a very well-known, respected source over 100 years ago. It’s been an uphill battle trying to convince other Keeley/Keely researchers that that may not be the case!

So getting back to the Tuesday’s Tip — check all the possibilities. Particularly when it comes to relationships. Sometimes siblings are really half-siblings (or even step-siblings). Sometimes brothers are brothers-in-laws. (I also have a will where this is the case.) Sometimes adopted or step children are not explicitly identified as such. And sometimes a brother-in-law is, in the strictest sense of the word, not a brother-in-law but rather the spouse of your sister-in-law!