Category Archives: Research Tips

Is Mary (Keeley) Lapp a Descendant of Valentine Keely of Skippack??

One of my research projects involves the identification of the descendants of Valentine Kiehle/Keely/Keeley who immigrated in 1728 and settled in the area of what is now Skippack, Montgomery County, PA. (He is my 6x’s great-grandfather.) So a couple of years ago when Mary (nee Keeley) Lapp showed up in the then new Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church and Town Records on Ancestry.com, I immediately looked for her in my database. The Ancestry record provided the information that she was born September 12, 1838, died Oct 7, 1919 and was the daughter of Henry and Mary (Poole) Keeley. Unfortunately, not only was Mary missing from my Keely/Keeley database, but I had no Henry Keeley-Mary Poole couple either. Nor could I find her in the census under either her maiden name or married name. Vexing. So Mary went onto a back burner for a while.

Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago. As many of you may know the early years of Pennsylvania death certificates (currently 1906-1944) are available online at Ancestry. (Note to researchers: This collection is available as part of  the US subscription but is also free to Pennsylvania residents when accessed through the PA portal.) While mining this collection for Keely/Keeley records I once again came upon Mary (nee Keeley) Lapp. Some key information gained from the death certificate was that Mary and her father Henry were born in Pennsylvania and her mother Mary Poole was born in Massachusetts. The death certificate further stated that prior to being admitted to the hospital in Norristown (where she died) she lived in Graterford, Montgomery County, PA.

Armed with the information that she supposedly was born, died and had a residence in Pennsylvania prior to her death, I once again I looked for her in the US Federal Censuses. And although I tried all sorts of spelling and misspelling variations of Keeley and Lapp, I was still unable to find Mary. Not in 1910, 1900, 1880, 1870, 1860 or 1850. Rejecting the possibilities that she avoided being enumerated in the census because she spent the bulk of her life abroad or that she and her family were somehow skipped over each and every decade, I went back to the death certificate to look for more clues.

The informant on the death certificate was Mrs. Samuel Koons of Graterford, PA, and she was identified as a daughter. Hoping to find more about Mary by finding out more about her daughter, my first goal was to determine Mrs. Koons’ first name by locating her in the 1920 census. I was really hoping that since she lived in Graterford in October of 1919 that she would still be there (and be enumerated) when the 1920 census was taken. The closest match was Samuel Koons, aged 68, and his wife Mary C., aged 60, of Perkiomen. They were also in Perkiomen in 1930 with Samuel aged 76 and Mary C. aged 71. But in 1910, Samuel, aged 56, is enumerated with wife Lizzie C., aged 54. And here I hit a snag — not only is the first name of the wife different, but the age is inconsistent.

Taking a step back, the 1930 census indicated that Mary C. was first married at age 19, which would have been about 1878 and that Samuel was first married at age 38, which would have been about 1896. Thus Mary C. was married to someone else prior to marrying Samuel. Based on the 1910 census Samuel had a prior marriage as well. This, of course, leaves a window of between 1910 and 1920 for the marriage of Samuel and Mary C. In searching further the Philadelphia marriage index shows a 1915 marriage between Samuel Koons and Mary C. Mishler.

A census search for Mary C. Mishler yielded a 1900 census for a widowed Mary C. Mishler, aged 41, living in Philadelphia with a son Herbert, aged 20. Going back, the 1880 census had a Silas Tucker, aged 40, with son-in-law Thomas Mishler, aged 25, Mary Mishler, aged 21, and Herbert, aged 1 in Lancaster, PA. In 1870, Silas Tucker, aged 36, Mary A., aged 30, Mary C., aged 11, and William H., aged 9, are enumerated in Lancaster.  And in 1860 Silas Tucker, aged 24, Mary A., aged 21, and May [sic], aged 1, are once again in Lancaster, PA. So presumably, Mary (nee Keeley) Lapp has been now been found in 1860 and 1870 living in Lancaster with her first husband, Silas Tucker. A little more digging shows her living in Philadelphia in 1880 with second husband Samuel Pearson and son William Tucker, aged 19. She is also in Philadelphia in 1900 as a 59 year-old widow and in 1910 as a 71 year-old widow. (Yes, the ages are a little off, but I am fairly certain it is her.)  In addition, the Philadelphia Marriage index shows a 1911 marriage between Mary Pearson and George W. Lapp.

So to recap Mary’s timeline:

  • 12 Sep 1838 – born in PA to Henry and Mary (Poole) Keeley
  • est 1857 – married Silas Tucker
  • 1860 – in Lancaster with Silas Tucker and daughter
  • 1870 – in Lancaster with Silas Tucker and children
  • bet 1870 and 1880 – divorced Silas Tucker, married Samuel Pearson
  • 1880 – in Philadelphia with Samuel Pearson
  • 6 Aug 1897 – death of husband Samuel Pearson in Philadelphia
  • 1900 – in Philadelphia, widowed
  • 1910 – in Philadelphia, widowed
  • 1911 – married George W. Lapp in Philadelphia
  • by 1914 – living in Graterford, Montgomery, PA
  • 7 Oct 1919 – died in Norristown, PA

So although part of the mystery of Mary (nee Keeley) Tucker Pearson Lapp is solved, questions still remain. Where was she in 1850? Where in Pennsylvania was she born? Is she a descendant of Valentine of Skippack? If you have any further information on Mary, I would love to hear from you. In the meantime, I’ll keep looking and hopefully I will soon be able to get a handle on her parents and ancestry.

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.