The Stibrik Brick Wall – using DNA info to target record search

So I didn’t last too long in last year’s 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge! Part of the problem for me was finding an ancestor to fit the prompt. So I’m finally back to posting, but I think I’ll stick to free-form — at least for now.

So DNA. DNA-based research has been my focus for a while now. Of course I am still looking at records, but I am using DNA matches to help focus on where to look for records. That’s exactly how I was able to break through the brick wall of my husband’s Stibrik ancestors.


Andrew Stibrik (1881-1940)

Andrew Stibrik was my husband’s great-grandfather on his dad’s maternal side. He was born in 1881 in Hungary (in an area that is now part of Slovakia) and immigrated to the United States in July of 1912 through Ellis Island. His destination was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the home of his brother-in-law Joseph Blasko. His actual connection to Joseph was that they were married to sisters. Joseph was married to Julia Kuzma who was already living in Pittsburgh with her husband and children. Andrew was married to Julia’s younger sister Anna.

So although he was already married and the father of three, Andrew came to the United States on his own in 1912 in order to establish himself. In early 1914, just months before World War I broke out in Europe, Anna and the children joined Andrew in Pittsburgh. (I am in awe that Anna made this journey on her own with three children under the age of 5!) Once in Pittsburgh, Andrew and Anna had three more children. As it would turn out, they spent the rest of their lives in Pittsburgh. Andrew died there in 1940 from injuries he received when he was hit by a car while walking home from work. Anna lived nearly thirty more years, dying 1967.

The challenge has been to find information on the Stibrik family in Slovakia. Andrew’s naturalization papers give his place of birth as Bardejov. Bardejov is a city in the northeastern part of present-day Slovakia, near the Polish border. Interestingly, his wife Anna (nee Kuzma) was from the town of Čaňa. That is in the southeastern part of Slovakia near the Hungarian border. It is nearly directly south of Bardejov. Records for the three oldest children show that they were also born in Čaňa, indicating that either as a child or young adult Andrew moved roughly 100 kilometers (over 60 miles) south from Bardejov to Čaňa.

The only other known information about Andrew was that his Pennsylvania death certificate gave his parents names as Andrew Stibrik and Mary E. (maiden name blank). Oh — and the family was associated with the Catholic Church. They were definitely Catholics!

My main (pretty much only) resource for Slovak research was the Slovak Church records on In searching this collection I was able to find information on the Kuzma family, but nothing on Andrew Stibrik. Nothing on anyone with the surname of Stibrik. And this is where I was stuck for several years. Did he change his last name? Is Stibrik a phonetic spelling? If so, what would be the original spelling? Or was Stibrik an ethnic variation – with the original spelled differently?

Then several descendants DNA tested and suddenly some new leads emerged. The initial breakthrough was discovering a DNA match who didn’t seem to fit with the other Slovak sides of the family (Tomkos, Kuzmas, etc) – a predicted 4th cousin from Ohio sharing a decent amount of DNA. So I did a little research on the match’s family. I found roots in the Bardejov area. I found an obit stating the funeral of the match’s ancestor was officiated by a Lutheran minister? What? Lutheran? Okay, maybe someone converted after immigration. I checked out the shared matches. I researched some more. I found a pattern of matches tracing back to Bardejov — and they were Lutherans (or at least their descendants who lived in the US were Lutherans.) I was stunned! Could the Stibriks (or one of their allied families) have been Lutheran??

The first step was to find Slovak Lutheran church records. I went back to the familysearch website and dug deeper. And guess what. The Slovak Church record collection includes non-Catholic churches. But in the case of the Lutheran records for Bardejov, they were unindexed. They were online for browsing — but no index for searching. So I browsed, page by page. And I found Andrew Stibrik! He was baptized in the Evangelic (Lutheran) Church at Bardejov, his parents being Andras Stibrik Sr. (a protestant) and Mary E. Szabol (a Catholic)!!

To make a long story a little shorter, the paternal ancestors of Andrew Stibrik were deeply entrenched in the Lutheran Church in the Bardejov area. I was able to find birth, marriage and (some) death records to document back to Andrew’s four paternal great-grandparents (Adam Stibrik, Maria Krukar, Adam Benka and Maria Chovanecz). They were born in the late 1700s to very early 1800s. In the process, I was able to determine the exact connection to some, but not all, of the DNA matches that sparked the initial research into the Lutheran records.

Finally, I should mention that shortly after Andrew’s 1881 Lutheran baptism, his father Andrew Sr. apparently converted to Catholicism. Though I have absolutely no proof, I cannot help but wonder if his conversion was a contributing factor in the family relocating that 100 kilometers.

And that’s pretty much my story of how DNA helped me to break through this brick wall. Essentially, it prompted me to look in a place (Lutheran church records) where I would have never considered looking. In the process I also learned that even though a collection on familysearch has an extensive index, it does not necessarily mean all the records are indexed. And so here is my research tip. Check the familysearch catalog. Maybe the records you need are online and can be browsed. Or maybe they are still only available on microfilm. (Unfortunately this is the case for some of the Slovak Church records that I need for other branches of the family.)

Happy searching! And if we are related on this or any other line, feel free to contact me!


Week 7 (Valentine) – Catherine Keeley Evans

wedding-ringsThe theme this week is Valentine, and I chose to write about Catherine Keeley Evans because she is my ancestor with the longest marriage. On December 26, 1822 Catherine Keeley married Amos Evans.1 She was 20 and he was 19. The marriage ended on March 7, 1884, upon the death of Amos.2 They were married an incredible 61 years,  2 months and 10 days!

Here’s a little more information about Catherine. She was born on December 15, 1802 to Jacob Keeley and Mary Shimer.3 [Note: I have written about her mother Mary Shimer Keeley earlier this year. That blog post can be found here.] Catherine was the youngest of their nine known children. It was a family of six girls and three boys. They were Hannah, Sebastian, Elizabeth, Jacob, George, Mary, Esther, Sarah and Catherine.

Catherine likely spent the first several years of her life in Limerick township, Montgomery County, PA where her family was enumerated in the 1800 census.4 Upon the death of her paternal grandmother Elizabeth Frey Keeley in 1808, her parents purchased the family homestead. It was located across the Schuylkill River in East Vincent Township, Chester County, PA, near Sheeder’s Mill.5 Life would have been a little different for the family as they now ran an inn and owned a grist mill.6 Unfortunately, this life would not last long. In April of 1814, Jacob and Mary both died within one day of each other. Jacob died of typhoid fever and it is probable that Mary did as well.7,8

Catherine was 11 years old when she was orphaned. Her sisters Sarah and Esther were also minors, aged 13 and 16 respectively. The other siblings were grown and most were married. We do not know for sure what happened to Catherine, Sarah and Esther after the death of their parents. The court appointed Capt. John Adam Miller as Catherine’s fiduciary guardian. Sarah and Esther, being over age 14 by the time of probate chose their own. Sarah chose John Hause and Esther chose John Titlow.9 These guardians were responsible for managing the girls’ inheritance until they came of age. so it is quite possible that they actually lived with one of their older siblings.

As noted before, Catherine married Amos Evans in 1822 when she was 20 years old. Amos was from the Evans family whose ancestors settled in Limerick Township, (then Philadelphia, now Montgomery County), Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. After their marriage, Catherine and Amos lived in Limerick Township on the Evan’s land, where Amos followed the occupation of farmer.10, 11, 12, 13 The couple raised a large family of 12 children. They were Edward, Mary Ann, Elizabeth, Catherine, Amos K., William, Daniel, Matilda Ann, Sarah Ann, John P., Harriet and Lewis. Thanks to a cousin marriage a couple of generations later, I actually descend from two of these children. Mary Ann was my 3x great-grandmother and John P. was my 2x great-grandfather.

Amos and Catherine suffered their share of trials and tribulations during their marriage. Of their twelve children, only six were still living when Amos died.14 My ancestor, Mary Ann, was one of those who pre-deceased her parents. She died in 1862 at the age of 37.15 I have not uncovered her cause of death. My other ancestor, John, was one of the surviving children. He died in 1906 at the age of 66.16 Another child that died early was Daniel. His story was particularly tragic in that he drowned in 1866 at the age of 32 when he accidentally fell from his canal boat while passing through a lock. He left a wife and two young children.17

In their later years Amos and Catherine moved from their farm in Limerick Township to a house in the borough of Pottstown. Amos was still working at the age of 77 and was employed at the roller mills.18 He died four years later (March 7, 1884) at the age of 81.19 After Amos’ death Catherine continued to be an active part of the lives of her children and grandchildren. In October of 1884, Grandmother Evans (as she was known) attended the surprise 64th birthday party of her former son-in-law, George K. Miller.20 (George had been the husband of my ancestor Mary Ann Evans who died in 1862.)

evans-amos-catherine-copyCatherine died on January 16, 1886 at the age of 83. She was survived by 5 of her 12 children. (Daughter Sarah Ann, wife of Augustus Scheffey, had died the year before.21) She was also survived by 32 grandchildren and 42 great-grandchildren!22 She was buried along side her husband at the churchyard in Limerick Township. It seems appropriate that when I was there to photograph tombstones in 2005 Catherine’s broken stone was propped against that of her husband Amos.23


  1. GenealogyBank, “Historical Newspaper Archive, 1690-2010,” database, Genealogy Bank ( accessed ), Marriage of Amos Evans and Catharina Keely, citing records of Reading Adler, 7 January 1823.
  2. Pennsylvania. Pottstown.,   Montgomery Ledger, “Obituary of Amos Evans,” March 11, 1884.
  3. Falkner Swamp Reformed Church (New Hanover Township, Montgomery, Pennsylvania), “Records of Falkner Swamp Reformed Church,”, birth/baptism of Catharine Keely.
  4. 1800 U. S. Federal Census population schedules (National Archives and Records Administration), Series: M32 Roll: 41 Page: 761. Household of Jacob Keely
  5. Chester County Archives and Records, “Deed Book Index, 1681-1820,” database, Jacob Keely purchased land in Vincent Township, 1808.
  6. Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015. Will of Sebastian Keeley – includes description of real property
  7. Zion Lutheran Church (East Pikeland Township, Chester, Pennsylvania), “Records of Zion Lutheran Church.” death record for Jacob Keely.
  8. Tombstone Photographs – digital images (privately held by Janis Tomko), Brownback’s UCC Cemetery, photographed 6/25/2005. Tombstone for Mary Shimer Keeley
  9. Orphan’s Court File – Decedent Jacob Keely Vincent township, 1814, Chester County Archives and Records, West Chester, Pennsylvania. Guardianship petitions for Catherine, Sarah and Esther.
  10. 1830 U.S. census,, Digital images (National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), Census Place: Limerick, Montgomery, Pennsylvania; Series: M19; Roll: 154; Page: 262. Household of Amos Evans.
  11. 1840 U.S. census,, Digital images (National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), Census Place: Limerick, Montgomery, Pennsylvania; Roll: 478; Page: 166. Household of Amos Evans.
  12. 1850 U.S. census,, Digital images (National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), Census Place: Limerick, Montgomery, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_799; Page: 81B; Image: 163. Household of Amos Evans
  13. 1860 U.S. census,, Digital images (National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), Census Place: Limerick, Montgomery, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1145; Page: 150. Household of Amous[sic] Evans.
  14. “Obituary of Amos Evans”
  15. Pennsylvania. Pottstown.,   Montgomery Ledger, “Death Notice of Mary Ann Miller,” 20 Jan 1863.
  16. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. death cert of John P. Evans
  17. Pennsylvania. Pottstown.,   Montgomery Ledger, “Drowning Case,” November 20, 1866.
  18. 1880 U.S. census,, Digital images (National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), T9, roll 1158, Lower Pottsgrove, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, enumeration district (ED) 24, p. 13. Household of Amos Evans
  19. “Obituary of Amos Evans”
  20. Pennsylvania. Pottstown.,   Montgomery Ledger, October 17, 1884. Birthday celebration for George K. Miller.
  21. Pennsylvania. Pottstown.,   Montgomery Ledger, “Obituary of Sallie Scheffey,” May 12, 1885.
  22. Pennsylvania. Pottstown.,   Montgomery Ledger, “Obituary of Catherine Evans,” January 19, 1886.
  23. Tombstone Photographs – digital images (privately held by Janis Tomko), Limerick Church Burial Ground, Limerick, Montgomery, Pennsylvania, photographed October 2, 2005.

Week 6 (Favorite Name) – Mary Swavely Dilliplane


St. Paul’s Church in Amityville, Berks, Pennsylvana – where Maria Swavely was baptized.

It was very hard for me to chose an ancestor this week. In the end I decided to write about my 3x’s great-grandmother, Mary Swavely Dilliplane. Her name is a favorite simply because I found it! I did it by examining her FAN club (family, associates and neighbors), developing a theory for her parentage and then finding records to prove it. It was a combination of research and analysis to develop the theory and luck in that there was direct evidence in her father’s probate file to confirm it.

I have briefly written about Mary and finding her family on this blog before here and here.  This post will go into more detail. There were several factors that made it so difficult to identify her. First, she died prior to 1850 and was never enumerated by name on any census. Second, neither she nor her husband Thomas Dilliplane have a tombstone that I have been able to find. So I had no dates — not even a birth year. (Remember prior to 1850 people were only identified by tick marks in age range buckets.) But I did have a starting point. There is a very comprehensive and well-researched book, “The Delaplaines of America,” written by Marvin Delaplane in 1998.1 It had her as Mary with maiden name unknown.

So how did her first name come to be know? Well, there were two records that suggested that her first name was Mary. One was the 1853 Berks county death record for her son Joshua.2 Pennsylvania counties were supposed to record births and deaths from 1852-1854, but not all complied and not all records survived. It was fortuitous that the record for Joshua existed. It did not provide her maiden name, but it did give us a first name of Mary. (This was the source cited in the Delaplanes of America book.)

The second record that seemed to identify her was the 1819 baptism of Samuel, son of Francis and Maris Dellekum.[sic]3 At first blush, this records appears to be for an entirely different family. But it is a transcription. I have not been able to see the original handwritten record, but I have looked at many other early church records and they can be nearly illegible. If the first letter of T was mistaken for an F, I can see how someone could come up with Francis instead of Thomas for the father’s first name. Also, I wasn’t able to find any Dellekum family in other Berks county records (census, tax lists, etc) in or around 1819, leading me to believe that the last name was misspelled/misinterpreted as well. When you are researching a last name like Dilliplane, you have to be open to many spelling variations — and this seemed like it might be one of the more creative ones!

One of the first steps I took in trying to identify Mary’s maiden name and her parents was to look at the census data and try to pin down an approximate year of birth. The first census that shows Thomas Dilliplane as a head of household is 1820.4 He and his family are living in Earl Township, Berks, Pennsylvania. They are also there in 1830 and 1840.5,6
Dilliplane-Mary-Swavely-table1I created a little chart for the birth year of his presumed wife in those three census years.  Looking at the overlap between the birth year ranges for the various census years – and  taking the information provided at face value – Thomas’ wife would have been born between 1790 and 1794.

On to the FAN club. Ideally, the first set of records I would consider would be the baptismal records for the children. The reason is that baptismal sponsors were often, though not always, relatives. I have found that it is worth doing at least some cursory research on the sponsors to see if there is a familial connection to either the father or mother of the baptized child. Unfortunately, in this case there was only one baptismal record to consider. And there was a bit of uncertainty that the record even applied to this family. But you have to work with what you’ve got. The baptismal sponsors for Samuel “Dellekum” were Samuel Schwabely and Maria Ritchard. Since Mary and Maria are usually variants of the same name, it seemed unlikely Maria Ritchard would be a sister to Mary Dilliplane. So while I was keeping both Swavely and Richard (and variant spellings) in mind, I was a little more focused on Swavely.

The next step was to see who was enumerated near to Thomas Dilliplane in the various censuses. In particular, I wanted to see if there were any Swavely families living nearby. In 1820, there was an Adam Swafle two lines above Thomas. In 1830 Adam was four lines above Thomas. (This time the last name looked more like Swevely.) And in 1840, Adam was three lines above Thomas. Presuming that Adam was the oldest male in these census records, he was more of the age to be a father to Mary than a brother.

Things really started to come together when I found the 5 Nov 1793 baptismal record for a Maria Schweffle, daughter of Adam and Esther, at St. Paul’s Reformed Church, Amityville, Berks, Pennsylvania. According to the record, Maria was born 8 Oct 1793 of the same year.7 As it turns out Swavley (like Dilliplane) is another last name with creative spelling variations in early records. [Note — St. Paul’s church, where Maria’s baptism was recorded, is pictured in the photo at the beginning of this post.]

The last piece of the puzzle came together when I was able to access the 1842 Berks county PA probate file of Adam Swavely.8 Since Adam, a land owner, died intestate his son John filed a petition with the court to sell the land. In it John named all of Adam’s heirs. This included the then surviving children of Adam’s deceased daughter Mary, who had been married to Thomas Dilliplane. It was extremely lucky that this document exists because it provides direct evidence of Mary’s parents. It also names Mary’s children and tells which are of age and which are still minors.

So there’s the story of finding Mary’s maiden name – as well as her parents and children. As I mentioned at the beginning , it took some research and analysis and a fair amount of luck in that records containing direct evidence existed and were even available online!


  1. G. David Thayer, editor, The Delaplaines of America, Third Printing edition (Salem, Oregon: Rapidsoft Press, 2004.) Originally authored by Marvin G. Delaplane, 1998
  2. Berks County Deaths 1852 – 1855 (online – transcribed from Berks County Court house). Record for Joshua Dilliplane
  3., “Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708 -1985.” Database and images., (accessed 1 Feb 2012); birth/baptism of Samuel Dellekum; citing the records of St. Joseph’s Hill Church (Pike township, PA).
  4. 1820 U. S. Federal Census population schedules (National Archives and Records Administration), Series: M33 Roll: 99 Page: 132. Household of Thos. Dilplain
  5. 1830 U. S. Federal Census population schedules (National Archives and Records Administration), Series: M19 Roll: 143 Page: 434. Household of Thos. Dilplain
  6. 1840 U. S. Federal Census population schedules (National Archives and Records Administration), Series: M704 Roll: 438 Page: 346. Household of Thomas Dellpliane
  7., “Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708 -1985.” Database and images., (accessed 1 Feb 2012); birth/baptism of Maria Schweffle; citing the records of St. Paul’s Reformed Church (Amity township, Berks PA).
  8. “Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1994,” images, FamilySearch ( : 3 July 2014), Berks > Estates 1800-1850 Stocker, John-Swavely, Samuel > image 2337 of 2398; county courthouses, Pennsylvania. Probate file of Adam Swavely, 1842, Earl Township, Berks, PA.


Week 5 (In the Census) – Alice B. James Garner

The prompt this week is “In the Census.” In sticking with what has become my theme this year, I am writing about another female ancestor. This week it is my great-grandmother Alice Bertha James Garner. She was born in 1876 and died in 1961. Keeping in mind that only the names of the head of household were listed prior to 1850, Alice is my female ancestor who, at this point, will appear in the most censuses by name. She was enumerated from 1880 to 1940 and will be on the 1950 and 1960 censuses when they are eventually released.


Alice was born on July 25, 1876 to Charles Morgan James and Emma E. Ibach.1  Her father Charles was a prominent and prosper miller. He began milling in 1859 at the age of about 21 or 22, following in the foot-steps of his father Benjamin F. James. A couple of years later he married Emma E. Ibach, daughter of William Ibach and Sarah Wien. By 1872 he and his young family were living in Coventryville, Chester County, Pennsylvania where he owned and operated a mill.2 It was in Coventryville that my great-grandmother Alice was born.

Alice was the youngest of the nine known children born to Charles and Emma. They were Annie, William, Sarah, Laura, Charles, twins Harold and Edward who both died in infancy, Alfred who also died in infancy and Alice.3 The 1880 census is the the first in which Alice appears. The family was enumerated in Coventryville, Chester, Pennsylvania. All of the older children (from 17-year old Annie to 8-year old Charles) attended school. Alice, being only 3, did not.4 The family portrait shown below was taken at their home about that time.


Unfortunately, not too long after the above photo was taken, Emma Ibach James died of cancer. She died in 1884, just weeks before Alice turned eight.5 One of my aunts (who has since passed away) believed that Charles remarried and that Alice was raised by a step-mother. Alice could apparently skin potatoes with a paring knife removing very little of the potato itself. According to my aunt, Alice was forced to learn this skill from her step-mother.  However, in years of searching, I have never been able to find any record that suggests that Charles remarried. He obviously would have needed help on the domestic front. Perhaps it was actually Alice’s step-grandmother, the second wife of her grandfather Benjamin F. James, or an aunt, other relative or even a housekeeper who stepped in after her mother’s death.

I have also been told by various family members that Alice was well-educated. Some say she attended Normal School. Normal Schools were the original name of what were later called the Pennsylvania State Teacher’s Colleges and now are the PSSHE (Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education) universities. It is my understanding that in Alice’s day these schools would have had a 2 year program. The James family lived closest to the normal schools in West Chester and Kutztown, but I have not been able to find any corroborating evidence to suggest that Alice attended either of these schools.  Another aunt has told me that Alice attended Ellis School for Girls. This sounds to me like a “finishing” school, but I have not been able to find any information on it.

In 1896, just weeks before her 20th birthday, Alice and her beau Nathan Garner married in Camden, New Jersey.6 Nathan had rather humble roots compared to Alice. His father David was a stone-mason. The family lived in a small house on the north side of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania where David was probably employed by the Phoenix Iron Company.7 Nathan, however, grew-up on the East Coventry farm of  Nathan and Eliza Moyer.8  Eliza was a sister to Nathan’s mother Margaret Youngblood. No one is quite sure why Nathan lived with his aunt and uncle. Maybe the Moyers, who only had two children of their own, needed help. David and Margaret had a family of four sons and three daughters. Perhaps because Nathan was the namesake of his uncle, he was the one chosen to go live on the farm.

No one in my immediate family knows the story of how Alice and Nathan met. If Nathan had lived in Phoenixville with his family, their paths may never have crossed. But fortunately for all of their descendants, they did meet, marry and raise a large family. By the 1900 census they were the parents of 3 children – including a new-born.9 About that time Lawrence (the eldest and my grandfather) was sent to live with Nathan’s cousin Flora Moyer and her husband Hilary Epright. Flora was one of the cousins with whom Nathan was raised. No one is sure whether Lawrence’s situation was supposed to be temporary, but as Nathan and Alice had more children and less space, it became permanent. By 1910 Nathan, Alice and their enlarging family lived on a rented farm in East Coventry.10 By 1920, they were in a small rented home in the borough of Pottstown and Nathan was working as a laborer at a foundry.11

In a span of 22 years, Alice and Nathan had 10 children. They were Lawrence, Elizabeth, Anna, Frank, Sara, Harry & Charlie (twins), Laura, Mary and Leonard. Unfortunately, Nathan died in 1925. He was only 53 years old, but his death certificate suggests that he may have suffered a stroke.12 Alice had five children who were still under 18 at the time. Leonard, the youngest, was seven. Ironically he was the same age that she was when she lost her mother. Alice and her younger children continued living in the same rented house in Pottstown through 1930 and 1940.13,14 In fact, I believe that Alice and her sons Frank and Leonard, neither of whom ever married, lived there until Alice’s death.

Alice died in October of 1961, By then she had lost not only her husband, but also her three oldest children. Anna, who was the newborn baby in 1900, died in 1943. Elizabeth, who was born in 1898, died in 1949. And Alice’s eldest child, my grandfather Lawrence, died of a heart attack in May of 1961. Alice died only two months later in July. At the time of her death she was survived by seven children, 15 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.15

Alice is buried in Edgewood Cemetery in Pottstown, PA next to her husband Nathan.16


  1. Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Death cert for Alice B. Garner
  2. “Obituary of Charles M. James,” Daily Pottstown Ledger, 3 August 1908, contains biographical information.
  3. List of the children of Charles James & Emma Ibach, in Family Papers Collection, privately held by Janis Tomko, [address for private use]. hand written notes of Dr. Laura Yeager Sampsell.
  4. 1880 United States Federal Census[database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. Census Place: Coventryville, Chester, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1115; Page: 422A; Enumeration District: 096. Household of Charles M. James
  5. “Death from a Surgical Operation,” Montgomery Ledger, 8 July 1884, obituary of Emma E. James.
  6. Marriage Certificate. Privately held by Janis Tomko., Marriage Certificate of Nathan M. Garner and Alice James
  7. 1880 U.S. census, Heritage Quest, Digital images (National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), T9, roll 1115, PA, Chester, Phoenixville, enumeration district (ED) 86, p. 278, dwelling 395, family 418, Garner, David (head), accessed 8 Oct 2009.
  8. 1880 U.S. census, Heritage Quest, Digital images (National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), T9, roll 1115, East Coventry, Chester County, Pennsylvania, enumeration district (ED) 94, p. 393, Nathan Moyer – head of household, accessed 8 Oct 2009.
  9. 1900 U.S. census,, Digital images (National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), T623, roll 1442, Limerick, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, enumeration district (ED) 209, sheet 3A, p. 281 (stamped), Nathan Garner – head of household, accessed 6 Jan 2011.
  10. 1910 U.S. census,, Digital images (National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), T624, roll 1327, East Coventry, Chester County, Pennsylvania, enumeration district (ED) 18, sheet 10B, Nathan M. Garner – head of household, accessed 6 Jan 2011.
  11. 1920 U.S. census, Heritage Quest, Digital images (National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), T625, roll 1607, PA, Montgomery, Pottstown, enumeration district (ED) 161, sheet 8A, p. 130, dwelling 159, family 169, Garner, Nathan (head), accessed 8 Oct 2009.
  12. Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Death cert for Nathan M. Garner
  13. 1930 U.S. census,, Digital images (National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), T626, roll 2084, Pottstown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, enumeration district (ED) 121, sheet 13B, Alice Garner – head of household, accessed 6 Jan 2011
  14. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Census Place: Pottstown, Montgomery, Pennsylvania; Roll: m-t0627-03583; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 46-172. Household of Alice Garner
  15. “Chester County Native Dies At Age 85,” The Pottstown Mercury, 18 October 1961, obituary of Alice James Garner.
  16. Tombstone Photographs – digital images (privately held by Janis Tomko), Edgewood Cemetery (Pottstown), photographed 6/12/2005.

Week 4 (Invite to Dinner) – Rachel Boughter Dilliplane

I was hoping to have this posted on Friday, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I’m running a little late. I hope to be back on track for week 5.

The prompt for week 4 is Invite to Dinner. I decided to view this as an ancestor whom I would like to invite to dinner – for food and conversation. It was really hard to choose. I would love for this opportunity with each and every one of them. In the end I decided to write about my father’s paternal grandmother (my great-grandmother) Rachel Boughter Dilliplane.

Rachel Boughter Dilliplane

Rachel Boughter Dilliplane (1862-1926)

Rachel was born December 3, 1862 in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Her parents were Henry Boughter and Rachel Levengood.1 In both the 1900 and 1910 census, my 2x great-grandmother Rachel Levengood Boughter states that she was the mother of nine children. but I have only been able to identify eight.2,3 The eldest, Elizabeth, died young, as did a son George.4,5 The remaining children were Catherine, Amanda, Sarah Ann, Mary Ann, Rachel and Henry. Thus my great-grandmother Rachel was the second youngest of the known children. It was a family of girls except for her younger brother Henry. I should also note that the family originally spelled their last name Buchter, but switched to the more anglicized spelling of Boughter in the 1880s.

My great -grandmother Rachel grew up in rural (and somewhat insular) eastern Berks County, Pennsylvania. In both 1860 (a couple of years before her birth) and 1870 her family was enumerated in Douglass Township with her father’s occupation listed as carpenter and inn keeper, respectively.6,7 By 1880 the family was in neighboring Earl Township and her father was listed as a farmer.8  It was on his farm in the fall of 1880, when a incident happened that I am sure was a memorable and much talked about experience. It was the day the hot air balloon landed in a field on their farm!


During our dinner I would ask Rachel to tell me about that day. Through newspaper accounts I learned that in the fall of 1880 the gas-powered hot air balloon of Professor John Shearer broke from it’s tethers at the Reading Fair Grounds. Dangling from a bar (no basket) the good Professor had a thrilling, but at the same time terrifying, 14 mile ride across the mostly rural eastern Berks County countryside before tangling in a tree and touching down on the farm of Henry Boughter (Rachel’s father). About a dozen men, women and children saw the balloon coming down and ran across the fields to help pull the balloon out of the trees. Apparently both the professor and the balloon survived the ordeal relatively unscathed. Professor Shearer walked back to Reading that night. He hired Rachel’s father Henry to bring the balloon back in his wagon the next day.9

I know first hand how exciting it is to see a hot air balloon coming in for a landing since over the years more than one balloon has buzzed over our house to land in a nearby field. But whereas my kids ran excitedly to meet the downed balloon knowing exactly what it was, the Boughters and their neighbors had likely never seen such a site.  Of the people who gathered when the balloon touched down, the newspaper article quotes the professor as saying that they looked at him with amazement. One of the women thought he rode inside of the balloon. A boy asked (in German) how many more people were inside. I wonder if Rachel was there. Was the young boy her brother Henry or perhaps one of her nephews? Rachel would have been about 17 when this occurred. If she wasn’t there she surely would have heard all about it from her family.

About a year and a half after the balloon incident, in January of 1882, Rachel married Charles Dilliplane.10 She had just turned 19 and he was 25. I would love to ask Rachel how they met. I would also like to hear about their courtship and wedding.

Within a few years of their marriage, Rachel and Charles moved from rural Berks county to the bustling town of Pottstown where Charles found work in the steel mills. By 1900, Rachel and Charles were the parents of seven children ranging in age from 18 to 2. Their children were William, Laura Estelle, Herbert, Pearl Eva, Charles, W. Leonard and Alvin. (An eighth child died in infancy.)11 I would like to ask Rachel about the child that died. I can only imagine the heartbreak. I would also like to ask her how she felt about the move. Was it difficult for her to transition from living on a farm to living in town? Was it hard for her as a young mother to move away from her family? Granted, it was a relatively close move, but it was well beyond walking distance and she likely didn’t get to see her parents very often.

I would think that one of the most difficult times in Rachel’s life was when she had to send her two youngest sons, Leonard and Alvin, off to fight in WWI. She wouldn’t have known at the time if she would ever see them again. (I previously blogged about their WWI experience here.) As it turns out, Leonard (my grandfather) survived the war, but his brother Alvin was killed in action.

The last Rachel heard from her son Alvin was a letter he wrote to her on August 18, 1918. It was reprinted in the local newspaper when a descendant found it while cleaning out a house several years ago. In the letter Alvin says that he has written home several times. He hopes his letters have gotten through as he has not yet received any letters in response.12 Alvin died in battle on September 7th, just a couple of weeks after he wrote the last letter.13 I hope that he was able to hear from his mother before he died. I feel certain that she must have written him. His death must have been absolutely devastating for her and the entire family.

Rachel’s husband Charles (my great-grandfather) died on May 10, 1922,14 and Rachel died just four years later on June 19, 1926.1 They both died relatively young – he at age 66 and she at age 63. My father was not yet born when Rachel died. [In fact, all four of my father’s grandparents died before he was born.] And so the last thing I would like to talk to Rachel about at our dinner would be to tell her about my family. I would start with telling her about my father — the grandson she never met.

Sources / Footnotes

  1. Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Death cert for Rachel L. Dilliplane
  2. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004. Census Place: West Pottsgrove, Montgomery, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1443; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 0221; FHL  microfilm: 1241443. Household of Henry Boughter.
  3. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.Census Place: Pottstown West Ward, Montgomery, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1378; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 0132; FHL microfilm: 1375391 . Household of Henry Boughter.
  4. Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 28 January 2018), memorial page for Elizabeth Buchter (22 Jun 1849–14 Jun 1852), Find A Grave Memorial no. 134653091, citing Saint Pauls Church Cemetery, Amityville, Berks County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Randy VanFleet (contributor 47930261) .
  5. U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Archive Collection: M1838; Archive Roll Number: 1; Census Year: 1859; Census Place: Douglas, Berks, Pennsylvania; Page: 2. Entry for George Buchter
  6. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Census Place: Douglass, Berks, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1075; Page: 229; Family History Library Film: 805075. Household of Henry Buchter
  7. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Census Place: Douglas, Berks, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1305; Page: 235A; Family History Library Film: 552804. Household of Henry Buchter
  8. and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census[database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. Census Place: Earl, Berks, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1099; Page: 230C; Enumeration District: 014. Household of Henry Buchter
  9. “Ballooning in a Wind Storm,” Reading Eagle, Reading, Pennsylvania, 30 September 1880.
  10. “Marriage Notices,” Montgomery Ledger, Pottstown, Pennsylvania, 31 January 1882, Marriage of Charles W. Dilliplane and Miss Rachel Boughtle [sic].
  11. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004. Census Place: Pottstown, Montgomery, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1445; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 0275; FHL microfilm: 1241445. Household of Charles W. Dilliplane
  12. “Alvin Dilliplane Letter,” undated clipping, from The Mercury, Pottstown, Pennsylvania; Newspaper Clipping Collection; privately held by Janis Tomko, [address for private use].
  13. “Alvin Dilliplane Obituary”, undated clipping, from unknown newpaper; Newspaper Clipping Collection; privately held by Janis Tomko, [address for private use].
  14. Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Death cert for Charles W. Dilliplane