Close to Home

Close to home. The school would be close to home. That was one of the reasons we believe that my grandfather was sent to live with his father’s cousin when he was only four or five years old. As it turns out, the cousin, Flora Moyer Epright, lived with her husband Hilary and widowed father Nathan Moyer on the Moyer family farm. And Ridgeville School (a one-room school house) was right around the corner. Here is my scrapbook page documenting that story. (The page is made with a kit called “Hello Father” from the Digial Scrapbooking Studio.)


Long {Life} Line

The next 52 Ancestors prompt is “Long Line.” I’m actually running a little late with this post, plus I took some liberties with the prompt and decided to write about a relative who led a long, interesting life. There are probably several in my tree that I could have chosen, but I decided to go with my grandfather’s first cousin, Laura Yeager Sampsell.

Laura was born in North Coventry, Chester, Pennsylvania on February 28, 1887 to Jacob John Yeager and Anna Elizabeth James. She died on January 22, 1981 in Norristown at the age of 93. She was their only child. Her father died of pneumonia in 1894, and her mother married a widower named John Quarry in 1902. John had four children from his first marriage giving Laura two step-brothers and two step-sisters.

Both of Laura’s parents came from prominent and well-to-do families. Anna (aka Annie) James was the eldest daughter of Charles James and Emma Ibach and sister to my great-grandmother Alice James Garner. The James family were millers and lived a comfortable life in Coventryville, Chester, Pennsylvania.

Laura’s father, Jacob Yeager, came from a prominent farming family in the area of Kimberton, Chester, Pennsylvania. Distant relatives run a Christmas tree farm as well as a pumpkin patch and a road-side store to this day on land passed down through the Yeager family.

Laura had an interesting work-life and career. In 1908, at the age of 21, she was listed in the local City Directory as a saleslady. In 1910, her occupation was manicurist and in 1912 through 1916 she was a hairdresser. But then in 1918 her occupation was listed as chiropodist. This was a term for foot doctor and would eventually be replaced (at least in the US) by podiatrist. In this era, a chiropodist did not have the training of a medical doctor.  But there was some training and credentialing involved. Her 1981 obituary noted that she was a member of the Keystone Podiatry Society of Pennsylvania and the a life member of the American Podiatry Association — so she did have the amount of training required in her day.

About the time of her career shift she moved from Pottstown to Norristown and married Floyd Sampsell. He was a railroad engineer. Their first child, John Y. Sampsell was born in 1917, followed by another son Warren in 1919. Their youngest, Floyd Jr. was born in 1926, but died two years later in 1928 of Bright’s disease. Sadly, Warren died in 1937 of a pulmonary embolism and John in 1938 of pernicious anemia. It is hard to imagine what she went through at this time in her life.

Laura was also a bit of a mystic. My Mother tells several stories of Laura telling fortunes, predicting future events and sensing events that were about to happen. Though there is much more that could be written about Laura, I’m going to include a recent scrapbook page I made of her and leave at this for now. (The layout is made with a modified template from Anna Aspnes and the kit is “A Crystal Winter” by DayDreamDesigns.)





Favorite Photo

In 2018 I started the 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks challenge. I didn’t get very far into the year before I let it lapse. I am going to try again this year, but with the caveat that I will give myself the option to change up the prompts to better suit the stories I want to share. Also, instead of regular blog posts, some (maybe even most) of posts will be in the form of a scrapbook page. My hope is that I will be able to accumulate the pages into a heritage photo book at some point in the future.

The week 1 prompt this year is Fresh Start. My plan is for that post to be about my patrilineal line. Not only is the prompt relevant to that line, but my first post (Start) in 2018 was about my earliest documented matrilineal ancestor Anna Maria Shimer Keeley. And I think there is a nice balance if I switch to the patrilineal side this year. Unfortunately, I am not ready with that post at this point. Therefore, my first 52 Ancestor post for 2020 is going to be prompt 2 – Favorite Photo. And the post is actually artsy scrapbook page using supplies from Anna Aspnes Designs. I hope you enjoy this format.


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.