Tag Archives: Dilliplane

Joshua Delaplane — Germantown to Berks

This is a follow up to my previous blog post about my Delaplaine/Dilliplane ancestors & information about them gleaned from church records. The focus of this post is my 5x great-grandfather Joshua Delaplane.

My ancestor Joshua Delaplaine was likely born in Germantown, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania circa 1707. His parents, James and Hannah, were prominent in the community and respected members of the Society of Friends (Quakers). Joshua and his siblings were educated at the Germantown Friends School and brought up as Quakers as well. On a side note, it is interesting that in his will, Joshua’s occupation is listed as weaver. According the the website http://www.meetinghouse.info, Germantown was known for producing high-quality linens with the textile industry in that town dating back to the original settlers.

The first church record that I have found for Joshua is an 30th day 11th month 1737 [30 January 1738] entry in the Abington, Pennsylvania Quaker monthly meeting records. It is a complaint against Joshua Delaplane “for marrying contrary to the Rules of the Society.” In other words, he married a woman who was not a Quaker. In the minutes of the meeting the following month he “made acknowledgement of his outgoing in marriage to the satisfaction of the Meeting.” So he appears to have made peace with the Quakers, and they have accepted his marriage so long as he follows Quaker doctrine moving forward. Unfortunately, these records do not name his wife nor do they provide any further information regarding her family or her religious affiliation.

The next church record that mentions Joshua is a December 28, 1751 group baptism record for his wife Maria and children Joshua (age 12), John (age 10), Joseph (age 7) and Hannah (age 1). The baptism is recorded at Augustus Lutheran Church in Trappe, (now Montgomery County), PA. At the time Maria was seriously ill and was said to be on her death bed. Her husband Joshua was described in the record as an English Quaker. Despite the dire nature of her health Maria apparently did recover and have at least two more children. The records of New Hanover Lutheran Church (in current day Gilbertsville, Montgomery County) have a March 9, 1753 baptism for a son James who was born January 16, 1753. And St. Joseph’s Hill Church in Pike Township, (now Berks County)  have an October 3, 1756 baptism for son Jeremiah who was born September 10, 1756.

St. Joseph's Hill Church photo

St, Joseph’s Hill Church, Pike Township, Berks, PA

The last set of church records mentioning Joshua (that I’ve found up to this point) are set of entries in the Exeter, (present day Berks County), Pennsylvania Monthly Meeting notes dated from 28th day 4th month 1757 [28 Jun 1757] to 31st day 8th month 1758 [31 Oct 1758]. According to these records, a certificate was sent from Abington Monthly Meeting transferring Joshua’s membership to Exeter Monthly Meeting. But Joshua never started attending meetings in Exeter. There were also accusations recorded in the Exeter Monthly Meeting notes stating that Joshua’s conduct was “reproachful,” that “he often used wild unseemly expressions,” and “that his children have lately been sprinkled by a priest.” (The sprinkling, of course, refers to the baptisms.) Joshua told the Exeter Friends who were sent to speak to him that “he knew of the Certificate’s being come, but that Abington Friends having used him ill in refusing him some assistance when his Family were much indisposed and in want” and that he “would not come to Meeting here until he had spoke with them.” He indicated that he may start coming to the Exeter meetings if he got some satisfaction from the Abington Friends. Apparently that never happened and testimony was read against him and he was officially disowned by the Quakers in 1758.

So what can we make of all this? Well, first, just a bit of general information about Quaker Meetings (as I understand it). There is a hierarchical organization to the Meetings with Preparatory Meetings feeding into Monthly Meetings, feeding into Quarterly Meetings, feeding into Yearly Meetings. At each level the geographic area becomes larger, with Preparatory Meetings being the most local. Monthly Meetings, however, is where most of the business is conducted and where membership certificates are held. If you move out of the jurisdiction of a monthly meeting, a certificate is sent to the monthly meeting that encompasses your new place of residence.

Going back to the marriage reference, it was in the Abington monthly meeting notes where that was mentioned. I have found several references that point to Germantown being part of the Abington Monthly Meeting. So it is conceivable that Joshua was still living in Germantown at his parents home when he married in late 1737 or early 1738.  Joshua’s wife is supposed to be Maria Shelar or Shela according to the Delaplanes of America book – but I have not found any sources to support that being her surname. Based on this record, it seems like the Germantown area would be the best place to look for her family.

It also seems logical that when Joshua says that the Abington Friends refused to assist him when his family was indisposed and in want, he could be referring to the time in late 1751, when his wife Maria was seriously ill and said to be on her death bed. This coincides with the group baptism of Maria and the children. Although Joshua himself was not baptized, he may have “permitted” his wife and children to receive the sacrament because of his disenchantment with the Quakers for not helping him during this time. This is purely speculation unless further records can be found. This could also be about the time the family moved out of Germantown, particularly with James being baptized at New Hanover Lutheran Church in 1753 and Jeremiah at Hill Church in Pike township three years later. The Quakers just may not have tried to transfer his certificate right away.  It is probably worth double checking the Abington Monthly Meeting notes to see if they contain any additional information.

I was actually thrilled to find this set of records. Joshua strikes me as a feisty man who was doing his best to support his wife. Maria apparently had no desire to become a Quaker, and Joshua was left to find a balance between his Quaker upbringing and her beliefs. He appears to have succeeded for a while. But then he perceived the Quakers abandoned him when he needed their support and that became the game changer for him.

My Dilliplane Ancestors Through the Lens of Church Records

Lately I’ve been delving into my early Dilliplane/Delaplaine roots, trying to understand what may have motivated the successive generations to move from New Amsterdam (Manhattan) to Germantown, Pennsylvania to the backwoods of what would eventually become Berks County, Pennsylvania. I feel like I am gaining some insight from church records.

First, a little background. My Dilliplane line in America starts with the immigrant Nicholas de la Pleine. He was a French Huguenot (a French Protestant) who left France due to religious persecution and sought refuge in the Netherlands. He didn’t stay there long as he arrived in New Amsterdam, New Netherland prior to 1 Sep 1658. That is the date he married Susanna Cresson. Their marriage was recorded at the Dutch Reformed Church in New Amsterdam.  In his marriage record he is described as being from Bersweer in Vanckryck while his wife Susanna was (originally) from Ryswyck.

Between 1662 and 1681 Nicholas and Susanna had ten children whose baptisms were recorded at the same Dutch Reformed Church.  My ancestor is James. Some say that he is the child born in 1666 and baptized with the name Jean. Others believe he is an eleventh child, an eldest son, born in 1660 — one whose baptism is for some reason not in the records of that church. I can understand both positions and am hoping that additional evidence will eventually be found to help resolve this.

Despite their  affiliation with the Dutch Reformed Church, the family was apparently strongly influenced by the Quakers. According to Wikipedia, Quakers arrived in New Amsterdam in 1657 – around the same time as Nicholas. Keeping in mind that the Dutch Reformed Church was state-sanctioned, Governor Peter Stuyvesant issued edicts against and meted out harsh punishments to the Quakers. There were, however, sympathetic Dutch colonists. By 1663 (just a year before New Netherland was surrendered to England), the Dutch West Indies Company, having been prevailed upon by a Quaker farmer named John Browne, reluctantly ruled that individuals were entitled to practice religious beliefs of their own choosing. Presumably the colonists continued to have religious freedom under English when they took power. I say this because for at least some of the Delaplaines the religion they chose was Quakerism.


The de la Plaine house in Germantown from the 1906 publication “Old Historic Germantown”

By the late 1600s my ancestor James (as well as several of his family) start showing up in Quaker Meeting records. Some of James’ siblings stayed in New York and show up in records there. James, however, removed to Germantown, Pennsylvania, where he became very prominent in the community. For a time he served as coroner and also as baliff. He also donated land for a market and, along with Herman von Bon, built a prison and stocks in 1704. (This latter information comes from William Penn and the Dutch Quaker Migration to Pennsylvania.)

What prompted James to move to Pennsylvania in the first place? Well, in 1681 William Penn gained ownership of land America from the King of England. Penn, himself a Quaker, strove to create an atmosphere of religious freedom and tolerance. He basically recruited colonists to populate his lands from among those who were religiously persecuted in Europe. By the late 1680s the community of Germantown (now part of Philadelphia, but then an outlying settlement about 2 hours distant) was an enclave of Dutch Quakers. James and these men would have been kindred spirits. This could explain his move from New York where the English were beginning to outnumber and overrun the original Dutch settlers.

Through Quaker records we know that James was likely in Germantown by 1686, which is when he donated 5 pounds to the Friends’ Meetinghouse. In 1692 he married a Quaker woman named Hannah Cock. Their marriage took place at the home of John Underhill on Long Island, which is where her family was from.  In those records he is described as being of Pennsylvania, late of New York and son of Nicola. We also know from Quakers records that the children of James and Hannah were educated at the Germantown Friends’ School.

One of those children was Joshua Delaplaine. I’ll pick up with his story in the next Delaplaine/Dilliplane blog post.

A Day of Remembrance


The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The date and time that marked the end of fighting in the war that was supposed to end all wars. Known variously as Armistice Day, Veterans Day and Remembrance Day, November 11th is now a holiday celebrated in many nations throughout the world.

Both my grandfather, Walter Leonard Dilliplane, and his younger brother, Alvin Freeman Dilliplane, served in the Great War. They bravely fought to liberate France from German occupation. My grandfather was one of the lucky ones. He came home, got married and eventually had three sons, the youngest being my father.

His brother Alvin was not as lucky. He was killed in action on September 7, 1918. He died three days shy of his 21st birthday and 2 months and 4 days shy of the armistice.

Alvin was a hero on the battlefield – perhaps even a bit reckless. On September 5, 1918, the Harrisburg Telegraph, in reporting on battles near Fismette, France in the previous month, included the following excerpt, “Private Alvin F. Dilliplane, of Pottstown, another Pennsylvania boy, showed remarkable bravery at the self-imposed task of rescuing wounded after they had been abandoned.”

For his actions at the Fismete battle, Alvin received an official citation for bravery. It stated that “Private Alvin F. Dilliplane, with utter disregard for personal safety, went forward in daylight to the rescue of wounded men approximately 400 yards in front of our lines, succeeding one of them at that time and the other after dark.”

It would be nice to think that the men he rescued survived and returned to their families. But I have no way of knowing who they were or what happened to them in the long run. For his part, Alvin never made it home. He is buried at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in Picardie, France.

And so on this Veteran’s Days please take some time to remember those who served in all the various wars and conflicts and especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

PA Probate Records on FamilySearch — YEAH!

CRASH! BANG! That’s the sound of another brick wall breaking down!  Last evening, after clicking send on an email to two cousins who also descend from Thomas Dilliplane and his wife Mary, I went to my GoogleReader and saw the Genea-Musings post from Randy Seaver on a new database available on the FamilySearch.org website [link]. I was absolutely stunned to see that Pennsylvania Probate Records are now online since the email I had just sent was regarding getting a hold of the Berks County, PA estate file of Adam Swavely. We were suspecting that Mary was a daughter of Adam and were hoping that she would be named as such in the file.

Talk about pay dirt – this was the genealogy equivalent of hitting the lottery! Despite the Probate Records being browse-only, it was fairly easy to locate Adam Swavely’s file – all 25 pages! And yes, we now know that Mary Swavely, daughter of Adam and Esther, was indeed the wife of Thomas Dilliplane. (See my previous post on this topic [here].) And as if that wasn’t enough, since Mary died before her father, we also know the names of all of Mary’s children. There were actually twelve — which was a few more than previously identified.

And the best part is that with these probate records now available online  I am positive that additional brick walls and uncertain linkages will be confirmed and sorted out!

If you also have PA ancestors, you are going to love having these records online! Here’s the [link].

Thank you FamilySearch for hosting these records and thank you Randy Seaver for posting about them the first day they went online!

Did Mary Swavely marry Thomas Dilliplane?

For a very long time had I nary a clue as to the maiden name of my third great-grandmother Mary Dilliplane. Even learning her first name was hindered by the fact that she presumably died before 1850 and so was never enumerated in the US Censuses by name. The only record of  her first name that I have found is contained in the death record of her son Joshua (presumed brother of my ancestor William). This is also the only source cited in “The Delaplaines of America” by Marvin G. Delaplane – which also only provides her first name.

But now I have a working theory as to her maiden name and parents – a hypothesis. I think that there is a chance that she might be Mary Swavely, the daughter of Adam Jr. and Esther. So far, the facts I’ve found regarding Mary Swavely are consistent with what little is known about Mary Dilliplane. (For more details see my website [link].) I am hoping definitive proof – one way or the other – lies in the estate file of Adam Swavely Jr. He died in November of 1842 and the Berks County, PA Register of Wills online index shows that there is a 25 page estate file. My next step in this process is to check out that file.