Tag Archives: Genealogy

Week 1 (Start) – Anna Maria Shimer Keeley

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Cemetery at Brownbacks – Burial site of Anna Maria (nee Shimer) Keeley and her husband Jacob

The prompt for this week is “Start.” I chose my 4th great-grandmother Anna Maria (nee Shimer) Keeley to write about because she is the earliest documented ancestor in my matrilineal line. She represents a starting point of sorts since she is the ancestor that I can reliably point to as the one from whom I inherited my mtDNA (mitochrondial DNA).  [Here’s the link to my mtDNA post.]

Anna Maria Shimer was born about 1760, probably in Pennsylvania. Her father was Michael Shimer. 1 It’s possible that her mother was Catherine Ash (or Esch), daughter of Adam Esch, and that she had a brother and two sisters, but more research is needed to verify her mother and siblings.  2,3

The Shimer family lived in Vincent Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. 4 Their property was supposed to have been along the Schuylkill River and thus was likely near present-day Spring City.2

On March 7, 1782 the Lutheran minister Rev. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg performed a ceremony uniting in marriage Anna Maria and Jacob Keeley. 5 Jacob also grew up in Vincent Township and was the son of Sebastian Keeley and Elizabeth Fry. His father was a prominent citizen who, at the time of his death in 1777, owned a plantation, mill and tavern in Vincent Township as well as a plantation in across the river in Limerick township (then Philadelphia, now Montgomery County, PA).

Both the Shimers and Keeleys were of German descent. Many German Protestants immigrated to Pennsylvania in the early to mid 1700s in large part to escape religious persecution. The Shimers and Keeleys were likely part of this group.

Jacob and Anna Maria Keeley spent the early part of their married life in Limerick Township, Montgomery County, PA – quite possibly living on the Limerick plantation originally owned by his father. They were enumerated there in 1790 and 1800. Upon the death of his mother in 1807, Jacob purchased his parents’ property in Vincent township from his brothers and sisters and presumably relocated his family to that land.

Jacob and Anna Maria had a family of nine children – 3 sons and 6 daughters. Their children were Hannah, Sebastian, Elizabeth, Jacob, George, Mary, Esther, Sarah and Catherine. 6 My ancestor was Catherine, the baby of the family, who was born in 1802.

Tragically, Anna Maria died on April 14, 1814, just one day before her husband Jacob. The church records say that Jacob died of typhoid fever. It is quite possible that Anna Maria died of the same disease. They are buried side by side at Brownback’s United Church of Christ Cemetery in East Coventry, Chester, Pennsylvania. 1 Note that Brownbacks was founded in 1743 and was formerly known as the First Reformed Church of Coventry, it being one of the earliest German Reformed Churches in Pennsylvania.7

Sources/Footnotes:

  1. Tombstone Photographs – digital images (privately held by Janis Tomko), Brownback’s UCC Cemetery, photographed 6/25/2005. Her tombstone inscription states that she was 54 years of age when she died in 1814 and that she was the daughter of Michael Shimer and wife of Jacob Keeley.
  2. Shimer Allen R., History and Genealogy of the Shimer Family in America,(Allentown, PA: Press of Berkemeyer, Keck & Co., 1908), Vol 1, pg 52 and Vol 2, pg 221-222; digital images, The Internet Archive, archive.org. Information on immigrant Michael Shimer and family.
  3. Pennsylvania, City of Philadelphia, administration files; Author: Philadelphia (Pennsylvania). Register of Wills; Probate Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Probate file of Michael Shimer of Vincent Township, Chester, PA (widow was Catherine)
  4. Pennsylvania Archives, 3rd Series, Proprietary Tax Lists, Chester County Rates – 1771; Volume Number: Vol 11; Page Number: 772; Family Number: 1
  5. Tappert, Theodore G. and John W. Doberstein, “The Journals of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg,” Volume 3, The Evangelical Lutheran Nimisterium of Pennsylvania & Adjacent States, page 474; Marriage of Jacob Keely and Anna Maria Scheumer
  6. “Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1994,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-899T-J93C-4?cc=1999196&wc=9PMZ-2NP%3A268496301%2C280267001 : 3 July 2014), Chester > Orphans’ Court records 1809-1822 vol 12-13 > image 233 of 570; county courthouses, Pennsylvania. Petition of the heirs of Jacob Keeley, late of Vincent Township.
  7. Brownback UCC Church History. (https://www.brownbackschurch.org/church-history)
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RootsTech observations from a Home Viewer

It seems that the whole genealogy community is buzzing about the recent RootsTech conference – and with good reason! I was one of the unfortunate many who could not attend the conference live, but was able to catch a bit of the excitement by watching several of the presentations that were streamed live on the internet. So here goes with some general observations.

Cloud computing was a huge topic in the sessions that I saw online. This included using the cloud for backups, synchronization, collaboration and storage of family trees. I’ve always been a little distrustful of “the cloud,” but I was convinced to take a few more steps in that direction – or at least check it out in more detail. As an example, I know that a lot of people use dropbox for their genealogy data, but I’ve been hesitant. Hearing all the conference talk, however, prompted me to do a google search which showed a product called SecretSync that encrypts files prior to uploading to dropbox. This gets around some of the concerns people are expressing with the dropbox privacy policy. It probably isn’t necessary to SecretSync every file before adding it to drop box, but I will probably do this for any information I consider personal or sensitive. On the other hand, I didn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling about Geni. I still plan to keep my primary genealogy database on my PC and upload a subset to the various tree sites.

In viewing the presentations, I also realized that I’m under-utilizing some important resources – especially maps. LegacyFamilyTree has built-in mapping based on Bing. But I have been unable to get it to work on my relatively new Windows 7 computer. The LegacyFamilyTree website says that their mapping requires IE7. I don’t use IE, but have version 8 installed on my computer. I am reluctant to go back to version 7. After seeing some of the RootsTech presentations, I’m going to look into using GoogleEarth tours and possibly some basic mapping with GoogleMaps. It won’t be integrated with Legacy, but I guess you can’t have everything. :(

While I enjoyed each and every presentation that I saw, the topic that got me most excited was the Google presentation segment on Historical-data.org. In a nutshell, this is a way to add semantic information to a web page in order for the search engines to better assess it’s relevance to a “genealogy search.” I even went so far as to start to update one of my obituary web pages by defining my ancestor Augustus Bechtel as an HistoricalPerson. I did this after the Historical-data.org schema definitions were touched upon in the Day 1 keynote address. I wasn’t sure how to define the HistoricalDates and felt vindicated when watching the Google presentation on Day 2, when the speaker said even the large companies they were working with struggled with this. They  (Google, et al) are promising to add examples to the Historical-data.org blog, and you can just bet that I am now subscribed and waiting for that post! I even put in a product enhancement suggestion for LegacyFamilyTree to add this to the webpages that Legacy generates. (Crossing fingers that they at least consider.)

That’s about it for now. As I try out some of the software and concepts, I may post follow-ups!

Rootsmagic – free public beta

I know I haven’t been posting much, and I’m behind on my emails as well. :( The reason is that I am working on the yearbook for my youngest’s elementary school. The deadline is fast approaching, so I’ve had to spend a lot of my time on that. But I did want to make a quick post about Rootsmagic 4. It is currently in public beta — meaning it’s free for anyone to download and try out until March 31.

Now I have been a long-time user of Legacy Family Tree. I’m mostly happy with it, but I’m getting a little disappointed with the lingering bugs in reports with regards to printing sources. So I downloaded Rootsmagic earlier today to give it a try. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, I don’t have a whole lot of time to really play with it right now, but I am hoping to test it out more during the free trial.

I’ll likely post more about this in the future. I’d also be interested to hear what other people think of the new Rootsmagic.

Chester County PA Archives and Records

I added another website to my Free Genealogy Resources page. This is for the Chester County PA Archives and Records site. Chester County is one of those counties who have moved their historic records out of the courthouse and into an off-site government building. This one is located on Westtown Road (see the exact address on their website). It is outside of the downtown area and there is free parking available in the on-site lot.

If you are planning a visit, you can make the most of your time there by first checking the online indexes on their website. If you have never visited the website, you will probably be surprised by how much information they have online. If you are planning a visit, going to the website in advance will allow to check through most of their collections for records of interest. Just record the appropriate call-numbers so you can request them when you get there.

The building on Westtown Road houses more than just the archives, so you will have to go through a security check point when you enter. The archives are in basement level, but everything is very clean and well organized. There are several microreaders available, as many records have been filmed and are self-serve. The staff has always been very helpful the times I have been there.

Geotagging Tombstone Photos – I wish I would have!

A while back I was going through some cemetery tombstone photos that I took a couple of years ago. I had found out the married name of one of the daughters in a family I research and was hoping that I might have a picture of her tombstone in the background of another photo. I guess I should back up here and mention that the first couple of times I photographed tombstones, I zoomed in on the individual stone – but then I learned to stand back and get a bit of the general area so that I could later go back and see the surrounding graves.  This way if there were many extended family members in a cemetery, it became easier to figure out who’s who when I got back to my computer to look at the photos. I just need to crop and reduce the photos so that just the relevant tombstone is showing for sites like findagrave. I then save the cropped version and also keep the original one for reference.

Anyway, I was going through the original photos, looking at the backgrounds, when I noticed a partly obscured one that related to yet another family I research. Unfortunately, I needed to get back to the cemetery and get another look and another photo because some of  the dates weren’t visible. Oh how I wish I would have had those original photos geotagged!! (See my previous post about this.) Had it been geotagged, the location (lat-long) of where I was standing when I took the original photo would have been stored and available for me to see. Since it was not geotagged it quite literally took me forever to find the obscured tombstone in the background. This pretty much convinced me I need to start geotagging. Even if the location was off by several feet, it would have gotten me to the right vicinity so much sooner!

I bring this up now because I am hoping to get back out to take some more cemetery photographs soon – as soon as the weather warms up. I am sooo tired of winter!