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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- Pennsylvania Archives, 3rd Series, Proprietary Tax Lists, Chester County Rates – 1771; Volume Number: Vol 11; Page Number: 772; Family Number: 1
- 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
- “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.
- Brownback UCC Church History. (https://www.brownbackschurch.org/church-history)