For the second week of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge the prompt is “Favorite Photo.” I was not sure I could really pick a favorite photo because each ancestor photo that I have been lucky enough to get is very important to me. But after thinking about it for a little while, I decided to blog about a tombstone photo that I took myself on a visit to Vincent Baptist Cemetery in Chester Springs (Chester County) PA back in 2005. It is a picture of the gravestone of my third great-grandmother Mary Pennypacker Garner, who was born in 1802 and died in 1852.
Before I talk about the tombstone photo, I first wanted to blog a bit about Mary. She was born 4 Jul 1802, to Henry Pennypacker and his wife Susanna Zublin.1 She had an older sister Elizabeth and younger siblings James, Aaron, Owen, Sarah and Susan.2 Her father Henry was a farmer in Chester Springs. The Pennypackers were an established family that trace their roots back to the immigrant Heinrich Pennebacker, who immigrated from Holland prior to 1700 and eventually settled in what is now Skippack, Montgomery, Pennsylvania.
Mary married John Garner circa 1822.3 Their known children were Samuel, Susan, Sarah, David, James, Mary and John Jr. Census data suggests there may also have been a daughter born prior to Samuel. The young family seems to have moved around quite a bit. In 1830 they are in East Nantmeal, Chester Co., PA, in 1840 they are in Upper Union Township, Berks Co., PA and in 1850 they are in North Coventry, Chester Co., PA.4,5,6 Mary died in 18521 and by 1860, John is a widower living in Phoenixville, Chester Co., PA.7 Mary is buried next to her mother, Susanna Zublin Pennypacker, and step-father, Valentine Pennypacker (a cousin to her father), in the cemetery at Vincent Baptist Church. While I suspect her father’s family was Mennonite, her mother was a member of this church.
There are several reasons why her tombstone photo is so important to me. First, when I visited the Vincent Baptist Cemetery it was for general research. I knew that several of my ancestors and relatives lived in the area and was hoping to find some family members buried there. However, from what I knew of where the Garners lived based on census and land records, I was not expecting that Mary’s grave would be there. Finding it was wonderfully serendipitous!
Second, though her tombstone was in very rough shape, it was very informative. It gives the name of her husband (John Garner) and her parents (Henry and Susan Pennypacker) in addition to her date of death and age at death. It is, in fact, the only record I have been able to find of her vital information. I have not found her birth, death or marriage dates in church records, newspapers, any sort of family records or any other publications.
And the third reason I am so glad to have this photo is that when I returned to the cemetery about a year or so ago, her tombstone was no longer there! She is buried next to her mother and step-father. That area is now just grass. In the intervening years, her tombstone must have been damaged and/or destroyed and removed. Unfortunately, there was no one on-site at the church to ask. Since this is the only record of her birth and death dates, I am so very glad to have gotten a photo of it before it was gone.
- Tombstone Photographs – digital images (privately held by Janis Tomko), Vincent Baptist Cemetery, photographed 9/9/2005. Her tombstone inscription states that she was the wife of John Garner and daughter of Henry and Susan Pennypacker, died Sept 10, 1852, aged 50 years, 2 months and 6 days. (Admittedly, the tombstone is difficult to read, but this is my best interpretation.)
- “Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683-1994,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L99T-NBVZ?cc=1999196&wc=9PMZ-FMZ%3A268496301%2C280294901 : 3 July 2014), Chester > Orphans’ Court records 1822-1831 vol 14-15 > image 259 of 575; county courthouses, Pennsylvania. Petition of Harmon and Matthias Pennypacker, sons of Harmon Pennypacker Sr. names the children of their deceased brother Henry.
- Marriage date is based on birth of eldest daughter possibly being circa 1823.
- 1830; Census Place: West Nantmeal, Chester, Pennsylvania; Series: M19; Roll: 148; Page: 203; Family History Library Film: 0020622. Household of John Garner
- 1840; Census Place: Union, Berks, Pennsylvania; Roll: 438; Page: 395; Family History Library Film: 0020535 Household of John Garner.
- 1850 U.S. census, Ancestry.com, Digital images (National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), Census Place: North Coventry, Chester, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_765; Page: 171A; Image: 347. Household of John Garner.
- 1860; Census Place: Phoenixville, Chester, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1092; Page: 697; Family History Library Film: 805092 Household of John Garner