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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

1728 Naturalization Petition

My historical research jaunts have taken me to Illinois, Georgia, and several other states. But I never went to the archives in Chester County which is only a hop and skip from Berks County. All of my ancestors settled in Lancaster County when they arrived in the 1700s and stayed there generation after generation until the 1960s when my parents made the big move to the next county. So, naturally, the majority of my family research has been done in Lancaster County and I just don't have much reason to go to Chester County.
Lancaster County was part of Chester County until 1729. I have to go back pretty far to find any of my ancestors in Chester County records. In 1728 more than 200 Germans met at Martin Mylin's house in the part of Chester County known as Conestoga. They signed a petition requesting permission to become naturalized citizens of Pennsylvania with full rights and privileges other citizens enjoyed. Although the rights they were after are not stated, their land was their life and wealth. They wanted to be able to sell the land they purchased and pass it on to their children.
The petition was notarized in (now) Lancaster County and sent to Chester County where the original document is retained. I have a copy of an article that was published in The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine in 1992 which lists the names of all the signers of this rare document. The original spelling and capitalization of the names has been preserved in the article.
Even if they are hard to read, I wanted to see the actual signatures on the petition. So today I made the trip across county lines to Chester County and got a copy of the petition. I have seen some of the signatures often enough on other documents that I recognized a few of them instantly. Others take a good bit of imagination to read. But by comparing the signatures with the list in the magazine article, I can decipher them.
I have not counted how many signatures of my ancestors are on it, but there are quite a few. Wendel Bauman, Hans Good, Hans Groff, George & Henry Weber, and others. I am delighted to have this many signatures on one document for cross reference. Here is a sample.

If you need an interpretation, the names are (from top down)

Hans Good [his mark: HG]
Gabriel Zimeman
Mathias Shyarmister [his mark: ma?]
Jacob Stauffer
Conrade Strickland [his mark: K]
Bendicte Knoll [his mark: B]
Peder Gut
Abraham Steiner

Oh yes! The petition was granted on February 14, 1729/30 and their lands were passed on to their posterity. They had no idea their signatures would be as valuable to some of their descendants 300 years later as their land was to the generation who inherited it from them.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Lady With The Big Fat Purse

Did you ever have one of those moments when something from your dim past surfaced and you could remember some of it but not the whole thing?
I had one of those moments this week and it's driving me crazy trying to remember the rest of it. Maybe somebody can help me out. We used to say these lines:
"In came the doctor, in came the nurse, in came the lady with the big fat purse.
I don't want the doctor, I don't want the nurse, I don't want the lady with the big fat purse.
So out went the doctor, out went the nurse, out went the lady with the big fat purse."
When did we say these lines? Is it a rhyme we used when we were jumping rope? If so, how was it done? What was the rest of it? What does the lady with the big fat purse have to do with the doctor and nurse?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hall of Fame

Recently I met a lady whom I run into occassionally. She is a busy woman doing a lot of good things. Unfortunately, she seems to be more impressed with herself than I am. The more I see and hear from her the more unfavorable my impression becomes.
This got me to thinking about who the truly great women are that I have known. The following is not a complete list by any means but here are some of the women in my Hall of Fame.
The woman
* who was faithful to her marriage vows when her husband was not.
* who loved and cared for her mentally handicapped child as long as she lived.
* who was content to live in a place far from her family because her husband was called to serve there.
* who raised her family alone after her husband's death.
* who has enough education to be a college professor but continues to teach at a local Christian school.
* who never complains about the rough start she had in life.
* whose name is known across the country and travels a lot for speaking engagements but is still surprised by the attention she receives.
What is the common denominator that makes these women great? They have the heart of a servant. That, after all, is what Jesus said makes a person great. "He that will be greatest among you, let him be your servant."
An insecure woman needs to promote herself and make sure you know how great she is. And that is exactly what proves she is not as great as she thinks she is. A woman who is truly great does not have to make a lot of noise to let you know how great she is. Her actions speak for her without a word. Humble, modest women who serve others rather than self earn a place in God's Hall of Fame. Ultimately, that's what really matters.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Huck Finn Weekend

This was one of those weekends when there was more going on than we could possibly do. We had to pick and choose from the menu of activities, passing up some opportunities completely and getting only parts of others. We actually split up for the weekend. I went to my Burkholder reunion and did some other things alone while Leroy went rafting on the Juniata River with Dale and his boys.
A group of about 25 men and boys met at 6 a.m. Saturday and drove up to Thompsontown where they put their homemade rafts in the water.
Weather and water conditions were perfect and they had a great time.

They floated to an island below Millerstown and camped there for the night. Leroy had borrowed an air mattress and was quite comfortable while the others slept on the ground. Age has it's benefits!

After breakfast and a short worship service, they pushed off again and floated down to the Green Valley campground, below Newport.
Floating down the river on a homemade raft gives one a completely different view of life and the river. They saw some wildlife and birds you never see when you drive by the river on the road. Leroy got home around 4:30 Sunday afternoon. He really enjoyed the experience and spending the weekend with Dale and his boys. They made a memory that will last a long time.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hidden Riches

The second edition of Hidden Riches hit the market last week. Here it is.

This was my first book, originally published in 1983. There were five printings before it went out of print three years ago. The main reason I wanted to let it go out of print was because new information was discovered in the 1990s which proved the story we had always been told about our Burkholder immigrant ancestors was not true. They never lived in Germany but immigrated directly from Switzerland. The parents' names were not Christian and Elizabeth but Ulrich and Barbara. The Burkholder widow and her six children settled at Bowmansville, not Groffdale.
After the book was out of print I kept getting calls from people asking where they can buy it. Early this year Faith Builders called asking if there was any way the book could be reprinted so they can incorporate it into the curriculum they are developing. I passed the request on to Christian Light and they decided to revive the book.
We decided to leave the story as it was written because making it historically accurate would have required rewriting the entire story. It didn't seem logical to me to print two different versions of the same story. So I wrote a new Preface for the book giving the accurate information and copies of some of the supporting documents. I ended by saying that although the story as it was written is not historically accurate for this particular family, the book can be read as historical fiction for it is typical of the experiences of many Mennonite immigrant families in colonial days.
Yesterday Leroy and I serviced the book racks in Cumberland County for Lantern Books and placed some copies of this book on each rack. It will be interesting to see next month how well it sold. Hidden Riches is now in its sixth printing and second edition. After I thought it was dead, it got a second chance at life.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


We had a nice visit with our guests last evening. My cogs were slipping though. They were not from Maine and Vermont but from New Hampshire and Massachusetts. It was not two couples but a man and three women. Here they are.
L-R--Patty and John, his two sisters, Lorraine and Carol.

Carol has bought all my books and is the one who got her brother to search for me. They have Italian background and a different heritage from our German one. Carol brought me some cookies she baked from an old Italian family recipe. Of course, I deliberately cooked PA Dutch foods. Apple butter, chicken pot pie, brown butter, chow chow, ring bologna, and shoofly pie were all foreign to them, but they said they liked everything and proved it by taking second helpings. We now have friends in the New England states we can visit if we ever go that way.

Monday, July 12, 2010

New England Fans

We're having company for supper tonight. Yes, I know it's Monday. That's not the standard day to have company but this is not standard company either. Our guests will be a couple from Maine and one from Vermont--a brother and sister and their spouses.
The lady from Vermont bought some of my books when she was in Lancaster County on an earlier trip. Her brother managed to find me for her via the Internet. Now the four of them are in Lancaster County again and want to meet me during their visit. I invited them for supper and tonight seemed the best fit.
This kind of thing has happened before. I've had company from several states and met some interesting people through my books. I usually cook a PA Dutch supper for these visitors and will do so again. We'll have chicken pot pie, shoofly pie, and other traditional PA Dutch foods.
It is interesting to learn where some of my books have gone and meet some of the people whose lives have been touched by them.
I have some reservations about this group, however. They have been way too gushy about meeting me. I tried to tell them I am not a celebrity and they are welcome to come as friends but I'm afraid the message didn't get through. If there is anything I hate it is being fussed over because of my hobby. I write for the joy of it, not for fame or attention.
I also think they have some misconceptions about the idyllic life of Mennonites and Amish. They may be surprised to find how much our house is furnished like theirs, except for the absence of the TV and other electronic gadgets. From what they have said, they may ask a lot of questions. I'm not sure what I'm in for but pray I can be a gracious hostess and the right words will be put in my mouth when I need them.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dog Days

The Dog Days of summer pounced on us this week. If you've been hearing about the heat wave in the northeastern part of the country, it's not exaggerated. Yesterday it was 100 in the shade at 5 p.m. and the official temperature was 102. I was fortunate to be able to spend the day in the air conditioning at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society.
Today is not much different. It is 98 at the moment and could nudge up a few more degrees before it starts to cool down a little for the night. Our house was built in 1968 when central air was a luxury only the rich could afford. We make do with a few window units in the bedrooms and my office. Since the rest of the house is so hot, I am spending the day in my office working on some projects on the computer.
The grass is turning brown and crunched under my feet when I went for the mail. The garden is still green, thanks to daily waterings with the hose. While we were on vacation Gene got more mulch than he needed for the potatoes so he spread the extra on the two rows of corn. We never mulched corn before but it must be making a difference. The corn in the garden is not curled like the corn in the field next to the garden.
We're hoping for rain and cooler temperatures by the weekend. If only we could bottle some of the excess heat and keep it until January!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Learning Experience

I have just learned an important lesson (I hope!). Let me start at the beginning.
We live near an old church with a history that dates back to 1727. The current building was constructed in 1775. It was founded as a German Reformed congregation by the first European settlers to come into this area. In 1869 the word German was dropped from the title of the church and it was simply a Reformed church. Several mergers in the history of the denominated changed its name to Evangelical and Reformed Church, United Church of Christ, and finally it became an independent congregation known simply as the Host Church.
The long history of this church next door, where many of our neighbors are or were members, has long intrigued me. Several years ago I purchased a book on the history of the church, published in 1975, which contains a long cemetery list. This list was not available anywhere online so I listed it on a website, offering to do look ups for people. I met some interesting people in the process and was actually able to help a few people find their ancestors. That was all the reward I needed.
Then I had another bright idea. I could (I thought) save myself the time it took to do look ups if I posted the actual cemetery list on another website called FindAGrave. It took me awhile to do it, but I told myself that I would save time in the end. I didn't know it, but that was only Stage One.
Stage Two began when a few people requested photos of the stones. I dutifully (and gladly) complied. But in the process I became aware that the cemetery record I had transcribed from the book was full of errors. One of the most glaring mistakes was listing women by their maiden rather than married names. This made it almost impossible to find a man's wife. Being a stickler for accuracy, I was embarrassed to have my name on something that was so full or errors.
Stage three began sometime this winter when I began revising and correcting the cemetery list. For months, I trotted down to the cemetery with my book, pencil, and camera to check stones and verify the names. I wondered what the caretaker of the cemetery thought of this screwball that kept wandering through the cemetery taking notes and pictures. Some weeks I went every couple days and other weeks I didn't have time at all for it. But I persisted.
Stage four was completed this week when I finally reached the Zimmermans. (Ever notice how the poor Zimmermans are doomed to be on the tail end of every alphabetical list?) The next job was proofreading which took me most of the week. About 10:30 this morning I finally finished the last stage. The list is as accurate and up to date as I can make it.
There are over 1900 names on the list so it was a large job with a sense of accomplishment to match. I found some missing women in the process of untangling the record which is gratifying to me. But the most important lesson I learned is to NEVER transcribe a cemetery record from a book. And I never will do it again. In fact, I don't think I will ever be so foolish as to tackle any cemetery that large, so help me God not to forget the lessons in this learning experience.