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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Never Give Up

In February the state of Pennsylvania finally bowed to pressure and made birth and death certificates available to the public. These records began in 1906. At this point only 1906 birth certificates are available. One more year will be added each year as the records reach the age of 106. Death certificates are available from 1906-1961. The index is online but one must visit the State Archives in Harrisburg to see a copy of the actual certificate.
When I was writing Aaron's Civil War I searched for days to find the maiden name of Catherine Ressler, wife of Valentine Ressler. Valentine was one of the characters in the story who ran away from home to join the army in the Civil War. After he returned home he married Catherine _____. I was able to trace their movements from Lancaster County, Pa. to New York and back to Pennsylvania, births of their children, his burial place in Lancaster County, her move as a widow to the Pittsburgh area, and finally to Harrisburg where she died and was buried. I found her obituary but it did not tell me the names of her parents. I tried to get a copy of her death certificate but was refused because I was not a relative. I was finally forced to give up and let the book go to print without her maiden name. It was not a big deal because it would only have been one word in the Epilogue. But I still wondered who she was.
Yesterday I went to the State Archives to help my sister with some of her research. I asked for and received (free of charge!) a copy of Catherine's death certificate. At last! There was the answer to my question. Her parents were Michael and Hanna (Trego) Reeser.  When I got home I found them in the 1860, 1870, and 1880 U. S. Census. They lived in Gap in Lancaster County. The surname was spelled differently each time---Razor, Rasor, Reser. The information on the death certificate was supplied by Catherine's daughter so I am going to assume her spelling is the correct version.
It's too late to put the name in the Epilogue but I am satisfied that I finally know who she was. I can stop wondering if she was one of my Stauffer relatives from Earl Township where Valentine lived.
As Winston Churchill said, "Never, never, never give up."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Anabaptist Tories

My most recent subject of historical study is the position of the Anabaptists in the Revolutionary War. We have long known that many of the Anabaptists were branded as Tories because they felt duty-bound to be loyal to the king to whom they had promised allegiance when they immigrated. This week I came across something that shows just how strongly they felt about this issue.
In 1780 several Mennonite and Dunker leaders drew up a secret "Address and Petition" to the king stating their loyalty and support even to being willing to "part with Goods" to help restore control to the king. Christian Musselman was sent on the dangerous mission to deliver the petition to the British commander-in-chief in New York City. The petition was never delivered for Musselman destroyed it when he saw he was about to be arrested by American soldiers. If the petition would have been found in his possession he would most certainly have been hung for treason by the Americans. Christopher Sauer III, son of the Dunker printer in Germantown, wrote a letter on September 1, 1780 to Maj. Oliver DeLancy Jr. telling the story.
Several years ago a note was found among the old papers of the Groffdale Mennonite Church which indicates Musselman had the support of the Mennonites in being the courier for this petition. I saw the original note yesterday at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society and made a copy of it. The note, written in German, says, "Herewith I, Benz Hirschi, acknowledge that I have received from Christian Burkholder the sum of 3 pounds, 1 shilling, money for Christian Musselman for travel fare, and if he is able to repay it, it belongs to the congregation. Further, received from Henner Martin for the said Musselman, 4 pounds, 1 shilling."
At this time, Benjamin Hershey was the bishop in the Pequea district and senior bishop of the Mennonite churches in Lancaster County. Christian Burkholder was the bishop of the Mennonite churches in Groffdale, Weaverland, and Brecknock Townships.  Henry Martin was a minister at Weaverland and later became Christian's successor as bishop.
Although this note is in Hershey's handwriting, it is significant to me personally because Christian Burkholder was my direct ancestor. It confirms that he was indeed a "Tory"  and how strongly he felt about his promise to be loyal to the king. I think I would have taken the same position if I had been living at that time in their circumstances.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Writer's Conference

Here we go! The Writer's Conference in Virginia is being held on Friday and Saturday. I was asked last fall to have two workshops and spent a good month getting them ready this winter.
Five of us are going down this evening because I need to be there at 8:30 Friday morning for a pre-conference session with the other speakers. My first workshop, "Techniques for Interviewing," is on Friday morning. The second one, "Literary Latitude with Limited Facts," is after lunch. I am also one of the authors on "Meet The Author" on Friday evening. After that I can relax and just listen on Saturday.
The butterflies were making a nuisance of themselves last evening when I went over my workshops one final time. They were trying to tell me I don't have enough material to talk about interviewing for 90 minutes. But this is normal. If I'm ever nervous about public speaking it is before the session starts. When I'm on my feet and open my mouth the butterflies start flying in formation and disappear.
Leroy is being left behind to fend for himself. He has it all figured out. He got a ticket for a banquet tonight, arranged for a pizza lunch at the office on Friday, and is going to a breakfast buffet Saturday. That should keep him well fed without requiring much cooking until I get back at supper time on Saturday.
I've had this conference hanging over my head all winter. I'm ready to get it over with and not have to think about it anymore.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Empty Tomb

See for yourself. The tomb is empty.

This was not an original idea but I thought it was cute. I "planted" an overturned flower pot in the pan a couple weeks ago and seeded it with grass. After the grass was up I added the stone, three crosses made from sticks, and flowers. It was fun to put together. My grass grew faster than I expected and I had to "mow" it with a scissors when it hid the crosses.
I put it on the table for a centerpiece at our Easter dinner on Saturday and got a little more mileage out of it by taking it to church this morning.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bucket List

I didn't know what a bucket list was when I was a teenager, but I had one. (Things I want to do before I kick the bucket) When I looked down the road of life ahead of me I had at least a mental list of things I hoped to do. Now that the road behind me is longer than the road ahead, I look back and see that most of the things I hoped to do have been done.
*Get married--check
married to my best friend 45 years
*Raise a family--check
seven children, five living are all married and responsible for themselves
*Write a book--check
seven books published (eight if you count the church history of our congregation)
*Go to Europe--check
saw the places our ancestors lived in Switzerland and Germany before coming to colonial America
*See the Pacific Ocean--check
dipped my feet in the water of the Pacific seven times--in California, Oregon, Nicaragua, and Mexico
*Find my great-grandmother's Powl ancestors--check
found a more than I wanted to know (they were "colorful" characters)

Those were the big goals. A lot of other things came up along the way that I didn't foresee. I wrote a lot of Sunday school material before I got to writing books.We've traveled to Israel (on Leroy's bucket list), Belize, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Canada, and set foot on nearly all of the 48 states. We missed Nebraska, Washington, and Vermont. I learned to hang siding on the garage, shot a groundhog in the garden, and many other things too numerous to mention. Some things I learned DO NOT work.
Now as I stand here looking both ways (forward and backward) the major things on my bucket list have been done. The things that are still on the list are mostly smaller jobs suitable for a grandma. But I see I will never run out of ideas for things to do. There are always more things to write, pictures to scrapbook, afghans and quilts to make, ad infinitum. I guess the Lord will have to decide when my work is done and empty my bucket.