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Sunday, April 27, 2014


This past week the last corner of the house next to the church disappeared.

The floor was left over the basement wall so no one falls into the hole.


Construction of the new addition is scheduled to begin June 2.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Family History Tour

After two days of being private family history tour leaders, I'm taking an R & R break today. Four years ago we stayed with Ed & Marge Harms when we were in Kansas. They returned the visit this week, spending two days and three nights with us.
Ed's ancestors were from the Ukraine and are commonly known as the Russian Mennonites who immigrated around 1870. Marge can trace at least two of her ancestors back to Pennsylvania--Peter Good and Melchoir Brenneman. So we spent two days touring Lancaster County seeing the places where her ancestors lived.
We do not know where either of these men are buried but we do know where they lived. Our stops during these two days included Bowmansville, Weaverland, Groffdale, Sporting Hill, New Danville, and Willow Street. We also visited Landis Valley Museum and a few other places as well and attended a singing where we heard Amish and Old Order Mennonites singing in German.
On the second day we visited the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society where we were able to see the Patent which Melchoir Brenneman got from William Penn for 500 acres of land in 1717.
The round metal can setting on the bottom of the patent is the wax seal of the Penns which was tied with a ribbon to the bottom of the patent to make it official. Many of these original patents were given by William Penn's sons and contain their signatures. This one was granted to Brenneman by William himself but it does not contain his signature. Instead, it was signed by James Logan who was in charge of selling the land.
At another place I found a couple Taufschein (birth and baptism certificates) for people I could identify. I was really pleased with those too. This one is for Susanna Hoffman, born in 1807 and baptized in the Mennonite church in 1828. These certificates were common among Lutheran and Reformed families who practiced infant baptism but are more rarely found for Mennonites who practiced believer's baptism.

This one is for Barbara Musselman who was born in 1785 and baptized in 1806.
We packed a lot into two days and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My next private family history tour will be in June for a lady from Missouri who wants to see her Burkholder roots. I think I can handle that one.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Puzzle Pieces

OK, so I'm weird. I'll say it right up front so you don't have to.
The day I've been waiting for has finally arrived! As of today, images of PA death certificates are online for the years 1906-1924. That's something to be excited about? Yes, for weird people like me who would rather put a genealogy together than a 1000-piece puzzle.
Tim Gruber worked for years to get the state to put death certificates online as some other states have done. At last, in 2011, they made the indices available on the PA State Archives website. That made it possible to find the person's name, county, date of death, and certificate number. But it did not tell me who the person's parents were or where they are buried. In order to see the actual certificates and get that information, I had to go to Harrisburg in person and request the certificate. Only ten certificates could be requested per day. For some people, Harrisburg is a couple hours drive. I'm not that far away but it still required time and the expense of travel and parking. has been working for about two years to scan all the death certificates. I've been waiting for the day I can see them with just a few clicks of the mouse and without the time and expense involved in going to Harrisburg. I heard they were going to be uploaded April 17 so I tried yesterday but found nothing. I tried again today and there it was!!
I spent most of the evening looking through them and filled in a few blanks in my genealogy outlines. It's a good start but will be even more helpful when it's complete. More years will be released in segments throughout the year. Pennsylvania birth records become public information 105 years after the birth and death certificates are made public 50 years after the death. By the end of the year, death certificates should be available up to 1960. More puzzle pieces on the table for genealogy buffs to put together!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Going . . . Going . . .

The youth group came to help with the demolition project today. It was a lovely day in the 70s and all that young strength combined to bring the house down.
This is early in the day. The tin roof has been removed, exposing the rafters.


The floor is all that's left of the attic.

The second floor is gone.

The first floor is nearly gone.

When we go to church tomorrow morning the only thing that will remain is the stone foundation wall and the floor of the first story. They intend to let the floor on until they're ready for the next stage so no one falls into the open hole.
A few buyers came along and took away portions for reuse and some of the metal was sold for recycling. A trac-hoe would have taken it down in a day but this way we saved money and materials could be salvaged. Construction of the new addition is scheduled to begin in June. Now that the house is gone, that lot looks a lot bigger than it did before.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Going . . .

The last few weeks the men have been working once or twice a week at demolishing the house next to the church. The inside has been gutted and all the windows are removed.

Today they tore off the aluminum siding which exposed the old yellow wooden siding.

The furnace was also removed from the basement.

Next Saturday the youth group is going to help remove the roof and whatever else they have time to take off. There is still a lot of work to do before it is ready for the new construction to begin in June.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

News Flash

A couple weeks ago I was at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society when a reporter came in to gather information on an article about the Genealogy Conference that will be held this month. He interviewed me and used some of my comments in his article which was published in the Lancaster newspaper on Monday. Here it is.


Romaine Stauffer is a perfect representative of the type of person you might meet at the upcoming 35th annual Lancaster Family History Conference, sponsored by the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. “I’ve been studying family history for most of my life,” says Stauffer, 66, who was born in Ephrata but grew up in Lancaster. Glancing around the lower level archives of the society — where she is happy to volunteer every Tuesday — Stauffer muses that “I remember coming in here with a baby!” When Stauffer began her research in the 1970s and 1980s, family genealogy was something to be undertaken with the help of books, paper records and microfiche. Those elements still play a role, but the Family History Conference, April 24-26, with keynote events to be held Saturday, April 26, will showcase past and present methods of finding ancestors, including DNA-based research and Internet sites such as
Saturday keynote sessions, anchored by main speaker Maureen Taylor, nationally known as “The Photo Detective,” will take place at the Lancaster Host Resort and Conference Center, 2300 Lincoln Highway East, just up the road from the historical society, 2215 Millstream Road (See information in Related Stories on registration fee for the keynote events, deadline, topics and conference speakers).
Last year’s event drew participants from 34 states, says Peggy Erb, library assistant who also serves as an organizer of the convention. The Mennonite Historical Society itself is a repository of some 3,000 published genealogies, 2,500 cemetery transcriptions, county court and tax records and has access to, which has access to databases all over the United States and beyond.
The society has manifests that list who came over on what ship and when, Erb says. “Their roots were back here at one point, or in Chester County, she says, because many immigrants came here through the Philadelphia port, Baltimore “and, of course, a lot came through Ellis Island.”
The Mennonite faith traces its origins to Switzerland and Germany. Stauffer’s own origins here date to 18th-century bishop Christian Burkholder — Burkholder is Stauffer’s maiden name — who served the faith in Grofftown [Groffdale]. Christian Burkholder was one of six children; the kids crossed to these shores in the 1700s with their widowed mother.
“It was not a luxury cruise!” says Stauffer with admiration.
Such is the stuff of the Family History Conference. And though the event is associated with the Mennonite denomination, “we are not exclusive to Mennonites,” says Erb.
She marvels at how far the conference has come in recent history.
“The first two years I was here, there was no DNA,” Erb says of biological connections to ancestry. On the surface, it would seem that DNA would be science fiction, something beyond the realm of traditional family research. Yet, as Erb notes, events such as the Family History Conference can help reveal clues to ancestral health issues, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. She herself has written a family-centered history, “Jacob Ober and His Descendants.”
The 2014 conference will not only feature DNA connections — courtesy of Darvin L. Martin, a specialist on the subject — but also seminars on how to take advantage of Internet sites.
Taylor’s role in the keynote portion of the conference will serve as a centerpiece. An expert on photography, Taylor will be on hand to deliver a series of sessions on how even the most obscure family photograph can help unlock the past.
Stauffer gives fair warning when it comes to genealogy.
“It’s like a disease,” she says with a laugh.
“Once you get started, you never get done!”

Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014 6:00 am