Thursday, August 2, 2007

PA Ancestors

I love doing genealogical research. My husband got me hooked way back in the early 90s. Many of our vacations have revolved around searching for ancestors, finding the towns and even the houses where they lived, and traipsing through old cemeteries. It is so exciting when you find a piece of primary evidence that someone, who may have been only a vague figure in a family story, actually existed and you realize that someone is part of your history, part of you.

When we planned our trip to PA (my sister, her husband, and myself), we had intentions of meeting with a cousin who has shared our genealogy adventures in the past (to Newfoundland, NY, and PA). She is currently moving back to PA and we wanted to see her new house. I had also planned to do some research on my husband's side of the family since we would be in the area where they had lived. On our way, however, we were going by Stroudsburg, PA, which is where one of our own ancestors had gotten married and started his family before moving north along the Susquehannah River. I had not been able to get very much information about this ancestor previously. He was sort of the missing link. I knew more about the ancestors preceding him and the ones that came after, than I did about him, partly becaused he moved a lot.

Without any preparation on my part (I usually bring notes and family history pages so we will know what to look for), we drove into Stroudsburg just to see what the town looked like. Following some directions we were given to get us to the local library, we passed the Monroe County Historical Association and decided to drop in. Unfortunately, it was 3:30 pm and they were closing at 4:00.

There were several volunteers and staff members there who immediately went to work for us pulling out folders they had on our family names and my sister and I sat down to browse through them. I rather haphazardly chose a few pages to be photocopied and we were on our way.

Later when we met my cousin, she had a surprise for us. She had brought along a family Bible that she had inherited that dated back to 1833. It was the Bible of the very family we had gone to Stroudsburg to research! My cousin had looked inside the front cover and read the names, but didn't realize what a treasure was waiting in the middle of the book, between the Old and New Testaments. That is where family history information is recorded. When we opened the book to the middle, we found a wealth of information going back to the 1700s, plus a letter that had been written by one of our ancestors dated 1856!

My sister, my cousin, and I sat up past midnight making a transcription of all the information in the Bible and taking pictures of it. My cousin read through the letter out loud for our enjoyment. In the letter, which has no punctuation, our ancestor talks about a younger member of the family going to Strawberry, CA to dig for gold and being attacked by "Injins" and then goes on to talk about a grasshopper invasion.

Grasshoppers are plenty here and the Dollar newspaper says a St. Louis paper says that the grasshoppers have eaten up the entire tobacco crop of Franklin County and the last that was heard from them they were seated on the corners of the fence begging every man that passed for a chew

It turns out that the pages I chose to photocopy in Stroudsburg were just the right ones: a transcription of a will, and the family Bible of the father-in-law of the ancestor in my cousin's Bible. So now I have information on the wife's line back three more generations. It has been my experience that when you get close to them, your ancestors want to be found. They want their story told and remembered. Lest you think I have gone nuts, this has happened to me before and other genealogy researchers will tell you the same thing. It's uncanny.

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