Tuesday Tip: use Lord’s Supper registers as early census alternative

imageIf you have a German-American ancestor who was residing in colonial Philadelphia, it might be worthwhile to check the Lord’s Supper guest register for St. Michael and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1755-1763.

It can be found online via Ancestry.com’s Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church and Town Records, 1708-1985.

What’s remarkable about this register is that it’s a mini-census record of personal data that might aid further research.  It is particularly useful in narrowing down the year of immigration.

In fact, one of the main reasons for documenting those who took the sacrament of Lord’s Supper was to provide evidence of such so that immigrants could be naturalized as citizens of British North America.

The Plantation Act of 1740 required Protestant immigrants living in the Colonies for at least seven years (and who had not left said Colonies for longer than two months) to produce court certificates that they had taken the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in a Protestant or Reformed church three months before taking the oath to become a citizen of Great Britain.

Besides names of single parishioners, the register also lists husbands and wives. Then in columns to the right of the names it contains the following information on each person:

  • how many years in America
  • how many children
  • age
  • miscellaneous notes

The miscellaneous notes, though sometimes difficult to read, generally give indication of residence. This can include a Philadelphia neighborhood like Kensington or Frankfurt (Frankford).

Considering that St. Michael and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church was one of the first (and main) Lutheran churches for colonial Philadelphia’s sizable German-American population, this is a great resource for those with ancestors who were parishioners.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 16.34.53

In this 1761 register, Jacob Bender is listed as age 37 and wife, Dorothea is listed as having immigrated to Philadelphia 19 years prior, the mother of 7 children and age 32. [image detail from Ancestry.com]

A search under my Bender family progenitor revealed some interesting things.

The entries (dated 1761) for Jacob Bender and his wife correctly listed their ages and the number of children born to them at that time.  The information is also accurate in listing Dorothea Bender as having been in the country for 19 years.

Jacob, however, had no number entered in that particular column.

Could this omission mean (as I have long suspected) that Jacob Bender was born in America?

The miscellaneous notes indicate his residence being in the Germantown Borough, which could be another big clue.

Jacob Bender bought a considerable amount of land after this register was made in the western Northern Liberties township (today’s Allegheny West neighborhood).  However, I have not located any deeds prior to 1771, even though Jacob married and had children in Philadelphia decades earlier.

Where was he living? Apparently in Germantown.

Was it on inherited land or with other family?

I have long thought that if Jacob was born in America, he almost certainly was born in Germantown and connected to the earliest German settlement there.

There’s a family legend which claims that Jacob is the son of a Jacob Bender/Painter who immigrated in 1693 and settled in Pelham area of Germantown (today Mt. Airy).

Plus, he does not appear to have a connection with any other Bender/Painter families in Northern Liberties or of St. Michael & Zion Lutheran Church, except for one –  Johannes Painter/Penter (d. 1768) and his wife, Carolina, who were the sponsors of Jacob and Dorothea’s daughter, Carolina. I’ve found no other mention of this couple in St. Michael & Zion’s records, so I am still unsure of how they relate.

Furthermore, a search under Bender and Painter surnames in Persons Naturalized in the Province of Pennsylvania, 1740-1773 yielded no entries for Jacob Bender/Painter, although there is a “Johann Jacob Binder” who took the oath listed as having received the sacrament in 1761. But this appears to be the same Johann Jacob Binder also among the parishioners on the 1761 Lord’s Supper register who immigrated in 1750.

So, it would appear that Jacob Bender just may have been born (ca. 1724) in colonial Pennsylvania. Now if I could only find proof…

Copyright (c) 2016 by Jana Shea. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.
Advertisements

The Three Sarahs, part 3

photograph of downed tree limb blocking roadIllegitimacy often poses serious challenges to tracing one’s roots. This is the roadblock I face with the third of The Three Sarahs.

Sara Rebold/Sarah Raybold, wife of Godfrey a Bender, was born 6 Sept. 1765 in Germantown township, Philadelphia.

Her death date is listed in the church registers of St. Michael’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germantown. From the exact age in years, months and days recorded at her burial, I could easily calculate her birth date.

But finding a baptism record proved tricky.

I initially presumed that Sarah’s father was a Rebold/Raybold.

She shared a close relationship with her mother, Mary, who I learned was a young widow. It was only after finally figuring out to whom Mary had been wed did I realize that Sarah and her brother, George, were illegitimate children, born several years after Mary’s husband had died.

Still, I had a birth date to go by and the knowledge that the family was Lutheran and resided in Germantown at that time. That narrowed down the church to St Michael’s Evangelical Lutheran.

I had hoped to find a baptism with perhaps a notation of who the father was or at least a sponsor or two to further investigate for a possible connection.

No such luck in locating a baptism. What I found instead was a 1780 confirmation record which gave Sarah’s age, further proving the 1765 year correct. Her father was noted as being Jacob Rehbold.

Since that was the name of her mother’s late husband deceased some five years prior to Sarah’s birth, I dismissed the notation as an erroneous recording by a new pastor who was unfamiliar with the timeline. The new pastor probably only knew that Mary was a widow of Jacob Rebold who never remarried and made the assumption that he was the father.

No additional clues could be obtained from George’s 1774 baptism, which occurred 13 years after his birth. No parents nor sponsors are noted and there is also no mention of his illegitimate status. He was, however, listed as being age 15, which is incorrect and can be proven by the baptismal registers for Jacob and Mary Rebold’s two sons, who were born in 1758 and 1760 and died in infancy.

Then I came across some crazy scandal that played out in the newspapers of the time, involving Sarah’s mother and brother-in-law, Anthony Hubbard. The man with whom they had a public dispute accused Mary Rebold of having bore two illegitimate children by her stepson.

What the… what?!?

Jacob Rebold was indeed a widower with five  children when he married Mary. One of those children was his eldest son, Jacob.

Was this son Sarah’s (and George’s) father?

The elder Jacob Rebold left a will written in 1760, just two weeks before he died, which clearly states his son Jacob was not yet 21 years-old. Since he also wills his eldest (and already married) daughter to receive her share four years after his death, it would seem that the junior Jacob turned 21 in 1764.

Intriguingly, it also states a desire for his son and widow to keep the estate intact and raise the younger children together until the junior Jacob attains full age.

A recipe for illicit love?

The Rebold homestead was put up for sale in 1764, further indicating that is indeed the year the younger Jacob arrived at full age.

That would make him 21 when Sarah would have been conceived and 17 or 18 when George was. Their mother was 18 years older than her stepson. Kind of creepy, but not beyond the realm of possibility.

The junior Jacob Rebold later moved to the Southwark neighborhood, close to his full siblings and away from his step-family and half-sister.

So, I’m trying to figure out how to determine if this centuries old rumor is true and, if not, who then is Sarah’s father.

Her mother was fairly well-to-do and so she may not have been subject to any kind of bastardy trial, if such records exist.

George’s only son died young, so even if he and Sarah shared the same father there is no chance to trace the Y-DNA.

My next step will probably be to head to the Philadelphia City Archives to check the Court of Common Pleas appearance dockets and execution dockets to see if there is any record of case/action against Mary Rebold for having two children born out of wedlock.

It may be awhile before I can get an opportunity to do so.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Jana Shea. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.

The Three Sarahs, part 2

Sarah (Tuttle) Bender death certificate

Sarah (Tuttle) Bender’s death certificate contains erroneous information.

Continuing on about my brick walls, The Three Sarahs, let me introduce the next Sarah.

She has eluded me for years.

Sarah Tuttle, the wife of Philip Hess Bender, Sr., was born 7 Apr. 1831 in Pennsylvania, according to her death certificate and this date roughly matches her age given in census records.

She died in 1914, nearly a decade after Pennsylvania began requiring civil registration. So finding out the names of her folks should have been no problem, since parents’ names, if known, were recorded.

But, of course, it wasn’t as simple as that.

I already knew her maiden name was Tuttle from being listed as such on her children’s death certificates.

On her own death certificate, Sarah’s parents are listed as Chas. Bender and Sara Tutle, names provided by the undertaker, who acted as the informant.

Obviously, he got the information wrong.

My guess is that the undertaker handled the informant duties for the grieving family. Maybe they were asked for their grandfather’s name and confusedly gave the name of the paternal grandfather, Charles Bender. Perhaps the next question asked was, “Mother’s name?”, meaning Sarah’s mother but they confusedly thought he was asking for Sarah’s maiden name.

She and Philip H. Bender were married in late 1850 or early 1851, but exhaustive searches in Philadelphia church marriage registers of all denominations at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania have not yielded any record of their union.

This is likely because they married in the defunct First Presbyterian Church of Northern Liberties, whose records have been lost.

That might also explain why I’ve found little record of the few Tuttle families in Philadelphia – who primarily lived in the Northern Liberties and lower Kensington neighborhoods (Fishtown).

The only records I’ve found for those Tuttle households are city directories, early census records and early Philadelphia physician death returns.

As for early record of Sarah, it appears as though she was a domestic in the Joseph and Ann (née Hoffman) Armbruster family just prior to marrying Philip, according to the 1850 census.

Tuttle as a surname could be from a number of origins.

There is a fairly well documented Tuttle family line from New England, but I have not found a connection to any of those lines.

Tuttle, could be an Irish or even German surname – perhaps indicating that Sarah’s family were immigrants?

The Tuttle families in Philly have really left me with little to go on – lack of wills, deeds, church records – it’s so very frustrating.

The only other clue I have is that a 63 year-old Eliza Perkins was enumerated with Philip and Sarah’s family in the 1860 census. Was she a relative, boarder or a domestic?  Interestingly, 10 years earlier an Elizabeth Tuttle, born around the same time, was enumerated with 24-year old John Perkins. Is this the same woman? And, if so, how is she related to Sarah?  I have not been able to locate her death record, so she, too, remains a mystery.

Le sigh…

Copyright (c) 2016 by Jana Shea. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.

 

Alternate sources: pew rentals and coffin receipts

pew holders

What can you do when the records that surely would contain a wealth of information about your ancestors no longer exist?

My 4th great-grandfather, Charles Bender, has long been one of the more elusive members of my family tree.

One of the big reasons why is that the church he joined as an adult is defunct and its records seemingly lost.

The First Presbyterian Church of Northern Liberties, was organized in 1813 out of the Second Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. It was originally located at 2nd and Coates Sts. (now Fairmount Ave.), but moved to 6th and Buttonwood Sts. until it dissolved in 1917. Besides being an important neighborhood parish, from which sprung three more congregations, it also had the distinction of organizing the first Sunday schools in Philadelphia.

So what became of the records of its parishioners?

Sadly, the only ones that appear to have survived are lists of pew rentals from 1820 to 1830.

Nicholas Helverson was a local coffin maker and undertaker who was charged with collecting the church’s pew rents. Thankfully, his descendants were thoughtful enough to gift his account ledgers to the Historical Society of Philadelphia.

It made sense to make a trip to the HSP and rifle through the ledgers, each sealed in a Ziplock bag stowed in a cardboard box in the special collections section. If Helverson was charged with collecting pew rents for the church, he surely must have been the go-to undertaker for its parishioners.

I already knew for certain Charles belonged to the church, from a published membership list (compiled from Helverson’s records), and notation in Thomas James Shepherd’s The Days that are Past, a history of the church’s organization.

Certainly, the baptisms of his children and perhaps even the marriages for those who survived to adulthood (Philip H. Bender, Sr.), and the burials for those who did not, occurred at First Presby of N.L.

Truly a genealogical tragedy that these records are gone!

But I was holding out hope that in Helverson’s records, I could at least find record of Charles’ burial in the account ledgers and maybe some of his deceased children’s names too.

No such luck.

Helverson’s coffin receipts, though vague when it comes to names (often recorded as “Mr. [insert surname]” or occasionally only as “A man from [insert street name]”, are usually well detailed when it comes to customer’s address and what the funeral expenses were for. These details include things such as who the coffin (including size if small) was made for, who paid for it (sometimes a relative), carriage or hearse arrangements and for whom.

Unfortunately, the years between 1830 and 1834 are a bit spotty.

From pension records, I gleaned that Charles’ death occurred in August or September 1832. I believe he may have died as a result of the cholera epidemic that was happening in Philadelphia during the late summer of 1832.

I was really hoping to learn the exact date.

All I did find was that for years Charles secured seating on pew 38 next to his dear friend, Philip Hess.  An interesting bit of information, but not the jackpot I had hoped for.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Jana Shea. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.

 

Tueday Tip: Google your ancestors

IMG_1553

It’s always wise to periodically conduct a Google search on your ancestors. With more and more records, old books and other potential sources of information being digitized each day, you never know when you might find something new.

Recently, I discovered that my great-great grandfather, Philip Hess Bender, Jr. was appointed a position within the Philadelphia Police Department in 1876.

I consider the two decades of research on the Bender family of Philadelphia, particularly my own direct line, to be quite comprehensive. And yet, here was a new revelation about Philip Jr.’s life.

From the notation, it appears he was part of the vice unit in the PPD’s 24th district for just two years, resigning in 1878.

Of course, learning this led to some further exploration. For insight on the history of law enforcement in 19th century Philadelphia, Howard O. Sprogle’s Philadelphia Police Past and Present is a must read.

The PPD went through some reorganization and major reforms after Mayor William S. Stokely took office in 1871. For starters, he increased the force by 1000 men shortly after he was elected. Philadelphia had the second largest population in the nation at that time, increasing nearly 20 percent over the decade prior. Then came the Panic of 1873. The nation was plunged into a depression and with it came the desperation which caused crime, particularly vice, to escalate. Stokely added another 200 men to the police department’s ranks.

When Philip Jr. joined the force Philadelphia was gearing up to host the Centennial Exposition. The eight-month long event attracted more than 9 million visitors and some of the nation’s worst criminals.

Stokely added 300 extra officers to offset the city’s need for more police protection.

In addition, on March 20, 1876, Philadelphia’s Select Council (predecessor to today’s City Council) passed an ordinance to take a census of inhabitants during the Centennial. The work was entirely carried out by police patrolmen in April. Since Philip was appointed on March 30, he likely contributed to that enumeration.

During his brief time with the PPD, he also helped restore order in the city during the Great Railroad Strike of 1877.

It’s incredible how one tidbit of new information can lead to fascinating discoveries about past events and how they impacted the lives of those who lived during those times. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy nerding it up in pursuit of my ancestors.

For tips on how to get the most out of a Google search for ancestors, check out this Family History Daily article.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Jana Shea. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.