In Search of George McConnell: Butler County to Dauphin?

A few days ago, I started again on the hunt through the 1850 census for George Washington McConnell, father of Sarah W. Kulp. Although a county biography (of her brother) says both parents were Dauphin County natives, I have long suspected this was incorrect. Her mother, Sarah Marsh was, certainly, but I can’t find barely a shred of info on McConnell and he’s definitely not in the 1850 census for Dauphin.

In the 1860 census, and in tax lists from the same area, he used the name George W. McConnell as I expected, but two sources refer to him by his middle name. Sarah W. McConnell’s first husband’s obituary lists her as “the daughter of the late Washington McConnell,” and when she remarried, her marriage license listed her parents as “W & Sarah McConnell.” So, I thought I might look for this name instead in the 1850 census.

I had actually found one Washington McConnell in that census for PA before, but the dates were very much off. He was listed as being born about 1836, and in the 1860 census for Dauphin County George W. McConnell’s birthdate was entered as 1828. What’s more, this Washington McConnell also was living with someone–a brother, perhaps?–by the name of George McConnell, who was born in 1826. That was a bit closer, but I obviously couldn’t be certain of it and didn’t really think it was likely. However, sometimes the other names in a household can tell you if you’ve found the right person, since you’ll often recognize family names among the other members. For example, I was once looking for a member of the Detweiler family, Charles, in one of the 20th C censuses, and couldn’t find him in PA where the rest of his family was. I then located someone by the same name in Ohio who was married to a Leila, but since it was an entirely different state I couldn’t verify it–until I saw that he had a son by the name of Parke Detweiler. Parke was Charles Detweiler’s mother’s maiden name. Later, thanks to FamilySearchLabs.org, I found Charles’ death certificate, which confirmed the relationship. (OH, unlike PA, makes its death certificates available online.)

So, since there was both a George McConnell and a Washington McConnell in the family, could it be possible that one of them was the person I was looking for? Possible, but not certain. Washington in those days was a more common first name than Parke, definitely.

This, by the way, was in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, a town called North Slipperyrock. Well, when I did a search on Ancestry for Washington McConnell, you won’t believe what I found.

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The Church of the Ascension

I’m afraid I haven’t really had much time to post this till now, but two days ago I set off on another research trip–this one, less about records, and more about the actual places and era in which the lives of the people I’m researching played out.

On Sunday, August 31, it was a sunny (and, in my AC-lacking car, rather hot) afternoon when I headed out for the town of Kulpmont. It’s just a few miles east of here and more than slightly connected with my research: according to the history books, the earliest settlement was begun there about 1875, but it wasn’t much to speak of until thirty years later when Monroe H. Kulp began the first major development of the town. Hence, the community was named after him.

But, I had a specific destination in mind in the borough of Kulpmont. This destination was a place I’d been to before, but only long enough to walk about outside, and I’d never had a chance to see as much of the building as I’d hoped. This time, however, I had contacted the owner and he (knowing the general history of his property already) had agreed to let me come by and get to know more of what the building was actually like.

This photo was taken in 2007, on Chestnut Street in Kulpmont across from St. Pauline’s:

This was the Monroe H. Kulp Memorial Episcopal Church of the Ascension, built 1912 by Kulp’s widow, Sarah, and consecrated on Ascension Day, May 1, 1913–in the words of the Greater Shamokin Centennial publication (1964), “as a tribute to his memory.”

The church has been empty for many years, though it was still used occasionally at the time the Centennial book was written. Two days ago, I, as a dedicated student of the prominent Kulp family’s history, was able to enter the old church for the first time.

Accompanied by the courteous and helpful owner (who, by the way, has marvelously restored the next door rectory, he let me explore there too), I entered by the second door toward the rear, which you can see in the photo at the top of a short, straight flight of steps. This led to a vestibule with doors of lovely old woodwork, and the entrance to the nave was at the left.

From the raised level where once was situated the altar, I looked out over a wide, open room roofed by a vaulted ceiling with the old, dark woodwork still intact. The pews no longer stood in this old gathering place of faith, and both main windows had been removed due to damage, but the smaller stained glass windows along the sides remained.

Toward main window; the main entrance is just at the left of the window. Most of these photos were lightened since I was using my cell phone camera, which produces a darker, higher contrast image.

One of the side windows, at the right as you’re looking toward the main window as shown in previous photos.

Another window at the right; I left this image as-is to preserve the stained glass detail of the window.

If you look closely, you can see the outline of where the second main window was here at the back of the church, above what used to be the location of the altar.

Outside again, I walked about the exterior of the church, taking photos along the way, and peered for a moment into the basement.

Looking toward the main entrance from the back porch of the rectory.

The door to the basement. Note the stone walls of the church; very well-built.

I took this photo as I was leaving; note the location of the back window as shown in previous photos.

So, this then was the Church of the Ascension, the same attended by Sarah Kulp for so many of the later years of her life.

I have been to very few places, actual buildings that is, where I know for certain that the people of my research have also been (most of those places are no longer standing). So it was another significant step in my research to have finally had a glimpse inside this church on August 31, even though I have not been hard at the material (records) aspect of research lately. It was a wonderful trip I could never have turned down!

Now…onward! Plans for Harrisburg are in the works, though not likely to happen quite soon. I am also going through the census records lately–and think I may have (finally!) found George Washington McConnell in the 1850 census. Needless to say, nowhere near Halifax where he should have been! 🙂 But, it’s not verified. Will post soon about it.

Census Takers Get Slant on Human Nature: April 4, 1930

[This blog entry is written for the 55th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, to be posted at CreativeGene.blogspot.com next month.]

Since the topic for this next edition of the COG is “Show and Tell,” I thought I would present a newspaper article I located by chance today; not connected with my own research, but, I think, a thought-provoking read for genealogists and historical researchers everywhere. Those 1930 census records can be pretty useful whether you’re just starting in genealogy or are a seasoned researcher, but what’s the real story behind those microfilmed old pages? Here’s a Pennsylvania journalist’s take on the matter, written just about when the 15th U.S. Census first got underway–April 4th, 1930:

Census Takers Get Slant on Human Nature

Humor, Courage, Pathos, Tragedy–All These and More Encountered by Enumerators in Day’s Work

By Paul Glynn
Special INS Leased Wire

PITTSBURGH, Pa. April 4–To the earnest seeker after truth, or to the student of human nature, is unhesitatingly recommended a day in the company of the 1930 diogenes, a census taker engaged in the compilation of Uncle Sam’s fifteenth decennial census.

Humor–courage–pathos–tragedy. All these and more are met with as the gigantic job of finding the answers to “who, what, when, where and why” and countless other questions goes on.

For instance, the first question, “who is the head of the house,” brings forth a flood of variegated answers, some unconsciously and some consciously humorous.

“My husband thinks he is,” replied one young housewife with a smile. And another not so young, declared with finality, “I am!”

And then there is the question relating to the ownership of property. One answer to the query, “do you own your home,” was:

“We do, that is, we and the people who hold the mortage.”

And at what price would the owner sell?

“Why, as much as we could get, of course.”

Eager interest and an almost total absence of resentment is noted as the enumerator questions each resident. The queries are put in an impersonal, efficient manner, thus adding to the rapidity of the compilation.

Unemployment proved to be about the biggest obstacle in the way of the census takers to date. Several persons were reluctant to tell of the length of time they had been jobless; some refused outright to answer in the latter case the enumerator reported to his chief.

If all efforts by the chief, and then by the census supervisor, fail to bring an answer the case is referred to the United States marshal. Incidentally, the penalty for failure to answer is $100 or 60 days in jail. A fine of $500 or one year in jail or both may be imposed for making false statements to the enumerator. These penalties are prescribed by section nine of the census act and apply to all persons over 18 years old.

Two totally unrelated articles play a large part in the enumeration–Bibles and gas bills!

A great many wives have recourse to family Bibles, some in foreign text, when the question of their husband’s age comes up. In almost all cases the information wanted was noted in the thumbed pages of the worn testaments years ago–and then forgotten.

Last month’s gas bills are aiding uncle Sam in completing the census, especially in foreign colonies in the cities. Spelling of foreign names proved a problem until one resourceful enumerator called for the gas bill.

And there was the name, neatly typed and ready for copying.

_______________________________________________________________________

[Shamokin, Pennsylvania, Shamokin Dispatch, 4 Apr 1930, p. 1, col. 2, and p. 11, col. 1]

From History of Houses to the Lives of their Builders

This article is written for the 53rd Edition of Carnival of Genealogy. (See previous post.)

When I learned that this edition was the type where you could write about basically anything family history, and especially because this is my first time writing for COG, I was a little overwhelmed by all the possibilities. Where to start?

But, as I went back and read earlier editions of the Carnival of Genealogy, I noticed that one edition was dedicated to the subject of houses in historical research; where our ancestors lived, and what the significance of these homes was. It occurred to me then that this was the perfect subject to introduce COG readers to my research, since houses were what originally brought me into the project of historical research. Continue reading