05 January 2018


“At 6:15 am, Thursday, 24 April 1890 the alarm was sounded . . . “many wounded”

“A neighbor on Second Street said he saw the smoke issuing from the drying room at an earlier hour, but thought it nothing unusual . . . “

“The destruction of the Unicorn Silk Mill, the loss of of five lives and wounding many citizens will be long remembered by the peoples of Catasauqua with sadness and regret.”

“The funeral of George Paff, one of the victims of the Catasauqua fire, took place Wednesday afternoon . . .”

In my posts dated, 27 April 2016, Grandma, a Little Cooperation . . . Please, and 30 April 2017, In Plain Sight, I learned WHO Eva – my Great Grandmother –  is.  And, WHO George PFAFF is and what his relationship is to me.  To read the other posts in this history mystery series follow these links.  Grandma isn't Playing Nice! . . . On Either Side; and The Grandparents are Out of Control!  And, Having Way Too Much Fun!!

Who is Eva PFAFF?  Eva is the daughter of Louisa MILHEIM and George M PFAFF, the step-daughter of Oscar Ramer, the mother of Catherine Louise STARR and my maternal Great Grandmother. 

Eva was born 24 January 1889 in Hokendauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania to Louisa MILHEIM and George M PFAFF.  She was baptized at St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Howertown Road, Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, 6 months later on 24 June 1889.1  While the baptismal record lists the parents, it does not record the father’s first name, but does record the mother’s full name. In discussing this with the research staff at the Lehigh County Historical Society; Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum, this would seem to indicate that the parents were not married.  24 June 1889 - Baptsim - Eva E PfaffThe sponsor was Mrs. Annie Faust. 

Sadly, Eva’s father, George M PFAFF  died prematurely as a young man just shy of 22 years of age, in April 1889.  Eva never knew her father; her mother, Louisa, married Oscar Ramer three years later, on 31 May 1892.  Oscar Ramer was the only father Eva ever knew; the only Grandfather her daughter, Catherine STARR ever knew; and the only Great Grandfather, Catherine’s children ever knew.  So we can now see where the confusion entered the “family tree.” 

There are only four documents that actually record Eva’s maiden name as PFAFF; two of which also provide her father’s name.. .

1900 - US Federal Census - Eva Pfaff 2The 1900 US Federal Census2 records Eva PFAFF living with her maternal Grandparents Charles and Mary Ann MILHEIM in Whitehall, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.

Eva’s 18 May 1911 marriage license3 records her maiden name as Eva E PFAFF and also records her parents as George and Louisa PFAFF.

Note, neither I, nor the local genealogist I hired, Richard Musselman, nor the Assistant Curator at the Lehigh County Historical Society; Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum could find any marriage record of Louisa MILHEIM and George M PFAFF.  I don’t believe they were ever married..

18 May 1911 - Marriage License - Bill Starr
20 May 1911 - Marriage Announcement - Eva PfaffThe wedding announcement4 which ran in the Allentown, Morning Star 20 May 1911, announced that George E W STARR and Miss Ev[e] PFAFF were quietly married. 

Note, that the wedding announcement states “Mr. Pfaff is a clerk at the Penn Junction of the P & R R R.”  The Mr. “Pfaff” referred to is incorrect; my Great Grandfather, George E W STARR  was a clerk and in the employ of the P & R R R.

5 January 1959 - Death Certificate  - Eva RamerEva’s death certificate.5 Eva’s daughter, my Grandmother, Catherine (nee STARR) Kriebel was the informant.  Catherine provided Eva’s parents as Geo. MILHEIM and Louisa PFAFF.  Poor Grandmom.  I can only imagine the feeling of loss at losing a beloved parent; in her grief Catherine mixed up her grandparents surnames.  The names should read . . . Father’s Name: Geo. PFAFF and Mother’s Maiden Name: Louisa MILHEIM. 

While the death certificate doesn’t explicitly record Eva’s maiden name as PFAFF, I think it can reasonably be inferred.  And, as noted Eva PFAFF lived with her maternal MILHEIM grandparents in 1900. (see the 1900 US census record above).  I also believe the following documents for Eva’s mother, Louisa MIHEIM, support this conclusion.

4 July 1869 - Baptism - Louisa MilheimLouisa’s 4 July 1869 Baptismal record,6 Wesley, United Methodist Church. 

Note: Louisa’s full given name is Mary Louisa MILHEIM, she was known however, by Louisa.  Her Father, Charles MILHEIM.
31 May 1892 - Marriage License - Oscar RamerLouisa’s marriage license,7 records her name as M Louisa MILHEIM and her father’s name, Charles MILHEIM.

16 October 1934 - Death Certificate - Louisa Milheim
The Pennsylvania death certificate for Louisa8 records her father’s name as Charles MILHEIM.  The informant was Louisa’s daughter, Eva.

Who is George M PFAFF?  George is the son of David PFAFF and Sarah (Sally) Ann ROCKEL, Brother of: Anna C PFAFF; Sarah E PFAFF; Joseph R PFAFF; Clara K PFAFF; and John A PFAFF.  Father of Eva Elizabeth PFAFF and my maternal Great Great Grandfather.

27 April 1890 - Death  Register - George PfaffGeorge PFAFF was born to David PFAFF and Sarah (Sally) ROCKEL, 28 September 1868, in Schnecksville, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.  His parents were both 29 years of age.  George’s birth was recorded in the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Register.9 

By 187010 George is living in Slatington, North Whitehall, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania with his parents and siblings: Sarah E; Joseph R; Clara K and John A.

8 September 1870 - US Federal Census - George Pfaff
1880 US Census - GeorgeIn 188011 George is 12 and living in Catasauqua, Lehigh County Pennsylvania, with his parents and brother, John A PFAFF. 

Note when this record was transcribed, the Head of Household was recorded as “Dana” and the 12 year old son was recorded as “Gengrele.”  I’ll give you that the enumerator’s handwriting is poor, however, after careful study of the image, I believe that “Dana” is actually David and that “Gengrele” is George.

In 1883 George’s parents would file for divorce and eleven months later, 16 December 1884, the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas decreed that David and Sarah A PFAFF be divorced.

There are only two more known life events for George on his timeline.  The first is the birth of his daughter, his only child, Eva Elizabeth PFAFF, born 24 January 1889.

And, three months later, 24 April 1890 . .. .

A TERRIBLE DISASTER – The Catasauqua Silk Mill Destroyed by Fire.  George PFAFF worked at the Unicorn Silk Mill as a car oiler for  the Central Railroad of New Jersey.   

The Unicorn Silk Mill was located in the upper part of Catasauqua, where the New Jersey Central Railroad crosses the canal and is nearly opposite Hokendauqua.  The fire destroyed the entire structure, save the one-story annex building.  A dozen people were buried in the ruins when the gable of the main structure fell upon the thin roof, crushing through it like it was tissue paper . . .

Newspaper accounts of the fire; the injuries of many; and deaths of a reported five ran in a number of local papers such as the Allentown Democrat; Lehigh Register; the Allentown Morning Call; the Catasauqua Dispatch; Allentown’s Der Unabhangige Republikaner; and Der Friedens Bote.  Newspaper accounts of the fire also ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer; Illinois and New York.  This was no “small town” incident; the scale and magnitude of the disaster and suffering that day were great!

And, until reading the newspaper accounts, I had my 21st century blinders firmly in place, believing that news did not travel in the 19th century, like it does today, at the “speed of light.”  How wrong I was.  From the Allentown Democrat . . .10

“The news of the awful disaster sped like a whirlwind through the Valley, and all the morning trains brought hundreds of people to the scene of the calamity.  Many of them led by a mere idle curiosity, others by an eagerness to render aid, and still others by the haunting dread that some they loved had been crushed in the awful ruin.”

The following is a compilation of excerpts I’ve taken from the local papers.

“George Paff one of the injured, died on Saturday night at St Luke’s hospital, making the fifth death from the accident.  He received his injuries while aiding the firemen.”11

“[John] Paff was also among the first to be taken out and was seriously injured.  His right leg was broken near the knee and the left hand was so badly burned as to cause the skin to peel off and hang over the cords of the fingers.  His face was also frightfully scalded and he was severely hurt internally.  He was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital, and while at the train depot he frequently tore his flesh for pain and cried out in despair to his friends: ‘Shoot me and rid me of my pain.’ “12

“. . . It was some time before the steamers could be put into service owing to the difficulty in getting them to the canal bank, the mill being a quarter of a mile away from the town.  After much exertion both fire companies, The Phoenix and the Southwark, got ropes and lowered, their steamers down a steep embankment 50 feet high, west of the mill, to the canal . . . About 7:10 o’clock a loud explosion of vitriol and other acids occurred, and the concussion caused the massive roof, weighted down with the belting and machinery, to fall in.  The roof carried a portion of the south wall with it, and the men were caught under the mass of falling bricks and timbers.  There was a system of hose and pipe for fire use in the mill, but no way of connecting it with the water pipes of the town, so that the system was useless.  The fact is, the fire hose had been sent away for repairs.  The floors were pretty well saturated with oil, so that the flames had no obstacle, but rather were assisted in spreading from story to story . . . Dead and injured men were in the midst of the debris, smoke, dust and burning material.  Others standing near jumped from windows and doors in their haste to escape . . .”13

“The first alarm sounded twenty-five minutes after six o’clock . . . the Phoenix and Southwark steamers, with their four hose carriages were on the scene.  No water mains have been laid on Front Street to the mill and the steamers were obliged to draw their support of water from the Lehigh River, which is in close proximity to the mills . . . The scene of horror that was presented in the interior of the ill-fated mill truly beggars description.  Here and there men with burned and scalded bodies and bruised limbs ran excitedly about the mass of smoking bricks under which some of their fellow men were buried and it took some time to restore order.  The moans of the injured and dying were heartrending and as the poor victims called upon those about them to rescue them or to kill them at once, the stoutest heart quailed.  When the wall fell the men who had stood on the roof were carried down with the building and formed a part of that horrible mass.  The men were being burned by the hot bricks and again scalded by escaping steam and the sufferings of the unfortunate ones were excruciating.”14

The cause of the fire?  Never officially determined; a mystery.  It’s thought, spontaneous combustion.  The building was heated by steam and was considered comparatively safe from fire.

According to one newspaper account . . .

 “A fatal mistake in the erection of the silk mill was the entire lack of water facilities in case of fire.  Had the building been supplied with plugs and hose, the employees could have readily mastered the flames at the discovery, but the distance of the fire department and difficulties in locating the engines along the canal, gave the flames such advantage that no fire apparatus could have saved the building.”15

George M PFAFF died three days later at St. Luke’s hospital.  His funeral took place Wednesday afternoon, 30 May 1890 at his home, located in West Catasauqua.  He was laid to rest at the Fairview Cemetery, West Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. 

As of two days ago, I could only hypothesize that my Great Great Grandmother, Louisa MILHEIM, would have attended George’s funeral.  And, had he lived, he and Louisa would have married, raising my Great Grandmother Eva PFAFF. 

As serendipity would have it, as I was putting together this post, I misplaced one of the many newspaper accounts I had amassed during my search for and research on George M PFAF;, THE newspaper account that I most wanted to review and use. 

So, it was out to Newspapers.com in search of what I swore I already had.  Did I find the article?  No . . . not at first.  BUT, OMG what I did find!!!  A two sentence blurb hidden amongst other . . . stuff.  What did it say?  Here, I will let you see for yourself . . .

Pfaff Marriage“It is said that Geo. Paff, one of the unfortunate victims of the silk mill fire at Catasauqua, was to have been married shortly.”  Published in the local paper 7 May 1890.16

And, what of the article that I misplaced that caused this happy “accident?”  I found it.  It was on my computer.  I have never been happier to have thought I lost a valuable record!!!

Now, I can’t prove it, but I strongly believe, that my above hypothesis is 100% accurate, IF George M PFAFF had lived, he and my Great Great Grandmother, Louisa MILHEIM, would have married and raised their daughter, Eva Elizabeth PFAFF . . . TOGETHER!!

Observations.  Several of the articles refer to “John” Paff.  I believe this is in error.  George PFAFF had younger brother, John A PFAFF.  John was 15 months younger than his brother George; born 5 December 1869, Schnecksville, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, to David PFAFF and Sarah (Sally) ROCKEL.  He passed away at the age of 63 on 10 March 1932 in Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. 

While it is entirely possible that John too was employed by the Unicorn Silk Mill and was on site that fateful day, 24 April 1890; he too, along with his brother George could have “jumped in” to render aid and he may very well have been injured, I don’t believe the accounts of “John” in these articles are referring to him. 

As noted John lived until 63 years of age while his brother George did not survive the incident nor his injuries.  I think it more likely that the “John” referred to in the articles is actually George.  In the confusion of that day and the horrible events unfolding, it isn’t hard to imagine how two young men, of the same family, and similar in age could be confused.

I don’t know much about my Great Great Grandfather George M PFAFF, but what I do know is that he sacrificed his young life to help others in need without thought to his own personal safety.  I KNOW HE IS A HERO as are the others that rendered assistance, some at the loss of life that day.

Remembering the Injured and Lost
While this post is about my maternal Great Great Grandfather George M PFAFF, I feel it important to remember the others that suffered horrific injuries and loss of life.  I think George would have liked that I / WE didn’t forget them . . .

Those who died:
Joseph  Lodigiani; John Good; Charles Frick; Ulysses Everett; William Fenstermacher

Those who were injured:
Henry Price; Michael Moran; Clifford Riegel; John Graffin; William Mote; Robert C Dougherty; William Kay; William Howells; Robert Wilkinson; Samuel Morris; Thomas James; Albert Derhammer; Wilson Young; William Jones; Henry Souders; Thomas Jones; and Oscar Harte

My Great Great Grandfather had the following siblings who survived him: Sara E PFAFF, married to Alfred Kuehner; Joseph R PFAFF, married to Emily LaBarre; Clara K PFAFF, married to Adam Roth; and John A PFAFF, married to Emma Beitel. 

I would LOVE to hear from any of their descendants; did any of them know of their hero uncle George?  Would I get lucky enough that a photo exists and survives of George?  What about photos of my Great Great Great Grandparents; David PFAFF and Sarah (Sally) Ann ROCKEL?

And, of course if others have similar stories of heroism; life cut short; triumph, etc. I’d love to hear them!!!

Copyright © 2018 Family Preserves; Tracy L Meyers
1St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania), Baptisms, 1853 – 1987 Volume 1, Page 108, Baptism, 1889.  Eva Elizabeth Paff, born 24 January 1889, baptized 24 June 1889. Lehigh County Historical Society, Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum, Allentown, Pennsylvania

2ncestry.com, 1900 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.Original data – United States of America, Bureau of the Census.  Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900 Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900.  T623, 18), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com, Year: 1900; Census Place: Whitehall, Lehigh, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1430; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 0093; FHL microfilm: 1241430.

3Marriage License, “Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885 – 1950,” index and images, Famil Search (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VF43-NG5 :, “Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-21138-66?cc=1589502 : accessed 5 September 2015), 004839066 > image 637 of 914; county courthouses, Pennsylvania

4Married, 20 May 1911, accessed 1 January 2018, Marriage Announcement, The Allentown Democrat, Allentown, Pennsylvania, online images (https://www.newspapers.com)

5Ancestry.com, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1924 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014).  Ancestry.com, http://www.ancestry.com

6Ancestry.com, Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985 (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data – Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records.  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.  Original data: Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Reco), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com, Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Collection Name: Historic  Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 491)

7Pennsylvania County Marriages 1855 – 1950 Index and Images (Family Search), “Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885 – 1950,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VF43-NG5 :, Date License acquired: 31 May 1892 / Date of Marriage: 31 May 1892. FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VF4V-782)

8Ancestry.com, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1924 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com

9St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, USA), Death Register, Volume III, 1853 – 1987, Page 90, Death Register, 1890; Lehigh County Historical Society, Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum, Allentown, PA

10“A Terrible Disaster – The Catasauqua Silk Mill Destroyed by Fire – Five Lives Lost, and A Number of Persons Severely Injured,” The Allentown Democrat, 30 April 1890, archived, (https://www.newspapers.com/image/16253142 : accessed 4 January 2018), Columns 2 and 3; citing print edition, p. 3

11See Ibid., “A Terrible Disaster – The Catasauqua Silk Mill Destroyed by Fire . . .”

12“Terrible Disaster – Destruction of the Catasauqua Silk Mill, Four Men Dead and Many Injured,” The Lehigh Register, 30 April 1890

13“A Terrible Disaster – The Catasauqua Silk Mill Destroyed by Fire – Five Lives Lost, and A Number of Persons Severely Injured,” The Allentown Democrat, 30 April 1890, archived, (https://www.newspapers.com/image/16253142 : accessed 4 January 2018), Columns 2 and 3; citing print edition, p. 3

14Terrible Disaster – Destruction of the Catasauqua Silk Mill, Four Men Dead and Many Injured,” The Lehigh Register, 30 April 1890, p. 1

15“Catasauqua Disaster,” The Catasauqua Dispatch, 30 April 1890, p. 5

16“In Brief Paragraphs,” The Morning Call, 7 May 1890, archived (https://ww.newspapers.com/image/16210359 : accessed 2 January 1890 column 7; citing print edition)

31 August 2017

The Tale of Three James

CaptureAre you researching your LINDSEY ancestry?  Do you believe that you descend from Archibald LINDSEY?  The Massachusetts Revolutionary War Patriot, documented in the annals of the Daughter’s of the American Revolution (DAR); Ancestor #A070563?1  If so, I encourage you to go slow and proceed with caution. 

Archi’s father, according to the DAR application, is purported to be James LINDSEY born Londonderry, Ireland, 1680; died Nutfield (Londonderry) New Hampshire, 1774 and, was married to Ann Gypson (widow).  However, nowhere in the application are there any source citations provided as to how they “know” that James Lindsey of Londonderry, Ireland and Londonderry, Rockingham, New Hampshire is Archi’s father. Let alone, how they know that he emigrated from Ireland and more specifically, Londonderry.

Before I delve into the specific subject of this post – the Tale of Three James – a little background is needed.

I began the research of my LINDSEY ancestry in 2013; starting from my Grandfather, Walter Galloway LINDSEY and working backward.  In 2014 I hit a “bump in the road.”  Archibald LINDSEY was purported to be my third Great Grandfather, Edwin G LINDSEY’s father.  And, the son of James LINDSEY.  But there appeared to be nothing more than hearsay, to support that assertion.  I first learned of this “relationship” from Margaret Isabella Lindsay’s book “The Lindsay’s of America.2   More research followed and I learned of an Archibald LINDSEY who served during the American Revolutionary War as a Private, from Massachusetts, September 1777 – October 1777.  Armed with that information, I went to the DAR website and searched for applications that may have been submitted listing Archi as their Patriot.  I found three, an original and two supplemental applications.  All three sorely lacked source citations. 

A lot of assertions and assumptions were made based on, as far as I can tell,  hearsay. The original application was clearly reviewed; you can see several notations throughout.  But, again, no source citation is provided, nor anything indicating where the information was derived. This has been my research focus ever since. 

I have been able to prove, to my satisfaction, that my third Great Grandfather, Edwin Galloway LINDSEY and all his siblings named in both sources previously mentioned here, are indeed the descendants of Archibald LINDSEY.  I have since obtained actual pay and muster rolls documenting Archi’s service during the Revolutionary War.  More on that research and my findings in a future post.  So, now it was time to focus the research on, and to document, Archi’s parentage.

A note to the reader: I affectionately refer to Archibald LINDSEY as “Archi” throughout.

As I mentioned, the initial DAR application, dated 4 November 1953, asserts that James LINDSEY was born in 1680, Londonderry, Ireland and died in 1774, Londonderry, Rockingham, New Hampshire.  The application also asserts that Ann Gypson (widow) was his wife.  There are no citations provided and no original documents included in the applicant package.  So, where did this information come from?  What information, documents, research was used to substantiate it? 

I needed to learn more about what information was out there; what documents did James create during his life?  What documents were created about or for James, during his life?  Did anyone else who descended from James LINDSEY, his son Archi, or another of his children (Archi’s siblings) have information, and more specifically, documentation that would support or refute their connection?  Sadly, every single tree and message board, etc. that I found, simply provided the same flimsy resources that I’ve noted here.  Everyone cites, attaches and refers to the DAR application which asserts that James is Archibald LINDSEY’s father.  And, Ann Gypson was his wife.  To support the Ann Gypson connection, everyone cites the New England Historical & Genealogical Register, 1847 – 2011, which states, “James Lindsey (bachelor, married an Ann Gypson (widow), 16 January 1727/8."3   In addition, all cite the Find-a-Grave memorial for James which notes that he is buried at Forest Hill Cemetery, East Derry, Rockingham, New Hampshire.4

SLOW; proceed with CAUTION! 

It would appear, that the information within the New England Historical & Genealogical Register was a compilation of historical ministerial records from throughout New England.  The specific notation, reference James Lindsey’s and Ann Gypson’s marriage, comes from the Hon. Samuel C Adams, of Newfield, Maine. He notes that he is “in possession of the original record of Mr. Adams [Reverend Hugh Adams], and believing it may afford some interest . . . I send a copy of the record of marriages, baptisms, admissions to the church, etc.”   

James is a common given name and Lindsey a common surname.  There is not enough identifying data in this entry in the cited register to definitively conclude that this James Lindsey is Archi’s father.  The entry doesn’t tell me where either party are from.  It doesn’t include birth date; birth place; nor where either party lived at the time of marriage.  There is nothing, nothing at all, to distinguish this James Lindsey from any other male by the same name. As this historical and genealogical register records marriages, baptisms, admissions to the church, etc. from throughout New England, I took the time to browse the book.  That is, I looked from its cover and at all 504 pages (518 images) of it.  Scouring the pages for any other mentions of the LINDSEYs. There were only two: Joel Harvey Linsley (page 88; image 97) and James LINDSEY (page 180; image 191).  There was nothing else in the register that shed light on just who this James Lindsey was.

Yet, every tree, message board, etc. that I’ve come across cites this as their source – their only source – making the connection between this James Lindsey and Ann Gypson to Archi.  Really?  How’d they make that leap?  Because it was recorded on an approved DAR application?  Because it is on another family tree?  Because others believe that they descend from James LINDSEY and repeatedly quote this connection?

Rev Hugh Adams

Ann Gypson

Let’s take a look at that Find-a-Grave memorial.  James LINDSEY is buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery, located in East Derry, New Hampshire in section K Lot 61.  However . . . there are couple of things that should immediately jump right off the page for any discerning genealogist or family historian. 

1. The memorial page includes the name of his spouse, Martha Lindsey

2. A VERY IMPORTANT note left by the photographer, DJ Goldman.  DJ notes that this is “an unusual stone in that his wife, Martha, is on the other side of the stone.  This is not commonly seen in gravestones of this era.”

JamesTranscription:  Here lyeth the body of James Lindsay who died on the 17 June Anno Domini 1774 aged 94

Martha On the opposite side of James Lindsay’s headstone . . .

Transcription: Here lyeth the body of Martha Lindsay wife to James Lindsay who died on the 29 of January Anno Domini 1743.  Aged [the age is not visible]

Did no one see that there is clearly something rotten in the Province / state of New Hampshire?  We have a James LINDSEY said to be married to an Ann Gypson in 1727/8 and who they attach to their family trees.  And, we also have a James LINDSEY buried with his wife Martha in the Forest Hill Cemetery, whose Find-a-Grave memorial they also attach to their trees.

Did no one ask themselves . . . was James married more than once?  Did Ann die?  Did Ann and James divorce? Did James remarry; when?  What happened to Ann?  Where is she?  Is there more than one James Lindsey in the area?

My goal was to determine if there really was a connection between James Lindsey and Archibald LINDSEY as noted on the DAR application.  In order to do this however, I needed to untangle this new mystery . . . is there one James who was married first to Ann and then Martha?  Or, is there more than one James Lindsey in the Londonderry, Rockingham, New Hampshire area and surrounding local? 

It so happens at this point, I was scheduled to travel to New England, specifically Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York, on a research trip.  I planned to focus on my LINDSEY family.  Specifically, Archi.  And, I was hoping to really dive into research on James as well.  In preparation for this trip, I went back over every single piece of evidence that I had on Archi to this point.  From Archi “forward” I had not been as successful in untangling which of Archi’s wives were the mother of which of his children.  More on this in a future blog.  But while doing this, I came across hints (shaky leaves) or clues when searching other parts of the LINDSEY line that were either new to me, or I just hadn’t really focused on them before. 

One clue was particularly interesting, and I came across this about a week before my trip.  This ended up being the best time to run into it, because it was fresh and foremost in my mind when I traveled to New Hampshire.  The Clue?  The US and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s – 1900s.5  This abstract from the original record says that a James LINDSEY and his wife, Martha arrived on these shores, in New Hampshire, in 1720.  Now, this is an index; an abstract, and it clearly notes “date and place of first mention of residence in the New World extracted from several sources, mainly ‘New Hampshire Provincial Deeds, 1641 – 1771,’ which are on microfilm at the New Hampshire Historical Society.”  Well, isn’t that convenient.  It just so happened, that a week after finding this, I would be in New Hampshire visiting the New Hampshire State Archives.  The New Hampshire Historical Society was now added to my list of places to visit.

So, here’s the thing, the DAR application, and everyone thereafter, has been recording that James LINDSEY was married to an Ann Gypson (widow) 16 January 1727/8.  This abstract alone, calls that information into question.  First, note the year James arrived in New Hampshire; 1720.  Note who he arrived with; wife, Martha.  Now, go back and look at that headstone in the Forest Hill Cemetery and attached to the Find-a-Grave memorial.  Do you see a problem?  Martha and James were married when they arrived on these shores in 1720; the Rev. Hugh Adams’ records included in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1847 – 2011, mentioned above, records a James Lindsey marrying an Ann Gypson (widow) 16 January 1727; and, Martha Lindsey, according to the headstone that she SHARES with her husband James LINDSEY, didn’t die until 1743.

So, are we looking at the same man, James LINDSEY, married twice and buried, at the time of his death in 1774, with his first wife, Martha?  Or, are we looking at two different men?  Time to look at those deeds mentioned in this latest clue.

Passenger ListWhen visiting the New Hampshire State Archives, I mentioned my interest in Land Deeds, and my specific focus on the James and Martha Lindsey mentioned in the Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. Here’s what I found.

The Royal Town Charter for Londonderry, in the new Province of New Hampshire, dated 1 June 1722.6 

Samuel Shute, Esq., Governor; and Commander and Chief, Province of New Hampshire, on 1 June 1722, signed the Royal Town Charter, which granted “. . . equal shares unto sundry of our beloved subjects whose names are entered unto a schedule hereunto annexed that inhabit or shall inhabit. . . .” 

James LINDSEY was among the sundry [many] granted equal shares of land.

To view the Londonderry Royal Town Charter, click here.  Note, this novice blogger is using Google Docs for the first time, so fingers crossed that it works “as advertised.”  If it doesn’t, I am sure that it is 100% operator error on my part.

The fourth and fifth page of the Royal Town Charter provides a “Schedule [list] of Names of the Proprietors of Londonderry.  A list of approximately 122 “neighbors” of James LINDSEY.  This will be helpful later.

1722 Royal Town Charter 2 (002)

I learned from the staff that the New Hampshire County Registries of Deeds has digitized the land deeds for Rockingham County and those records can be found on their website..  When I returned from my trip, land deeds were my sole focus.  Remember, the Passenger and Immigration index noted “Provincial Deeds, 1641 – 1771.”  I wanted to search both the “Verified Grantor” and “Verified Grantee” lists for 1629 to present.  I searched for James LINDSEY using all known variants of the surname to include the four most common spellings I’ve seen throughout my research:  LINDSEY; LINDSAY; LINSEY; and LINZEY. 

I then set about reading and transcribing each deed – every single one.  Forty-one deeds from 1722 – 1771.  Then I went back and read through them again.  I wanted to pick out pieces of information from each deed that I thought may be helpful in learning more about James and I took notes.  I was looking to identify James’ FAN Club.  That is, I was looking for his Family / Friends; Associates; and Neighbors.  People that lived, worked, and associated with James and his family on a daily basis; people, that if found in a given place and time with a James LINDSEY, would later help me identify whether there was only one James Lindsey or whether there might be more than one.  So, to that end, I made note of who James purchased land from or sold land to.  Whether his wife was mentioned in the deed as relinquishing her dower and power of thirds. The boundaries - that is, who the neighbors were.  And, I noted both who witnessed James’ signature and who signed as Justice of the Peace.  I then took my notes and created an excel spreadsheet which would greatly assist in helping me to contrast; compare; and document my findings.  Again, I was looking to learn whether there was one James LINDSEY or more than one.

To view the resulting spread sheet click here.

Okay, before getting into what I found, keep in mind we are wanting to determine if there is one James Lindsey, married twice?  Or, whether there is more than one James Lindsey, in the same geographical area during the same time?  And, we are looking to confirm, or deny, the assertion by many that James Lindsey is Archi’s father.

In the deed dated 15 June 17307 (see image below), James LINDSEY and his wife, Martha, sell property to their daughter, Jenat and son-in-law, John Wallace.  The witnesses to this transaction were John Anderson and John McMurphy.  James Mckeen, Justice of the Peace.

15 June 1730 - Land Deed - James Lindsey

“To all Christian people to whom these presents shall come, greeting.  Know ye that I James LINDSAY of Londonderry, within his Majesty’s Province of New Hampshire in New England for and in consideration of love and good will and affection which I have and do bear to my son, John Wallace, of the Town and Province aforesaid . . .”

15 June 1730 - Land Deed - Jenat

“ . . . that Jenat Wallace the wife of the aforesaid, John Wallace, out live or survive her husband, John Wallace, that the aforesaid lands with all the improvements that shall or may be upon the same at his decease shall return and fall unto the said Jenat Wallace, wife to the aforesaid John Wallace and DAUGHTER to the aforesaid James LINDSEY . . .”


“. . . and Martha, the wife of the said James Lindsay, doth hereby give grant yield up and surrender all my right of dower and power of thirds . . .”

1746The 3 February 1746 deed8, has James LINDSEY of Londonderry and his wife, Margaret, engaged in the sale of their land to James Rodgers.  The witnesses were Thomas Cochran and John MacMurphy.  The Justice of the Peace was John MacMurphy.

“ . . . Margaret, the wife of the said James Lindsay, doth by these presents give, grant, yield up, and surrender all her right of dower and power of thirds . . .”

16 October 1749 - Land Deed - Lindsey~LindseyOn 16 October 17499 a James Lindsey “transferred” property to his daughter.  The witnesses to this transaction were James Scales and Susanna Scales.  The Justice of the Peace was James Scales.

“To all people to whom these presents shall come, greeting.  Know ye that I James Lindsey of Canterbury in the Province of New Hampshire in New England, Cordwainer, for and in consideration of the paternal love and affection which I bear to MY DEARLY BELOVED DAUGHTER AND ONLY CHILD Elizabeth Lindsey of Canterbury aforesaid, spinster.”

12 June 1750 - Land Deeds - Lindsey~GipsonOn 12 June 175010 a James Lindsey “transferred” property to his step-daughter.  The witnesses to the transaction were James Scales and Susanna Scales.  The Justice of the Peace, James Scales.

“To all people to whom these presents shall come, greeting.  Know ye that I James Lindsey of Canterbury in the Province of New Hampshire in New England, Cordwainer, for and in consideration of the love and affection which I bear to my beloved DAUGHTER-IN-LAW ELEANOR GIPSON, the daughter of my present wife by her first husband . . .

What we have:

  1. A James LINDSEY, an early resident of Londonderry, Province of New Hampshire. (Royal Town Charter, dated 1 June 1722)
  2. A James LINDSEY and his wife, Martha, of Londonderry, Province of New Hampshire, selling land to their son-in-law, John Wallace (15 June 1730)
  3. A James LINDSEY and his wife, Margaret, of Londonderry, Province of New Hampshire, selling land to James Rodgers
  4. A James Lindsey, of Canterbury, Province of New Hampshire, transferring land to his beloved daughter and only child, Elizabeth (16 October 1749)
  5. A James Lindsey, of Canterbury, Province of New Hampshire, transferring land to his beloved daughter-in-law [step-daughter], Eleanor Gipson, the “daughter of my present wife by her first husband (12 June 1750)

Out of forty-one land transactions James LINDSEY of Londonderry, Rockingham, Province / State of New Hampshire,  bought and sold land from 1722 – 1767, a total of 12 times.  And, all within Londonderry or Windham which was a part of Londonderry from 1719 – 1742.  His land transactions never took him outside these two locals. 

We have two James Lindseys of Canterbury, who both bought, sold, or “transferred” land.  One James Lindsey “transferred” land to his only child, Elizabeth, 1749.  And, in 1752, James purchased land from his daughter, Elizabeth and her husband, Nathaniel Perkins.  Both transactions were within Canterbury.

The other James Lindsey on 12 June 1750, “transferred” land to his step-daughter, Eleanor Gipson. The land sold was located in the town of Canterbury.  And, the deed notes that both Eleanor and her step-father, James Lindsey, were both from the town of Canterbury.

I have found no transaction for the purchase or sale of land outside of Canterbury for either of these James Lindseys.

So, as you can see, we do, in fact, have more than one James LINDSEY living at the same time in the same geographical location.  There was indeed a James Lindsey married to an Ann GIPSON.  A James Lindsey buying and selling land with his first wife, Martha and then after Martha’s death in 1743, with his second wife, Margaret.   And, there was also a James Lindsey, selling land to his beloved daughter and only child, Elizabeth.

So, who is Archi’s dad?  Well, I know who his father isn’t.  It isn’t the James Lindsey who had only one child, a daughter, Elizabeth! 

I’m scratching my head.  These records were created in the 1700’s; they were witnessed, recorded and filed.  And, they aren’t the only records that existed for that time and place for either of the three James LINDSEYs, For instance . . .

The History of Windham in New Hampshire (Rockingham County), 1719-188311 which records the Officers of the Provincial Government. 

Provincial Government

James LINDSEY of Londonderry is serving as a Town Officer of Londonderry / Windham in 1722.  Now, I could be wrong, but I’d think, business, at the Provincial level, on a fairly regular basis would be taking place.  And, the Government would be creating, recording and filing records.  All of which “could” lead to information about James and his family.

Just in this one snippet, James LINDSEY is surrounded by his FANS.  James McKeen and John McMurphy, Judicial Officers (Justice of the Peace) whom James appeared before to acknowledge that the transaction was his “free act and deed.  James McKeen, John Goffe, James Gregg, Samuel Graves, Samuel Moore, James Alexander, John Cochran, all were not only witnesses to James Lindsey’s, Martha’s and Margaret’s signatures on the various land transactions from 1722 – 1771, but they also frequently bought land from and sold land to James Lindsey as well.

Our ancestors didn’t live in a vacuum, without any connection to other people or events.  All of these records were available in 1953, when the first applicant applied to DAR for membership, citing Archibald LINDSEY as their Patriot Ancestor. They were available, when DAR’s genealogist reviewed, examined, and vetted the application and the supporting evidence, or as we’ve seen, the lack thereof.  Yet, as far as I can see, to a person and organization, what was included in that application was taken as, and promulgated in every family tree, story, and conversation, as gospel.  The irony is – without getting too involved with this analogy – that no matter your personal beliefs, we all know that there are many that would argue the validity of what Christians refer to as the Gospel (the Bible).  They cite that it is just a collection of stories; that there is seemingly no documentation, nothing to support it’s accuracy, etc., etc.  Yet, many a genealogist and family historian take what they see in print and online, in DAR applications; authored genealogies; family trees; family lore, etc. with no supporting evidence, or at least none cited, as . . .  “gospel.” 

Can James Lindsey be added to the family tree?  Which James Lindsey?  NOT MY FAMILY TREE!!!  Not yet!  There is nothing, nothing to substantiate the claim.  And, I am not in the habit of adding anyone to my family tree that hasn’t been thoroughly researched and “proven” to a reasonable degree of certainty.


We now know which James Lindsey is not Archi’s father, but we have two remaining candidates.  The first, James Lindsey married to Martha, who was in Londonderry, Rockingham, New Hampshire as early as 1720; who remarried after Martha’s death in 1743.  His second wife is known to be Margaret. 

And, then there is the James Lindsey of Canterbury, who, as we’ve seen is indeed married to the widow Ann Gypson, and is the father of his beloved step-daughter Eleanor.

Two James Lindsey’s and three potential women that could be Archi’s mother.  Ann Gypson; Martha; or Margaret.  That will have to be a future blog post.

A lot more research required.

I am not a fan of lineage societies as a whole, but what I find particularly troubling about DAR is, they have, since their founding in 1890, set themselves apart by restricting membership to those who can “prove” their descent from an American Patriot.  That is, an applicant must  provide documentation proving relationship from the patriot down to themselves.  DAR also sets themselves apart, insisting before an applicant is approved, a DAR genealogist must review and vet the submitted information and genealogies for accuracy.  Unfortunately, and what is maddening, is this leads everyone to falsely conclude that if an applicant is admitted into the prestigious ranks of the Daughters of the American Revolution, their lineage is “golden” – err, proven.  And, DAR does nothing to discourage this. 

DAR allows for an applicant to “piggy back” on a so called, proven Revolutionary Ancestor with whom they share a “proven” common lineage.  So, unless an applicant has anything to add . . . but, why would they?  Why do research when it has already been done for you, right?  Why go back and review what had been previously submitted; to oh, I don’t know, check on that pesky and glaring discrepancy mentioned above – you know Martha? Ann?  Three James Lindseys?  Why they should is obvious to any seasoned and discerning genealogist and family historian.  However, the reality is, many, far too many, don’t and these errors persist causing tree rot.

And, therein lies the root – pun intended – of my problem.  I’d be far more impressed with DAR if they stopped the practice of allowing new applicants to “piggy back” onto an existing application; an application that as we’ve seen can be with error.  I’d be far more impressed if they’d insist that an applicant must do their own research or hire a professional to do so, of their genealogy and lineage back to the Patriot ancestor.  If an applicant wishes to use the approved application package of a former member and the information contained within, they may do so with the knowledge that they be used as hints only.  There will be nothing from the existing package accepted as “proof” that cannot be duplicated by research today.  And, I’d be very impressed if they were a little more obvious then they currently are, that their “proven” patriots and lineage files are not without error, some more glaring than others.  Far too many are susceptible to the notion that if an application has been approved by DAR the lineage is “proven” and without error.  Well, it has to be, right?  Or, DAR wouldn’t have accepted it.  That is the perception DAR promotes when it states that only applicants with a “proven” lineage will be accepted for membership to their august organization.


As you research your family, strive to review everything with a critical eye. There are tools, from the simple, such as the excel spreadsheet I’ve linked above - they need not be fancy, it can be as simple and basic as pencil and paper - to the technical.  .  And, there are best practices and standards - the Genealogical Proof Standard - that are available to guide the novice to the professional.  Insist on knowing where the information came from.  As we’ve seen, just because it is in print or accepted by a prestigious and established organization and lineage society does not mean that the information is full-proof.  Humans created the documents; humans assessed the documents and humans are not without error!  And, lastly, even if supporting documentation is available, you / we should all read through it, transcribe it, critically review it and make our own determination as to the accuracy of the information.  And, as to the information in toto. 

Yes, this means hours upon hours of work.   In some cases creating spreadsheets, or what have you, to contrast and compare.  Collecting documents not only on who we believe to be our ancestor, but as you’ve seen, collecting documents created by their FANs and most importantly, in the case of our ancestors with common names, collecting documents that were created by any person with the same name, in the same general local, and really reading them; transcribing them; dissecting them; comparing the information they contain, against what we’ve learned about others with the same name; creating a timeline to see where there are gaps, overlaps, impossibilities and probabilities.  ALL of this will help to find OUR ancestor and document them.  And, of course, it will ultimately help us climb OUR family tree and not someone else’s!!! 

A note to the reader: To learn more about the Genealogical Proof Standard, I highly recommend viewing a series of YouTube videos put together by Ancestry’s Corporate Genealogist, Crista Cowan.  They are no more than 30 minutes in length and are choc full of information, tips, etc.  Crista’s presentation style is such that the novice to the professional can all learn something; they are not collegiate and you feel as though Crista is in the room and talking directly to you.  The series is free and I highly recommend saving them to refer back to.  Here is a link to the series.

Crista also has an excellent video presentation on the “FAN Club” method of research.  That is researching the Family / Friends, Associates, and Neighbors of our ancestors.  Here is the link.

Another professional genealogist and speaker that I highly recommend is Mr. Warren Bittner, CG.  I first heard him speak at the 2014 NGS Genealogy Conference in Richmond, Virginia.  He was AWESOME!!!  If you ever get the opportunity to hear him speak in person, GO to hear him!!  Do NOT pass go; do not collect $200.00, go directly to hear his presentation!!  You will not regret it.  Warren Bittner, during his 2014 NGS session, presented a very interesting topic reference proving identities, and did so in an entertaining way.  What I got out of that presentation was better understanding of what is meant by a reasonably exhaustive search.  Hint . . . the research that I’ve done and what I have written about here is just the beginning phases of my foray into a reasonably exhaustive search on James LINDSEY.  As they say . . . I’ve only just begun!

For those that have a Legacy Family Tree Webinars subscription, you can access archived presentations by Warren in their webinar library. 

I challenge each of you, as you research, to go SLOW!  And, PROCEED WITH CAUTION! 

What similar challenges have you had in researching your ancestors and how did you ultimately resolve the conflict?  Or, is the “jury still out?”  I look forward to learning what worked for you.  I am all about “collecting” tips and tricks that will help me and others further their research and ultimately documenting all of our ancestors.


Copyright © 2017 Family Preserves; Tracy L Meyers



1Membership application, Frances E Whitney, National No.336908, on Archibald Lindsey (1744 – 1835), approved 4 November 1953; Daughters of the American Revolution, Washington, DC

2Margaret Isabella Lindsey, The Lindsays of America, (1889; reprint, Westminster, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc, 2008), pages 141 – 143

3Ancestry.com. The New England Historical & Genealogical Register, 1847 – 2011 (database online). Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Image 191

4Find A Grave, database with images (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 6 April 2014), memorial 18369952, James Lindsey (1680 – 1774), Forest Hill Cemetery, East Derry, Rockingham, New Hampshire; gravestone photograph by  D J Goldman

5Ancestry.com and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s – 1900s [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2010. COPELY, WILLIAM. “Scotch-Irish Settlers in New Hampshire, 1719 – 1776.” In Historical New Hampshire (New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord), Vol. 50:3/4 (Fall/Winter 1995), pp. 213-228 (page 221)

6”New Hampshire, Royal Town Charter, Province of Londonderry, 1722,” Land Deeds, New Hampshire State Archives, Concord

7“New Hampshire County Registries of Deeds,” database, nhdeeds.com (http://www.nhdeeds.com : accessed 26 August 2017) entry for James Lindsey, Rockingham County Registry of Deeds; citing verified Grantor 1629 – 2017, digital images, volume 0017:360-361

8New Hampshire County Registries of Deeds,” database, nhdeeds.com (http://www.nhdeeds.com : accessed 23 August 2017) entry for James Lindsey, Rockingham County Registry of Deeds: citing verified Grantor 1629 – 2017, digital images, volume 34:117-119

9“New Hampshire County Registries of Deeds,” database, nhdeeds.com (http://www.nhdeeds.com : accessed 23 August 2017) entry for James Lindsey, Rockingham County Registry of Deeds: citing verified Grantor 1629 – 2017, digital images, volume 70:340-342

10“New Hampshire County Registries of Deeds,” database, nhdeeds.com (http://www.nhdeeds.com : accessed 23 August 2017) entry for James Lindsey, Rockingham County Registry of Deeds: citing verified Grantor 1629 – 2017, digital images, volume 40:274-275

11Ancestry.com.  The History of Windham in New Hampshire (Rockingham County), 1719-1883 : a Scotch Settlement (Commonly Called Scotch-Irish), [database online],  Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc.  2005

30 April 2017

In Plain Sight!

This post is the fourth in a series about my research in solving the two-part history mystery of . . . Who IS Eva; Eva Ramer? Or, Eva PFAFF?  And, who is George PFAFF? You can read the previous posts in the series by clicking any one of the following links: Grandma Isn't Playing Nice; The Grandparents Are Out of Control!; and Grandma, A Little Cooperation . . . PLEASE!!

Well, we “know” from my last post, Grandma, A Little Cooperation . . . PLEASE!, that Eva, is Eva PFAFF.  And, that conclusion was based on A LOT of research and the piecing together of original and derivative sources; records that recorded primary and secondary information based on direct or indirect knowledge.

I noted in my last post, that as I was writing it, I was again re-reviewing my information, documents and sources.  And, that I had made some “discoveries” that I hadn’t noticed in the . . . oh, I don’t know . . . the first 100 times I had read, reviewed, and transcribed; read, reviewed; and then, read and reviewed the documents and sources, yet again!!  Let me just say here, there is no such thing, as going through and over something too many times.  You WILL, always . . .  ALWAYS . . . find something that you’ve missed; misread; didn’t give importance to; gave too much importance to; misinterpreted; failed to appreciate the significance of, etc., etc.

Let me say it again . . .

there is no such thing, as going through and over something too many times.  You WILL, always . . . ALWAYS . . . find something that you’ve missed; misread; didn’t give importance to; gave too much importance to; misinterpreted; failed to appreciate the significance of, etc., etc.

This simply cannot be stressed enough!!!

So . . . as I was writing my last post, I was again reviewing my research, and even though I had browsed page-by-page each of the census records for each of the counties; Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Montgomery, and Lehigh.  Going through each city / town / borough looking for ALL PFAFF families and noting any young males in those households that fit the approximate age of George – the gentleman named as the “father” of Eva on several documents, I decided yet again, that I would search the census records one more time.  What the heck, probably fruitless, right?!!  After all, I had thrown everything, “but the kitchen sink” into each of my previous searches!!  And, I had gone through all those census records, in all of those counties, in each and every town, borough and city, page-by-page and hadn’t found him!  But, hey, what the heck, I’ll throw in the “kitchen sink” this time!!! 

In the blog post dated, 19 September 2015, The Grandparents are Out of Control!, the marriage announcement, “SQUIRE SNYDER TIES A HYMENEAL KNOT,” which ran in the Allentown Democrat, Wednesday, 8 June 1892, announced the wedding of Eva’s mother, Louisa MILHEIM and a gentleman by the name of Oscar Ramer.  This wedding announcement is NOT announcing the marriage of Eva’s parents.  While Louisa is Eva’s biological mother; Oscar is most certainly not the biological father. We know this because, the wedding between Louisa and Oscar took place a full three years and four months after Eva’s birth.  Eva’s birth certificate records her parents as Louisa MILHEIM and George PFAFF.  The 1900 US Federal Census records Eva PFAFF, age 11, living in her grandparents’ - Charles and Mary MILLHIME - home, located in Hokendauqua Village, Whitehall Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Eva’s marriage license records her maiden name as Eva PFAFF.  The Allentown Democrat announced, 20 May 1911, the marriage between Eva PFAFF and George E. W.STARR. And, Eva’s death certificate records her father’s name as George PFAFF; Eva’s daughter, Catherine, provided that information.

While I was confident in my conclusion that Eva was NOT Oscar Ramer’s daughter and that our mystery guy, George PFAFF, indeed was Eva’s father, I still didn’t have enough “proof.”  I wasn’t exhausted!  Nor, had I looked I at, or through, every record set or data collection.  I hadn’t gone through every archive; repository; church; cemetery; funeral home or library.  There was still a lot more, A LOT more that I needed to do.  I needed to aspire to that Genealogy Proof Standard (GPS) of a “reasonably exhaustive search.”  Did I think I’d find anything that would alter my conclusion?  No, not really.  However, I needed to be open-minded enough to be open to that possibility – the possibility that I could find something that definitively proved me wrong and take me in a different direction.  I was okay with that.  After all, my goal was, has been, and is, to research my family; my ancestors, and to document their life and lives.  I don’t want to chase after a person or family that isn’t mine. 

So, my next step was to hire a professional genealogist to do “on site” research in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.  While I would have loved to travel home to my home state and the stomping grounds of my youth, my schedule and some other things – life! – simply didn’t permit it.  So, contracting with a professional genealogist in the ancestral geographical area of interest, and requesting additional documents and local archive searches, was the best alternative.  And, I was able to learn and discover some interesting things that both furthered my research and ultimately, supported my conclusions. 

My specific research focus for the professional genealogist was to visit the Lehigh County courthouse and locate the courthouse file and docket reference the fornication and bastardy case for Oscar Ramer; Session: January 1892, page 592, No. 26.  My contract was for five hours of research, plus expenses.  However, he agreed, that if time permitted – that is, the focus of his (my) research was achieved – he’d search the courthouse records for a marriage license for George PFAFF and Louisa MILHIEM.  I believed, IF a marriage took place, it would have been between 1888 and 1889.

The following information was included in the genealogist’s research notes.

“Lehigh County Court of Quarter Sessions Docket Book “J” provided index and file No. 26.  This entry from January Session, 1892, dated 5 January, stated that Oscar Ramer had posted a $500.00 bond to guarantee his appearance at the next criminal court session which would have been in April 1892.  At that time he would have to answer the charges brought against him by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

The genealogist noted that there are two sources of records for these Quarter Court Sessions:

  1. The Session Docket Book which included the index of the names of the defendant along with a short entry providing a brief description of the proceedings.
  2. The associated paper file that might include actual full transcripts of what occurred in the courtroom

The genealogist noted that Docket book “J” included entries through January 1892.  And, the following Docket book “K” began with entries beginning in January 1895.  He could find no explanation for why this gap of three years existed in these Docket book entries.  In his speaking with the courthouse clerks, he learned this problem had never been previously discovered in these records.

Well, of course not; is anyone surprised that it was in the research of MY family that this “problem” was discovered?  Ugh, I know that I am not the only family genealogist that feels that way when researching their family.  If I am helping a friend or co-worker, all the pieces of the puzzle – err, records – just fall into place; but my family?  Nope, can’t have that!!  What fun would that be?!!

The genealogist did review the microfilm of the original court file papers for January Session 1892 through the January Session 1893.  He noted that the entry for Oscar Ramer, file #26 case should have appeared in April 1892.  Even if it had been continued to a later session, he believed it certainly would have been resolved prior to January 1893.  He found no entries for Ramer, file #26.

The genealogist noted possible reasons why no later appearance of the Ramer court case were found:

  1. The original paper file was lost
  2. The conflict between the mother and the accused father was resolved out-of-court prior to the scheduled court date in April 1892

Now, for a point of clarification.  I did not suspect that this 1892 court case, for charges of fornication and bastardy had anything to do with Eva and her parentage.  Remember, Eva, was already three years old by January 1892.  What was more likely, the charges were for a more recent event; Louisa MILHEIM’s pregnancy with daughter Mamie, who was born, 25 April 1892, while this court case was still being decided / settled. 

The genealogist suspects, in the absence of a court case, that Oscar Ramer and Louisa MILHEIM negotiated an agreement before the continuance date in April 1892. 

Louisa’s and Oscar’s daughter, Mamie, was born in April 1892 and they were married in June 1892; is there any doubt as to what agreement was reached during the negotiations?

The genealogist then turned his attention to Oscar and Louisa’s marriage license and he noted . . .

“The license application states both Oscar and Louisa were single.  If Louisa had been previously married and widowed or divorced, the application should have listed her as such, not single.”

I noted that the genealogist’s findings supported my conclusions.  Although I had shared with him what records and information I had, and where I had already looked, my conclusions based on my research were purposefully omitted so as not to bias his findings.

So . . . as I was writing my last post, I was again reviewing my research, and even though I had browsed page-by-page each of the census records for each of the counties; Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Montgomery, and Lehigh.  Going through each city / town / borough looking for ALL PFAFF families and noting any young males in those households that fit the approximate age of George – the gentleman named as the “father” of Eva on several documents, I decided yet again, that I would search the census records one more time.  What the heck, probably fruitless, right?!!  After all, I had thrown “everything, but the kitchen sink” into each of my previous searches!!  And, I had gone through all those census records, in all of those counties, in each and every town, borough and city, page-by-page and hadn’t found him!  But, hey, what the heck, I’ll throw in the “kitchen sink” this time!!!

So, what do you think happened?

8 September 1870 - US Federal Census - George Pfaff

  • 1870 US Federal Census @ Ancestry.com
  • Note, David PFAFF, Head of Household is listed on the last line of the previous page and not shown here

Do you see the kitchen sink?!! 

Picture me doing the genealogy dance; accompanied by a hoot and a holler!!  There’s George (!) on the 1870 US Federal Census; recorded on 8 September 1870 living in Slatington, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania with his family.  He’s one.  His parents are David PFAFF and Sally. 

Wait, what?  Hold that thought for a minute; I’ve seen this before.  I’ve seen David’s name before.  Where are my research notes?  My notes record that I found this same family in the 1880 US Federal Census, living in Catasauqua, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.  The Head of Household was recorded as “Dana;” followed by Sally Ann, wife; “Gengrele, son;” and John, son. 

While the enumerator’s handwriting is extremely poor and the transcriber obviously had great difficulty making out the names, I believe, after careful study of the record that “Dana” is DAVID and that “Gengrele” is GEORGE M

9 June 1880 - US Federal Census - George Pfaff

  • 1880 US Federal Census @ Ancestry.com

I had noted in my research notes that George would have been 21 the year that Eva was born, 1889, making him a candidate for the mysterious “George PFAFF.” A candidate worth looking at further.  Searching the local newspapers of the area; the Allentown Leader published David PFAFF’s obituary in their 9 and 10 June 1908 issues.  And, the Allentown Democrat ran an article, 11 June 1908 honoring his Civil War service; prompting me to search for and subsequently purchase a copy of his Civil War pension file.  I hadn’t found “my George,” but David’s son, George in this 1880 census was a good candidate, not having anything further to go on, I needed this file in my pursuit of researching and reviewing every piece of evidence that could be found to either rule in, or to rule out, any possible George with the PFAFF / PAFF surname that was of the right age, in the right time, and place to be Eva’s father.

While I waited for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to process my request for David’s pension file, I put this research aside and documented Eva’s maternal side; the MILHEIMs.

When I received David’s pension file from NARA, I first read through it – all 69 pages – I then set it aside for just a bit.  When I next came back to it, in a day or so, I transcribed the file in its entirety; word for word.  And, I disappointedly noted at the time, that this wasn’t the PFAFF family I was looking for, there was no record or recording of George anywhere in the file.  So, I filed the record away.  I documented the information it contained and I noted my findings, or lack thereof, in my research notes. This was a case of what the professionals call “negative research;” that, is my research of, and review of the records to this point, yielded negative results.  This “George,” wasn’t “my George.”

When did I review the 1880 US Federal Census?  When did I order, read, review and transcribe the Civil War Pension file for David PFAFF?  I reviewed the 1880 US Federal Census and ordered the pension file in November 2015.  I received,  read, reviewed and transcribed the pension file, January 2016. 

It’s now spring of 2017 and there’s George!  But, this makes no sense.  I looked at this George; this family, a year ago and while on paper it would seem that they were very good candidates for the person and family I was looking for, my subsequent research seemed to indicate otherwise.  So, I don’t get it!  Time for a call to to a good friend in California; we frequently work through research conundrums, issues and strategies together.  I made the call and what she hears on her end is . . .

Holy heck, I found him!

By the way, that’s the “family friendly” version! 

I explained and then said, but, I don’t get it.  I looked at this George!  I looked at this family!  And, while right age, right place; right time fit, it couldn’t be him, because this George wasn’t mentioned in any other record after the 1880 US Federal Census, and David PFAFF, the Civil War soldier, the soldier whose pension file I ordered, didn’t mention George, at all.  So, I had concluded a year ago that this wasn’t THE PFAFFs that I was looking for.

And, my ever patient friend said, “do you still have the pension file?”  Why, yes, yes, I do.  And, we went through it . . . again.  Literally, I read it to her; word for word; line by line.  When I got to . . .

“Have you any children living? If so, please state their names and the dates of their birth.”

And, David listed his children. 

I kept reading.  But, my friend said STOP!  Go back and read that again.  Okay . . .

“Have you any children living? If so, please state their names and the dates of their birth.”

And, David listed his children. 

I kept reading.  Again, my friend says . . . STOP!  Read it again . . .

“Have you any children living? If so, please state their names and the dates of their birth.”

And, David listed his children. 

And, I again, continued reading.  And, my friend says . . . “No!, Tracy, take a minute and think about what that sentence says!  One, one thousand; two, one thousand; three, one thousand; four, . . . Holy . . . he’s DEAD!!! 

Can, you just picture my friend on the other end saying . . . “ding, ding, ding!  And, WE have a winner!!”

Son of a . . . err . . . gun!  That  means I’ve had the answer to who George PFAFF was; who Eva’s father was, for over a year!!  One . . . whole . . . entire year!! 

He WAS in PLAIN SIGHT!!  And, yet . . . I had missed him!! 

This is why we take copious and detailed research notes.  This is why we document both positive and negative research.  This is why we read, review, and transcribe ALL documents. This is why we “collect” all same name persons and families when we are looking to sort out who is who in a genealogy history mystery.  This is why we cite our sources, so that, in the advent we need to retrace our steps to determine why we did or didn’t do something; why we did or didn’t rule out someone, we can retrace our steps to the documents that we used to base our opinions and conclusions on.  Wash, rinse and repeat many, many times.  I cannot stress enough, and I am constantly reminded of this all the time; when researching, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, take the time to periodically go back through your research – your notes, documents, timelines, etc., etc.  from the beginning! – Do NOT SKIP THIS VITAL PROCESS!  Oft times, the “brick walls” we encounter are those of our own making.  Let me remind you . . .

One entire year!  Fifty-two weeks, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 , minutes, and 31,536,000 seconds.  And, . . . I had him . . . all along!  He was in plain sight, and . . . I missed him!!

We, genealogists – as a community – could successfully apply for any brick mason’s job.  Experience?  Oh, we have experience!!!

We’re really good at building walls . . . walls that are impenetrable.  Walls that are indestructible; walls that will stand for years, decades and centuries!

Personally, though, as a genealogist, I’d much rather have the skill set of an “explosive technician;” a person that is skilled in construction demolition – you know, bringing down those brick walls. Nope, not one brick at a time; all at once – turning them into sand!!!

So, mystery solved?  Yes.  But, another one surfaces; what happed to George?  Why didn’t anyone beyond my grandmother, Eva’s daughter, know about her father?  They didn’t even know his name? I’ll fill you in; watch for a future post.

This questionnaire, a quarterly payment review,  in the pension file was completed by David PFAFF, 4 May 1898.  Eva was born in January 1889; George PFAFF was still living, at the very least, nine months prior to that!  By the time his father, David, completed this questionnaire in 1898, George was deceased.  Well, that’s a nine year window I now have to work with.

Now, misery loves company, so please tell me that I am not the only one who has missed the obvious.  Have any of your ancestors been hiding in plain sight?  I’d loved to hear your stories and how you ultimately discovered what was there the whole time.


Copyright © 2017 Family Preserves; Tracy L Meyers