30 May 2016

On This Memorial Day We Remember …

On this Memorial Day we remember those who served and died in that service to out great Nation. Today, as President Barak Obama and many before him announced in his Memorial Day Proclamation, “we pay solemn tribute to those brave Americans who laid down their lives to defend our freedom.

In our families – mine and my husband’s – we have many who have served. Between us, we cover all five branches too. Our son-in-law is currently serving. However today is Memorial Day. Today we honor those who made that ultimate sacrifice. Today I honor my great Uncle Paulie (Paul Kurenda) and my husband’s 6th great uncle, Jacob Eckman.

Paulie with my grandmother, Anna
Paulie, as his sister (my grandmother) always called him, was the baby of the family. Born 16 July 1922, Paul grew up on a farm in Sadsburyville, Chester County. He was the youngest child of John Kurenda and Frances Skrabalak. Like many Coatesville area boys of that era, he went to work in the steel mill after school as a welder. 

On 1 January 1943, he enlisted – like so many of our nation’s young men – in the US Army. I know nothing of his service time. The only thing my grandparents ever said was that he served in Europe and his letters home were mostly about the weather. It evidently was always raining there. He got sick there and was sent stateside. As his condition worsened, he was sent to Valley Forge Hospital in Phoenixville, Chester County, to be nearer to family. He died there on 11 August 1944 at 5:20 p.m. His official cause of death was “tuberculosis, pulmonary, acute, miliary, bilateral.” He is buried at Holy Ghost Ukrainian Cemetery in Valley Township, Chester County between his parents. 

Growing up in Chester County, I have had more field trips to Valley Forge Battlefield than I can recall. Some facts stand out more than others – like that George Washington’s troops wintered there but there was no actual battle there. Another fact is that Jacob Eckman died there.

Jacob Eckman was born in Lancaster County in 1737 to Johannes Eckman and Eva Dorthea Seitz. On 29 April 1760 he married Anna Maria Taylor at the First Reformed Church of Christ in Lancaster. They had a son, Jacob, born 1763. Their son married Christina Musser in 1784 in Lancaster County.

Jacob served in the German Regiment of the Continental Army during the American Revolution under Colonel Baron De Arendt. His regiment was part of Muhlenberg’s Brigade. The Muster Rolls shows him present in December 1777. He was marked “sick present” in March 1778. He was on Furlough in April 1778 at the time of roll. In May his name was on the roster with no comment. Jacob died at Valley Forge on 20 May 1778.

Today – Memorial Day – is about them and the many other soldiers who have died in service for our country. May Their Memory Be Eternal.

Military Monday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

26 May 2016

Ancestry explains DNA Testing

DNA testing has become quite popular, especially through Ancestry.com. In this video, Ancestry's Brad Argent explains DNA Testing.

(c) Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

24 May 2016

Blessing of the Graves

Normally we (Ukrainian Orthodox) bless the graves of our departed on St Thomas Sunday, which is the Sunday after Pascha (Easter). This year St Thomas Sunday was 8 May, which was also Mother's Day. Between that and all the rain lately, my parish postponed the Blessing of the Graves until this coming Sunday.

Our priest, along with several parishioners, will visit the individual graves of our departed family members. We pray at each one. We chant at each one. He blesses each one with holy water. Everyone gets his or her own personal blessing. It is a beautiful day. Look for my reflections on this moving service next week!

Tombstone Tuesday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

22 May 2016

A Family Addition

On Friday, 20 May, a new addition to the family arrived! My cousin Tim delivered (well, ok his girlfriend actually delivered!) a beautiful 7 lb 9 oz baby boy!

His name is Pierson James Still. He is named after Tim's (and my) grandfather (Lloyd Pierson Still) and our grandfather's brother (James Franklin Still). He was born on the 20th - the day our grandmother (Mary Welsh Still) passed away many years ago.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

20 May 2016

Remembering my maternal grandmother

Today is one of "those days". It is my parent's anniversary. They were married in 1967. When I was in sixth grade, I made my Confirmation. I was Roman Catholic at the time. My sponsor was my Aunt Neva (my mom's sister-in-law). When I was in eight grade, my dog died. Troubles had been with the family longer than me. She was a great dog. It is also the day my maternal grandmother passed away today.

I remember waking up that morning feeling a heaviness in my chest and feeling very sad. I managed to roll over and go back to sleep but then a few hours later, I heard the phone ring. Daddy came in my room (I was home from college) and asked if I was awake. I remember telling him Mums had passed and about what time she had passed.

Mary Rose (Welsh) Still
d. 20 May 1989
May Her Memory Be Eternal

That day is a bit of a blur but some random things stand out. For instance, my grandparents had a party-line. In all the years they lived there, none of us could ever recall the other party talking much. That day, she would not get off the phone! I remember finally my uncle breaking in to say we had a death in the family and needed to make some phone calls. My grandfather lived there for awhile afterwards and we never heard the other party again!

My grandmother was very Irish and VERY proud of it. All four of her grandparents are our immigrant ancestors. Every St Patrick's Day was like celebrated with more fanfare than Easter and Christmas combined! She made these nasty grasshoppers which of course all us kids would readily accept since it was the only time she ever suggested we share a drink with everyone. Nasty!

She never learned how to drive but oh man could she get around. We lived a good 25 miles away and it really was not a surprise to walk in after school and see that little blue overnight bag of hers sitting in the kitchen.

The kitchen ... my Dad used to cook on the grill all the time. One day - it was raining - he made a comment about being able to cook anything on the grill. So there's my 5' even grandmother out holding an umbrella over my 6'2" father while he cooked her an EGG on the grill!

I have so many wonderful memories of her. Please feel free to share YOUR memories of your grandmother ... or if you knew mine, of mine!

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

18 May 2016

Celebrate the USO this weekend

Celebrate the USO this Saturday, 21 May at the Lancaster Historical Society. Celebrate the USO at LHO invites you to relive the magic of USO shows. Those often historic shows brought great entertainers like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and the Andrews Sisters to our troops around the globe.

A cash bar will be provided by Tellus 360. The bar opens at 7 p.m. and accepts cash only. You are also invited to come early and enjoy a picnic on the lawn before the show. Burgers, hot dogs, and ice cream vendors will be onsite.

The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 per person. Children 10 and under are free. Tickets are available on the Society’s website and will also be available at door for cash or credit.

The Society is located at 230 North President Avenue, Lancaster. Parking is available on site.

Today’s piece was taken from a press release
from the Lancaster County Historical Society.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

12 May 2016

Those Places Thursday: Nickel Mines, Lancaster County

Take a moment, if you would, and look at the spare change in your pocket. I would venture to bet you probably have a nickel in among your coins. Did you know that the history of the nickel is linked with a little rural village in Bart Township, Lancaster County? That hamlet is Nickel Mines!

The hamlet gets its name from the area mines which are abundant for nickel. The idea of today’s five cent piece – the nickel – was suggested by Joseph Wharton who bought the mine back in 1862. Nickel Mines is just a stones throw away from where I grew up in Sadsbury Township and I never knew this fact until last Friday when I was doing some background info on my great aunt’s husband, Chester Wiker, Sr. for the Funeral Card Friday post.

The year was 1862. The United States was being torn in two by the Civil War. Coins were then made of silver and gold so many people started holding on to their coins, not for monetary value but rather for the value of the silver and gold. Joseph Wharton took a chance and bought the Gap Mining Company.

I should back up here and mention a bit about the mines in the area. Nickel ore was discovered during the 1850’s in the waste products of copper mining. Concentration shifted to mining for nickel ore specifically and in the decade between 1850 and 1860, it has been estimated that over 35 million pounds of nickel ore was mined. Unfortunately during the Civil War there was little use for nickel and the mine fell on difficult times.

Wharton went to the Federal government and suggested, in light of the coin shortage, that a new coin be made of nickel. The nickel would be the new five cent piece. The idea was a hit. Congress, in 1866, required the United States Mint to produce a new five-cent coin made of nickel and copper, according to the US Mint.

In addition to the new coin, nickel was used for many other things. The mines continued to operate until 1893. Nickel ore was being imported from Canada at a lower price.

Wharton was not just successful, and now wealthy, but he was also a philanthropist. He financially founded the Wharton School of Business so that other men could also prosper. The Wharton School of Business in now part of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Wharton also co-founded the Bethlehem Steel Company.

“History of Nickel Mines,” Nickel Mines Mennonite Church. http://nickelminesmennonite.org/Nickel%20Mines%20History.html

Those Places Thursday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

09 May 2016

Amanuensis Monday: Van Horn connection made

Last month I received an email from a potential Van Horn connection! Many of the names fit but the dates seem off a bit. It took a little searching but our two lines do connect.

Hi Jeanne,
I found your blog while on Amnesty.com and I’m wondering if you would have any information on my Grandmother’s mother.  Grandma was Margaret E. Van Horn/ Lilley(DOB 1897-1968). She married Roy E. Lilley. They had 4 girls and two boys. One of the girls, Laura Lilley/Kulp/Hilbish was my Mother. My question who was Margaret’s Mother .  She died while my Grandmother was very young and no one in the family knew who her Mother was or how she died. 

I have George W. as her father (DOB 1867) and 1900 census shows George W. and Margaret E. living with Robert Newsom (DOB 1840 England-Immigration 1877-Married 1882 to Martha Van Horn/Newsom (Dob- June 23, 1845-June 6, 1915) but can’t figure out what the first husbands name was.(George W. ’s father)  George is listed as a stepson and Margaret as a Granddaughter.  I’m thinking that Martha married the second time after having her children.

So, I am still looking for George W’s father and also George W’s wife and mother to my Grandma.  I thought since you have done a lot of research on the Van Horn side you might have some answers for me. We must be related somehow but right now, I’m not sure what the connection is.

Thanking you in advance for your help.
Donna M. Kulp/Pressley

I can trace – with documented certainty -   my Van Horn family back to John Van Horn. John was born 13 November 1785, according to the US Federal Census Mortality Index. The same Index notes his death as having occurred May 1850 in Bucks County. His wife’s name was Jane and they had two known children: George W. and Rachel.

George W. Van Horn was my 4th great grandfather. He was born 3 August 1819 in Pennsylvania. He grew up in Northampton, Bucks County, according to tax records which also confirm his father was John Van Horn. George moved to Kensington, Philadelphia. He was living there in 1850. The 1860 Census shows him living in Valley Township, Chester County. He is back in Philadelphia by 1863 though, working as a carpenter. He died in Philadelphia 23 June 1878.

George had married Jane Dudbridge (born 1811). They had seven children:
  1. Chrispin Pierson (1839 – 1902) ß my 3rd great grandfather
  2. Asher (1841 – 1842)
  3. Benjamin Franklin (1843 – 1909) ß a Civil War veteran
  4. Martha Elizabeth (1845 – 1915) ß Donna’s
  5. Joanna D (1848 – 1915)
  6. George W (1850 – 1851)
  7. William G. (b 1852)
Martha appeared in the 1870 US Census as a 24 year old keeping house in Wilmington, New Castle, DE. Living at home with her were 20 year old Joanna labeled "idiotic" and 2 year old George W. Van Horn. Martha and Joanna were born in PA. George was born in DE.

Fast forward to 1910. Forty-three year old widower George W Van Horn is living in Leacock Township, Lancaster County with his 65 year old mother Martha E and her husband Robert Newsam. Living there also is 13 year old Margaret E Van Horn, listed as Robert’s granddaughter. This is the second marriage for both Robert and Martha. Martha notes she has only one child.

Hence, Martha Elizabeth had George most likely out of wedlock before marrying Robert Newsam in 1881. Margaret E Van Horn is then the daughter of George W. Van Horn, and the granddaughter of Martha Van Horn Newsam.

Donna was still looking for George W’s father and his wife. Sadly, I cannot answer who fathered George. As for his wife … in 1900 George was a widower living with his daughter and his mother in law Ann Margie Eesmuth, as well as his brother in law John A Eesmuth. So, while I do not have a first name for his wife, I do have her maiden name!  

Amanuensis Monday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

08 May 2016

Sunday’s Obituary: Isabella Coursault died a newlywed

Isabella McGuigan Coursault died a newlywed. She married Bernard Coursault in Philadelphia in 1917. The specific date, I do not know yet.

On 5 June 1917, Bernard Coursault complied with the World War I Draft registration. At the time he lived at 102 Martin Avenue in Bryn Manor and listed himself as being single. The form only asks if married or single.

By the end of September that year, poor Isabella had died of tuberculoses.

Her short obituary, which ran in The Evening Public Ledger, reads:
COURSAULT – Sept. 22, ISABELLA F., wife of Bernard Coursault and daughter of Daniel and Ellen E. McGuigan, aged 23. Relatives and friends invited to funeral, Wed. 8:30 a.m., 343 Sheldon Lane, Ardmore, Pa. Solemn requiem mass at St. Colman’s Church 10 a.m. Int. St. Denis’s Cemetery. Auto funeral.

Her death certificate offers little additional information in regards to their short marriage. She was born 2 June 1894. Her father was Daniel McGuigan and her mother was Ellen Lafferty. Both of her parents had been born in Philadelphia. It also confirmed that her husband was Bernard Coursault, of Ardmore.

Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.

Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Delaware; Roll: 1877945; Draft Board: 1

The Evening Public Ledger. (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 25 September 1917

Sunday’s Obituary is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

06 May 2016

Funeral Card Friday: Chester Wiker, Sr

Chester Wiker, Sr. is my great aunt Katie’s (Katie Ruczhak Wiker) late husband. His funeral card was among my late cousin’s papers so I thought I would share it today.
His funeral card is one of those that is folded like an actual card.

The front is an image of Christ and simply says “In Memoriam.” The back identifies the funeral home, which in his case was the Robert A Harris Funeral Home, in Coatesville. The inside left is the Twenty-Third Psalm.

On the right is his information:
In Memory of
Chester P. Wiker, Sr.

March 28, 1917
Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania

Passed Away
October 13, 1994
Coatesville, Pennsylvania

Final Resting Place
Romansville United Methodist Cemetery

Services from
Olivet United Methodist Church
3rd Ave. & Chestnut Street
Coatesville, Pennsylvania

Saturday, October 15, 1994 at 1 p.m.

The Reverend J. George Mamourian

Funeral conducted by
The Robert A Harris Funeral Home
Coatesville, Pennsylvania

Romansville is a beautiful little rural community in West Bradford Township in Chester County. The graveyard is the oldest Methodist cemetery in Chester County, according to Futhey & Cope’s The History of Chester County, Pennsylvania with Genealogical and Biographical Sketches. The graveyard dates back to 1811.

He was born in Nickel Mines, which is a hamlet (not even a village anymore) located in Bart Township, Lancaster County. It gets its name from the area mines which are abundant for nickel. The idea of today’s five cent piece – the nickel – was suggested by Joseph Wharton who bought the mine back in 1862 … but that is another story for another day!

Funeral Card Friday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

03 May 2016

Tombstone Tuesday: Mary Lombard buried alone having died of smallpox

I have to admit I had little to no energy to write today and I was searching randomly through YouTube videos when I stumbled upon this one about spooky cemeteries in Cape Cod!

While the narrator is a bit too theatrical in parts, one thing I did learn from the video was about smallpox. When Mary Lombard died of smallpox in 1859, she was not permitted to be buried in town. Because of the smallpox she had to be buried away from others! How many others are buried away from family and friends because of something similar?

 Tombstone Tuesday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers. 

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

02 May 2016

Military Monday: A glimpse at the Still men who served Pennsylvania in the War of 1812

The War of 1812 is, in my opinion, an often overlooked war. Schools just kind of gloss over it. The Revolutionary War was the war for America’s independence from England. The Civil War was the brother fought against brother, literally in some cases. But the War of 1812 … what was it even about?

Philadelphia Gazette, 29 July 1812
Britain tried to enact trade restrictions on the United States. Britain also tried to limit our young nation’s expansion. On 18 June 1812, our Congress finally declared war against Britain. In August 1914, Britain captured and burned our Washington DC capital. New York, New Orleans and Baltimore were able to stand up to British forces. Our young nation once again found herself fighting for independence. The War of 1812 ended on 17 February 1815 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent.

Ancestry.com recently added a database titled, “Pennsylvania Volunteers in the War of 1812” My Still family was already well established in Chester County by 1812 so I was not surprised when a quick search revealed four entries, using just Still as a search element. There was a Private Aaron Still, Lieutenant Charles Still, Ensign Charles Still, and Private Nicholas Still. The database, unfortunately, is only an index, meaning it only provides the name and rank of the Pennsylvania soldier. It does not even specify a county.

Aaron Still served as a Private in the 2nd Regiment (Lotz’s) of the Pennsylvania Militia. Lieutenant Charles Still served in the 1st Regiment (Kennedy’s) of the Pennsylvania Militia. A Robert Still served as a Private in the 137th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Militia. The US, War of 1812 Service Records database (on Ancestry.com) also shows Stills from Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Sadly, I can find little on these men. I do have a Charles in my family – a couple actually. My 5x great grandfather was a Charles Still. Born in 1760, he would have been 52 in 1812. It is feasible that he could have fought. I have no proof either way. He also had a son Charles. Charles Jr. was born in 1779 and therefore would have been just 33 in 1812. He would have been the more likely of the two men to have taken up arms. However I have no indication that he served either.

Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Volunteers in the War of 1812 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 1998.

National Archives and Records Administration. Index to the Compiled Military Service Records for the Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the War of 1812. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M602, 234 rolls.

Philadelphia Gazette, Philadelphia, PA, 29 July 1812, p. 1.

“The War of 1812” PBS.org http://www.pbs.org/wned/war-of-1812/home/

Military Monday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers. 

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

01 May 2016

Sunday’s Obituary: Judson Still’s obituary reveals ancestral homeland

Judson Still lived a long life. He was a well known resident of the Danville area.

Obituary of Judson Still
His obituary, which ran in The Morning News, reads:
A Judson Still, a widely known resident, died at his home, East Market Street, just before the dawn yesterday morning after a painful illness of three weeks. He was afflicted with cancer of the stomach, in addition to which on November 1st he sustained a stroke of paralysis, which made it necessary for him to take his bed and which was probably the direct cause of death.

Mr. Still belongs to an old Pennsylvania family of Swiss origin, the emigrant ancestor having come from Switzerland and settles in what was then the province of Pennsylvania. A Judson Still is one of numerous descendants, who for the most part reside in the southeastern part of the State.

The Rev. Amos B Still, the father of the decedent, was a widely known divine of the Baptist church. By a coincidence his death occurred on Sunday morning, four years ago yesterday.

A Judson Still was born December 25, 1855, in Huntingdon County and received his education at the various places where the family lived as his father’s duty necessitated. When he was sixteen years old his health failed and he took up gardening to recuperate doing that kind of work in New Jersey for five years. In 1886 he came to Danville, where he followed gardening for 8 years, after which he was in the employ of The Welliver Hardware Company for five years. Mr. Still along with his family has always been an interested and effective worker of the Baptist church. He was a man of inflexible honesty and enjoyed the coincidence and esteem of all who knew him.

Mr. Still is survived by his widow and one son, Ralph A Still, who is a newspaper man employed on the Evening Ledger of Philadelphia. The funeral will take place from the late residence at 2 o’clock Wednesday afternoon. Internment, which will be private, will take place in Odd Fellows’ Cemetery.

Judson (1856-1917) was the son of Amos Still and Hannah Deen. Amos Still was born 13 October 1823 in Chester County. Amos’ parents are Charles Still Jr. and Catherine Seltenreich. Charles Jr. is one of my Margaret’s brothers! Charles and Margaret’s parents are Charles Still and Margaret Rhoades.

Charles Still
& Margaret Rhoades

Margaret Still
Charles Still Jr.

George David Still
Amos B Still

Franklin Still
Judson Still

Pierson George Still

Lloyd Pierson Still



Margaret is my 4th great grandmother. She is my Black Sheep. She is my matriarch. She is my mystery woman. She is my first Still in East Fallowfield Township in Chester County. When she 19 years old, still unmarried, she got pregnant with my 3rd great grandfather George. I have absolutely no clue who his father is yet.

Judson Still’s obituary excites me for two big reasons. First I have connected him to my Still line. Second – and extremely exciting – I have documentation (albeit a newspaper article) announcing from where the Still family actually emigrated!

Switzerland – wow! I asked mom once what we were and her answer was Irish, German and Dutch. Her maternal great grandparents all immigrated from Ireland. Her father’s mother was from Ireland too. That left her Still line, which she always assumed was German. Franklin Still married Sarah Van Horn, from whom she assumed (correctly) our Dutch heritage came, but … Switzerland!

I feel like a whole new world has emerged!

Morning News. (Danville, Pennsylvania), 29 January 1917

Sunday’s Obituary is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.