09 February 2016

Tombstone Tuesday: Robert B Still

Robert B Still is my 3rd great uncle. He is the son of George David Still and Sarah Bing Still, my 3rd great grandparents. He is buried, next to his wife Albina, at the Hephzibah Baptist Church Cemetery in East Fallowfield Township, Chester County.

His stone reads:

In Loving Memory
Robert B Still
Born Aug 15, 1823
Died Feb 16, 1903
Age 64 Years
At Rest

He was born in East Fallowfield Township. He married Albina Williams in 1874, probably in East Fallowfield Township. He owned and ran a farm in East Fallowfield Township. He and Albina raised two sons – George and Alban – in East Fallowfield Township. He died and was buried in East Fallowfield Township.

And yet, I know so little about him. He is but a ghost of East Fallowfield Township

Tombstone Tuesday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

07 February 2016

Sunday’s Obituary: Mrs. Catharine Still

Catharine Still was the wife of my fourth cousin Alban Williams Still. His name is spelled wrong in her obituary. He was an inspector for the US Government so shortly after they married in 1916, they headed West. They stopped in Ohio before settling in California. After Alban died there in Los Angeles in 1930, Catharine headed back East.

Her obituary reads:
Mrs. Catharine M Still, 51 Pennsylvania Avenue, widow of the late Alvan Still, died this morning in Coatesville hospital as a result of a heart condition

She was a daughter of the late Henry and Clara Supplee Leahy.

Quite active in Olivet Methodist church here, she taught Class No 3 in the Sunday school many years until she became ill. She was a member of the Eastern Star in California where she resided some years.

Surviving are a sister and brother, Miss Bessie M Leahy and John Leahy, both of Coatesville.

Funeral services will be held at the Paul Roberts funeral home, here, Friday afternoon at two o’clock with interment in Fairview Cemetery. Friends may call at the funeral home Thursday evening.

She died of a coronary occlusion, according to her death certificate.

Coatesville Record. (Coatesville, PA), 2 September 1952.

Sunday’s Obituary is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

05 February 2016

May Your Memory Be Eternal, Mom

Three years ago today (5 February 2013) my mom passed. Here she is pictured with her brother Thomas Garrett Still, who has also since passed. Next Sunday, the 14th, would have been Uncle Tom's birthday.

Both my mom (Barbara Still Ruczhak) and Uncle Tom were 69 when they passed. She passed on this day in 2013. He passed on 6 August 2014.

Special thanks to my cousin, Loretta, for providing me with this photo.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

Funeral Card Friday: Helen Still Webster

Helen Still Webster is my 2x great aunt. Specifically she is the sister of my maternal grandfather’s father. Born 24 August 1903 in East Fallowfield Township, she is the youngest child of Franklin Still and Sarah Jennie VanHorn. She passed away 1 March 1995 at Pocopson.

Her funeral service was held on Saturday, 4 March at Doe Run Presbyterian Church in East Fallowfield Township, Chester County. She is buried in the church’s cemetery across the street. The Reverend Dr. Sarah B Taylor officiated.

The front of his card shows a cross with some purple flowers. The back shows the funeral home which facilitated her service and burial. It was the Robert A Harris Funeral Home in Coatesville. Inside the card, on the left side, is a poem by Tennyson, titled “Crossing the Bar.”

The viewing was held at Harris Funeral Home, which is located in a beautiful old house on Lincoln Highway. The procession from the funeral home to the church could have taken a couple routes. The most direct would have been Lincoln Highway to Route 82 South out of town to Strasburg Road. However, the procession led Aunt Helen – who was without argument the family matriarch – and of all of us through Goosetown! I remember when her daughter Janet told me we were taking her past the old Still home in Goosetown, I thought Aunt Helen would love that sentiment.

Funeral Card Friday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

03 February 2016

Wedding Wednesday: George Still weds Rebecca Wilson

George W Still is my 3rd great uncle. He was one of six children of George David Still and Sarah Bing. In 1874 he married Rebecca Jane Wilson, the daughter of John Wilson and Rebecca Speakman.

The announcement – as transcribed:
Still-Wilson – In Downingtown, at the residence of B.F. Lewis, on March 19th 1874, by the Rev. Francis J. Collier, Mr. George W. Still, of West Marlborough township, to Miss Rebecca Jane Wilson, of New Garden township, Chester County.

The B.F. Lewis mentioned in the announcement is George’s brother-in-law. B.F. Lewis was married to George’s sister Jane.

Wedding Wednesday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

02 February 2016

Tombstone Tuesday: George David Still

George David Still is my 3rd great grandfather. He is the elder son of Margaret Still. I have yet to determine who fathered him.

He is buried at the Doe Run Presbyterian Cemetery in East Fallowfield Township, Chester County.

His stone reads:
Our Father
George D Still
May 3rd 1808
Nov 8th 1888

Finding George’s father remains on my To Do List. His mother, Margaret Still, is the daughter of Charles Still and Margaret Rhoades. George and his brother David were both born out of wedlock. George’s granddaughter – my Aunt Helen – was awesome in helping me when I first got interested in tracing our family. She did not know who her great grandfather was though. She always thought perhaps it was a passing soldier or something even more questionable. I have to admit I tried so hard to find out who fathered George before my aunt passed but sadly I did not make that connection. I still have not though I am closer! Hence, he remains on my To Do List and the source of many posts here as I try to determine that.

One final note about his tombstone: I took this photo back in 1992. It was developed in October 1992. At that time, it was a common occurrence to chalk over the stone so it could be read better. His stone has a double base. Most in the cemetery only had one or were just the stone itself. 

Tombstone Tuesday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

01 February 2016

Mystery Monday: Was John Still white or black?

John Still is my 3rd great uncle and – like his grandmother Margaret Still – is a bit of a mystery.

He was the first child of George David Still and Sarah Bing. He was born 3 October 1832 and died on 6 May 1910. He married Edith Jane Naylor in 1864. They had a daughter named Clara.

I have traced him through the Census records, Civil War records and newspaper articles but still cannot confirm - without a doubt that is - if he is white or black or mixed!

Allow me to back peddle a moment. Margaret Still, my 4th great grandmother and John's grandmother, fathered my George - yes John's father - out of wedlock. There are many speculations: a passing soldier, a patron at her father's tavern, a family member, a slave, etc. So, imagine my surprise when I found John's Death Certificate and it said "colored."

Was he really colored? He died at the old Embreeville State Hospital. Did the informant not even look? Was he simply darker than one would expect? Was he actually black? If he was black, why did all the census records indicate he was white?

Today's Mystery Monday will be reviewed again - in more depth - during this Black History Month.

Mystery Monday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers. 
© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

31 January 2016

On This Day: New York Times discusses immigration

The New York Times, in an untitled article in its supplement On This Day in 1897, discussed immigration.

Immigration statistics were not gathered until 1820. The article provides immigration totals by decades for 1820 to 1890. That first decade (1820-1830) saw 128,393 immigrants. From 1830 to 1840, there were 539,391 immigrants. The number more than doubled the next decade as 1,423,337 people immigrated to American between 1840 and 1850. There were another 2,799,423 immigrants from 1850 to 1860. Even with the Civil War going on here, immigration did not slow drastically. Between 1860 and 1870, there were 1,964,061 immigrants. From 1870 to 1880, there were 2,834,040 immigrants. The next decade saw an even greater increase with 5,246,613 immigrants arriving between 1880 and 1890. From 1890 to 1896 (remember this was from an 1897 article), another 2,878,492 had arrived.

As expected, the economy played a large role in the number of immigrants. England suffered a commercial depression between 1826 and 1827. The Great Famine in Ireland was a factor in many Irish families emigrating. In fact, from 1820 to 1840, the majority of immigrants were from Great Britain and Ireland. Many people flocked here with dreams of a better financial life once gold was discovered in California. In 1840 an increase in Germans was seen. The last decade (that is, the 1890’s) saw an incredible increase of immigrants from Austria-Hungary, Russia and Poland.

There have been many laws concerning immigration over the years. The first National Immigration Law was passed in July of 1864. Ironically we were just finishing up our Civil War which would soon abolish slavery. This National Immigration Law however actually encouraged “contract labor.” That law was repealed in 1868 and things just went unregulated. Then, after years of encouraging immigration, the law dated 1882 actually strived to restrict immigration.

The majority of immigrants, The Times notes, came into New York. Castle Garden was the first port used specifically for immigration purposes. State officials misused their powers there and finally it was closed and Federal officials took control, opening a new spot on Ellis Island. The first immigrant was processed there on 1 January 1892.

Immigration inspectors examined the passenger lists. First the cabin passengers were examined, then the steerage. Baggage was also inspected. Baggage was sent to a room on the ground floor while the immigrants were led to an upper floor. There they were numbered and tagged. There they were physically inspected and made their declarations.

Women and children had to met by relatives or friends. They were detained, for their own safety, until someone met them. Officials were able to process 5,000 immigrants daily so rarely were people left in the Island overnight. Immigrants were allowed to to then land in the City once cleared. They would come into the Barge Office at the Battery.

The New York Times. New York, NY. 31 January 1897. Pp 32-33.

On This Day is a prompt to further explore historical events.
© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

29 January 2016

Funeral Card Friday: James Franklin Still

James Still is my great uncle. Specifically he is my maternal grandfather’s brother. Born 5 September 1910, he is the elder son of Pierson George Still and Mary Kilpatrick. He died 18 February 1979.

His funeral service was held at Albert F Kuzo Funeral Home in Kennett Square, Chester County. He is buried at the Doe Run Presbyterian Cemetery in East Fallowfield Township, Chester County.

The front of his card shows a cross made of a thorn branch, a bible and a fern-like branch. It reads: Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:5)

Funeral Card Friday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

28 January 2016

On This Day: Challenger explodes

Challenger exploded as nation watched.
Wikipedia Photo
It was 1986 – my junior year at Octorara High School. It must have been a snow day because everyone was home. It was still too early for the noon news normally but there was a special broadcast because of the space shuttle Challenger. To be honest I was not really that into the space program but – tot eh rest of the world – it was a big deal because this would be the first time a US civilian would be aboard.

New Hampshire high school teacher Christa McAuliffe won a competition that afforded her the opportunity to be the first civilian in space. Everyone could appreciate that 28 January 1986 would be a historic day. No one could have realized how historic a day it would be.

The shuttle was supposed to have launched on the 23rd but, due to weather delays and then technical delays, it did finally lift off until the 28th. That morning, at 11:38 a.m., the nation watched as finally the Challenger lifted off. And then … just 73 seconds later … the nation watched in horrified disbelief as the shuttle exploded in a forked plume of smoke and fire.

In addition to McAuliffe, six others perished in the tragic accident. They were: Commander Francis Scobee; Pilot Michael Smith; Mission Specialists Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, and Judith Resniik; and Payload Specialist Gregory Jarvis. McAuliffe had been the second Payload Specialist.

Share Your Thoughts:
Do you remember the Challenger Disaster?
Do you recall where you were or what you were doing at the time?

On This Day is a prompt to further explore historical events.                

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

25 January 2016

Mystery Monday: Frank Matys returns home, but mystery remains why he left

A nationwide search for a missing man began – and ended – in Duryea in 1941. Duryea is in Luzerne County. State Police in Pennsylvania were looking for him, assumably to give notice of his father’s passing.

An article titled “Missing Youth Returns” ran in the Wilkes-Barre Evening News on 17 April 1941. It read:
Wilkes-Barre Evening News
17 April 1941
Frank Matys, 1216 Spring Street, Duryea, for whom a nation-wide search was instituted two weeks ago when his father, Peter Matys, was fatally injured when struck by an Erie train, returned to his home.

He received the first notice of his father’s death when he purchased a newspaper in Colorado.

Had he run away or gone for work? If he went for work, why did his family not know his whereabouts? So why was Frank Matys in Colorado?

Two weeks prior, on 4 April 1941, the same paper ran its initial article, titled “See Frank Matys.” It read:
Wilkes-Barre Evening News
4 April 1941
State Police were requested last night to seek the whereabouts of Frank Matys, who last week left for the Western Coast to seek employment.

Last heard from Matys, whose father died of injuries at the Taylor Hospital today, was in the State of New Mexico, according to word received here.

Peter Matys, Frank’s father, was born about 1889 in Poland. The 1930 Census shows the Matys family living on Spring Street in Duryea. The family included Peter, who had immigrated in 1907, his wife Carmella, and their two boys: Chester and Frank. Frank was 14 at the time. That would put his birth year about 1916.

Frank, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death Files, was in fact born 17 March 1916. He enlisted in the Army on 11 February 1944 and was released 7 November 1945. He died on 7 April 1993. His enlistment file on Ancestry.com was just an index but it did confirm vitals as well as an occupations. At the time of enlistment, Frank listed his civil occupation as “plumbers, gas fitters, and steam fitters.” He also notes that he was single at the time.

His Pennsylvania Veteran Compensation paperwork confirms that Frank A Matys was born in Avoca, Luzerne County on 17 March 1916. He served domestically 11 February 1944 to 24 November 1944 and again from 14 May 1945 to 7 November 1945. He served in foreign service in between, that is from 25 November 1944 to 13 May 1945. He enlisted in Wilkes-Barre and was released from service in Fort Story, Virginia. Under parents, his lists only his mother (since his father Peter had died in 1941 as noted above) as Kornela Matys. He lists his beneficiary as Margaret Matys. Both Margaret and his mother Kornela are listed as living at his residence. Margaret may well be his wife, as the form was filled out in 1950.

From the BIRLS form, we know he died on 7 April 1993. Find A Grave shows he is buried at Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery in Moosic, Lackawanna County. The dates are correct but no family relations are connected. The only other Matys listed (not every burial is listed though) is Margaret B Matys. She was born 5 July 1922 and died 21 February 1995. Again there is no other information and neither have a photo either. Their photo is the generic one of that cemetery.

The Pennsylvania, Veterans Burial Cards database shows that PFC Frank A Matys was buried – by the government – at Sts Peter and Paul in Moosic. It also shows he served in the 63rd Division.

Frank may have left a paper trail once home again, but the mystery remains – why did he leave home in 1941? What job did he seek?

Mystery Monday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

24 January 2016

Sunday’s Obituary: Harry Matys

My great grandmother is Bessie Matys Hruszczak. In searching for information regarding her, I stumbled upon the obituary of a Harry Matys. I have not yet connected the two and do not know if in fact they are related but what a coincidence to have two families from the same area end up living relatively close to each other here in the US as well.

Harry’s obituary reads:
The funeral was to be today in Reno, Nev, for Harry Matys, 92, 1670 Dayton Way, Reno, who died Monday at the Riverside Hospital, Reno.

He was a former Chester grocer, retiring 25 years ago. Mr. Matys was born in the Ukraine, came to the United States in 1910, and first settled in Chester. He moved to Reno in 1970. He was one of the area musicians, The Matys Brothers.

He is survived by one daughter, Mrs. Vera Leary, Reno; four sons, Walter, John, and Emil of Elko, Nev. and Eugene of Las Vegas; 13 grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.

Burial and a graveside services will be at noon Saturday at Immaculate Hear Cemetery, Upper Chichester. There will be no calling hours.

Delaware County Daily Times. (Chester, PA), 8 January 1976, page 4.

Sunday’s Obituary is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

© Jeanne Ruczhak-Eckman, 2016

23 January 2016

Sorting Saturday: Ancestry.com not always accurate

Genealogy blasphemy alert! Records on Ancestry.com are not always accurate! There I said it. My tree did not burn down or crumble at its roots. My laptop did not blow up and Ancestry.com did not fold. What did happen is that … wait for it … I had to sort through the information and determine what is accurate and what is not.

Between Ancestry.com dropping Family Tree Maker and this Blizzard of 2016 on the East Coast, it seemed like a perfect day to continue sorting through files and database and such. It is almost 2 p.m. and I have been at this for almost nearly eight hours and I am still just on my father.

Daddy is still living (and God willing, will be for many more!) so I won’t be including too many specifics. Since he was born after 1940, there are not too many records available on Ancestry anyway (due to the 72 year privacy rule for US Census records).  One often overlooked record is the US Public Records Index and similar databases. They can be found under “Schools, Directories, & Church Histories” if you search the Card Catalog (which of course you should be doing).

Short story – I found Daddy. Elaborated version – not all the information was correct. His birth date and name are correct. Two phone numbers are listed. One is correct and one is mine from when I got married and moved out in 1992! Neither include an area code and to be honest I am not sure that others have or have not so this may be one way to protect those still living or it simply may not be available. Three addresses are given. The first is his current address. The second one was our address from when we moved there in 1976. It is the same physical location but the post office changed our addresses several times those first few years. The third address was my address from 1992 after I married and moved out. Hence, Ancestry.com records are not always accurate. Close. Right family just not specific to just Daddy.

Another word of warning … Ancestry.com is often (at least for me) like falling down a rabbit hole. While I searched the public records, I thought of how I have Daddy’s yearbook. That led me to other yearbooks from Scoot High School in Coatesville which led me to my Uncle Pete in 1950! I then found that he graduated with a cousin Tillie Kurenda and two people I know from church. The year before that I found two aunts!

A nice way to spend a snowed in day naturally but I did admittedly get a bit sidetracked! I think tomorrow may have to be another sorting day.

Sorting Saturday is a genealogical prompt of GeneaBloggers.

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