Friday, February 22, 2013

Everything I know about William...

William Park is my G-G-G-grandfather. According to his death certificate, filled out by his son William Jr, he was born in Ireland in 1824 to John and Jane (Wilson) Park. This is corroborated by the 1900 Federal Census which lists his birth in May 1824 in Ireland. I am currently focusing on finding a birth record that includes a town, county, or parish of birth in Ireland.

William came to Philadelphia, PA from Ireland via Liverpool on the "City of Manchester" with his 1st wife Mary. (I found her maiden name listed as "Weir" on an online pedigree chart, but no proof yet.) They arrived on the 28th of December 1852. Since church baptism records at First Reformed Presbyterian show that their son Alexander was born on 3 March 1853, this means Mary was about 6 or 7 months pregnant when she arrived in America…fun.

William was not your stereotypical mid-nineteenth century Irish immigrant. Most of the immigrants from the potato famine era arrived between 1848-1851. William and Mary arrived in late 1852. William was not only NOT catholic, but skilled in a trade. How much did the "poor Irish Catholic" stereotype affect his daily life? He arrived well after the 1844 riots. Did racism and violence affect his family and business? He was a veteran of the Union Army in the Civil War. Did this added with his skilled trade and protestant religion shield him from prejudice? Did Irish Presbyterians group closely together in neighborhoods the way groups of Irish Catholics did? All these insights into what life might have been like for him and his family are what I hope to discover through my continued research.

The passenger list of the City of Manchester shows that William brought a trade with him across the pond. He was a blacksmith. This one simple fact about his occupation has been more helpful than anything in tracing William's story. He is listed as a blacksmith on his passenger list, census records, city directories, and his death certificate. His son William Jr may have been a blacksmith also. I have found plenty of YouTube videos on old school blacksmithing, and I'm hoping to learn even more about it and how it influenced William's life.

About 17 months after the first shots of the Civil War were fired, William enlisted in the 118th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, also known as the "Corn Exchange Regiment" due to the fact that the Corn Exchange Bank was offering a bounty to men who would enlist under them.

The Corn Exchange Regiment was a part of many significant battles from Antietam to Shepherdstown to Gettysburg. William was wounded at Shepherdstown according to the 1890 Veterans Census. The battle of Gettysburg was hard on the 118th, and the story of their time in that battle and of the life of the regiment is retold in a memoir by the survivors in History of the 118th Pennsylvania Volunteers: Corn Exchange Regiment which is digitized and available for free at Google Books. Their perseverance was rewarded by being present at the signing of the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox. Despite a bitter war experience, members of the 118th Corn Exchange had pride in the part they played in the War Between the States. The men stayed close, with advertisements for reunions common in the Philadelphia newspapers for years to come. William's obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer invited "E D Baker Post No 8 [Grand Army of the Republic]and survivors of the 118 Corn Exchange" to the funeral at his residence. William's 1st wife Mary died on the 4th of September 1863 and is buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery according to her death certificate. I'm not sure what happened to their three children when mom died and dad was off at war. Perhaps the congregation at First Reformed Presbyterian helped. Was there a relative in the city? I'm hoping William's pension record might have a tidbit about this. I'm honestly not sure where to check next!

William and Mary had at least three children:
1. Alexander Park born 3 Mar 1853 in Philadelphia, PA. He was baptized in the Presbyterian church on 2 Oct 1853 (baptism record from First Reformed Presbyterian can be found on, microfilmed at the Family History Library/Centers, and at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia). He does not appear in William's household in the 1860 census or ever again, but I haven't been able to find a death certificate either. William Jr later takes over the family business, lives in his father's house, and fills out his father's death certificate, lending further evidence to him being the eldest LIVING son.
2. Isabella Hays Park (my g-g-grandmother) born 5 Dec 1854 in Philadelphia, PA. Baptized on 4 May 1855 at First Reformed Presbyterian. Married to Ellwood Wilson Hayes (my g-g-grandfather, son of Isaac and Sarah Hayes) on 3 August 1882 at Ebenezer Methodist Episcopal Church in Boyertown, PA (according to indexed church records on Died on 30 Dec 1938 in Philadelphia, PA according to the PA Department of Health website, but I have not ordered her death certificate yet
3. Jennie (Jane) V. Park was born about 1858. I'm not sure why, but there is no record of her baptism. Married to William Riehle between 1870-1879. They were living with her parents and their only daughter in the 1880 federal census. Died on 25 Jan 1881 in Philadelphia, PA and buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery according to her death certificate. She and William Riehle had one daughter named Margaret Elizabeth Riehle (27 Feb 1880 - 27 Aug 1881 according to baptism record and death certificate). Mary was baptized on 22 Aug 1881 at Eleventh St Methodist Episcopal Church, and died only days later, the year after her mother. All evidence in vital, church, and census records is that this was Jennie's only child. I have not tracked William Riehle further.

When the war was over, William's children needed a mother. He married Catherine Duffy (born 31 October 1831 in Ireland to Edward and Margaret Duffy) on 21 December 1865 at the First Reformed Presbyterian Church. Did they meet at church? Or live near each other? I still need to look at early marriage records at the Philadelphia City Archives and church records for confirmation. (I also want to check the city archives' birth registration 1860-1915 for Catherine's children.)

William and Catherine had at least six children:
1. Margaret Selina Park was born on 9 October 1866 in Philadelphia, PA. Baptized on 7 April 1867 at First Reformed Presbyterian. Her christening record gives the date of her birth. Married to Joseph W Hayes in about 1866 according to the 1900 federal census. Joseph W is the younger brother of Ellwood Wilson Hayes who married Margaret's older sister Isabella, my g-g-g-grandmother. Margaret and Joseph Hayes had one known child named William. He was born in July of 1893 according to the 1900 federal census. Philadelphia marriage records indicate that he married Bertha Greenwood in 1918. Following them through the federal census, William and Bertha Hayes still had no living children in 1940. Margaret died sometime after 1920. I haven't yet been able to locate either her or Joseph in the 1930 federal census or city directories yet.
2. William John Park was born in September of 1867 in Philadelphia, PA. Died 6 weeks later on 11 Oct 1867 according to his Philadelphia death certificate.
3. Ellen Park was born on 4 September 1868 in Philadelphia, PA. Baptized on 27 October 1868 at First Reformed Presbyterian. Her christening record gives the date of her birth. I'm at a bit of a dead end with Ellen right now. I lose her after the 1880 federal census. In the 1910 federal census, her mother Catherine is listed as having 9 children with 5 still living. Either this indicates that Catherine had 3 more infants that died and Ellen is likely alive or whoever reported to the census taker counted all of William's children (from Mary, too) in which case 2 of Catherine's children have died at this point. The 1900 federal census lists her with 8 children, six living, hmmmmmm. Lots of work left to do!
4. William Park Jr was born on 27 Oct 1870 in Philadelphia, PA. Baptized on 27 April 1871 at First Reformed Presbyterian. His christening record gives the date of his birth. He seems to be listed with his father in an 1890 Philadelphia City directory, either as William who is a clerk, or as William Jr. who has taken over his father's blacksmithing trade. I lose track of William at this point. I'm unsure who or even if he married, but I have no proof of his death. A William Park Jr. was the informant on William Park Sr's death certificate in 1910 and his mother's in 1913.
5. David Park was born in April 1875 in Philadelphia, PA according to the 1900 federal census. He became a fireman by the age of 25. Married Margaret Ashmore in 1920 in Philadelphia, PA according to the city's marriage index. He was about 45 and she was about 40 years old. Since they had no children in their household in the 1930 federal census, it is unlikely they had any living children. I lose track of him after 1930. He was not listed in the 1935 Philadelphia City Directory.
6. Edward Henry Park was born on 24 April 1876 in Philadelphia, PA according to his death certificate. He became a plumber and lived at home almost his entire life. His death certificate lists him as divorced, but I'm not sure when this happened, who he married, or if they had any children. I'll have to check wills and obituaries. Died on 5 April 1915 in Philadelphia, PA.

Catherine died on Christmas Eve 1913 at their house on Olive St. She and every other member of the Park family that I can find records for are buried at Mount Moriah Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA.

So far I do not have any leads on descendants of William other than those from my g-g-grandmother's line. It is possible that Ellen, William, or Edward had children, but I have not found any yet.

There is one other relative of William Park that I would like to research. In the 1880 federal census, William's household includes a nephew, also named William Park, who was born about 1866 in Ireland. This boy provides evidence that OUR William Park may have had a brother!

I would love to do some additional research on the house at 1230 Olive St. William was 1st listed at this address in 1880 and was still living there st his death in 1910. Several extended family members also resided at this address. William Sr, Catherine Duffy Park, and Edward Henry Park died there. In 1920 it was Catherine's oldest child Margaret and her husband Joseph Hayes who were living in the house. This is the last record of a Park living at 1230 Olive. By 1930 the house is no longer in the family as far as I can tell. Today this section of Olive Street no longer exists.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

How Can I Help? And What Do I Get Out Of It?

I know what you're thinking.

"This woman is amazing! I'm eternally grateful for the knowledge she's sharing with the world!"

Ok, maybe not... but you may be thinking something like, "I'm not at all interested in doing research, but I hope she continues to work on it so that I can access the stories and pictures." If so, awesome! Cause that's what I love to do!

But there is a way you can help, without doing any research at all! There are two major things that a non-genealogist can do to help out the genealogist in the family (in our case ME):

1.) Share your family's information
-full names, birth date & place, marriage date & place, etc
-same info for your children, grandchildren, etc if applicable
-same info on your siblings if you're feeling generous : )
-same info on your parents or as far back as you know/have time for

HERE is an excel file of a family group sheet that can be edited or printed. I'm planning to customize my own later.

-ALSO (and this can be a fun & enlightening exercise even if you're not sharing) a mini-biography. Include milestones, occupation, church, education, hobbies, defining personality traits (especially inherited), accomplishments, even goals/bucket list items. This not only fills in genealogical gaps that interest family historians, but preserves a snapshot of who you are for future generations. It can be as short as a simple paragraph, or include several pages of personal and family memories. My Paw Paw, Robert McGrath, began one that he never finished, and it is one of my most precious things I have from him. Think of it as a cross between a resume, journal entry, and letter to your grandchildren... You're creating a family treasure!

*just a sidenote* Online genealogy sites hide the information of living people. Unless you give me permission, I will do the same. But even then only for private sharing. Never to post publicly.

2.) Family archive awareness
-You may not be aware the you are the curator of a family archive, but its likely that you are. Even if its just of you and your kids. Look through the things you listed in your bio, then think if you have physical evidence of those things: diploma, newspaper article about you winning the debate tournament or making the game-changing point(s) for your sports team in high school, occupational license, scrapbooks, baptism certificate, photograph of you skydiving, marriage license, etc. This is your personal archive and a family heirloom in progress. (I'm not suggesting that you need to be a pack rat. On the contrary, keeping only the most important things adds to the rarity/value of the collection.)
-If you're interested in this topic or inherited an archive that you don't know what to do with, check out Denise Levenick's book How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records. I have this book and absolutely love it! Genealogy Gems podcast episode 144 has a 10% off coupon.
-Now that you're aware of what you have, are you willing to share? Are there vital records, old family letters, a family bible, or old black and white photographs that you would be willing to scan and make available? Digital photography, scanning, and file sharing make inter-family digital archives so super easy! You don't have to give up your precious family treasures, just make good digital representations and then share, share, share!!

I'll start the sharing.

Florence Ellen Hayes McGrath and her children
Anyone recognize this picture? Feel free to share in the comments below!

I have no pictures at all of either John or Florence Hayes McGrath's parents (Peter and Margaret Gamble McGrath and Ellwood and Isabella Park Hayes, respectively). Can anyone help me out? Have any old unidentified photos that might include these guys and gals?

Ok, so here comes the part where you get something out of it! Below you'll see a beautiful descendant chart linking William to me AND a 4-generation pedigree chart. If you follow the link above and fill out the family group sheet excel file and email it back to me, I will send you a PDF of one of these charts, but with you as the primary person! I can tweak the charts some if you want changes. You can print it at pretty much any size!

Now, you're thinking, "Wow!! What a deal! A FREE customized family tree that I can put in a scrapbook, display in my home, or give as a gift. This day couldn't get much better."

So... Get going! ; )

William and I thank you for helping us on our journey.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pension Record Goldmining

Yesterday I finally talked my hubby into letting me order William's Pension record! I'm super excited as these can be a goldmine of information.

"What is a military pension record and why do I care?"

The federal government gave pensions to officers, disabled veterans, and widows or orphans of veterans who served in the military. Not every veteran received or even applied for pension, but rejected applications were still filed and may include all of the same papers. They can contain an incredible amount of vital information, and since they were filled out by the veteran himself (unless its a widows pension) it is a PRIMARY SOURCE!

Using William as an example, I am hoping to find primary source documentation for the following:
-Birthplace - which gets its own line because of its importance in continuing my research beyond the US, which I will discuss in detail in an upcoming blog post "The Holy Grail of Crossing the Pond"
-Marriage documentation on his remarriage to Catherine (from the widows pension)
-Details about his experiences in battle from doctors examinations of battle wounds and from fellow soldiers
-Details that reveal his everyday life, like his income, health, family, work, etc

"OK, so how do I get one of these pension record things?"

There are lots of ways to get pension files. They exist for most military service. We'll focus on Civil War (Union) pension records. If you want to search for a confederate pension record you'll need to check state archives as these are not kept at the federal level (for the obvious reason that they served the army of another country in fighting AGAINST the US).

If you're not sure whether you ancestor fought in the Civil War, or you know he did but you're not sure which regiment or how to get started, then this video from is a good primer.

This is an amazing overview of pension records done by which discusses what is found in a pension file based on pension laws and procedures. It's both brief and, well, awesome.

Also, here is a link to a blog post at "Reclaiming Kin" that emphasizes the color that witness statements can add to your ancestor's story. These witness statements make up a huge percentage of the papers in a pension file.

Pension records are housed at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington DC. There are 5 possible ways to access these records:
1.)Go there. Make copies.
2.)Visit one of the regional centers. Civil War pensions are only in DC, but check out this link for locations and holdings.
3.)Order online here. It costs an arm and a leg, but that's still cheaper than airfare or gasoline for most of us.
4.)Hire a researcher. If you need to do some digging or there are several records you need, then hiring a researcher might be your best option.
5.) While there are no pension records on this paid-subscription site, they do have a complete pension index which will expedite each of the other 4 options. They have also begun putting the widows pension records online.

I have decided to go with choice #3... order online. I spent $80 on a COMPLETE file because... well, I guess because I can't do anything halfway. We'll see later if I regret that, lol!

This is the order form I sent in. It includes all the info they ask for when you order. Don't worry! Only some of it is required.

Unfortunately, it takes "42 - 120 days" to ship, so... Let the waiting begin! One down... 41 - 119 more to go.

*whistling Jeopardy theme*


I ended up realizing after I ordered the record that it would be more economical and MUCH faster to hire a researcher. In most cases the prices were WAY above me, but there were one or 2 researchers that were below $100. I ended up using Vonnie Zullo. She is a professional genealogist and researcher out of Fairfax, VA and has done work for the popular genealogy show on NBC Who Do You Think You Are. She got me hi-res scans in a PDF of both William's compiled military service record AND his entire 37 page pension/widows pension file (her max without an additional charge is 60 pages) for $75!!! No travel, copy, or postage expenses. This means that I got $115 worth of documents (by NARA rates) for $40 less than that. Not to mention that I got the files from her less than a week after I sent her a confirmation email. I gave her the go ahead, she emailed me back that she had the files, I mailed her a check on a Monday afternoon, and Wednesday at noon I had the PDF in my inbox. Amazing! I know you're curious what I found, but you'll have to wait for my special St. Patrick's Day post on Sunday. ; )