I have just returned from a two week genealogical immersion trip to Pennsylvania. The first week was in the Philadelphia area, Chester County and Bucks County to research my family’s ancestors. The 2nd week was to attend the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh for Dr. Tom Jones’s class Determining Kinship Reliably Using the Genealogical Proof Standard. Both parts of the trip were very successful and tremendously fun. (No small part because my dear friend Val was there to share the entire journey, as well as Kate who joined us for GRIP). In the coming weeks I will be discussing some of the documents, adventures, learnings and ah ha moments along the way.
So, about planning…I shared with you the lack of planning that went into the Texas trip in March and how I paid for that in a very small return on my investment (however, again Val was there…so it wasn’t all bad!). Well, I put a lot more effort in this trip to Pennsylvania, mostly due to the fact that I have planning to get there for over 3 years. I had a long laundry list of archives, libraries, cemeteries, churches and countryside to see.
In Bucks County, my primary target was the Newtown Presbyterian Church and Cemetery first established in 1734 and built in 1769. My Keith, McNair and McMasters ancestors attended the church and were buried there. What made this such a special experience was that I contacted the church prior to going and the head of the church cemetery restoration committee and the church historian agreed to give me the tour!
The church played an interesting part in the Revolution. Besides the church members being strong supporters of the Revolution (22 Revolutionary soldiers are buried there), the church was used as a prison for the Hessian soldiers captured at Trenton, barracks for the Revolutionary soldiers before and after the battles and even a hospital to care for the injured soldiers in December 1776/January 1777.
The Historic Church and Cemetery Committee’s take their roles as stewards very seriously. Karen (the Cemetery Chair) and her team are regularly raising money to repair the graves. She has brought in an expert in restoration work to ensure that it is done correctly and doesn’t damage the graves. They participate in Wreaths Across America in December and put wreaths on every veteran’s grave buried in the cemetery. The Historic Church Committee is dealing with constant maintenance issues with a 250 year old building and is currently struggling with what to do with the water damage in the Session House (one of two left in the state built in late 1700’s). There is a wonderful slideshow of the church and the cemetery here.
After the tour, Karen spent the whole day showing me the area. She took me to lunch at Washington’s Crossing, first driving through beautiful Upper Makesfield where all the generals planned the attack on Trenton (I like to think some of it was done in the home of William Keith where Washington was sleeping) and for a short research visit at David Library of the American Revolution. A few days later she even followed up with me to tell me that the McMasters’ house was up for sale, so I could see pictures of the house on-line….what a treat!
Moral of the story….prep for the trip, contact the places you want to visit a head of time and remember the organizations who are taking care of the historically significant locations where are ancestors lived, worked and died. Leave a donation (and keep sending) to help keep the preservation going.