So cool…one of the members of our Genealogy Club read my blog here about the two Rentschler sisters who died young. He went to the cemetery and got me the Interment Cards. I now have vital record dates for members of that family I didn’t have before! He also gave me some more clues to follow about the Rentschlers…so now I have more follow-up to do!

Random Acts of Kindness…they are a wonderful thing! Thanks so much to Phil — I appreciate it!


A Little Off Topic

So the coolest thing happened the other day. The Bensalem Community Television Channel interviewed Tom and I about Lower Bucks Genealogy Club! It airs daily next week (March 29 through April 4) on Comcast Channel 22 / Verizon Channel 34, at 5:00 AM, 8:00 AM, 2:00 PM, 5:00 PM and 11:00 PM. Be sure to see it if you get a chance!

Tom Kaechlin, Barb Kuehmstedt, & Dawn Davis

Local Repositories

2-E. Discuss briefly the research facilities where you normally work.

I live in a great area for genealogical research. Being located where I am, I have access to my own county’s records and repositories, and I am only about a half an hour away from Philadelphia and Trenton’s. I had decided to make up a list of these great places for my Genealogy Club, so I have this question down pretty well for my BCG Portfolio.

Spruance Library – http://www.mercermuseum.org/library_collections.htm

84 South Pine Street, Doylestown, PA.  18901 – (215) 345-0210

The Spruance Library is the depository for many Bucks County government records dating from 1683. These records come from the offices of the Court of Quarter Sessions, Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans Court, Prothonotary and the County Commissioners. Special indexes to county collections include the following: naturalization records (1802-1906), criminal papers (1697-1786), quarter sessions (1684-1700), coroners papers (1700-1900), divorces (1806-1948), marriage licenses (1852-1854, 1885-1946), venues (1784-1884), tavern licenses (1742-1923), deed books and grantor/grantee index (1684-1919), wills and administrations (1684-1900), and mechanics liens (1836-1949).

 Bucks County Court House – http://www.buckscounty.org

55 East State Street, Doylestown, PA.  18901 – (215) 348-6000

Birth and Death Records from 1893 – 1906; Marriage License Applications 1885 – Present. Recorder of Deeds, Register of Wills, Orphan’s Court.

 David Library of the American Revolution – http://www.dlar.org

1201 River Road, Washington’s Crossing, PA.  18977 – (215) 493-6776

The David Library is primarily a microform archive of approximately 10,000 reels that contain an estimated 8 million pages of documentation. Although the main focus is on the American Revolutionary period, in recent years the Library has augmented its materials on the French and Indian War and early national periods. The holdings constitute a significant, centralized research collection assembled from repositories throughout the world.

Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library – http://www.grundylibrary.org

680 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, PA.  19007 – (215) 788-7891

The Grundy Library houses a rich collection of sources concerning the history of Bristol Borough and surrounding areas. Many of these resources are available to the public including Bristol City Directories, Cemetery Transcriptions, Bristol High Yearbooks, Other Local History and Genealogy Resources. In addition, the library offers access to two online resources: Ancestry Library Edition and HeritageQuest Online.

 Family History Centers – www.familysearch.org

Morrisville: 1204 Pine Grove Road, Morrisville, PA.  19067 – (215) 295-9628

Doylestown: 1255 Chapman Road, Doylestown, PA. 18901 – (215) 348-0645

Cherry Hill: 252 Evesham Road, Cherry Hill, NJ  08067 – (856) 795-8841

  • Microfilm and microfiche.  Most centers provide their patrons access to the Church’s circulating collection of microfilmed genealogical records for a small fee.
  • Computer Resources.  Internet connectivity is available in most centers. Patrons may use this connection to access FamilySearch and other genealogical web sites.  Centers may also have some locally purchased family history resource files on CD to assist patrons with their research.
  • Published Resources.  Most centers have a small collection of published reference sources that may include research helps, genealogies, histories, gazetteers, atlases, and maps.

 City Archives of Philadelphia – http://www.phila.gov/Records/Archives/Archives.html

3101 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA  19104 – (215) 685-9409

The City Archives holds the earliest and longest continuous run of birth and death records of any political subdivision in the Commonwealth. Registrations of birth and death records begin on July 1, 1860 and continue to June 30, 1915 However, there are also a cubic foot of late registrations filed under an 1867 supplement to the vital statistics act which include births dating back to 1829; and an earlier form of death record known as a cemetery return which date from 1806 to June 30, 1860. The City Archives holds marriage records from July 1, 1860 to December 31, 1885 for which we issue certificates and copies of marriages from the Orphans Court Division that date from 1886 to 1915. It also holds naturalizations of the City and County Courts for the periods 1794-1904 and 1914-1930. Other records  which would be of interest to genealogical researchers include Police roster and roll books for the period 1854-1925, deeds of Philadelphia County, 1683-1952; mortgages of Philadelphia County, 1736-1963; city directories; 1785-1930, 1935-1936; Department of Personnel, roster cards;  and records of Blockley Almshouse and the County prisons.

 Free Library of Philadelphia – www.library.phila.gov

1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA.  19103 – (215) 686-5322

Useful for research are maps, business and city directories, newspapers, government documents, index to ship photographs, ethnic guidebooks, government documents, and collective biographies.

 Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania – www.genpa.org

2207 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA.  19103 – (215) 545-0391

Online database: Mt. Moriah Cemetery, Kensington Methodist Episcopal Church, Rehoboth Methodist Church, and Helverson Funeral Records (19th century); 1800 Septennial census Delaware County. Partial catalog on-line plus indices to Bible records and manuscript collections.

 Historical Society of Pennsylvania – www.hsp.org

1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA.  189107 – (215) 732-6200

Library houses the Genealogical Collection that was compiled mainly by GSP volunteers, plus the library of the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies. Four card catalogs serve as a guide to their holdings: published materials catalog, published books prior to 1952, manuscript collections, and microfilm collection. Strong in all areas of genealogical and historical research. Online catalog includes most GSP holdings for churches and cemeteries, deeds and probate for most Pennsylvania counties. Access to Ancestry.com.

 National Archives Mid-Atlantic Region – www.archives.gov/midatlantic

900 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA.  19107 – (215) 606-0100

Research center with U.S. census, military – WWI and WWII draft cards, ship passenger lists, federal court records, including naturalizations, 1798 U.S. Direct Tax – Pennsylvania (window pane tax). Access to Ancestry.com.

 Philadelphia City Hall – http://secureprod.phila.gov/wills/default.aspx

Broad and Market Streets, Philadelphia, PA.  19107

  • Register of Wills – Room 185 – (215) 686-6261: Indexes to Wills and Administrations, 1682 – Present. Microfilm or microfiche of original wills. Original probate packets, both wills and administrations, are to be ordered at Room 180; next day retrieval.
  • Orphan’s Court – Room 415 – (215) 686-2234: Marriage License Bureau maintains indexes and marriages from 1885 to Present.
  • Recorder of Deeds – Room 154 – (215) 686-1776: Holds deeds after 1952 on microfilm.
  • Prothonotary – Room 266 – (215) 686-6663: Listing of divorces, 1800 – 1973 on microfilm; 1973 – present on computer.

New Jersey State Archives – http://www.state.nj.us/state/darm/links/archives.html

225 West State Street, Trenton, NJ  08625 – (609) 292-6290

The New Jersey State Archives is the state’s official repository for all public records of enduring historical value. The greater part of the collection consists of records created by offices, agencies and departments of the State and Colony of New Jersey. In addition, the Archives holds certain county, municipal and federal government records, as well as selected non-governmental records.

 New Jersey State Library – http://www.njstatelib.org/

185 West State Street, Trenton, NJ  08625 – (609) 278-2640

The New Jersey State Library has over 18,000 titles in the genealogy collection. The collection consists of commercially published books, microfilms and CD-ROM’s. The library offer onsite access to the commercial services HeritageQuest and AncestryPlus. They subscribe to over 70 periodical titles specific to the genealogy field. The majority of the collection are guides, how-to books, census indexes, reference books for areas other-than-New Jersey, and is primarily organized by geography and ethnic group. In addition, they have the World War I Draft Registration for New Jersey. They have city directories for New Jersey locations, as well as other places in the United States. Sanborn maps of New Jersey are available on microfilm and online. The family histories make up about one-third of the collection. Many of them have been published privately and in limited numbers. In addition to AncestryPlus and Heritage, they have the microfilm for the New Jersey federal and state censuses, except for 1875.

If you know of any other great places to do your research, drop me a note!

I really hadn’t used this much until today, and then I was hooked. FamilySearch Records Search adds information on a daily basis. I had found two databases that filled in a lot of gaps…and then added even more questions!

The two databases are Philadelphia Marriage Indexes, 1885 – 1951; and Philadelphia Death Certificates Indexes, 1803 – 1915. Since a lot of my family was based in Philadelphia, I began to find a lot of information.

As an example, I knew my 2nd great-grandfather, George Rentschler, died between 1880 (where he appeared on Hope Street on the 1880 U.S. Federal Census) and 1890 (where my 2nd great-grandmother Kathryn was listed as a widow in the 1890 Philadelphia City Directory), but I didn’t know when. Sure enough, I found him on the Death Index for 1885.

I learned something else from the Death Index: Two of Kathryn and George’s daughters died on the same date in Philadelphia: May 17, 1882. Edith was 4 years old, and her sister Kathryn was only 1. What could have happened to the sisters on the same date in May, 1882? Well, that will be one of the next steps in my research, to locate an obituary or a news article, and even obtain their death certificates to find out.

My Rentschler ancestors have kept me on a merry chase for years. Family legend has it that George was a disinherited member of the Van Rensselaer Family, who were among the first settlers in New York in the early 1700’s and considered to be a part of America’s Aristocracy. The story goes like this: When George met Kathryn and fell in love, his family decided she was beneath him in class. She was an immigrant from Germany. He said the heck with it and married her anyway. The VR matriarch apparently visited the family, and took a special liking to the youngest daughter, Julia (who’s married name I learned today was Campbell). Julia and her family supposedly inherited items from the VR family, such as a coat of arms, etc.

A few years ago I did an in-depth study of the VR genealogies and compared what was written to what was in the actual census records and other available records. I was trying to find out who George might have actually been. I really have no way of proving my theory, but I have almost settled on Jeremiah Van Rensselaer as being my George Rentschler. First, he was born in 1839, and you can’t fake that. Second, he drops off the face of the earth before the 1870 U.S. Census, and I was unable to find a death record for him. Kathryn and George were married by 1864. Third, George, doesn’t appear on the 1860 U.S. Census. Now that more records are available online, I am going to tackle this again!

Another example of what I found today is that there was another Watracz baby — a son named Andrew who died at birth in 1911. He wasn’t buried in Holy Redeemer with the rest of the family, but in a now-defunct cemetery called the Hanover Street Burial Grounds.

I learned the married names of some of my female ancestors, and in one case the maiden name of my father’s one aunt.

All in all, it was a good day for genealogy!

I spoke a little last night about my 2nd great-grandmother, Maria Pawloska. Her daughter, Kazimiera Gut, immigrated to Philadelphia, PA in 1902, where she married my great-grandfather, Andrzej Watracz. He was born in Potok, Poland, on 30-Nov-1888, and had at least two brothers, Michal (Michael) and Franciszek (Frank). Andrzej (Andy or Andrew) immigrated to the U.S. via Ellis Island, and settled in Philadelphia, PA. Kazimiera and Andrzej were married before 1910, when my grandmother was born. 

Kazimiera (Gut) and Andrzej Watracz, Philadelphia, PA. - 1949


Including my grandmother, there were eight children, two who died young. They all grew up in Philadelphia, PA., in the Bridesburg Section, where many of my relatives on my mother’s side live today. 

Through Andrzej’s ship’s passenger manifest, I was able to trace his brothers to Lorain, OH. Michal and Frank used the spelling WATRAS. I was able to track down a cousin of mine descended from Michal, and sent her the information that I was able to compile. This to me is one of the most rewarding things about doing genealogy — getting to meet my cousins, whether on email or in real life.

I would love to know who Andrzej, Michal, and Frank’s parents were, but those records are in Poland. This is one of the items on my genealogy “wish list.” 

It’s amazing to me how many cousins I may have out there. I think it is one of my lifelong wishes to get to know all of them. To see where our similarities and differences are. I wonder if there are any cousins left in Poland on my mother’s side of the family? Do they even know that we exist? 

I wish I knew more of their stories and I wish they could speak to me. Just for an hour or so, to tell me about their lives – in Poland, and then here in the U.S. 

My great-grandfather passed away in 1958, and my great-grandmother in 1973. I have no memory of her, even though I would have been old enough to remember her. They are both interred at Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Bridesburg. Not too far of a drive to pay my respects.

My mtDNA

This past summer, for my birthday, my parents bought me a DNA kit from National Geographic. At first I thought they may be trying to tell me something….just kidding! Anyway, my kit came in the mail, I did my cheek swabs and sent it back to NG, and waited for the results. When I got them, I learned that I was from Haplogroup T2.

First let me start off by saying that I had my mitochondrial DNA tested. This DNA is passed down through the maternal line and changes very little over time. So my daughter’s mtDNA and my sister’s mtDNA both match mine, and we all match my 2nd great-grandmother’s mtDNA, which is as far back on that line as I’ve been able to trace. According to NG, Haplogroup T first appeared about 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, and then moved northwest in to Europe and east as far as modern Pakistan and India.

According to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy,

The mitochondrial Haplogroup T is best characterized as a European lineage. With an origin in the Near East greater than 45,000 years ago, the major sub-lineages of Haplogroup T entered Europe around the time of the Neolithic 10,000 years ago. Once in Europe, these sub-lineages underwent a dramatic expansion associated with the arrival of agriculture in Europe. Today, we find Haplogroup T*, the root Haplogroup for Haplogroup T, widely distributed in Europe.

About subclade T1 they write: “The origin of Haplogroup T1 dates to at least 6,000 years ago, and today, we find Haplogroup T1 distributed in populations living in southeast, central, and northwestern Europe.”

Regarding subclade T2: “Haplogroup T2 is one of the older sub-lineages and may have been present in Europe as early as the Late Upper Palaeolithic.”


Wikipedia adds, “Haplogroup T is currently found with high concentrations around the eastern Baltic Sea.” That makes sense: I already know I am Polish on that side of the family. Maria Pawloska, my earliest known ancestress on that line who’s mtDNA I share came from Ostruza, Poland. Her earliest known child was born in 1872. It was Maria’s daughter Kazimiera Gut who immigrated to the U.S. from Poland in 1902 and settled in Philadelphia, PA., where she married my great-grandfather, Andrzej Watracz.

Through NG, I was able to upload my results for free (my favorite price) to Family Tree DNA. I did this and then promptly forgot about it. I’m a busy girl you know! So when I got an email this morning saying I had matches for my mtDNA at Family Tree DNA, I had to check it out.

I logged on with the ID and password they gave me and went to the link that said “matches”. There are 59 matches filed with FTDNA from all over the world, only one of which is from Poland. Many of the matches have some annotations to them — specifically, “Sephardic”, “Mizrahi”, and “Ashkenazi”. I didn’t recognize the first two terms, but I knew Ashkenazi was a term related with Jewish. When I looked them up online, I learned that Sephardic are Jewish people from the area of Spain, and Mizrahi are Jewish people from the Arabic region. Ashkenazi Jewish are from Germany. 24 of my matches are people who can trace their earliest ancestor to Iraq. Now, that’s pretty interesting, as I have no (known) Arabic blood at all. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, is anyone in my recent family history Jewish.

I played around some and was able to produce a map of my matches’ earliest known ancestors.

I sent the link and the log in information to my sister. She found that one of our matches said they were descended from Charlemagne. Could that even be possible? I learned from Wikipedia that the last Russian Czar, Nicholas II, was from Haplogroup T2, and that would include all of his mother’s line as well.

But how far back does one go before the blood is no longer there? Going back just six generations gives us only 1/64th of each ancestor’s DNA. I am only 1/32nd of Maria Pawloska Gut. I am curious to see how many other of my matches will appear — and will we be able to make a match on our family trees?

The bottom line is, somewhere within the last 10,000 years, I, and everyone else in Hapologroup T2, shared a common female ancestor. I can only trace my matrilinear line back about 200 years. That’s a lot of distant relatives I may have out there.

But clues are there. Where did my Polish ancestors come from? Were they Ashkenazic Jews? And how much of our genes make up who we are?

All good points to ponder!

By the way, if you’re in Haplogroup T2, drop me a note.

Getting an Education

I was happy to see that there are a lot of distance learning courses (i.e., online!) out there. Of course, my favorite ones are the FREE classes. Being recently separated, I don’t have any money to spare. So, let’s review the freebies first.

Brigham Young University offers 26 Independent Study courses online. Wow. Only 7 of them are what I will call instructional, while the remainder focus on genealogy in specific locations. You can find them at http://ce.buy.edu/is/site/courses/personalenrichment.cfm. BYU classes are also recognized by BCG, so that works in my favor.

New England Ancestors has a series of free online seminars worth looking into.

The National Genealogical Society offers it’s Family History Skills class free to NGS members. That also works for me, since I am still a member of NGS. The remainder of the classes are a couple of bucks, including thier NGS Home Study Course on CD — which, if you order the entire package at one time, is $400+. You can find these classes and descriptions at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/online_courses.

Then we move on to the more pricey stuff.

Universal Class has four really great looking online courses: Genealogy 101 is $50; Genealogical Research is $125; The American Revolutionary War is $55; and the American Civil War is $55.  So OK. I definitely want to do these, but have to wait till I get some money. What I like about Universal Class is that you get 1 CEU for each class. I have taken some classes with them before and I generally like thier format.

The National Institue of Genealogical Studies has several great programs I wish I could join. Unfortunately, they also are a little out of my range, with individual classes at $89 each and packages at a couple hundred. But they have one for Polish research, so I may have to bite the bullet and take that one.

It gets better. A friend of mine told me about a class this summer up at Boston University. It sounds absolutely perfect. Covers everything you can possibly imagine. There’s only one problem. It’s almost $2,700! Sorry, that leaves me out, even on a good day!!!

I am sure there are several other places that offer classes — if you know of any, please pass them along to me.  At the very least I can marvel at the cost of some of these!