Category Archives: Documents and Letters

Where’s The Will? A Probate Records Search

IMPORTANT NOTE

I have decided that Adam Stahler is probably NOT an ancestor of mine (explanation elsewhere), so I am no longer trying to find his will.  I have left this post here because a) it has links to wills of some of my actual ancestors and b) the path I took searching for answers might be of interest to other researchers.

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This week’s challenge for the 52 Ancestors project, “Where There’s a Will“, sounds familiar–drawing us into the fascinating world of probate records. However, at the moment I have to turn that around to “Where’s The Will?” because I am stymied in finding the will of Adam Stahler.

I have enjoyed getting acquainted with ancestors and their families through their probate records in the past. My great-great-grandmother’s first husband died young without a will, but the inventory of goods plainly told me that he was a merchant.   In researching my husband’s ancestors, I found wills for three successive generations in the Manbeck family. From those, and their attached inventories, I learned names of children, what a great-great-great-great grandmother had in her kitchen, what you need to grow flax, and how long it took for German immigrants to switch to the English langauge.

Abraham Brink Will

Abraham Brink the elder Will.

You can read about those ancestors and what I learned from probate records here:

But those were easy.  All those wills and associated papers from probate records were found on line. Hard to read the hand writing sometimes–but at any rate there they were.  And the recorder had kindly written an English transcription of the wills in German, so I didn’t even need a translator.

Asahel Platt Inventory

One of several pages of inventory of belongings of Asahel Platt.

And then there was Adam Stahler.  Ancestry.com coughs up an index entry from the probate records of Northampton County, Pennsylvania (his residence), for Stahler, Adam with John Stahler as administrator, filed in 1804. The index even presents a file number #2284.

Usually, when Ancestry does not give me anything but the index information, I can find the actual document at Family Search.org. Not this time.  I will spare you the gory details, but after two days of eye strain, I still did not have Adam Stahler’s will.

Next step, ask on Facebook at “Genealogy? Just Ask”.

Next step, check Family Search. Someone on the FB group had directed me on how to search more effectively on Family Search.  I  also read a very comprehensive guide to Family Search searching written by Cathy Meder-Dempsey.  Maybe I’m just a bad student, but that didn’t get me what I was looking for either.

Two possibilities, the will never was photographed by Family Search AND/OR it has not been digitized OR the second possibility–it no longer exists. That is just too sad to contemplate, so I am delaying accepting defeat.

Next step, contact the Probate office in Northampton County, Pennsylvania.

So today I sent off an e-mail.  Fingers crossed. And of course I will keep you posted.

Meanwhile,  you can keep yourself amused by looking at the variety of wills I DID find.

Stahler widow's pension

Pension Application: Is This Adam Stahler THE Adam Stahler?

IMPORTANT NOTE

Although this story about Adam Stahler and his widow continued to be fascinating, I now believe I was barking up the wrong tree branch, and they are not actually related to me.  I explain elsewhere how that happened.

BEWARE if you are researching the family of Joseph Kaser. There apparently were two Elizabeth Stahlers from Berks County, and the one I have been researching, whose parents were Adam Stahler and Eva Maria Henrich, is not the one who married Joseph Kaser. 

I have left this post for those people who might be researching the Stahler-Henrich lines.

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How many Adam Stahler/Stohler/Stollers were there serving in the Revolutionary army from Pennsylvania? A pension application surprised me with an answer.

Thanks to Fold3, the website that digitizes millions of military records including pension applications, and thanks to the Family Search Center at a local LDS church, I have been able to see the eighty-plus page application for a widow’s pension for my 4x great-grandmother Eva Marie Stahler, survivor of Captain Adam Stahler. I say “see” advisedly, because just because you can see an image of an old document does not necessarily mean you can read it. (More about that in my next post.)

Several references on Ancestry.com referred to Adam’s service in the American Revolution –or the Continental War as it is called in some of the pension application legal papers.  However, those Ancestry references in other people’s trees were not sourced, so I could not verify the information.

I knew that Eva Marie/Mary, Adam’s wife had received a widow’s pension because as I wrote in this article on her–the 1840 census told me so. But that didn’t help with information about where Adam served and when.

Maddeningly, the only piece of paper available on Ancestry.com that might prove his service, the pension application, had this scanty information, a cover page to a pension application.

Stahler widow's pension

Cover page, application for widow’s pension for Eva Maria Stahler.

 

This is the cover page of the lengthy file for Mary’s application for a widow’s pension.  Her husband died long before she did.  He died in 1803 and she not until 1842. The act re-authorizing the orphans’ and widows’ pensions passed in July 1836. Between 1784 and 1836 widows received no pensions, and their right to pensions was reinstated in 1836. The changes in the pension law over the years are quite complex.

The rest of the legal document resides at Fold3, a pay-for site for which I do not have a subscription.  To the rescue comes the Family Search Center a few miles from me.  At the LDS Family Search sites, you can utilize their computers to find documents on some pay sites.

I struggled through the many, many pages with the many, many different forms of unreadable handwriting and faded images since I wanted to squeeze out every bit of information possible.  I knew from studying some of the records of my New England Revolutionary veterans that they would contain a full description of Adam’s service, as well as verification of things like birth and death and marriage dates and place of residence.

What I didn’t expect was sworn testimony that Adam Stahler, my 4th great-grandfather was the ONLY officer with that name, including variant spellings.

Sure enough, one witness swore that he had studied the officer’s lists from Pennsylvania for men named Adam Stahler, Stohler or Stoller, and verified that the Captain Adam Stahler whose wife was applying for a pension stood alone.

YAY!  That nagging fear that I might be mixing up the records of two people vanished.  A witness in 1853  provided information helpful to a family history search in 2018. Amazing!

The Letter

Letter of testimony

Letter Testifying there is only one Capt. Adam Stahler 1853

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Secretarys Office

Pennsylvania

I do hereby certify that I have carefully exmined the rolls of the collection of Northampton County remaining on file in this office the years 1777, 1778, 1780 and 1785 and that I find but one Adam Stahler, or Stohler, or Stoller, Captain in said rolls.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Secretary’s office to be annexed [affixed] at Harrisburg this seventh day of April in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and fifty three and of the Commonwealth the seventy-seventh.

E. C.[?] [surname unreadable]

Depy Secy of the Cowlth

Next up: Adam’s military record and why there is testimony coming in in 1853, when Eva Maria/Mary first applied for the pension in 1836 and she had died in 1842. Curiouser and curiouser.

A Note on Research

Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, The National Archives, Application of Eva Maria Stahler, widow of Captain Adam Stahler,  www.fold3.com/image/18467518?terms=adam%20stahler&xi
d=1945 
Accessed at the Family Search Center, Tucson NW

Valentine Day Is February 9th

Between my mother and father, Valentine Day fell on the 9th of February–and March, and June, and July, and August, and every other month. Here they are a few years before they met in 1933.

Here’s a letter my father wrote to me in 1945.  He had a job that kept him “on the road” most of the time, and faithfully wrote letters home. Mother and I and my baby brother were living in Killbuck, Ohio at the home of my grandmother. I think of this letter explaining their unique Valentine Day as a love letter to my mother–disguised as a letter to their nearly six-year-old daughter.

 

East Liverpool Ohio

February 9 1945

Dearest Little Rabbit,

This is going to be a really truly fairy story that actually happened.  Once upon a time there used to be a club in Killbuck called the Dramatic Club.  That means a group of people who put on plays like the one you went to see Bobby in.  Your mother was in the club and so was your daddy.  One autumn we put on an operetta, that’s a play with lots of songs in it as well as speeches.  At that time your mother and daddy weren’t so well acquainted as they are now and if daddy had kissed mother hello or goodbye as he does now she would have slapped his face.

Well your mother was a teacher and her job in this operetta was to coach the actors so that they would know their speeches when they got up in front of all the people–just like she helped you learn your speeches to say at church.  Daddy was an actor (?) and played the part of a very dumb englishman and he had a mustach (now remember about the mustache.

Your daddy didn’t learn his lines as fast as he should have and so your mother had to give him lots of help In fact they used to go off in a corner of the basketball floor and go over the speeches and over and over.  Now one of the reasons your daddy was so slow learning to say his speeches was that he spent most of the time thinking what a pretty girl your mother was and how sharp and perky she was, and trying to get nerve enough up to ask her to go out with him and be his girl.

Now this club always went out somewhere and had a party after the play was over so finally your daddy got up nerve enough to ask your mother to go with him to the party.  And what do you know, she said she would.  And we all had a very nice party except that mother said she didn’t like daddy’s mustache (remember?) and she wouldn’t go to any more parties with him unless he shaved it off.  Well daddy shaved it off because mother always means what she says and as a result Mother and daddy got married.

Now all of this happened on the 9th day of the month so that the 9th day of the month is a sort of valentines day every month Just between your mother and I.  And thats why I’m telling you this story today because today is the 9th.

A Few Notes:

  • There are a couple more paragraphs about the snow, and telling me to be a good girl and play with my brother, and saying when he will be home.
  • Mother explained that the drama club was one of the ways the young people of Killbuck found to entertain themselves during the Great Depression when they could not afford to pay for entertainment.
  • “Bobby” is my cousin Robert J. Anderson, son of William J. Anderson whose letter from the Pacific we saw earlier. In one of my Grandmother Vera’s letters, she had mentioned Bobby putting on a show for the family, mimicking Hitler, so he was quite the performer.
  • “…like she helped you learn your speeches to say at church.”  I don’t recall speeches plural, although I know that kids had to memorize Bible verses and sometimes recite them in church. But the one I do remember is learning “Now I am Six” from A.A. Milne’s series of Pooh Bear books. Mother did a good job. Sixty-plus years after reciting that poem for the Lady’s Aid Society at the church, I can still recite it.
  • “…go off in a corner of the basketball floor”.  The school in Kilbuck had a small multi-purpose auditorium with only room for a basketball court.  For basketball games, seating was in a balcony on one side of the court.  On the other side of the court, there was a stage, raised about four feet above the main floor.  For basketball games, people would sit on bleachers on the stage.  When plays were performed on the stage, folding chairs were set up on the basketball floor (I can see basketball coaches everywhere shrinking back in horror!) as well as the seating in the balcony.  The school was built in the twenties, and when I went to high school there in the fifties, performing in class plays, the set up was still the same.
  • “get nerve enough”. Not only was she an authority figure–a teacher, and he was working at odd jobs, but she was two and a half years older than he was.
  • The mustache.  Not only did Daddy never sport a mustache again–I have found no photos of him with a mustache. Mother REALLY didn’t like mustaches!

The Ninth of the month continued to be a Valentine day they marked the rest of their lives. And we celebrated their 50th anniversary in June 1989.