My husband and I just returned from a five-day research trip in Pennsylvania. It was a whirlwind trip, and as I had limited time, I had to focus my priorities and not allow myself to get distracted. What wonderful results! I could easily have spent the entire time at the wonderful Somerset County Historical Society! What an awesome place!
What made this trip especially thrilling was being able to verify theories, positively identifying my third-great grandfather’s gravestone, clarifying misinformation found online, and getting to actually touch and handle 170 year old documents listing my family in 1840. What exhilaration! What joy! For all these reasons, whenever possible, an on-site research trip is really the best way to work on a family history.
One of my first objectives was to solve the mystery of Henry Uphouse, my third great grandfather, whom I believed to be buried at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Cemetery, also known as Barron Cemetery, in Middlecreek, PA. Having done extensive research in Somerset county, Pennsylvania, I knew he was the only Henry Uphouse listed in the 1840 and 1850 censuses in the entire county. I had viewed his probate records, scanned decades worth of microfilmed tax records for the county, and was confident my assumption was correct – Henry Uphouse died in sometime in April, 1857. My dilemma? Pennsylvania’s tombstone project listed his date of death as April 14, 1852. Recognizing the possibility of a transcription error, I was anxious to visit the cemetery myself to visualize the gravestone. My husband and I searched the entire site, and could not locate the headstone. A second search through and I began scrutinizing dates, looking for one that stated 1852 or 1857, and finally found the stone shown the right. Since the stone was so worn, the name was simply unreadable. However, the year was clearly 1857, not 1852. I took several photos of it, sat that evening, wishing the name to somehow magically appear. Then I remembered an old trick I’d read about to obtain information from worn headstones, and knew I couldn’t rest until I’d tried everything to positively identify this as Henry’s headstone.
The next morning we set off to Walmart for the requisite supplies – charcoal, large paper, and at my husband’s suggestion, tissue paper. We also purchased a sponge with a scrubber side so we could remove excess debris from the stone. What we neglected to purchase was tape – that would have made our job easier! First we tried covering the stone with a sheet of large drawing paper, ensuring the paper covered the lettering on the front of the stone. Ed then took the soft charcoal and began rubbing the paper over the lettering. While that was somewhat effective, the charcoal kept breaking, and when his fingers touched the paper, he would mar the impression that he so carefully had made. After several tries, I finally had another brainstorm – break up the charcoal into a powder, dab the sponge into the charcoal, and instead of using the drawing paper, cover the stone with the tissue paper. VOILA!
As you can see from the photo at the right, my hunch was correct – this was definitely Henry’s headstone:
Died April 14th
Aged 51 Years 5
Mo. & 10 days.
What joy and exhilaration! Even my husband commented what a sense of accomplishment he had at making this positive identification!!!
While this was truly the highlight of our trip, I had other really great successes!
- While at the Barron Cemetery, I had a chance encounter with a woman who had come to care for the graves of her family members. I inquired if she knew who held the records for the cemetery, and she directed me to the home of the gentleman who has a map of the plots. We showed on his doorstep, only to learn he is a cousin who’s nephew has been doing genealogical research. This nephew has information on our family’s potential ancestral homeland in GERMANY!
- Located transcribed baptismal records for Herman Uphouse, Henry’s son (and my 2nd great grandfather), as well as siblings of Herman’s wife, Caroline Martha Walter, daughter of Baltzer and Hannah (Lenhart) Uphouse.
- Found headstone for Jacob Uphouse, son of Henry and Elizabeth Uphouse.
- At the county courthouse, was able to view the original books containing naturalization documents for Henry Uphouse and Fred Uphouse, the latter who is presumed to be Henry’s brother, uncle or cousin – a mystery I’m still working on!