Colonial Records – William Penn’s Letter on Vice

While we at the HJL focus on Berks County starting roughly around 1720s.  It is just one piece of a huge history that was taking place in Pennsylvania.  English history in Pennsylvania begins with the signing of the Charter in 1682.  Following the charter an entire system of government is established and people begin populating the area around Philadelphia.  This history is not totally lost to us.  Buried in our stack room, is a series of books titled the Colonial Records. The Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission (PHMC) references the Colonial Records as such: “A total of sixteen volumes containing the minutes of the Provincial Council, 1683-1775, in Volumes I-X; those of the Council of Safety (and of the Committee of Safety), 1775-1777, in X and XI; and those of the Supreme Executive Council, 1777-1790, in XI-XVI. These were printed directly from the manuscript books with no editing apparent Issued 1838-1853.

These records, which precede the Pennsylvania Archives Series, are full of history tidbits on the founding and running of our province.  Buried in the minutes are Sheriff Appointments, Road Petitions, Accusations of Witchcraft, and the Crafting of Laws.  And yes, while reading government minute books often fall on the “boring side” (have you ever read the Congressional Record?  There are 2 pages of debate on whether to give the congressional janitor a raise, before the debate on the Repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793. snore), you never know what gems you may find, when turning the pages.

The Colonial Records are the story of Us.  It is the Us before we became a county and a state.  It tells the story of trying to carve out a civilization in a new world and away from those that govern you.  It tells individual stories and some of those stories are really interesting.

While Luke continues to bring more of Scholla to life, I will try and highlight some of the interesting “goings on” occurring almost 4 centuries ago.  As always, if you would like to learn more about any document or collection we have in the HJL, please visit us!

Att a Council Held att Philadelphia Die Mercury, 9th Febry, 1697-8

The Governor exhibited to the Council a Lettr from the proprietor, directed for him, to be opened only and read in a full Council; Which being through to be as full a Council as could be got in such a season of ye year, It was yrfor Resolved that the sd Lettr should be opened and read which was done.  The contents grof wer as follows, verbatim, viz: “London 5th 7m., 1697.  Friends, The accusaons of one sort, & the reports of another that are come for England agt yor governmnt, not only tent to or ruin, but disgrace.  That you wink at Scotch trade and a Dutch one too, Receiving European goos from the latter, as well as suffering yors, agt the Law & English interest, to goe to the other; Also, that you doe not onlie wink att but Imbrace pirats, Shipps and men.  These are yor accusaons, and one Fra. Jones of philadelphia has Complained of them to Gor Nicholson, becaus it wa not redrest in the governmt.  The Reports are, and a nameless Lettr is come to me besides from Philadelphia, to ye same purpose, that there is no place more overrun with wickednes, Sins so very Scandalous, openly Comitted in defiance of Law and Virtue: facts so foul, I am forbid by Comon modesty to relate ym.  I do yrfore desire and charge you, the Gor & Council for the time being, to issue forth some act or acts of state forthwith to suppress forbidden trade and piracy, and also the growth of vice and Loosness, till some severer Laws be made agt them: And I do hereby charge that no Licence be granted to any to keep publick houses, that do not give great securitie to keep Civil houses, and are not known to be of a sober Conversaon, and that the Courts of Justice in each County have approbaon, if not Licensing of ym, In order to prevent such acts of the Lewdness and Idleness as are too often seen in such places; And that you take Care that Justice be Impartially done upon trangressors, that the wrath and vengeance of God fall not upon you to blast your so very flourishing beginning.  I hasten to you as fast as ye Complaints here agt you will give me leave, that make my presence now but too necessary.  Let neither base gain nor a byast affection mak you partial in these Cases, but for my sake, yor own sakes, and above all for God’s sake, Let not the poor province Longer suffer under such grievous and offensive Imputations; and will oblige him that loves you, prays for you, and prays to be with you, and is with true Love your real friend & affectionate proprietary.                             WM. PENN.”

The Contents whereof, & the Complaints yrin mentioned being strictlie inquired into, The Gor did appoint Samll Carpenter, Joseph Growdon & Wm. Clarke a Committee of Council further to peruse the sd Letter, & to inquire into the sd Complaints, & to make report yrof to the Gor & council next day, by way of ansr to ye sd Letter.

Adjourned to 10th instant.

Humidity And Your Documents

The most frequent question I get is: How can I preserve and save my family documents.  I will often ask questions to try and figure out the current condition to make recommendations.  My basic recommendations are:  1. Unfold the documents and store flat.  Documents tear along fold lines.  Unfolding these documents, will take the stress off of the fold.  2. Do not store archival material in direct sunlight.  The UV light will cause the documents and photographs to fade.  3.  Do not store artwork, documents or photographs on outside walls.  Outside walls have the most contact with outdoor temperature fluctuations and will expand and contract depending on the weather conditions, causing your material to expand and contract.   4.  Do not store your documents in attics or basements, because of the lack of control over temperature and humidity and risk of flooding.  Too much humidity can cause mold growth and too little humidity can make archival material brittle.  Both accelerate the deterioration of archival material.   5.  If your documents are rolled and maintain their tube-like shape, do not unroll them.  Unrolling them will cause them to break at stress points along the roll.  The documents will need to be humidified and once relaxed, can then be viewed.

Rolled Document
This is a rolled document before humidification.  You can see where the document has started to tear along the roll.  You can also see where the donor, at one point, tried to tape the tears to keep the document from breaking.  Please do not tape your documents.  The adhesive will add to the deterioration of the document.
Broken Photograph
This photograph has broken apart along the fold and is now in multiple pieces.  Curiosity got the best of the donor of this image.  When the first section broke off, he continued to unroll the image to see it in its entirety.  As a result, the image is in multiple pieces and cannot be put back together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I started working here, I made the recommendation that documents could be humidified in a steamy bathroom.  After a couple of long hot showers, the documents would begin to relax and then could be better handled.  I made that recommendation, because I had tested it in my bathroom when I was living in New York.  It worked great; until this past winter.  The Henry Janssen Library is climate controlled, up to a certain point.  During the winter the boiler is turned on and, in theory, I should be able to build up humidity in our humidifier.  We use the double garbage can method, with distilled water.  However, this past winter, nothing I did could get enough humidity into the chamber to humidify some tightly rolled documents.  As a last resort, I took them home to use my trusty bathroom method.  The bathroom humidification chamber didn’t work and I ended up bring the HJL’s humidification system home and finished the project.

I learned that the effectiveness of building up enough humidity in a bathroom, in order to hydrate documents is determined by the size of the bathroom.  My bathroom in Gibraltar is twice the size of my old one in New York and has a window.  Since the room is larger, it takes more steam to fill and less time for that steam to dissipate than in a smaller more compact space.   The documents were not getting enough time to soak in the moisture.   I forgot history preservation is also about physics.

In an ideal setting, including the Henry Janssen Library, all archival material would be stored in an area lower than 68 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity between 30-50% with very little fluctuation.  Unfortunately, the recommended storage conditions are not the ideal living (or researching) conditions.  Fortunately for the “Do-It-Yourselfers” following the recommendations above will set you on the track toward preservation.

For more information on how you can humidify your documents, please check out this article “Practical Considerations for Humidifying and Flattening Paper” by Stephanie Watkins, found at: http://cool.conservation-us.org/coolaic/sg/bpg/annual/v21/bp21-15.pdf, or other resources through Google.

The Northeast Document Conservation Center states that temperature and humidity control is vital to the preservation of archival material because unacceptable levels cause the deterioration of the material.… Heat accelerates deterioration: the rate of most chemical reactions, including deterioration, is approximately doubled with each increase in temperature of 18°F (10°C). High relative humidity provides the moisture necessary to promote harmful chemical reactions in materials and, in combination with high temperature, encourages mold growth and insect activity. Extremely low relative humidity, which can occur in winter in centrally heated buildings, may lead to desiccation and embrittlement of some materials.  …Fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity are also damaging [because] …they respond to diurnal and seasonal changes…by expanding and contracting. Dimensional changes accelerate deterioration and lead to such visible damage as cockling paper, flaking ink, warped covers on books, and cracked emulsion on photographs. – www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/2.-the-environment/2.1-temperature,-relative-humidity,-light,-and-air-quality-basic-guidelines-for-preservation

Scholla – by Luke Sutliff

My new assistant Luke is processing a series of Scrapbooks created from a tri-weekly newspaper column in the Reading Times. The column, originally titled Scholla aus Pennsylvanisch Dietschland translates to “Echoes from Pennsylvania Dutch Country”. The title was later shortened to Scholla. The author of this column Arthur D. Graeff signed his columns “bei ‘N Ewich Yaeger”, which translates to “the Eternal Hunter”. His pen name is very fitting because he wrote his column from July 26, 1938 until the last article being published on the day of his death March 28, 1969. During that time our Eternal Hunter scrounged together material for over 4,800 articles. We at the Berks History Center are excited to expose new generations to writings of Arthur D. Graeff and pay tribute to his work. Due to the elapsed time since the writings of these articles, we encourage our readers to expound on the topics/ideas in Arthur’s articles.

For more information on Arthur D. Graeff we recommend referring to
Graeff, Arthur D. and George M. Meiser IX. “Echoes of Scholla-Illustrated Choice Bits of Berks County History and Lore”. The
Berksiana Foundation. Kutztwon Publishing Company. 1976

Haag, Earl C. “A Pennsylvania German Anthology”. Page 263

Luke will be making frequent posts, as he reads through these articles to make them more accessible in the Henry Janssen Library.

 

Thanks Luke!  And…enjoy!

The History of Berks County, part 3

There is a famous saying “to see the forest through the trees.”  It means being able to see the big picture, not just the steps you need to take to achieve the big picture.  In your ancestor’s case, when they looked beyond the trees, they only saw more trees…and brush…and rivers, streams and a whole lot of forest.  Our early founding fathers had to create civilization out of the wilderness.  Land needed to be cleared for cultivation, roads needed to be cut.  A rough log or wooden house was built to provide shelter.  When the settlers earned enough money, the first permanent solid structure they build, tended to be the barn.  In Berks County, they look a lot like this:

From the Henry Janssen Library Collection
From the Henry Janssen Library Collection

These barns, also known as bank barns, often had multiple stories and sometimes built into the side of a bank, which assisted in accessing the multiple levels.  These structures usually had a stone foundation with upper sections made of wood.

As harvests grew and more income earned, a stone house replaced the rough log, or wooden house, additional buildings were added, and more land acquired.

As your ancestor is growing his land, other founders are growing their lands as well and the townships start taking shape.  There are two important references for determining if your ancestor is an early founder.  The first is entitled: The Petitioners: 18th-century Actions To Erect Present-day Berks County Townships, compiled by James M. Beidler and Florence Kline Heydt with assistance from Annette K. Burgert, 1991-1992.  This booklet contains photocopies and translations of the petitions, founding families of the townships of Alsace, Amity, Colebrookdale, Douglas, Exeter, Hereford, Maidencreek, Maxatawny, Oley, Richmond and Windsor signed, asking the Proprietors to create their township.  While each petition is different, they said the same thing:

“The Humble petition of ye Inhabitants of Maxaton to ye Hounourable the Justices of ye Court of Quarter Sessions held at Philada. ye 4th day of June 1742.
Humbley Sheweth: Whereas your Petitioners have been settled in those parts of this county for near twenty years past and have for several years paid our Taxes and County levies as well as some other of our Neighbours, But now being grown more popolus we find a Necessity to bring our Selves under your further notice and Protection.
Wherefore we humbley pray that you will be pleased, to order a Township to be Laid out Beginning in Bucks County Line and from thence Running South west one thousand seven Hundred & Sixty perches.  Thence North West one thousand three hundred and sixty pers.  Thence north East 1760 perches to Bucks County Line Then along ye same South East 1360 pers. to ye place of beginning containing fourteen thousand nine hundred and sixty acres of Land, draught therof being hereunto annexed and your petitioners as in duty bound shall ever Pray.”   (Maxatawny Township [1742], page 20)

Robeson Township
Robeson Township

The second reference book (my personal favorite) is entitled: Early Landowners of Pennsylvania: Atlas of Township Warrantee Maps of Berks County, PA, by Dr. Sharon MacInnes, 2006.  The Warrant Maps describe how the original land tracts were situated and who owned them.  We have these maps in the library and they usually span an entire table.  To the right, is the Warrant Map for Robeson Township.  Each tract is numbered and around the edges of the map are the corresponding numbers, with the Name of the owner, the acreage, and dates for the warrant, survey and patent.  Some other information might be included.  The Warrants are important, because it is the starting point of land ownership in the county.

We like to think that our ancestors took the Schuylkill Expressway to 422 and onto other routes, roads and highways, because we are trying to find a connection to them.  We easily forget that our ancestors created what we see today.

 

 

A Brief History of Berks County, part 1

After 5 1/2 years assisting researchers in the Henry Janssen Library, it is interesting to learn how little people know of their ancestors and the time in which they lived.  The following is a brief history of Berks County, as I have learned it, by answering research request.  All of us at the Henry Janssen Library, have reviewed and interpreted multiple resources to formulate answers to help researchers understand the early history of the county. We are not expert historians writing a thesis, just teachers trying to make connections for people so they understand their family’s history.  I will not be citing those sources, however if you are interested in learning more, please contact me and I can point you to some books that may be of interest.  Many of the early histories are online at https://archive.org/, which is an online book database.  You can view these editions on your kindle, as a pdf, or just on your computer.  If more researchers understood the time their ancestors lived, I truly believe they would have a greater appreciation of their ancestors and realize you do not need to be famous to make history!

Statement: “My ancestor was born in Berks County in 1684.”

Answer:  No, not likely.

Why:  In 1684, the only people in Berks County were the Lenni Lenape, also known as the Delaware Indians. On February 28, 1681, King Charles II granted a land charter to William Penn as a payment for a debt owed to Penn’s father.  We celebrate this transaction every year.  Charter Day, celebrated on March 9 this year, is sponsored by PHMC and is a free event at the Daniel Boone and Conrad Weiser Homesteads.  Pennsylvania turned 333 years old in 2014 and the original charter went on exhibit at Pennsbury Manor.  William Penn instituted the colonial government on March 4, 1681.  In 1682, Penn signed a peace treaty with Tammany, leader of the Delaware tribe, which allowed for the settlement of Philadelphia.  The Philadelphia area was originally the Delaware village of Shackamaxon.  In 1701, Penn issued a Charter, establishing Philadelphia as a city.

While today, Philadelphia encompasses roughly 141.6 square miles, in 1701, it was considerably smaller and surrounded by forests. Eventually, as immigrants began arriving from Germany (mainly), Sweden and beyond, the population pushed out and began exploring the wilderness.  On October 21, 1701, William Penn granted, Swedish Lutheran Minister, Andreas Rudman 10,000 acres along the Manatawny Creek.  This area, as it turns out, was a significant economic center for the Delaware Indians with trails leading to Philadelphia and other parts of Pennsylvania.  The first settlers to reach Berks County established Morlatton Village, now Douglassville in 1716, fifteen years after the land grant.  From Morlatton Village, settlers begin buying up land in the Oley Valley, forming what are now Oley, Earl, Pike, District and Rockland Townships.  In 1723, Conrad Weiser arrived with a group of settlers from the Schoharie Region in New York and started the settlement of what are now Bern and Heidelberg Townships.

Something to remember: Berks County is still Indian Territory and all land belongs to the Delaware.  As more settlers arrive, they start taking more land not covered in the earlier treaties.  In 1737, the Penn Family and the Delaware signed the highly disputed Walking Purchase Treaty.  Because of the Treaty, the Penn’s gained ownership over 1,200,000 acres of land, which encompasses the present-day counties of Bucks, Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, Pike and Schuylkill.  This left Berks County open for settlement.

Your ancestors might have been in Pennsylvania in the late 1600s, but they were not in Berks County.

Coming up…How your ancestors came to Berks County

Image of the Charter to William Penn from the PHMC website:

Golden Rules of Genealogy

If you are familiar with the world of Social Media, then you know there are various avenues in which to share ideas with the world.  One of these venues is Pintrest.  Simply speaking, it is a virtual bulletin board that you can pin recipes, ideas, quotes, and pictures to for a later date.  While perusing my account the other night, I came across this “Pin”, which was posted by a friend of mine.  It is from a website called: gotgenealogy.com, based out of Oakland, California.  My additions are italicized.  Just a little rules to remember.

Golden Rules of Genealogy

In no particular order

1.  Spelling Doesn’t Count – Back in the day folks couldn’t spell and many could barely write, so how a name sounds is more important than how it’s spelled.  Use wild card or Soundex Searches to help find variant spellings of names.  Remember…when researching in Berks County there is the added variant of multiple spellings of an ancestor’s name in German and how English speakers heard and spelled those German names.

 2.  Assume Nothing – Check all your facts, don’t assume that any particular document is right or wrong, and always try to find other independent sources to corroborate your facts as much as possible.  Verify, verify, verify.  For instance don’t assume that:

  1. your ancestors were married
  2. census information is accurate
  3. vital (or other) records were correct
  4. your ancestor’s life events were recorded
  5. ancestors had the same name as their enslaver
  6. that official documents (i.e. birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates) have always been in existence
  7. that our ancestors recorded the same kind of information we do today
  8. that life events and customs we celebrate today, were as important to our ancestors

3.  Use Discretion – NEVER LIE in your genealogy reports, but use discretion when reporting family information, especially when it involves living relatives.

4.  Always Document Your Sources, No Matter How Much They Contradict One Another – Over time, you will compile more data and those once seemingly contradictory pieces of evidence may prove to be just the pieces of the puzzle you need to prove or disprove your theory.  Be consistent as you cite your sources.  There are standard citation formats, but even if you just make up your own format for listing your sources, be consistent with it.  You want your descendants to be able to retrace your steps, so you always cite your sources.

5.  Most Dates Are Approximate – It’s okay to state that someone was born “abt. 1845,” or died “May 1915” if you don’t have an exact date or where various documents have different dates.  Which date is correct?”  They all are.

6.  If Unsure, Say So – Future researchers will thank you for being honest if you simply say that you cannot prove a specific fact, yet you “suspect” such and such is true.  Don’t fudge the facts.  EVER.

7.  You CANNOT Do it All Online – Yes, we love doing research online and there’s nothing better than using the computer to find new sources, view digital images of original documents and even connect with relatives.  For genealogists, the internet will never replace the wonderful work of libraries, county courthouses, archives, and historical societies.  Do as much as you can online, then turn off your computer and hit the bricks!  And, if you think it is so cool seeing that digital image of an original document, imagine what it would be like to hold it in your hands!

8.  Just Because It’s Online Doesn’t Mean It’s True – The internet is a wonderful thing but it’s filled with oodles of bad information.  Don’t make the mistake of believing anything you find online at face value.  Verify against other sources, even if you paid for the information you found online.  Consult the original source whenever possible.  This includes Ancestry.com.  They are an excellent place to start, but there is a lot of bad information floating around.  Never trust a source that doesn’t provide their citations.  If you can’t go back to the original, don’t believe the information.

9.  Pass Along Your Research – No matter how many decades you spend researching your family, your research will never be done.  Plan on passing along your research to the next generation of researchers.  Leave excellent notes, cite all your sources, explain your shorthand…in essence, leave your research the way you’d have liked to have found it.  Try not to abbreviate.  If you do abbreviate, write down the code and leave it where it can be found by researchers.  Abbreviations used today, did not mean the same today as they did in the past and vice versa; and they will not mean the same in 50 years.  Taking the time to write something completely, than abbreviating, will save future generations time in trying to decipher your work.

10.  Don’t Die With Your Stories Still In You – Diving credit to Dr. Wayne Dyer for his “Don’t die with your music still in you,” we want to remind you to tell the stories as completely and as accurately as possible.  Genealogy isn’t about just doing research.  Genealogy is about telling the stories and ensuring that your ancestor’s legacies live on for generations to come.  Without the stories, the research won’t do anyone much good.  The legacy of your ancestors rests in your capable hands.  Doing the research is fine, but always remember that you have been chosen to tell their stories.

11.  DNA Is Not A Trump Card – DNA is just one of many possible sources of information you can use to verify of deny a relationship.  Human error occurs when the results are transcribed, thereby providing false information.  DNA results should always be used in concert with other sources.

12.  Anything You Post Online Will Be “Borrowed” – You need to accept the fact that any family information you post online will be “borrowed” or outright stolen, and you will probably not get credit for all your hard work.  This is the nature of the beast…the internet.  Get over it.

13.  Don’t Assume Research is Free – Research takes time and money.  It is an investment, just like any hobby.  When contacting research institutions, don’t assume they will provide you with all the information you want for free.  These institutions have research fees.  These fees are used to keep the collections safe, the lights on and the doors open.  If you don’t want to pay the fees, visit the institution.  Most institutions have websites and research fees will be posted.  DO NOT mail in a request, without appropriate fees.

14.  Be As Specific As Possible – Know what you are searching for before calling or visiting a research institution.  Libraries, courthouses, archives and historical societies are keepers of original documents.  They provide these documents to assist with your research.  If your questions are too vague, information cannot be found or will be overlooked.  Also, remember to provide the research institution with the variation of spellings your ancestors used to help locate all appropriate information.

Calling All Researchers…..

The Historical Review of Berks County is accepting articles for the following issues, with preference given to that Issue’s chosen category:

Summer 2014 Issue, articles due by March 14, 2014:

  • Civil Rights
  • Recollections on Berks County Parks

Fall 2014 Issue, articles due by June 13, 2014:

  • 50th Anniversary of the start of World War I
  • Thanksgiving Holiday Celebrations

Winter 2014/2015 Issue, articles due by September 12, 2014:

  • 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812
  • River Transportation, Schuylkill Navigation System, Union Canal, Schuylkill River

In addition to these themes, we are looking for researched articles or personal recollections on a variety of topics on Berks County history, and Berks County connections to U.S. History Events.  While any period will be accepted, we are especially looking for history events for the following years: 1714, 1764, 1814, 1864, 1914 and 1964.

All Articles should be between 1,000-2,000 max (exceptions could be made for an article over 2,000).  We also welcome graphics, which include (but are not limited to) pie charts, graphs, tables and photographs.  Any images found in the Henry Janssen Library are free for use for any article in the Review.  Authors must visit the library and choose their own images for publication.

When possible, articles should be properly cited with footnotes (or endnotes) and a bibliography.  For more information regarding citations, please visit: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/books/turabian/turabian_citationguide.html, or contact Kim Brown at krichards@berkshistory.org.

Please Note:  The Editorial Board reserves the rights to edit or condense articles before publication in the Review.

Review
Fall 2013 Historical Review of Berks County