Tuesday Tales From the Road – West Point and Back to Pennsylvania

by Kathryn Doyle (9/23/2008)

Mary Mettler is still on the road. This is Mary’s ninth report:

I joined my nephew’s family on Saturday morning, August 23, 2008, for a very special day at the United States Military Academy at West Point – A-Day, short for Acceptance Day. My grandnephew, Stephen Schnorf and the other “new” cadets had finished “The Beast,” as the summer Cadet Basic Training is known. Traditional ceremonies merge them into the Corps of Cadets. Prominent alumni from classes, which will celebrate fifty-year reunions during the four years of the current Cadet classes, served as reviewers.

The upper classmen marched out of the arches on the far side of the field.

The new plebes marched in on the opposite side
of the field and turned to face the upper classmen.

After the appropriate ceremonies, the plebes marched across the Plain to join the corps. The entire ceremony was quite moving, and one couldn’t help but feel the power of the long years of tradition. Stephen had the rest of the day off, his first in many weeks. In between meals, our hungry cadet showed us around the base. Please note that West Point is referred to as a base, not a campus! I’m slowly learning the lingo. I was so grateful for the opportunity to be part of this day!

The Schnorf family and Mary Mettler.

From West Point, I returned to Carlisle, Pennsylvania and a day at The U.S. Military History Institute (MHI) at the U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center (AHEC). What a great place and a superb resource for military history! MHI has some 15 million books, military newspapers, manuals, periodicals, letters, diaries, oral histories and other manuscripts, as well as a powerful computer search capability. You enter your military ancestor’s name in the computer, and it identifies his unit and a list of sources for that unit. I entered a first cousin-three times removed, who had been a surgeon in the Civil War. The list included three units in which he served and the sources of information on those units. I was able to document his entire service and all the battles at which he participated, including Gettysburg. Their catalogs and online information are available at www.USAHEC.org.

While you are doing genealogy, the rest of your family can walk around The Army Heritage Trail, an interactive outdoor museum with exhibits from the French and Indian War through Vietnam.

Now, the bad news. They, too, told me that no information is available on where the Pennsylvania Militia units served in the Revolutionary War. They considered it very lucky for me to have found Capt. John Lamb’s initial service in the pension of a soldier in his Company. One excellent source, however, was a pamphlet, Understanding Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary War Military Organization as an Aid in Genealogical Research by Col. John B. Trussell, USA-Ret. It not only explained how the Militia and the Continental Line were organized but also identified the three types of service the Pennsylvania Militia provided, namely augmentation of the Continental Army in conventional operations, protecting the frontiers from Indian attacks and providing guards for the supply depots and prisoner of war camps in Pennsylvania. Trussell said that the latter was by far the type involving most of the men who saw active duty.

The massive Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg was my last vain attempt to identify where Lamb’s militia unit served. For his company, I found lists of delinquents and fines and some teasers, such as his expense report for reimbursement for pay for twenty days of drummers and fifers. Alas, there was no information on where these troopers went! These archives house many other records, e.g. land records, many of which can be ordered or even accessed online at www.phmc.state.pa.us. I’m at my sisters’ house in Akron, Ohio for the Labor Day weekend and then plan to begin the trek home with a couple of stops along the way.

Your genealogist on the road,
Mary Mettler

Read the entire series:
Part One: Salt Lake City
Part Two: Indiana
Part Three: Pennsylvania
Part Four: More From Pennsylvania
Part Five: Washington D.C.
Part Six: Suffield, Connecticut
Part Seven: Vermont
Part Eight: Dorset, Vermont
Part Nine: West Point and Back to Pennsylvania
Part Ten: Some Final Thoughts From Home

Citing “Occult Powers” in a New Netherland Genealogy

by Kathryn Doyle (9/22/2008)

It happened again – a cousin found in the library – only this time I was an eyewitness. While waiting for last week’s board meeting to begin, director John Moore was relating a fascinating story about the Wilsey family. One mention of the name and suddenly he and Shirley Thomson were New Netherland cousins! John sent the full story:

Shirley Pugh Thomson and John Moore.

Last Wednesday, prior to the Board meeting, we had a discussion about the “unusual research” methods used in determining the origins of the family. The story goes something like this.

The Wilsey family is an early New Netherland family with many descendants, including at least two members of the present CGS Board. In 1908 Jerome Wiltsee published a genealogy for the Wiltsee (Wilsey) family. Jerome Wiltsee, Sr., A Genealogical and Psychological Memoir of Philippe Maton Wiltsie and his Descendants, With a Historical Introduction of the Wiltsie Nation and Its Colonies, (Atchinson, Kansas, 1908). The book was given a broad distribution (we have a copy in the CGS Library.) It identifies Philippe Maton Wiltsie as the original immigrant and ancestor of the Wiltsie family. Phillip is described as a Walloon refuge from Wiltz Luxembourg who came to Fort Orange in 1623 and was killed by the Indians in 1631 with two of his sons captured by the Indians before they escaped in 1639. One of these sons Hendrick Martenson is the ancestor of the Wilsey family in America.

Over the years there were several membership applications submitted and approved by the Holland Society based on Phillipe Maton as the immigrant ancestor. In 1975 the Genealogical Committee of the Holland Society asked George Zabriske to research Jerome’s account. After a through study Zabriskie determined that many of Jerome’s conclusions were pure fiction and had no basis in fact. Philippe Maton Wiltsee just did not exist! Jerome had however warned his readers that his conclusions were based not only on normal genealogical research but also on his “supernatural” or “occult” powers.

Does this mean that the way to resolve “brick walls” in genealogical research is through communication with the spirit world? It certainly would revolutionize our society! Something to think about!

On a more serious note, the Jerome Wiltsee book is now out of copyright and copies are available not only in many libraries but also on the Internet. From time to time we hear from genealogists who have traced their ancestry back to Phillipe Maton based on Jerome’s book. Fortunately the Zabriskie analysis is set forth in a series of articles appearing in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record (Volumes 106-108). Wilsey researchers who have relied on Jerome can be referred to these articles. Incidentally, the real Wilsey immigrant ancestor is Hendrick Martenson van Copenhagen and his male descendants do qualify for membership in the Holland Society!

I have agreed to bring some of my material to the next board meeting to compare notes with Shirley. We are both descendants of Hendrick Martenson van Copenhagen but we are not yet sure where our lines differ.


John Moore has been interested in genealogy since his law school days when he devoted some library time to research his mother’s family. He has more time since retirement from Kaiser Aluminum where he was Vice President Deputy General Counsel and Secretary. John served six years as a Trustee of the NEHGS and is currently a member of the NEHGS Council and a Director of the California Genealogical Society. John has a number of New Netherland ancestors and holds membership in the Friends of the Holland Society.

Shirley Pugh Thomson has held a seat on the society’s Board of Directors 1998-2008 and is a former chair of the CGS Publication Committee. She has been interested in family history all of her life, although these days she admits to spending more time on CGS business than on her own research. Shirley made some progress during the past year using DNA. She recently presented Hints on Publishing Your Family History with Matthew Berry.

Linda Darby’s Report from FGS Philadelphia

by Kathryn Doyle (9/19/2008)

CGS member Linda Darby loves a good conference. She sent this report from the Federation of Genealogical Society Footprints of Family History Conference in Philadelphia, September 4 to 6, 2008:

Conference attendees remained cool, inside the spacious Philadelphia Convention Center, while the City of Brotherly Love baked in record high temperatures. We were greeted by that renowned genealogist Benjamin Franklin, and also welcomed by Ms. Betsy Ross. The conference had numerous sessions on German, Irish, and Pennsylvania research. All attendees obtained a CD of the syllabus, could download specific sessions from the FGS website, and a hard copy could be purchased for $32. Many folks don’t like the weight of all that paper. And, printing is pretty pricey these days. Many sessions were recorded, and the recordings on CD could be purchased, so as invariably happens, if you are interested in more than one session at a specific time, you can hear them both.

Jane Lindsey and Linda Darby in Salt Lake City
at the CGS Research Tour last April.

In addition to gleaning information from the session, another incalculable benefit of attending conferences is talking to other attendee and sharing information. One such incident occurred at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania the Tuesday before the conference began. Many folks attending the conference had come in early to do some local research. I was no exception. While browsing in the Scranton City Directories, I encountered another attendee. We began chatting. She was from Boston. She was looking for a family from a small town near Scranton. My family is from this same town. What surname? Incredibly, she was looking for a collateral line of my family! We exchanged business cards, and I’ve passed along her information to a cousin in that line. He was astounded. You just never know.

Next year, the FGS Conference, Passages Through Time, will be held in Little Rock, Arkansas, September 2-5, 2009. Y’all come!

Linda Darby

Photograph courtesy of Cathy H. Paris, Apr 19, 2008, Salt Lake City, Utah.