Published December 26, 2017| 2 Comments | Leave A Reply
My four-great-grandfather Peter Beidler died in his 30s of consumption. I knew his widow Barbara (maiden name Spohn) had married a George Merkel after Peter’s death.
But what about the rest of Barbara’s life?
For that I had no clue – until now.
That’s because genealogical information about our ancestors sometimes comes to us in the smallest of mentions and from the most out-of-the-way sources.
A particular class of such sources are the account books, day books and ledgers for businesses from days gone by.
More than a thousand of these books are housed at the Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum’s collections.
That’s where I found two volumes from the tombstone-cutting Moers family of Reading, Berks County.
One of their entries showed “Henry Beidler to a Head Stone for the Decd. Barbara Merkel.” This Henry was Peter and Barbara’s son. It showed a down payment for a tombstone (along with a foot stone and 158 letters of engraving) on 22 October 1822.
So, from one of those “smallest of mentions” I now can confidently state that Barbara Spohn Beidler Merkel had died by that date in 1822.
The collection of business ledgers comes from the same source of most of the artifacts – brothers Henry Kinzer Landis (1865 – 1955) and George Diller Landis (1867 – 1954), who opened the museum in 1925 at their Landis Valley residence, according to Mike Emery, the Landis Valley museum educator.
While most of the ledgers came from businesses in Lancaster County, there are a smattering of books from the counties surrounding Lancaster, from Lebanon to Berks to Chester counties.
General stores, blacksmiths, veterinarians, lawyers, tax collectors and distillers are all represented.
The books’ schemes of organization vary. “Day books” are literally that – like a day-by-day diary of the business – while account books may be put together by clients. Some of the ledgers combine both approaches.
The Moers ledgers were especially useful to Emery, an expert in old cemeteries and tombstones of the Pennsylvania Germans. The two ledgers in the collection document decades of the Moers family’s work and business practices. “There’s even a page from the early 1800s when the moved from the old monetary system of Pennsylvania pounds, shillings and pence and started reckoning all the accounts in dollars,” Emery said.
Please note that the Landis Valley site’s collections only are currently accessible for scholarly research or examination. “The museum curators may limit access for research or examination by policy, space, staff availability, or care and security of the collections,” according to the policy on its website, which includes form for “Collections access for purposes of research.”
Further information is available at the URL, http://www.landisvalleymuseum.org/index.php/landis-valley-collection/research