PA-Roots Blog

5 January 2009 Update

Created: Monday, 05 January 2009 Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2011 Written by Nathan Zipfel
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Hi all,

Was busy over the weekend transcribing cemeteries from a volume of William Henry Egle's "Notes and Queries".  They include:

All known cemeteries in Benezette Township, Elk County have been transcribed and posted on-line at the Elk County Genealogy Project.
Other new items include:


6 December 2008 - Update

Created: Saturday, 06 December 2008 Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2011 Written by Nathan Zipfel
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We've recently received a transcription of the History of Warren County by J.S. Schenck & W.S. Rann which was published in 1887.  The book has been formatted and has all been placed on-line.


Spending time in the cemetery

Created: Thursday, 07 April 2011 Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 February 2014 Written by Nathan Zipfel
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It seems that recently I have been doing a lot of work with cemetery transcriptions and tombstone photos.  I think I've always had a fascination with cemeteries.  It must have started when I was just a child visiting a cemetery that my grandparents were buried in and it has grown from there.
I remember when I was 11 or 12 and attending a church camp near Kane, McKean County PA with one of my great-aunts. One afternoon us kids went off exploring the woods that surrounded the camp and we came across a tombstone that was just off of a farmer's field into the woods.  The place seemed to be a cemetery of sorts for old farm equipment that was no longer used.  But there surrounded by that rusted out equipment was a single tombstone.  The tombstone if I recall correctly was for a child.  Even at that age I wondered why they were buried there, where the current owners of the farm related to the child, what did they die from.  It wasn't long after this that the genealogy bug really got me and I began recording my family history.

Allen, ByrdIn recent years I have been busy photographing and transcribing cemeteries because I've learned that many of the old tombstones are quickly eroding and the inscriptions are no longer readable.  I get pretty excited when someone contacts me and tells me they want to transcribe or photography a cemetery because I know that they are helping to preserve the records of that cemetery.  I realized how important that is just a couple of years ago.
I had been researching my great, great, great grandfather Cyrenus Jackson and based on Census and Tax records I knew where he lived and a family biography provided his death date along with that of his wife.  Unfortunately there was no record of where he was buried.  A search of the cemetery records for the area yielded nothing.  I was visiting my sister and she wanted to take me to a little cemetery that was in an older guys backyard.  She thought it was a neat little cemetery that overlooked the Clarion River.  You could tell that there were a number of unmarked graves or graves marked with just fieldstones.  The few actual tombstones didn't have any names we were researching.
Later in the day we stopped at the local historical society and I was flipping through their cemetery books and came across a two page record for the cemetery that we had visited.  It was odd to me that they had it since the cemetery was in a different county and the book I was looking in was for their county.  The list had been prepared many years earlier by an elderly lady who had grown up there by that cemetery and wanted to preserve the names of the people who were buried there.  I scanned down through the list and the last people that she listed were my Cyrenus Jackson and his wife.  She even recorded what homestead they lived on.  Mystery was solved.

If you have time, take your camera and visit a cemetery and photograph the stones.  Help preserve the cemetery for future generations.  The inscriptions that you can read today will probably be gone in the years to come and people will be left wondering what it said.  If you need help getting started with a transcription project, please contact me and I'll set you on course to get it done.

Some of the cemetery work that I've been doing lately includes the following:

Forest County, PA - all known cemeteries for Howe Township have been transcribed and photographed.
Cameron County, PA - all known cemeteries in Gibson Township have been transcribed
Indiana County, PA - published transcriptions of five (5) cemeteries
Clarion County, PA - published transcriptions of six (6) cemeteries along with photos from the Shippinville Methodist Cemetery

Mona Anderson who is a like-minded cemetery person has been very busy.  I just finished posting 7,036 tombstone photos for cemeteries in Mifflin County, PA along with transcriptions of 49 cemeteries there in Mifflin County, PA.



The Life of a Soldier

Created: Wednesday, 13 April 2011 Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 February 2014 Written by Nathan Zipfel
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The Life of a Soldier

recruitposterWith the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War I've been thinking about many in my family tree that served during the Civil War.  Many served and returned home to grateful family members.  Others went off to war and never returned home.  My 3rd great uncle was one of those who never returned home.

Stewart Henry Menteer, the oldest of eight children of my 3rd great grandfather.  He was just 18 when he was mustered into the 148th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.  He had already faced a significant challenge in life when his mother died when he was 8 or 9.  Now he's fresh from the farm serving in the Union Army.  Instead of worrying about the wild animals that might harm one of his younger siblings or animals on the farm he's worried about getting wounded, killed or captured by the Confederate Army.

Since I began researching this family line and learning about him, I've wondered what he was like.  Did he have a girl back home that was waiting on him so that they could marry when the war was over?  What were his plans, was he going to be a farmer, was he going to follow in his father's footsteps and become a plasterer?  As someone who served in the military for 20 years I know what it's like to be away from home and family for extended periods of time.  The 20 years I spent in the military can't even begin to compare with the horrible conditions that Stewart faced.  When he faced being homesickness he couldn't post a Facebook message or video chat with his parents.  He only had letters occasionally from his father and siblings.  They'd keep him updated on what was happening on the farm.  Stewart would write about what was happening with his Regiment maybe about some of the guys that he had mustered in with from back home.

His regiment participated in 28 engagements with the Confederate Army before that fateful day of August 25, 1864 at Ream's Station outside of Petersburg Virginia.  They were there to destroy the confederate use of the Weldon Railroad which was being used to move troops and supplies North.  It was during this battle that I learned that Stewart was captured by the Confederate Army.  He was transported to the Confederate Prison Stockade in Florence South Carolina.

Wikipedia records this about the Stockade:  "The Florence Stockade covered 23.5 acres of land with a trench dug out around the outside to prevent prisoners from tunneling out. After about a month of operation, there were about 12,000 prisoners and a death rate of 20 to 30 per day. Supplies were scarce for both the prisoners and the guards. Men were sleeping almost naked and with no blankets. In mid-October, the United States Sanitary Commission delivered supplies. Of the total number of prisoners that passed through the Florence Stockade, 2,802 Union soldiers died there and most were buried in unmarked trenches in what would become the Florence National Cemetery after the war."

According to the military records Stewart died 13 January 1865 there at the Stockade.  Like the others that died there, he's buried in an unmarked grave in a trench.  He's family never dreamed that when he went off to war 2 and a half years earlier that they would never see him again.  They received a notice from the War Department that he had been captured and then a notice that he had died and was buried in South Carolina.

When we think about the Civil War and the reasons why it was fought and all the great battles and generals we often forget about the real human cost to that war.  My 3rd great uncle reminds of that cost.  If you have a relative who was between ages 18 (maybe even younger) to 40 (maybe even a little older) during the years of the Civil War you'll want to explore the possibility that they served in the war.

If your ancestor was from Pennsylvania begin your research at Alice Gayley's "Pennsylvania in the Civil War" website located at   Alice has transcribed all the rosters from the books by Samuel Bates, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65.

PA-Roots also hosts two regimental websites located at

The National Park Service has on on-line database, the Soldiers and Sailors System where you can perform a search for your Civil War ancestor.  There are currently over 6.3 million records in the database.  The website is

Using Google is a great tool for researching your Civil War ancestor.  There are over 290 million web pages with the phrase "Civil War" in them.

If you have a subscription to or you can also research your ancestor there.



Who was he? Reflections on Memorial Day

Created: Thursday, 26 May 2011 Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 February 2014 Written by Nathan Zipfel

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Who was he?  Reflections on Memorial Day

Frank Lester JacksonMonday May 30'th is Memorial Day.  Growing up we still called it Decoration Day.  For many people it's just a long weekend, an extra day off from work with pay.  We often went to visit a cemetery on that day.
Memorial Day began after the Civil War with the first known observance in 1866 in Waterloo New York.  It was a day to visit the cemetery of the Civil War dead and clean and decorate their graves.  The tradition caught on and spread across the nation.  In towns and cities across our country people will gather at war memorials and reflect and remember the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

As I was thinking about Memorial Day this year I thought about the cemetery where most of my ancestors and related families are buried in.  There are many veterans of wars buried there.  There is one tombstone in particular that has always caused me to pause and wonder exactly who he was.  His name was Frank Lester Jackson and he was 18 years old, just 13 days shy of his 19th birthday when he died.  He was my mom's first cousin and just two years younger than her.jackson frank l 2

My mom told me that Frank snuck off from home and went to Erie and enlisted in the U.S. Navy.  When World War II broke out and particularly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Frank wanted to join the Navy and serve his country.  He was of course too young, he had just turned 17 a few weeks before.  The Navy didn't discover his true age until after he had already processed through training.  His father signed his consent after the fact giving his permission for Frank to be in the Navy.
Frank was trained on Radar equipment and rose to the rank of Radarman 3rd Class.  On 30 August 1943 he was assigned aboard the U.S.S. Luce, a Fletcher-class destroyer.  On 4 May 1945 while on patrol in support of the Battle of Okinawa the Luce was attacked by 2 kamikaze Japanese airplanes.  The Luce sank taking 126 members of the crew with her to the bottom of the ocean.

At the cemetery the family placed a tombstone, it simply reads "In Memory Frank L Jackson 1926-1945  S/# RD. M., U.S.S. Luce   Lost in Pacific"

Who wasjackson frank l 1 Frank?  He was the youngest son of Morrie and Maggie Jackson.  He had two older brothers (Harry and Eugene) and three older sisters (Violet, Alice and Martha).  He hadn't lived long enough to make much of a difference in the world.  He hadn't even graduated High School when he joined the Navy.  He didn't live long enough to leave much biographical information.  What I do know about him was that he was loved by his family and he loved his family and his country.  He left behind many friends and family members to morn his death.

This Memorial Day won't you take a moment out of the day and remember the Frank's and Ramon's and Jamaal's and Debbie's that have paid the ultimate price in service to our nation?  If you have a chance, visit a local cemetery and pause at a Veteran's grave and offer a word of thanks to them.