A few days ago I decided to change my screensaver on my PC. I thought I’d look up places where my ancestors lived and fill my screensaver scroll with interesting photos of those places to provide inspiration for my family search and for blog posts. You wouldn’t believe the stories I uncovered! Right here, in the good ol’ U S of A!
But first, a few shots from my past in the old world:
The photographs of the old world are amazing, but I do have ancestors from the colonial days in America too. My paternal grandmother was born in Potter County, Pennsylvania, and my grandfather, son of Polish immigrants, was born in Cattaraugus County, New York. The two counties share state borders, and from what I’ve heard, Grandma must have crossed the state line where she met my grandfather. I’ve actually driven through Cattaraugus County, and I even stopped in the City where my father and grandfather were born (probably the same city where my grandparents met, considering it is rural New York, and it really is more of a small town), so I really was more interested in seeing images from the Pennsylvania side.
The first pictures I found of Potter County’s “Painted Hills” were truly beautiful. Having been raised in the wide open spaces of the American West, I was shocked at the immensity of these rolling hills and their thick coating of deciduous trees. The photographs are beautiful, but I can imagine that the early settlers found the terrain a bit unforgiving at times.I think I would have felt quite isolated living within these thick forests, even if I had neighbors a few hundred feet away.
This rail-bridge puts the immensity of the hills in proportion, dontcha think? This is not at all how I imagined Pennsylvania. This is a helluva gorge. But really, I grew up in the driest state of the nation. I don’t think I ever truly experienced a forest until I toured America’s Midwest. And mountains? Well, the ones I know are rocky. I guess that’s why they call them the “Rocky” Mountains. These should be the Tree-y mountains. But I guess it doesn’t roll off the tongue or fall quite right on the ear. Is this actually even a mountain range?
The more I looked, the more I could visualize family and the conditions they must have lived in, and probably even found quite comfortable for their times.
Grandma was born in Wharton, so I entered Wharton Cemetery as a search term. You know …. Me and cemeteries. I had to do it. This is what popped up:
I immediately posted the link above to my Stories From The Past Facebook group. (You can join too!) I said, “This cemetery includes family names such as Jordan, Walker, Williams, Wykoff, Card (by marriage, I think), Bartram and Berfield. Several of these tombstones are direct ancestors, so I am thinking that a large portion of this very small graveyard is related to me.” My father used to tell me that I was a distant cousin to Charles Ora Card, the man who settled the town of Cardston Canada. I guess he was right. And I guess that makes me a distant cousin to Orson Scott Card, Author of Ender’s Game, as well.
Then one of my Kwiatkowski cousins from across the border in New York chimed in. He posted a link to the cemetery where many of my grandfather’s relatives are laid to rest (yet another cemetery loaded with untold stories). I immediately identified my great-grandfather’s name among the dead there. Wow. Social networking for dead people!
And still another New York cousin said “my wife’s ancestors are the Berfields (there are various spellings) from Wharton and Sinnemahoning. I have a fair amount of information about them. Send me a few names and I will see what I can share.” The next thing you know, he was sending me this photo of my fourth great-grandmother’s tombstone. Wow. My cousin’s wife is my cousin too. It turns out, that this Susannah was a Sterling before she got married, and her father settled in the nearby area of Sterling’s Run (I learned that on Ancestry.com). My cousin tells me that Susannah’s husband, Stephen Berfield, was responsible for settling the Sinnemahoning area of Pennsylvania.
And remember that rail-bridge? My cousin also said that “The movie Unstoppable was shot in that area, and Olean as well. The Wharton/Sinnemahoning area is basically steep hill, road, steep hill, railroad tracks, steep hill, then creek. No room for error. Many train wrecks occurred in that area on the PRR, the most recent when a chemical spill killed the fish in the Susquehanna, prompting the movie.”
Oh. My. Gosh. Who’da thunk that a simple image search on the internet would reveal so many stories? I have a bit more unearthing to do, but I think we’re on to something here. By the way, Olean is where my Kwiatkowski cousins are from. And no, I’ve never met any of them in person. That’s another story for another time.