Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Search: Piercing Through The Foliage

Caleb Pierce, Margaret Hughes, Isabella Pierce, and Noah Pierce -
Census - 1870 
If you are researching your family tree to try and find a connection to a celebrity or a historical figure, you are most likely going to be very disappointed. This is not the reality for many of us and while I have been lucky enough to uncover some fascinating lives and those who participated in different events throughout the history of the United States, this is far from discovering a celebrity (historic or otherwise) as is commonly defined these days. However, this is my family and they are historical figures for me as they are my direct connection to history.

John Hallman - Death Certificate - 1957
However, not only family lines have led me to historic events. In fact, I have recently been researching a line on my father’s side that is simply a common story of much of the families in this county. Starting with my great grandfather, John Lewis Hallman (1894-1957), I have traced back an additional four generations. While I have written about my great grandfather before, I hadn’t researched much beyond that generation especially on his mother’s side.

Margaret Hughes - Death Certificate - 1919
My second great grandmother, Isabella Pierce (1869-1901), was born in Delaware County, Pennsylvania to Caleb Pierce (1840-1912) and his Irish bride Margaret Hughes (1842-1919). While the family didn’t have much money they seemed to have enough as Caleb left a modest estate to his widow upon his death. What was particularly interesting about this generation is that I was completely unaware of the Irish roots on my father’s side until this discovery.

Caleb Pierce - Death Certificate - 1912
Caleb Pierce, my third great grandfather, on the other hand, was not as fortunate as his daughter. Growing up the son of a laborer, he aspired to step up a rung (a common thread throughout much of my family, and apprenticed to become a Blacksmith which provided for his family but almost certainly contributed to his early demise as well. However, it was his father, Noah Pierce, my fourth great grandfather, who seemed to not be able to catch a break.

Noah Pierce - Census - 1880
Noah Pierce (1805-1880) was raised with next to nothing to the point that he is listed with his siblings in the “Poor School Children Records” of Chester County as needing assistance to pay for basic school supplies (his father, my fifth great grandfather, Caleb Pierce is also listed). He spent his life as a laborer doing what he could to support his family. By the 1870 census he is listed as living with his son. By the 1880 census (where he is classified as “Defective, Dependent, or Delinquent”) he is listed among those residing at the Chester County Almshouse.

So, as you can see, this is not a lineage filled with heroes and people of note. This is my family, these are the people that worked hard and did what they could to support their family. Every generation trying to move forward a little bit at a time. And this is what genealogy is all about… it is our jobs as family historians, to remember our past no matter how fascinating or mundane it may seem to others. All of these ancestors make up who we are and each play a role in making us who we are. Sometimes we find stories of heroic actions while other times we find the facts about a family struggling to find a way to get by. The common thread is that each succeeded in bringing about the next generation and keeping the family tree alive. Without them, all of them, there wouldn’t be a family to research.