Thursday, April 21, 2011


When I started my family research I almost became a Name Collector.  Imagine the scenario… I’d never done any research, decided to use Family Search because it’s free, so off I went.  Of course, I hit some dead ends right away.  Then one line just kept linking back and back through the International Genealogical Index individual record.  At first I was excited—thinking the research has already been done--and eventually I decided to keeping following the links until they stopped.   I began seeing names that made me say, “WTH?” (Socrates, Tutankhamun, etc) and when I finally ended up at Adam and Eve, I thought, well that was fun, but maybe it’s time to consider other resources and learn a little more about how to verify or invalidate discoveries.  Through that process, I also realized I needed to set goals to provide structure to my efforts.  As some already know, I decided to research each generation back to the original US immigrant.  Although my plan is to stop there for now, I know I’ll need to cross the Atlantic at some point.

Today I’m posting about the Gortner line.  My great-grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth Gortner, was born in 1860 in Lycoming County. PA.  Lycoming County is awash with my ancestors and distant relatives. History of Lycoming County Pennsylvania by John Franklin Meginness has been very helpful and much of the information here comes from this book, along with information from the Lycoming County Genealogical Society website.  I’m confirming the information with documents as I find them.  The more research I do, the more intrigued I am by the opportunities in these regional concentrations of my ancestors.  The local historical societies are a tremendous help, whether online or through snail mail.  (see some here)  I was hoping to be able to tell you about which Gortner owned (and post a picture of) The Gortner House that was on the Muncy Historical Homes tour in 2006, but I haven't had a response yet.

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, Sarah and her future husband, Henry Klees, were neighbors.  Three Gortner generations back from Sarah was a Revolutionary War soldier and two Klees generations back from Henry was a Hessian soldier.  (Do you suppose that mattered to their families or was the common German heritage more important?) In the 1870 census, Sarah was living with her parents and by 1883 she was married and by 1892 they were living in Emporium, PA.  Oddly, I’ve yet to find Sarah or Henry in the 1880 census, but I haven’t had the motivation yet to do a page-by-page search in Lycoming County.

Sarah’s father, John B. Gortner, was born in 1828 in Lycoming County.  He and his wife, Mary Nunn, lived their entire lives in Lycoming County.  They had about 10 children.  One reason for my uncertainty is that the family, over generations, switched back and forth between use of first and middle names.  One child, their oldest, Horace, caught my attention in the 1880 census because he was 28 and described as “At Home”.  It seemed unusual that he was still with his parents and also without an occupation.  I verified my suspicion when I went to the 1870 census where Horace was listed as “Idiotic”.  Mary died in 1880 and John in 1899, so I curious about what happened to Horace.  In 1900 and 1910, he was still in Lycoming, but living with unrelated families, first as a servant and then as a farmhand.  I wonder if people in the general community just found ways to help him or if it was a time of struggle for him.

John’s father, Samuel, must have been quite the sensation in town—he lived to about 90 years old.  Imagine being alive for almost the entire 19th century, born in 1802, died 1892.  He and his wife lived in Muncy on a farm they settled on in 1836 and lived there until 1872 when he retired from his life as a farmer.  During John’s life in Muncy he served in various township postions.

John’s father, Philip Henry Gortner, was born in 1757 in Berks County, PA., later moving to Lycoming County. Philip was married to Maria Barbara Schneider and they had four children   He died in 1837 and is buried in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery, where his grave is marked with Revolutionary War marker.  I haven’t located any records of his role in the war, so I guess a research request might be in my future

While Philip’s military role is not confirmed, his father, George, is in the DAR database for his service in protecting Ft. Muncy and there is a real cache of information about George at a Lycoming County Genealogical Society website here.  Johann Georg Gortner was born in Germany in 1725.  George was naturalized in 1765 and, initially, lived in Berks County.  He married Eva Susanna Beier (Beyer) of Berks County.  They had nine children.   In 1773 he moved to Lycoming County, frontier then.  The Indians in the area sided with the British and, in 1778, the Gortners and other settlers had to move to the safety of Ft. Muncy.  On August 23, 1778, George Gortner was killed in an Indian ambush while in the company of Captain Merkle when they were checking the crops.  Around this time, the homes and forts in the area were abandoned under militia orders during The Big Runaway (also known as the Great Runaway).  Following the war, the Gortner family returned to Lycoming and, in 1791, the Immanuel Lutheran Church was built on their land.

Philip’s father, Peter, born in 1704 in Germany, immigrated with forty-nine Palatine Germans and their families to Pennsylvania on the Ship Hope in 1734. He was married to Maria Caterina and they had six children, all mentioned in his will.  They lived in Philadelphia County, in an area that is now Berks County.  Peter died in 1760.

My name may reflect Irish roots, but evidence of my German heritage keeps piling up.

No comments:

Post a Comment