Over the course of the summer of 2011, we traced the path of mom’s Ensminger ancestors across Pennsylvania from the original settlers’ farm in Lancaster County, to York County where the first generation of American Ensmingers were born, where two generations of Ensmingers fought in the American Revolution and two later generations fought in the Civil War, to Carlisle and finally back to Butler.
Let me assure you that when the everyday, average person shows up at the records department of the county courthouse, they are NOT met by the head of the history department of the local university, who has prepared a scroll documenting 17 generations of family members.
I believe there are many people today who come from the same place I did, not really knowing their family history and not sure where to start. I hope that the story of my mom’s search for her father’s family will serve as motivation for others to begin their own research.
Ancestry.com is a great resource for finding copies of Federal Census records, and for other similar records. But the site offers much more — access to millions of other Ancestry members and their research. As I’ve learned over the past two years, many of those members are extremely generous in sharing their knowledge and advice to others. And as it turns out, some of them are long-lost relatives.
It’s sad to think that, 100 years from now, our descendants won’t experience the thrill of reading a letter or postcard from the early 21st Century.
My great great grandfather came to America around 1870 with little more than the clothes on his back, a trade and a desire to succeed, and managed to build what was, by all accounts, a very successful business.
When mom and I began researching her family tree, she believed that the Ensminger name was an uncommon one, and that most of her relatives arrived in the U.S. from Alsace via Ellis Island. We quickly learned that her branch of the family could be traced back to 16th Century Alsace, and that her first Ensminger ancestor to arrive in the U.S., Peter Ensminger, landed in Philadelphia in 1733. So, no Ellis Island. Oh, and mom’s maiden name is not as uncommon as she thought.