Thursday, December 12, 2019

Christmas 2019

Starting right around Thanksgiving every year we start getting the first Christmas cards from some of our family and friends. That’s a signal to me that it’s time to start writing our annual Christmas letter. The last three years I done so between the 12th and 14th of December, so I’m right on schedule this year (it’s the 12th as I’m writing this).

Chris came home on schedule from Kuwait at the beginning of the year. But we still had our annual family vacation at Pinebrook without him as he volunteered to serve at the Boy Scout World Jamboree in West Virginia this past summer. Since the World Jamboree is only held every four years and moves to a new country each time, this was only the second time it was held in the US, the last one being in 1967. So being able to participate is literally a once-in-a-lifetime event. In 2020 we finally hope to have the whole family together again.

We also had a repeat of last year with having one of our grandchildren from Florida stay with us for a month. This time it was Tiernan who spent the month of May here in PA. Donna flew down to FL at the beginning of the end of April for a few days, then accompanied him on the flight here. I flew back to FL with him at the end of the month.

Before Chris left for Kuwait his employer had changed to a 9-hour day work schedule with every other Friday off. Chris liked that arrangement and so upon his return asked to move to only a 32-hour week with every Friday off. His pay is reduced accordingly, but his benefits, being all through the military, are not impacted. Family is more important to him than the higher income, so he has his priorities in the right order.

On the PA front, our youngest grandson, Asher, turned five this summer and so is now in Kindergarten. This means that he takes the bus with his older brothers and Donna and I have our days “free” for the first time. When the both of us “retired” from our paying jobs, we first got involved in elder care as she was in Michigan taking care of her mother, then after she passed away we almost immediately got involved in childcare. While we still have to get the boys off to school in the morning and pick them up at the bus stop in the afternoon, we can now go to things like our monthly Thursday Fellowship (seniors group) at church.

But life still hasn’t slowed down!

Health Update
We’ve avoided any further medical emergencies this year. But the aches and pains of getting older continue. Donna got hearing aids for both ears a few years ago, but even with them she has trouble hearing – especially in crowds. And when she doesn’t “have her ears in”, like first thing in the morning or when one of the batteries dies, I have to talk clearly and distinctly as especially the initial sounds of words are the most difficult to distinguish.

Earlier this year I decided to volunteer for an Alzheimer’s study. I’ve written about that just a few weeks ago, so you can read about it here -

In August, our long-time cat, Cookie, apparently fell off the roof when chasing a bat and ruptured her bladder. After an x-ray and other diagnostics, we had to have her put to sleep. This was the first loss of a pet that affected me – most of our prior pets were really Donna’s, but Cookie had been my companion during the long months when I spent my days with my foot up as it was healing last year. We were able to hold her while the vet administered the drug to end her life.

After a few weeks of grieving, Donna convinced me to get a replacement for Cookie. I was reluctant at first, but we ended up adopting a cat who the animal sanctuary did not think was going to adjust to a new home. For the first 24 hours after we let Penguin out of the carrier we thought about using the name Phantom instead as she holed up behind the sofa. But with love and attention, she is now well adjusted and often sleeps on the bed with us at night.

Meanwhile, we also added a young kitten to Kim’s household – Sweet Pea. She is a great companion for Mocha and the two of them often tussle on the floor or chase each other around the house.

Future Planning
We’ve realized for a while that eventually our housing situation will need to change. Taking care of this large house is too much work for two aging individuals like ourselves. One possibility is for us to do a garage conversion in Kim’s house across the lane and convert it into an apartment. But there is very little storage in that small house which has to hold four growing boys. So we just added a large shed outside that we can use for storage – a picture of it is below, they just completed it today. It’s 24’x32’ with a 2nd floor and gambrel roof. Part of the upstairs will be a play area for the boys and part of the downstairs will be for bicycles and yard equipment which is currently in an old small shed that is in need of replacement. So, as we begin to empty out our current house, we can put the things that we want to keep in the new shed – alas more work for me in putting up shelving and carrying things! But I still have the strength to do that type of thing as long as I don’t spend too much time on my feet and re-aggravate my foot again.

Life goes on and we get older. But God never changes. So, in this Christmas season we hope that you may have a relationship with Him like we have. Then we can all be together for eternity!

Alan & Donna

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Giving Back – Medical Studies


Like many people, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had more medical issues to deal with. In May 2017 I had my first instance of sepsis (blood infection). The source of this was never totally determined, but at the time I was being treated for a hole in the bottom of my right foot because of a large callus that had broken off that was over some arthritic growth behind my big toe. But I had also had several polyps removed during my first colonoscopy.

Then in January of 2018 I developed an infection under the graft that I’d had for my foot problem and ended up with my second bout of sepsis. This time I recognized the symptoms early on and so again called the ambulance for a ride to the ER where they opened up the infection and drained it (ouch!). Another several days in the ICU on multiple antibiotics then a few more days in critical care until the infection was under control.

C-diff Study

While still in the hospital, I was contacted to see if I was interested in participating in a study group for a new vaccine for C-diff. I qualified for this study because of my hospitalization and the multi-week IV therapy that I needed to have after my release. After a little bit of consideration and doing some initial study on C-diff, I made the decision to get involved.

For those unfamiliar with C-diff, it is most commonly contracted in a hospital setting and results in severe diarrhea. Until now there has been no way to prevent it, but a new vaccine looks to have good success.

Here is more information on C-diff if you are interested - And here is a technical description of the study -

It’s now been approaching two years since I began my participation. Once a week I pull out my “electronic diary” (a low-cost cell phone with a specialized app on it) and check-in. If I have any diarrhea (3 times within 24 hours), then I can also use that device to log it, collect a stool sample, and ask them to come pick it up (I have not had any thus far). The trial is scheduled to complete in September 2020. I’m hoping that then I can find out if I received the actual vaccine or the placebo and what the results of the study have been.

Alzheimer’s Study

Because of both the dementia in my own family (my father), and in my sister’s family (her mother-in-law), I’ve been supporting the Alzheimer’s Association ( with contributions for several years. Earlier this year, I received a notification for something called GeneMatch where you could submit your DNA (a cheek swab) and see if you were eligible for any of the various research trials related to Alzheimer’s prevention (see I figured, why not, and signed up for it. I received the cheek-swab kit and submitted it.

The first trial I qualified for was called Reveal-Scan (see Participants in this study had a PET scan of their brain and required five visits to the University of Pennsylvania over a seven-month period. Half of the participants were given the results of the scan at the beginning of the study and half were not (they would receive the results at the end of the study). The study was looking at the impact on people finding out of they had the markers for potential Alzheimer’s. I took a trip to Philadelphia where I underwent an evaluation. Unfortunately, they already had enough participants who had similar demographics to me and so I was rejected. But they also asked if I was willing to be considered for other studies and I replied in the affirmative.

A few weeks later I was contacted regarding another study known as the ABC study – short for Aging Brain Cohort (see for more details). This study is a longitudinal study that examines participants over many years to assess the affect of aging on their mental abilities. But it also asks all participants to have an MRI and either a PET scan or a Lumbar Puncture (spinal tap). Finally, it asks participants to consider donating their brain upon their passing. Because of all these components, my wife was a bit hesitant to let me participate, but I decided to go ahead and, with her permission, I enrolled.

At the end of October, I took another trip down to UPenn for my first annual evaluation visit. This was a multi-phase visit that included my initial check-in, a blood sample, and an intense mental exam. At the end of the testing, I was mentally exhausted from the long testing battery. The point is not to get “right” or “wrong” answers, but by retaking the same test on an annual basis they are looking at changes in your results over time. But now I know what to expect each year.

In November, I agreed to undergo the lumbar puncture. Since your CSF (Cerebral-Spinal Fluid) is in contact with the brain, they can examine it for various proteins which give an indication of what is going on with the brain chemistry. Since it is only by doing a post-death evaluation of the brain that Alzheimer's can be positively identified, being able to do studies of living individuals is a valuable part of the process of understanding the various stages of pre-dementia.

I drove down to UPenn (in early morning rush hour - the worst part of the experience) for my appointment. Stripped to the waist and in a sitting position leaning over a table (to open up the spaces between the lumbar portion of the spine), they identify the space between the L3 and L4 bones, sterilize the area, give a small injection of lidocaine to numb the area, then insert a long needle into the space in the middle of the spine (see picture). This is below the level of the spinal cord (so there is no risk of damage to it), but they still have to avoid the nerves in that part of the back.

The needle is hollow and thus drips out a small amount of the CSF which they collect in a small vial. Once they have the desired amount, they withdraw the needle and just cover with a bandaid.
You have to remain quite still and hunched over during the procedure, but it was only 10-15 minutes and they were done.

There were no after effects except a "low pressure" headache. But (as I learned for the first time today), the brain totally replaces all the CSF multiple times a day, so that goes away before too much time has passed. Only post-op instructions are to lay horizontal if possible and to drink caffeine as that helps the body to close up the hole (never knew that before either). I was needing some anyway as, like most surgical procedures, I had only water after midnight.

I still have to have an MRI scheduled some time this year as well as the annual mental exams. And I am still evaluating the potential of donating my brain to science (answer is probably yes, but it’s not something that I am taking lightly).


I'm glad to be able to participate in a studies like this that will help the medical community – both with the development of a vaccine that can eliminate untold suffering from C-diff and with learning how to identify dementia/Alzheimer's as early as possible and by doing so to be able to treat it before there is any significant impact on people's lives. And while taking experimental vaccines or getting a long needle stuck in my back is not something that was particularly appealing, everything has been pretty uneventful. If you have the opportunity to participate in a medical study of any kind, I recommend that you do so. You may not benefit yourself, but others will.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Being a Disciple

In church this past Sunday, as part of our continuing sermon series on the book of Acts, the message was on Acts 18:24-28 about Apollos, a Jew who was speaking about Jesus and how Priscilla and Aquilla took him aside to disciple him so that he could explain “the way of God more adequately.” This is recorded in Acts as follows:

Acts 18:24-28 (NIV) Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He has been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquilla heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.

A later reference to Apollos in the book of 1 Corinthians shows how the apostle Paul refers to Apollos in their shared work of spreading the good news:

1 Cor. 3:6-9 (NIV) I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

At the close of the sermon, we were challenged by noting that each Christian should be involved in discipleship – either by discipling others or being discipled ourselves. We had earlier been asked if we knew the Bible well enough that we could defend our position if we were challenged by someone.

These brought to mind a situation that I found myself in nearly 20 years ago that I thought worthwhile to relate.

When I was working for Air Products, the IT department, of which I was a part, was a pretty large department. There were quite often new people coming on board – either as permanent hires or as contractors. One fellow who worked down the hall from me, Dan, I had actually provided a reference for as he was the son of a man whom I sang with in a quartet at church. I didn’t interact with him a lot as he was in a different part of the department, but I would see him in passing on a regular basis.

That year we had brought in a few new contractors and one of them was a young man from India. I had been introduced to him and knew what he would be working on, but otherwise I didn’t have a lot of interactions with him. But then one Sunday I saw him in church – he had been invited by my co-worker, Dan. In going to talk to him after the service, I found that he had come from a Christian family in India. Dan had discovered this and invited him to our church. He began coming on a regular basis and I began to get to know him better at work as well because of our shared experiences.

A few weeks later he approached me at work and asked if we could have lunch together some day as he had some questions for me. Since I had a lot of experience with the company, I was often called upon to give some perspective to IT-related issues that came up, so it did not surprise me that he wanted to talk to me. We set a date for later in the week.

When the date arrived, we met down at the entrance to the cafeteria, got our food, and went to a table toward the back of the cafeteria where we could discuss uninterrupted. We each got started eating, then I asked him what his questions were about. Since we only had a half-hour for lunch, there was about 20 minutes left for discussion. He got right to the point – but it was not an IT-related question!

His question was, “Can you explain the trinity to me?”

I’m not sure if the shock showed on my face, but my mind was racing for the next several seconds. Evidently, although he had been raised in a Christian family in India, he did not have a good understanding of some of the concepts of Christianity. But this topic had evidently been mentioned during the sermons over the past few weeks. And since he knew by this time that I was an elder at our church, he saw me as a good person to help educate him.

Since he had asked to meet with me during an encounter at work and we were meeting in the cafeteria there, I had presumed that it was a work-related question. So, I was totally unprepared for this sort of topic.

When Paul is giving advice to Timothy, he says (2 Tim. 4:2, NIV), “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” Well, this was definitely one of those “out of season” moments! But as a church elder, I knew this verse and so I quickly shifted my expectations of our meeting and began to respond and to instruct.

In the intervening years I have watched this young man grow and mature. The following year he made a trip back to India where he got married (an arranged marriage as is their custom). He and his wife are now the parents to three lovely children. He has moved and now attends another church, he has changed jobs a couple of times, and we now only see each other via social media. But I still have a fondness for he and his family and am happy that as Paul noted, I was one of the people who helped to “water” him in his Christian experience.

The below picture is from a few years ago, but you can see the joy on the faces of this wonderful family!

I’ve been a Christian for several decades, and I was an elder in our church for 32 years before I retired from active eldership. I am still being discipled by others and continuing to learn. And when I’m not being discipled, then I need to remain vigilant for opportunities to disciple others – even when it’s a question “out of the blue” that I was not expecting.

Many years ago, a dear friend, who is no longer with us, gave a challenge that we each need to adopt a personal mission statement. Mine is, “to use the gifts and talents that God has given me in ways that are pleasing to Him.” I take this mission statement very seriously and it guides my life.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Making Shoes

Knowing a bit of math has always given me a leg up in my career. In the summer of 1968 I had just finished my second undergraduate year (I don't say sophomore, because I graduated in three years). I was able to get an internship in the MIS department of Uniroyal through a friend of my parents. The first day they gave me the IBM Programming Aptitude Test (the standard of the time) that was kind of like the math part of an SAT. I blew them away with the speed and accuracy with which I completed it. Then I had an interview with the department manager. He had originally hired me to help convert a bunch of old Autocoder programs to RPG, but realized that my skills were way beyond that. He had a problem to solve that he felt that he would have to do himself because he didn't have anyone on his staff who could handle it (he had a master's degree in math). So, he outlined it for me and that became my project for the next several weeks (*2).

Project Background

This was for the footwear division of Uniroyal - the former US Rubber - and they made US Keds and Redball Jets among a lot of other footwear. Footwear is constructed by starting with what's known as a "last" - a foot-shaped piece of material that the shoe is constructed around (see *1 for more details). Because these were sports shoes, the lasts were primarily aluminum. There are different types of lasts for different types of shoes.

Lasts also come in different sizes. But these sizes don’t match the shoe size. In the US there are ranges of sizes for men, for women, and for children. But a men’s size 6 is made on the same last as a woman’s size 8, etc. So, these different ranges must be converted to a common “last size”.

Finally, shoe production must be scheduled in full cases, not in pairs. For smaller shoes, there are generally twelve pairs to a case, but for larger shoes, there are only six pairs in a case.

The Production Problem

For each week in the shoe factory, we start with the “wish list” of the sales department, i.e. how many pairs of shoes in each style and size they believe they can sell for the coming week, e.g. 30 pair of style 123, women’s size 9. We also know that we have so many pair of lasts of type AB in each size. (Oh, and we have to take account of the fact that some shoes can be made fairly quickly so we would be able to use the same last more than once in that week.) The question then become, do we have enough of that type of last to make all the shoes that the sales department would like?

The “Shape” of the Program

To solve this problem, we need a couple of matrices. Envision the primary one as a large square matrix (N by M) where the rows are the different styles and the columns are the different sizes (of the lasts). Then there is a smaller (N by 1) matrix containing the various styles and another smaller (1 by M) matrix containing the available last inventory.

We are going to process one type of last at a time. We first load in (from mag tape at the time), the last inventory and populate the 1xM matrix. Then we read (from a second tape), all the sales department desires, put the particular style and attributes (Men/Woman/Child) in the Nx1 matrix and the desired production in the NxM matrix (after doing all the conversion from shoe size to last size).

Now for the hard part. Going one column at a time, we add up the sales desired for the column and compare it to the available last inventory for the column. If we have enough, then great, we’re done for that column. But let’s say that we only have enough lasts to cover X% of the sales desires. We spread the last inventory over the desires, giving X% to each desire. Then we take each result and “round down” to case amounts, so if the desire for a particular style/size was 180 (of a size that we can get 12 pairs in a case) and we only have allocated enough lasts to make 153, then we round down the 153 to 144 (a multiple of 12). After going through all the desires in a column, then the residual (9 in our example cell) from all the rows is unused lasts. We take all the unused lasts, and go through the process again, seeing if we can, in the fairest way possible, manage to make any of the cells up to the next case-lot. After possible multiple passes of spreading and rounding down to case lots, if we cannot fill any more cases, then we advance to the next last size and repeat for each column. (Don’t worry if you don’t understand all the nuances of the above, that’s why it took someone with an understanding of math to write this program).

Once we’re done with all the iterations of the above, we spit out the answers in the form of revised production for each style/size.

Consequences of 1960’s Technology

This program ran on an IBM360 model 40 with 128K of memory. There were limitations on input, memory, and CPU speed. While we had disk drives, they were only available for things like the customer master (in indexed file) and not for other uses. The memory partitions were limited to 82K for the main partition plus a couple of small foreground partitions as well as space for the operating system. We were only allowed 4 tapes drives per partition.

Thus, the coding had to be as concise as possible and there were limits on the size of the matrices as well. We also used 3 tape drives – one for last inventory, one for sales desires, and one for the production results. The latter would be printed in the form of production schedules by a later program.

But because there were so many calculations take place as the program worked through each column of the matrix in order, spreading inventory, rounding down to case lots, re-spreading leftover inventory, etc. the program would use a lot of CPU time and put out the “wait light” on the CPU. Most programs of the time were I/O bound as they were usually waiting for the tape drives. But this one would read a bunch of stuff from the two input tapes, by compute-bound while it did all the calculations, then would write a bunch of stuff on the one output tape. The operator instructions were generally, if the wait light on the CPU goes out that means that the program has gone into a loop and is not working, so they needed to cancel it. This was the only program in the entire installation of its kind and I had to write instruction on it, “this program puts out the wait light, do NOT cancel it!”

The Results

As these were the days of punched cards for programming, everything had to be written on coding sheets and submitted to the keypunch department – with a wait time depending on how big your program was. Getting changes made required the same process, so one was constantly waiting on others. Program compiles and tests were overnight submissions since daytime was reserved for production runs. So, things took a lot longer than they do now.

As a result, it took several weeks to write and test the above program. In between I did things like write the print routine for the production schedule, made some other minor changes to other programs, and even debugged a few of those pesky Autocoder programs that I had been hired for in the first place. My boss was happy with my work.

I was hired for a second summer the following year – writing a funding model for the corporation’s international division. And when I finished grad school, even though it was the middle of a recession in 1971, I was hired full-time. After a little over a year, the MIS director took early retirement and went to work as VP of Finance for Olin-Winchester. He then called me and asked me to join him there. But that’s another story (*3).


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Christman Lineage and Property

The grandsons that my wife and I provide childcare for are named Ethan, Isaiah, Caleb, and Asher. Their surname is Christman and they are related to most of those with that last name here in the Lehigh Valley. Tracing the name back through the last 300 years is as follows:

Matthew (1979-)
James W (1949-)
James Paul (1925-2014)
Paul D (1902-1969)
Edward Solomon Tilden (1876-1955)
Daniel (1839-1907)
Daniel (1811-1856)
John Henry (1777-1854)
Philip (1755-1825)
Jacob (1711-1761) aka Johann Jacob

Jacob was a native of Wurtemburg, Germany. His parents had come to Philadelphia in 1733 and were living in Skippack. Jacob arrived in the Port of Philadelphia on the ship named the Princess Augusta on September 16, 1736 at the age of 25. The Master of this ship, Samuel Merchant has him listed as Jacob Christman. Only the male names are listed and the Master's report states that the number of "Palatines with their Families", "in all 330". Jacob appeared at the Court House in Philadelphia, where he took the Oaths required of Immigrants. Then on all documents he wrote his name Jacob Christman.

He settled in Upper Milford Township, (in what was then Northampton County but known today as Lehigh County), near what later became known as Sigmund's Furnace close to the Berks County line. (See *4 for the history of Sigmund’s Furnace. It was not actually called that until the early 1800s.) He married, probably after his arrival, Eva Margaret whose maiden name is unknown. He purchased a 150-acre piece of property which he farmed (see deed below) and his eldest son George took over the farming when he died out in the field. The account of his death reads, “The horse coming to a gutter refused to cross, when, standing on the loading wagon, he urged him with a Hay-Fork which he held in his hand. This caused the horse to take a sudden spring forward, and he was thrown from the wagon upon the fork, one of the prongs of which pierced his heart, resulting in is almost instant death.”

Jacob was a deacon of Zionsville Reformed congregation in 1757.

As an interesting historical side-note, Jacob’s widow Eva soon after Jacob’s untimely death married Francis Wesco (The Huguenot) in 1762 and moved a short distance north of the borough of Macungie. Francis and Eva’s first child, Philip Henry Wesco was born in 1763. As noted in (*1), Philip bought a hotel in 1828, deeded it to his son Israel in 1837 when he retired at the age of 64, and the village of Wescosville, PA was named after Israel when he was named the postmaster of that area in 1844. This hotel was on the NW corner of what is now Brookside Road and Route 222 and later became Widow Brown’s restaurant and now Hunan Springs restaurant.

The Christman family had many sons, grandsons, etc. and they spread throughout Lehigh County in the years following. An 1876 map of Lehigh County shows three Christman families living in Upper Milford Township and at least one living in Macungie (*2).

Following is the text of the deed of Jacob Christman’s homestead from (*3). Note that this property was originally deeded by the sons of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, in 1735. Jacob purchased these 150 acres in 1754. The measurements for this large rectangle are given in perches as 120x212 perches, an old form of measurement which equates to roughly 2000x3500 feet. This rectangle spans what is now the Berks and Lehigh border in the area along the Perkiomen Creek near Victory Valley Camp. The large stone home just up Beryl Road from the camp was built by the Christman family in 1850  and this property occupies 25 of those 150 acres.


Thomas Penn and Richard Penn Esquires true and absolute proprietaries and Governors in Chief of the province of Pennsylvania and Counties of Newcastle Kent and Sussex on Delaware. To all unto whom the presents shall come Greetings.

Where as by virtue of a warrant under the Lesser Seal of the said province bearing date the fourth day of February One Thousand Seven Hundred and Thirty Five there was surveyed unto John Dater (alias Tecter) A Certain Tract of Land situate in Hereford Township formerly in the County of Philadelphia now in the County of Berks and the residue there of situate in Upper Milford Township formerly in the County of Bucks now in the County of Northampton bounded and described as follows vit. Beginning at a marked Black Oak Sapling thence by Land of John Tecter Jun. and vacant Land North West two hundred and twelve perches to a stone, thence by vacant Land South West One hundred and twenty perches to a stone in a line of George Sailor's Land, thence by the same vacant land South East two hundred and twelve perches to a post in line of John Westkays Land thence by the same North East One Hundred and twenty perches to the place of beginning, Containing one hundred and fifty Acres of Land and the usual allowance of six Acres. $, Cents for roads and Highways. As in and by the Survey thereof remaining in our Surveyor General Office and from thence certified into the Secretary's Office may appear.

And Whereas the said John Dater by a certain agreement in writing bearing date the eighth day of April one thousand seven hundred and fifty-four did for the consideration therein mentioned sell alien and confirm the said described Tract of Land and premises unto Jacob Christman of Upper Milford Township aforesaid, Yeoman in Fee.

Now at the one instance and request of the said Jacob Christman that we would be pleased to grant him a Confirmation of the same Know Ye that in consideration of the sum of twenty three pounds five shillings lawful money of Pennsylvania to our use paid by the said Jacob Christman the receipt whereof we hereby acknowledge and thereof grant and forever discharge the said Jacob Christman his Heirs and assigns by these and of the yearly Quit writ hereinafter mentioned and reserved. We have given, granted, released, and confirmed, and by these presents for us our Heirs and Successors, Do give grant release and confirm unto the said Jacob Christman his Heirs and Assigns the said one hundred and fifty Acres of Land at the same are now set-forth-bounded and limited as aforesaid with all Mines, Minerals, Quarries, Meadows, Marshes, Savannah's, Swamps, Cripples, Woods, Underwoods, Timber and Trees, Ways, Waters, Water Courses, Liberties, profits Commodities Advantages Hereditament and Appurtenances whatsoever thereunto belonging or in any wise appertaining and lying with the Bounds and Limits aforesaid Three Till and clear fifth parts of all Royal Mines free from all Deductions and Reprisals for digging and refining the same. And also one fifth part of the Ore of all other mines delivered at the Pittsmouth only excepted and hereby reserved and also free Leave Right and Liberty to and for the said Jacob Christman his Heirs and Assigns to hawk, hunt, fish and foul in and upon the hereby granted Land and premises or upon any part thereof To have and to hold the said One Hundred fifty Acres of Land apremises hereby granted (except as before excepted) with their Appurtenances unto the said Jacob Christman his Heirs and Assigns to the only use and behoove of the said Jacob Christman his Heirs and Assigns forever to beHolden of us our Heirs and Successors, Proprietors of Pennsylvania as also of our Manor of Fermor or in the County of Northampton aforesaid in free and common So cage by Fealty only in lie of all other Service Yielding and Paying therefor Yearly unto us our Heirs and Successors at the town of Easton in the said county at or upon the first day of March in every year from the first day of March last. One halfpenny Sterling Farthing for every Acre of same Value thereof in coin and Current according as the exchange shall then be between oursprovince, and the City of London to such person or persons as shall from time to time be appointed to receive the same. And in cases of Nonpayment thereof within ninety days next after the same shall become due that then it shall and may be lawful for us our Heirs and Successors and their Receiver or Receivers into and upon the hereby granted Land and premises to Re-enter and the same to hold and possess until the said Quite Rent and all arrears thereof together with the charges accruing by means of Nonpayment's and Re-entry be fully paid and discharge Witness James Hamilton Esquire Lieutenant Governor of the Province who by Virtue of certain powers and authorities to him for the purpose ( ) granted by the said proprietaries hath hereunto set his hand and used the Great Seal of said province to be here unto Affixed at Philadelphia this ninth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred sixty the Thirty fourth Year of the reign of King George the second over Great Britain, V and the Forty third year of the said Proprietaries Government.
James Hamilton
Recorded in the Office for recording of
Deeds for the city and County of
Philadelphia in the Book A. A. Vol. & Page
125 - the 18th day of December 1760


Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Cousin Bonanza

Recently I became aware that there was a new person, Joy, attending our church. I encountered her for the first time when she had been speaking to one of our grandsons during children’s church and I was told that she was a recently retired woman who had been a missionary to China and Thailand. That was intriguing to me as I’ve been to both of those countries several times. That same Sunday someone mentioned to me that they had parked next to a vehicle in the parking lot where the rear gate was ajar and had closed it and that the vehicle had Vermont license plates. I wondered if the vehicle and the lady went together.

A few days later I decided to do some investigation to see if I was correct. I first tried to see if she had a Facebook account and quickly found her. It confirmed that she was from Vermont, that she had been in China the past several years and that she had Facebook friends there as well as in Thailand. It also listed the town she was from in Vermont.

Because of the “Bethel Web” project that I have been working on (*1), I thought that I would do a quick genealogy check on her to see if she was connected. Since I have long roots in New England (especially Connecticut and Massachusetts), I wondered if she was a distant cousin of mine.

My first stop, which I rely on when investigating living individuals, was to see if I could find an online obituary with her name in it that would give the names of any of her ancestors. I fairly quickly found a recent obituary for her aunt (her father’s sister). It gave the names of Joy’s father’s parents and also indicated that Joy’s father was deceased. This is the break I look for, as a person’s grandparents were usually born before 1940 and so could be found in census records.

But I was also fortunate in that Vermont is one of the few states that has marriage and divorce records available online. With the full name of Joy’s father, I was then able to get the name of her mother as well. But I was really enthralled (is that too strong a word for what we genealogists feel?) when I found that her mother’s maiden name was Blakeslee. That is a surname that occurs in my own family line several times and has ties back to the original Blakeslee who came to New Haven, CT. I was very motivated to continue my search!

After a few hours with my fingers dancing across the keyboard, following genealogical hints, looking for consistencies in dates and places, I had a reasonable outline of Joy’s family tree. The first match to my own was of course up the Blakeslee path, but since that line went back to Connecticut by the early 1800’s, I had nearly 200 years of Joy’s ancestors living in the same place, New Haven, as mine and I was soon finding connections on many different branches of her rapidly developing family tree. After finding about a half-dozen common ancestors, I decided that I had to meet this new cousin and share our connections.

I sent her a friend request via Facebook and shared that I wanted to meet her. Her response was “Interesting that we might be related. I don’t encounter cousins very often.” When I asked about the Blakeslee line she then replied, “I’d love to learn more about the Blakeslee line. My Grandfather Blakeslee broke ties with most of his family, and I never heard about even his immediate family.” Then she further shared, “For Christmas this year, I’m planning to give my nieces and nephews gifts from my grandparents, including info and copies of photos. I have nothing to share about G. Blakeslee’s family. Perhaps your help is just what I need. You are a godsend!”

That was just the motivation I needed to continue my research into her family tree and to concentrate on completing as much of her Blakeslee line as possible. The following Sunday, I introduced myself to her in church and we set up a time for my wife and I to meet her for dinner later that week. In the meantime, I spent several more hours researching as many of her family lines as I could so that I could show her the rich family information about her ancestors and all her connections to me. I prepared a printout of her Blakeslee family line going back to the 1600s which we gave to her that evening and which I also emailed to her so she could share with other family members.

Thus far, I have documented the following common ancestors in Joy’s family tree and mine (I’m listing only the men here, but their wives are obviously also common ancestors):

·       Francis Russell (1558-1613) this one is actually on her father’s side
·       Joseph Loomis (1590-1658) also on her father’s side
·       John Blakeslee (1651-1712)
·       William Chatterton (1640-1700)
·       Thomas Curtis (1648-1736)
·       William Tuttle (1607-1673)
·       Matthew Gilbert (1619-1680)
·       Joseph Dorman (1669-1712)
·       William Wooding (1625-1684)
·       Daniel Sperry (1665-1750)
·       William Wilmoth (1624-1687)
·       Joseph Ives (1674-1755)
·       John Roote (1608-1684)
·       Richard Vore (1600-1683)
·       Thomas Sherwood (1586-1655) two ways
·       John Welton (1633-1726)
·       John Carrington (1640-1690)
·       Thomas Dibble (1613-1700) four ways
·       Dennis Crampton (1636-1689)
·       William Buell (1605-1681) three ways
·       John Hull (1640-1711)
·       Nathaniel Merrill (1601-1653)

That’s over two dozen ways in which we are connected, mostly at the 8th/9th/10th cousin levels. And there are probably others that I’ve yet to discover as I complete some of the other branches of Joy’s family tree. I’ve never encountered a similar situation in which I share so many common ancestors with someone!

At our dinner meeting with Joy she shared that when she made the decision to retire to the Lehigh Valley she did not believe that she knew anyone in this area. But fate brought her here and even led her to our church where she had the chance encounter with this crazy genealogist who happened to be working on a project to connect the individuals in the church to each other and who was intrigued by the Vermont license plates.  She will now have a lot to share with all her relatives back in Vermont about the part of the family that they knew nothing about and which they now have more thoroughly documented than they ever dreamed of.

Not only do I get to exercise my genealogical investigation skills, but I now have a new cousin who I get to see each week at church. And Joy now has a connection in the area and will no longer feel so isolated from any relatives.


Thursday, October 3, 2019

How I Met Your Mother

I this blog I’d like to examine the circumstances behind how the various couple in my family tree met. I’ll start by looking at my four sets of great-grandparents, then my two sets of grandparents, then my parents, and finishing up with describing how I met my own wife.


Louis Russell and Anna (Annie) Merchant – Louis was the oldest child of Walter Russell and Lois Ann Cook. The family lived in Kent, CT, a small town in NE Connecticut. When he was 11 his mother passed away. His father remarried a few years later, to a woman by the name of Cornelia Sutphin. The family moved to the nearest major population center, New Milford, CT, but even New Milford had a population of less than 5000 people.

Annie had been born in Dutchess County, NY (right across the border from the part of CT where Louis lived) to immigrant parents. By the 1890s it appears that the family may have moved across the border into CT as that is where Anna’s older siblings had married and settled.

Louis and Annie met in New Milford. They were the same age, and were both “newbies” in that small town, having lived elsewhere during their growing up years. But with so many things in common, they would have had a natural affinity to each other They were married in New Milford in 1892 when they were not yet 21. They settled initially in Sherman, CT, a small town just a few miles to the west along the CT/NY border, then later moved to Cornwall, CT, about 20 miles upriver from New Milford, and eventually back to New Milford.

Maurice Levy and Caroline Northrop – Like Louis and Annie, Maurice and Caroline had much in common. Maurice had been born in Brooklyn, NY to immigrant Jewish parents, but the family had moved to New Milford, CT when he was only a few months old. Caroline had been born in Lee, MA, but her family also moved to New Milford when she was only age 2. In 1880, Maurice and Caroline were only a few pages apart in the census records, so they would have been school mates during their growing up years, although he was two years older than she. They married in New Milford in 1893, when he was 23 and she was 21. They moved back to Brooklyn shortly thereafter.

Wilson Pierpont and Annie Merrill – Wilson and Annie were both from families who had been in Waterbury, CT for several generations. Both families lived in the east end of Waterbury, and were fairly close to Wolcott where they each had family connections. However, they were not neighbors like my other great-grandparents, and since Wilson’s father was a farmer and Annie’s father was a printer, they would not have had business dealings with each other. However, it’s possible that both families attended the same church. I am not able to state with any certainty how Wilson and Annie met each other.

Clarence Blackman and Alice Talmadge – The Blackman and Talmadge families were both large families from the same section of the town of Prospect, CT. Clarence’s father was the local blacksmith and would have given services to Alice’s father who was a farmer. Being only seven months apart in age and attending the same small school in Prospect, Clarence and Alice would have also known each other in that environment. So, a link between the two would be quite natural. I am fortunate enough to have a picture of a joint Blackman/Talmadge family reunion taken about 20 years after their marriage.


Erskine Russell and Vera Levy – Like their parents, Erskine and Vera had much in common. Erskine’s parents had married in New Milford, but he was born in Sherman, then later the family had moved to Cornwall. The family moved back to New Milford when Erskine was about 7, but following the birth of his youngest sister, his mother died. For a while the younger 3 siblings were sent to live with relatives in New Milford. His father remarried and the youngest daughter came back to live with the family. But Erskine’s youngest brother had also passed away in the meantime and his second youngest brother chose to remain living with relatives.

Vera’s parents had also been married in New Milford, but they had moved to Brooklyn, NY where she and her sister were born. Vera’s father passed away in 1910 when Vera was young teenager and her mother moved the family back to New Milford almost immediately.

Thus, both Erskine and Vera found themselves in the 1910s in New Milford – Erskine living with a father, step-mother, and three of his younger siblings, and Vera living with her mother and younger sister. They married in 1914, both of them being but age 19, apparently in an attempt to “escape” their family life. They moved to Bridgeport, CT. But with the stresses in their respective backgrounds and improper motives for getting married the marriage did not go well. They had two children, then separated, got back together for a short time, then divorced and each married someone older (in Erskine’s case, 10 years older, in Vera’s case, 30 years older). They were apparently each looking for the mother/father figure that they had lost when one of their parents had died.

Harold Pierpont and Sara Blackman – Harold and Sara both grew up in Prospect, CT – he with foster parents with whom he had been placed when his mother died only a few days after he was born, and she with her parents. They were only two months apart in age and both attended the same small school in Prospect for their education. They married just three weeks after Harold turned 21.


Vernon Russell and Sylvia Pierpont – My father had been born in Bridgeport, CT, but the family moved several times during his growing up years – to Waterbury, back to Bridgeport, to Danbury, then to New Milford. Then during 11th grade, he left home and went to live with his grandparents in Waterbury. There he finally established some “roots” and made a number of good friends. Just around the corner was the Hill family with his best friend Harold and Harold’s older brother, Bob, who married Vernon’s older sister. A block in the other direction was Mill Plain Church where he made friends with the Pierpont family, especially the oldest son, Clarence (Zeke). Vernon, Harold, Bob, and Zeke, all graduated from high school and worked at one of the brass factories in Waterbury. During WWII, all of them also served their country.

My mother was the younger sister of Zeke, and with four years difference in their ages, did not have a relationship with the older boys. She had also gone to hairdressing school in Hartford after graduation from high school and so had been absent from the social scene in Waterbury. But when WWII began, she returned to her home in Waterbury and rejoined the young people’s group at church. At the time she was dating someone else.

Those in the young people’s group who were not serving in the war began writing letters to those who were serving. Thus, it was that someone mentioned that my mother was knitting “little things” for babies in a letter that was sent to my father. When he wrote back asking why, she jokingly replied in the next letter, “you should know, you’re the father.” This began a repartee that went on for several months. In the meantime, my mother had broken up with her former boyfriend, but my father didn’t know that.

Nonetheless, when my father finally returned from his service abroad, he was staying temporarily with his sister and brother-in-law who lived just a few blocks from my mother. He looked her up, found that she was not “spoken for” and they became engaged just a few weeks later.

Myself and my wife

Unlike all my ancestors above, my wife and I did not have any geography in common. I was born and raised in CT and she was born and raised in upper MI. However, our paths crossed for a brief period of time and that’s all it took.

I had chosen to go to college at Michigan State University. I had finished my undergraduate degree and was working on a graduate degree, but still living in the same off-campus housing unit. My wife had worked for a year after high school, then enrolled in a local community college, and finally into a program at MSU that was an intern program where she only spent two quarters on campus – the summer before her junior year and the spring of her junior year. Thus, the 10 weeks of that spring quarter were the only time that we were on campus together.

A friend and I had come out the back door of the living unit. The unit had a total of 100 residents, 50 male and 50 female, with a shared dining room and student center in the middle, but the parking lot was behind the male side. Thus it was that we saw a vehicle we did not recognize with a pair of female legs sticking out from under it. We did not think that was an appropriate thing for a female to be doing, so we pulled her out, discovered that she had been trying to unjam the linkage in the transmission (and she apparently didn’t know that you needed to have a second person pushing in the clutch when you did so). We unjammed it for her and I thought to myself, any girl who would try that is worth knowing. I found out who she was, then asked her out a few days later. By the end of the quarter we were “pinned”, I visited her nearly every weekend during the summer, we got engaged on Labor Day weekend, then married the following summer. The rest, as they say, is history.