Month: February 2014

7. Aaron Serfass

This week’s story for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge is my 3rd great grandfather, Aaron Serfass.

Aaron was born on February 22, 1817 to successful farmer and shoemaker, Adam Serfass and his wife Christina (nee Berger) in Polk Township, Pennsylvania. He was baptized at the Salem Church Union Church in the village of Gilbert, PA. Sponsors were Jacob Serfass and Mary Bargen.

The Serfass family were well known and long established in Polk Township. Aaron’s great- grandfather, Philip Serfass, had arrived in Philadelphia from Germany in 1739, eventually buying land in Polk Township. His grandfather, Johannes “John” Serfass, served in the Revolutionary War as a soldier and a clerk under Captain John Gregory.

Aaron married Elizabeth Hawk, also from Polk Township, sometime around 1840. Aaron also took up farming and also did some blacksmithing. Aaron and Elizabeth had 8 children: Elizabeth, Joseph, Hannah, Adam, Christiana, Peter, Catherine and Mary Jane.

Aaron died at his home on March 26, 1893 at the age of 76, after being stricken with sudden paralysis. He is buried in the Jerusalem Church Cemetery in Trachsville, PA.

6. Christian Peter Meltesen

I have been sitting here watching the Olympics while looking for inspiration for this week’s 52 Ancestors blog. Although there are no Olympians in our family trees, I’d like to think that perhaps some of my husband’s Wisconsin ancestors may have at least tried curling back in the day. Perhaps his great-great grandfather, Christian Peter Meltesen may have slid some stones during the cold Wisconsin winters during his lifetime.

Chris was born August 12, 1864 to Niels Thomson Meltesen and Caroline Christensen in Højer, Denmark which was located in the Duchy of Schleswig which is located in the southern coast of Denmark. There was much political unrest in this area, and many of the residents left to avoid military service. Chris was one of these and he boarded the ship Thingvalla at Copenhagen and arrived in the port of New York, United States on April 30, 1886.

Chris made his way to what is present day Kenosha, Wisconsin and took up farming. On August 12, 1887, he married Annie Dorothea Christensen in Kenosha.

Around 1897, Chris was a landowner near Shennington, Monroe County, Wisconsin. His brother, Laurits “Louis” Meltesen had a plot of land nearby. Louis later owned and operated a general store in Shennington.

Chris and Annie had at least 13 children who helped run the family farm. On October 4, 1921, Chris and his family spent an evening with their family, playing the phonograph and singing songs. Chris seemed fine. However, the next morning, his wife, Annie woke up and thought he was still asleep. After some time, she thought he was sleeping unusually long and discovered that he had passed away peacefully sometime during the night. He was buried in the St. Peter’s Danish Church cemetery in Byron, Wisconsin.


5. Aaron Gombert – What I learned from Civil War pension files

This week in my post for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, I have decided to focus on my 3rd great grandfather, Aaron Gombert, who was a Civil War veteran. He was also a classic example of how much you can learn just from Civil War pension papers.

One day I logged into my online tree on and saw a leaf shaking above his name. Up until this point, I knew very little about Aaron. Only that he was about 1832 in Pennsylvania, he was a farmer in the Mahoning Valley in Carbon County, Pennsylvania, living there with wife, Lucy and their 5 children. It turned out to be a hint that Aaron was listed in the 1890 Veterans Schedule. From this document I learned that Aaron had served as a Private with the 132nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment from August 18, 1862 until May 24, 1863. It also stated that he had contracted typhoid fever during that time.

Civil War Pension papers of Aaron H. Gombert

Physical description of Aaron H. Gombert.

Some more searching on Ancestry, yielded his name in the Civil War Pension Index. From there, I was able to request his papers from the National Archives. A thick packet showed up a few weeks later. It was filled with a wealth of facts. I was able to get his birth date, and his date of death. It also gave a physical description of him: 5′ 8″, light complexion and red hair. Yes, it turns out my 3rd great grandfather was a ginger!

I was also able to get documentation of his marriage to my 3rd great-grandmother, Lucy Hontz. This was very difficult information to obtain, since the nearby church did not have the record. It turned out they were married on February 5, 1854 by the Rev. C.G. Eichenberg,  a pastor, who served several churches in the area.

Verfication of marriage between Aaron Gombert and Lucy Ann Hontz.

Verfication of marriage between Aaron Gombert and Lucy Ann Hontz.

There were also some details about his service. Aaron had fought with his regiment in the Battle of Antietam, Maryland on September 17, 1862. After that battle was won, they arrived in Harper’s Ferry and camped there. Around October 1, 1862, Aaron became sick with typhoid fever and was sent first to the regiment hospital in Harper’s Ferry, then to Frederick City Hospital, Maryland where he remained for 2 months. When he recovered he was sent back to fight with is regiment until he was mustered out in May 1863.


Aaron seemed to have been plagued with the after effects of the typhoid fever for years after his discharge. His back pain eventually led him to become totally incapacitated and he could no longer farm his land. Aaron died August 9, 1900 and is buried in the Saint John’s Church cemetery in the Mahoning Valley.

His wife, Lucy, kept collecting his pension until her death on September 26, 1903. Another date that I had verified from the pension files.


4. James Peter Larry – 19th Century Ladies’ Man

James Peter Larry

James Peter Larry

I suppose everyone’s family tree must have a black sheep. This week’s subject of the 52 Ancestors Challenge has certainly earned that distinction in my husband’s family tree.

James Peter Larry was born June 26, 1838 In Brookfield, Morgan County, Ohio. His mother was Margaret “Peggy” DeGarmo. His father was said to be a Peter O’Leary, who Margaret may not have married. There is very, little known about Peter. It is rumored that he may have murdered someone and he spent the rest of life in prison. I have not found any evidence to support that rumor.

On June 15, 1854, James married Rachel Schelling in Perry County, Ohio. They had 4 children: Thomas J. Larry, Mary Elizabeth Larry, Rebecca Jane Larry and George N. Larry. 

Sometime before 1860, James and his family moved to Liberty, Vernon County, Wisconsin, and took up farming. He went off to fight in the Civil War, serving with the Wisconsin 42nd Infantry. He returned to Wisconsin in 1865, most likely with the intent of farming his land and raising his family. But, it seems that James just couldn’t control certain urges and according to local newspapers, ended up with some very public scrapes because of it.

The 1870 census shows James living in Liberty with wife Rachel, his children, and Rachel’s sister Mary. Among their neighbors was Ann Hanchett and her 13 year old daughter, Mary Elizabeth Hanchett. His half brothers also lived nearby including John Downey and his wife, Isabel.

Rachel ended up leaving James and took their children to reside in nearby Sparta, Wisconsin in Monroe County. On December 18, 1871, James and Rachel were divorced, reasons not known. However, considering future events, one can only imagine why Rachel could not live with her husband any longer.

On November 9, 1874, John Downey was plowing his fields and was shot. According to the “History of Vernon County” John had lain in the field for a long time and almost died. After some time, James Larry was accused because it was said that he had become infatuated with John’s wife, Isabel.  James was arrested and went to trial in the Spring of 1875. The trial was very long and it was said that at one point, a mob from the town of Liberty had threatened to lynch James. However on June 19, 1875, a jury found James Peter Larry not guilty.

On August 15, 1876, James married for the second time to Mary Elizabeth Hanchett, daughter of his former neighbor, in Monroe County. He was 38 and she was 19. The 1880 census found James and Mary living in Sparta, Monroe County, Wisconsin. They were next door neighbors to William Falls and his wife, Anna.

According to a newspaper article from the March 28, 1882 issue of The Sparta Herald, Anna Falls and James Larry left their families, and ran off to Winona, Minnesota to “elope” although both were still married. Both told their families that they were going to Bangor, Wisconsin, and left on different days. However, Anna’s husband, William, became suspicious and telegraphed the railroad. A conductor revealed that they had both gone to Winona. A warrant was issued for James and a deputy sheriff was sent off to Winona. He found the pair at the Huff House, registered under S.H. Holmes and wife.

James Larry returned to Sparta and with wife, Mary until his death on April 17, 1902. His obituary in The Sparta Herald said he had married Mary Hanchett in 1876, “with whom he lived happily ever since.” James was buried in the Mount Hope Cemetery in Sparta.

James Peter Larry has certainly been the most entertaining ancestor to research. Although, I have enjoyed sharing his 3rd great grandfather’s escapades with my husband, I am certainly glad that my husband did NOT inherit any of his traits.