Carbon County

WEEK 33: Ulysses S. Gombert

After weeks of being behind, I think I am finally caught up on my posts for the 52 Ancestor Challenge. This week’s theme is “Defective, Dependent, & Delinquent” which focuses on any ancestor that may have been included in a special census taken in 1880 for he blind, deaf, paupers, homeless children, prisoners, insane, and idiotic.

Sadly, my 3rd great uncle, Ulysses Gombert, was included in this census. Ulysses was born December 27, 1868 in Mahoning Township, Carbon County, PA to Aaron Gombert and Lucy Hontz. He was the youngest child – and only male – out of 5 children.


In 1880, Ulysses was 11 years old. According to the Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Schedule, Ulysses was determined “idiotic” since he was 4 years old. Ulysses was diagnosed with epilepsy and suffered from convulsions. This was determined to be the cause for his idiotic state.

Ulysses died on December 2, 1904 in Mahoning Township, a year after his mother, Lucy, had passed away. His obituary in the December 9, 1904 issue of The Lehighton Press was very short:

Pleasant Corner Chatter. Ulysses Gombert, 36 years old, an invalid all his life, died at noon Friday. He is survived these sisters: Mrs. Frank Moser, Mrs Levi Geiger, Mrs. Wilson Weaver and Miss Rena, all of Mahoning. The funeral was held on Tuesday afternoon with interment at St. John’s cemetery, Rev. Strauss officiating.


WEEK 15 – 2015: Erastus Sylvester Serfass

Erastus Sylvester Serfass with his 4 children: Arlington (who is standing) and Harold, Ellen and Calvin. (Original photo in possession of James Downs)

Erastus Sylvester Serfass with his 4 children: Arlington (who is standing) and Harold, Ellen and Calvin. (Original photo in possession of James Downs)

How do you spell that” is probably something anyone with the surname of “Serfass” must hear quite often. The name is quite common in the northeastern Pennsylvania counties of Monroe, Carbon, Luzerne, Northampton and Lehigh where everyone is a descendant of one immigrant ancestor, Philip Serfass. However, there are many, many variants among the descendants of Philip: Serfass, Serfas, Searfass, Searfoss, Surface, Servas. And some people even spell it with a “Z”: Zerfass, Zearfass, and Zearfoss.

For this week’s 52 Ancestor post, I have decided to focus on the one member of the Serfass family who probably had to not only spell his surname, but his entire name: my great grandfather, Erastus Sylvester Serfass.

According to baptism records at the Jerusalem Union Church in Trachsville, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, Erastus was born on October 1, 1877 to Peter Serfass and Rebecca Kridler. He was baptized on November 11, 1877 at the church with Elias Frantz and his wife, Sara as his godparents.

It is not known what became of his mother, Rebecca. She may have passed away between the time Erastus was born and 1880. The 1880 census shows that Peter Serfass was living with his parents, Aaron and Elizabeth Serfass in Polk Township, Monroe County, with his 2 children: Elle Elizabeth and “Sylvester,” age 3. The box for “Widowed” was checked next to Peter’s name.

By the year 1900, Erastus was living in Lehighton, Carbon County, Pennsylvania. He was 22 years old and was living at the Exchange Hotel on First Street, Lehighton, where he was also employed as a servant. Around this time, Erastus was already courting a lively young woman named Emma Weaver. Emma was employed as a servant in the Howard Monyer household, which was also located on First Street, Lehighton.

On July 24, 1900 Erastus and Emma applied for a marriage license in Northampton County, PA. On July 26, 1900, Erastus and Emma took a drive to the small village Andreas, located in nearby Schuykill County, and were married by the Rev. Thomas Reber. And yes, it took quite a bit of digging to find that marriage record. Especially since Northampton County is close, but not that close. I wonder how they decided to apply for a marriage license there, and not just get one in Carbon County.

Erastus and Emma had 4 children: Arlington, Calvin, Harold and Ellen. Erastus got a job as a salesman with a local beef plant, Swift and Company where he worked for many years. The couple rented a home on Bankway Street in Lehighton. However, it was said that Emma became disillusioned with her role as a housewife and mother. She left Erastus and their children at some point before 1920. Emma remained in Lehighton, and did see her children from time to time. She and Erastus remained separated for the remainder of their lives, but never filed for divorce.

Erastus lived in Lehighton for many more years. He began seeing a woman named Mrs. Emma Miller, and he eventually moved in with her at her home in nearby Slatington, Lehigh County.

I asked my mother, if she had any memories of Erastus. She did not remember much, since he died while she was still kind of young. She did remember that when he drank coffee, he would pour it into his saucer first. Then he would pour it back into his cup and drink it. She guessed that he did that, so it would cool off faster.

Erastus died on December 26, 1942 in Slatington. His burial in the Lehighton Cemetery caused a bit of controversy. Since his eldest son, Arlington, was the one who was mainly in charge of the funeral arrangements and also bought the plot in the cemetery. His mother, Emma, was still alive at the time, and Arlington knew that he would one day be responsible for her funeral arrangements as well. So he bought the plot so that Emma would be buried next to Erastus, even though the couple had been separated for decades. Apparently, this upset Mrs. Miller, who had been the companion to Erastus for the last few years. Emma died ten years later. She and Erastus are both buried in the plot in the Lehighton Cemetery along with their sons, Arlington and Harold, and a grandson, Arthur.

WEEK 9 – 2015: Florence Anna Hettig, closer to home than I realized

Florence Anna Hettig

Florence Anna Hettig

“Close to Home” is this week’s theme for the 52 Ancestors challenge:  Who has a story that hits “close to home”?

My mom had been trying to locate copies of my grandparents’ high school yearbooks for years. Even though we grew up in the same town they had lived in, it was still difficult to find copies of yearbooks from the 1920s. So, when released their U.S. School yearbook collection, I hoped that they would have yearbooks from their alma mater (and mine), Lehighton Area High School.

I was hoping to find the yearbook of my grandmother, Florence Anna Hettig. She was born August 25, 1909 in Lehighton, PA to Stephen and Ida Mae (Hahn) Hettig. I didn’t get to see my grandmother very much when I was growing up. She was living in Boulder, Colorado and then later lived in Warrenton, Virginia with my aunt. I would see her when she traveled back to Lehighton to visit with family. But, she always remembered our birthdays and send gifts for Christmas. She had always loved to draw and paint, and I specifically remembered her gift of a Jon Gnagy “Learn to Draw” Art Set. I loved to draw and paint myself, and I remembering spending hours drawing with those pencils and pastels and producing many little drawings, that my Mom stills has buried away somewhere.

I was pleased to find that the 1927 edition of the Gatchin Bambil, was included in Ancestry’s collection. My grandmother was a junior at Lehighton High School during that time. And on page 13, I found her. What astonished me was that she was on the yearbook staff as an artist! I had never known that fact, and it immediately made me feel even closer to her, because I too had been on the Gatchin Bambil yearbook staff when I attended Lehighton High School.

My grandmother passed away on November 8, 1977 in Warrenton, Virginia. She is buried in the Gnaden Huetten Cemetery in Lehighton alongside her parents.

The Yearbook staff of the 1927 Gatchin Bambil, Lehighton High School, Lehighton, PA. My grandmother, Florence Hettig, was an artist for the yearbook.

The Yearbook staff of the 1927 Gatchin Bambil, Lehighton High School, Lehighton, PA. My grandmother, Florence Hettig, was an artist for the yearbook.

This is a picture of me (on the right) when I was Associate Editor for the 1980 Gatchin Bambil yearbook.

This is a picture of me (on the right) when I was Associate Editor for the 1980 Gatchin Bambil yearbook.

One of the many illustrations Florence Hettig contributed to the 1927 Gatchin Bambil.

One of the many illustrations Florence Hettig contributed to the 1927 Gatchin Bambil.

WEEK 6 – 2015: Reuben Keiper – How did he get So Far Away?

I had planned on writing about another ancestor for this week’s 52 Ancestors challenge and theme “So Far Away.” However, I went a little “far away” myself when I became distracted and might have discovered a little bit of a break in a brick wall that my 3rd great grandfather, Reuben Keiper, has been hiding behind for a long time.

My Keiper ancestors have been quite a challenge for me. The family myth has always been that my great great grandmother, Sarah Jane Keiper, was a full-blood Indian who was adopted. I had never found proof to support that myth. Sarah’s death certificate said she was born April 16, 1853 in White Haven, PA and her parents were Reuben Keiper and Elizabeth Prutzman. I found Sarah living with Reuben and Elizabeth and other siblings in Kidder Township, Carbon County, PA in the 1860 census. Reuben’s birthdate was estimated to be around 1820. He and Elizabeth had at least 8 children: Mary, Henry, Hannah, Caroline, Rose, Sarah, Franklin and Alice. There are numerous Keiper and Prutzman families spread across Luzerne, Carbon and Monroe counties. I had never been able to connect Reuben and Elizabeth to any of these other families.

Several years ago, I obtained a copy of Reuben’s will from the Carbon County Courthouse, in Jim Thorpe, PA, hoping to learn more about Reuben. I learned a little bit more, but what puzzled me was that the will stated that he was living in Clinton County, Indiana, at the time the will was written in 1883. It also said that he had been living with his daughter, Rose Wasser, for years in her home in White Haven, PA. Why was Reuben suddenly living so far away in Indiana, after living in Pennsylvania all his life, and clearly was in “declining health?”

Last will of Reuben Keiper

Last will of Reuben Keiper. Carbon County Orphan’s Court Records.

I may have found the answer early this morning. It all started when I decided to check Facebook first thing this morning. A post in the Luzerne County Genealogy Facebook group about adding more issues of the Wilkes-Barre Record caught my eye. This prompted me to go and do some searches, including the surname, Keiper.

This actually led to several random searches in a few newspapers in the Luzerne County area. One result was an obituary in a Pittson newspaper for a Samuel Eckhart who died in 1916. Samuel had three surviving sisters; one of those being a “Mrs. Franklin Keiper.” I knew that Reuben had a son named Franklin and that he had married Amelia Eckhart. What was interesting was that the other sisters also married men with the surname of Keiper! There was a “Mrs. James Keiper” and a “Mrs. Reuben Keiper.”

Long story short, this led me to start looking at the Pennsylvania Death Certificate collection and census records on and finding a whole mess of other Keiper families, some with the same first names. In fact, I am still in the process of sorting them all out and trying to figure out if and how they are all related. As I discovered more names, I would go back to and do a search to see if I could find any obituaries to help me sort things out. One of the names, that I did a search for was “Amos Keiper.”

Well, I did find an obituary and some articles about the one Amos Keiper I originally did a search for who was living in Luzerne County. However, it was this article in the March 7, 1883 Allentown Democrat, that really caught my eye:

The Allentown Democrat (Allentown, Pennsylvania) 7 Mar 1883, Wed • Page 2

The Allentown Democrat
(Allentown, Pennsylvania)
7 Mar 1883, Wed • Page 2

The article was a notice trying to locate relatives of an Amos Keiper who had lived in Clinton County, Indiana and died intestate and no heirs to his estate. Clinton County, Indiana was where my Reuben Keiper when he made his last will! I immediately opened up the digital copy of Reuben’s will just to make sure it was the same place. Not only did the locations match, but the witnesses for his will were Pernal K. Thomas and J.R. Brown. The same names listed as administrators for the estate of Amos Keiper in the newspaper article! Now, I may have found the answer as to why Reuben Keiper was so far away from home.

So my next step is to write to the Clinton County Circuit court for copies of Amos Keiper probate records and see if there are any more answers or clues. I know the day that SASE arrives back in my mailbox seems so far away.

So, that is my tale of how I totally got “so far away” off track from what I had originally planned for my blog post. I seemingly kept getting even further and further away on a meandering trail of newspaper articles, and census records, only to end up with something tied in back to my own direct line.

However, what really amazes me is that I somehow was able to connect all my morning’s research to this week’s theme.

11. Emma Weaver – My mysterious great grandmother

I was looking over my family tree last week, pondering on who to write about in my 52 Ancestors blog post. While looking at my pedigree in my online tree, I realized that I had only one great grandparent that I had no photo of: my great grandmother, Emma Weaver.

I had realized that I had just gathered the basic information about her: birth, marriage, death, her parents, and then just moved on. I had remembered my Mom telling me that her grandparents were separated and that she had never met her grandmother. She had seen her once in town, and someone pointed her out and told my Mom, “That lady is your grandmother.” Perhaps that was why I had just moved on from her and didn’t bother finding out more.

Emma Ursne Weaver was born on February 4, 1879 in the Mahoning Valley in Carbon County, Pennsylvania to Wilson and Henrietta (Gombert) Weaver. She was baptized by the Reverend Abraham Bartholomew on April 5,1879. Her sponsors were Nathan Gerber and Maria Seidel.


It had been hard to locate when and where she had married my great grandfather, Erastus Serfass at first. However, through Ancestry, one of my Mom’s cousins connected with me, and he actually had their marriage certificate! Erastus and Emma had both been living in Lehighton, Carbon County. However, they were married in the small village of Andreas, which was several miles away in neighboring Schuylkill County in the parsonage of the Rev. Thomas Reber. And on top of that, the marriage record was filed in Northampton County. Indeed a good lesson that perhaps the record you are looking for may be actually located in a county where your ancestors did not live.

Erastus and Emma had 4 children: Arlington, Calvin, Harold (my grandfather) and Ellen. At some point after the birth of Ellen in 1912 and in 1920, Emma had separated from Erastus and left her children as well. Why would someone leave their children behind?

I decided to ask my Mom, once again about her. I guess my Mom really wanted to know more too, because she called her cousin that very evening to learn more too. This cousin was the daughter of Emma’s eldest son, Arlington. Emma had been to their home for family holidays. No one knew exactly why Emma moved out and left her children. There was talk that Erastus did not think she was a good mother to the children. My Mom’s cousin thought she had heard that she had “some kind of addiction” but was not an alcoholic. She recalled that Emma used to live at the Exchange Hotel on First Street, Lehighton. She would see her sitting outside of the hotel and would wave to her as she walked by.

My Mom had also recalled speaking to the wife of another cousin. This woman’s mother-in-law was a sister to Emma. She said that they had all called her “Stella Dallas” because she “liked to dress up and wore make-up.” It was also said that Erastus had been supporting her financially.

ImageErastus and Emma never divorced. However, Erastus eventually had a long-standing relationship with another woman and had even moved in with her. He had died in her home in 1942 and was buried in Lehighton Cemetery. When Emma died on January 14, 1952, her children made the decision to bury her next to their father in the family plot. This decision did not sit well with the woman who had been Erastus’ companion.

Although the family gossip does not seem to favor Emma, I still would like to find out more about her. And I hope I might be able to find someone that may have a photo of her.