Where’s the Children?

Who are Samuel’s parents?….As discussed in a previous post, it’s hard to positively determine Samuel’s parents, at least from the records I’ve come across.  If only his mother’s name was listed on his death certificate!  In my research, I like to see concrete evidence-something solid and unmistakable.  I just haven’t found that for Samuel’s parents.  But the records do give us enough information to identify probable parents.

Part of the problem with Samuel is that he is not listed by name in any census records as a child with his parents.  The first positively identifiable census record I find for him is the 1870 census that shows him with his wife, Hetty, and two small children, John and William.

1870 census PA cropped samuel m

Notice the numbers at the far left.  They show that he is the 144th family, but that he is living in the home of the 139th dwelling house surveyed.  This census does not state the relationship of people living in the same household, so we are out of luck on getting that info, but we could make an assumption that Samuel Parmer is related to John Parmer, who owns the land, and his wife Martha.  Considering John and Samuel’s age difference, they might even be father-son, especially since Samuel’s death certificate lists his father’s name as “John Parmer.”  Samuel was 31 years old in the 1870 census.  Where was he in 1860 when he was 21 years old?  Or 1850 when he was 11 years old?

The 1860 census has an entry for John and Martha, but Samuel, who would have been 21 years old, is not listed in the home.  I do find John and Martha’s sons, Daniel and Emanuel, and their daughter Barbara.  But John, age 17, Ann, age 15, and Abraham, age 13, are not listed in the home either.

A similar situation is found in the 1850 census entry.  The children listed are John, age 7, Ann, age 5, Abraham, age 3, and Emanuel, age 1.  Daniel, who was 9 years old is missing, as well as Samuel, who would have been about 11 years old.  Daniel and Samuel were likely hired out, at least in the summer when the census was conducted.

I might have found Daniel in the 1850 census.  There is a Daniel Parmer, age 9, living with a couple who has Daniel and two girls living with them on their farm.  I’ve searched the 1850 census many times for Samuel Parmer, but he just doesn’t show up anywhere.  Until this week.

Instead of searching for Samuel Parmer, which usually brings up some name variations, I decided to search for misspellings.  I tried “Palmer”, “Palmel”, and finally, Parmen.  That was worth it!  I found a possible match, shown below.  The indexers decided the name is Samul Parman, and it is just different enough that it wasn’t coming up in my previous searches.

1850 census Samuel M Parmer cropped

Could this be Samuel Parmer?  To me, the last letter of his name as shown does not look like the other n’s of the census taker.   In fact, the last letter looks a lot like the r’s in “Farmer”.  But why is Samuel living in East Hempfield Township, 10 miles away from his family?  And who are John B. and Ann Landis?

According to the “Biographical Annals of Lancaster County Pennsylvania“, published in 1903, John B. Landis was from East Lampeter  Township, which is where John and Martha Parmer lived. The two Johns were close in age.  And John Landis’ relatives lived close by John Parmer in the 1850 census.  Considering all this, I am pretty confident that I’ve found our Samuel Parmer in 1850.

So, were are the children?  They are working.  At 9 and 11 years old, they are hired out and living with someone else.  But we found them!

Another tidbit:  The rest of John and Martha’s sons, who have death certificates to identify them as children of John and Martha, have “M” for their middle initial.  The “M” stands for “Meyers,” Martha’s maiden name.  With Samuel’s middle initial also being “M”, he fits right into the family.

Although I have not seen concrete evidence to attribute John and Martha as the parents of Samuel Parmer, I am willing to make that connection for now.  However, John and Martha have more than one generation of forefathers who were born in Pennsylvania.  I can’t help but think about the couple of census records that state Samuel’s father was born in Germany.  Was he really?  Or was that an error based on the fact that he spoke German?

Someday a record will show up that can answer that.  Do you have a record to share?



A Patriotic Family and Blue Eyes


Happy Independence Day!

Having a family connection to an event always makes it more meaningful.  Finding a connection to 1776 can be a bit tricky.  How patriotic were the Parmers?  Tracing back that far is a bit difficult for the Parmer family.  But many Parmer descendants have served in the military and defended freedom.  Samuel M. Parmer’s son, Robert E. Parmer, had six sons serve in World War I.

Robert E at war memorial

Standing from left, Robert Parmer Sr., wife Esther, son Harry, daughters Myrtle and Mary.  Sitting from left, daughter Betty, granddaughter Shirley, daughter Nancy, son Earl, and daughter Gail.  Children not pictured are Elwood, Robert Jr., Charles, Kenneth, Richard, Samuel, and Jerry.  Taken August 20, 1944 at the dedication of the original World War II memorial in Lancaster, PA.

The photo above was published in the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal on May 23, 2004 with an article about Lancaster’s World War II memorial.  According to the article, “The memorial was erected to honor those from the Cabbage Hill neighborhood of Lancaster who served during the second world war.  The names of 160 men are inscribed, including nine who were killed.”  Six of Robert Parmer Sr.’s nine sons served in World War II.

In 1863, the Union instituted a draft for men ages 20-45.  John Parmer, the probable father of Samuel M. Parmer, was 46 years old at the time.

Samuel M. Parmer was 24.  He would have been required to register.  Below is what likely is his record of registration, along with his brother, Daniel.

civil war draft registration excerpt

I could not find any record of Samuel serving in the military, nor could I find any record of his children serving in the military.  However, I did find records of several of his sons’ draft registrations.  All Samuel’s sons who registered for the World War I draft did so in the third draft on September 12, 1918.  Those who registered for the World War II draft did so in the fourth registration, also known as the “Old Man’s Draft,” which was not to enlist soldiers but to determine the skills and abilities of men who could support the war effort at home.

Draft registrations are fun to look at because they have valuable family history information that is not usually found elsewhere, like physical characteristics.  Here’s what we learn from Samuel’s sons’ draft registration cards:

John Jacob and William E. were born after the Civil War ended and were past the age of the draft for the World War I.

Samuel E., World War I registration on 9/12/18, blue eyes & black hair 45 years old, lived at 542 Dauphin Street, worked as a watchman at Donovan Co., a garment manufacturer.

Harry, World War I registration on 9/12/1918, blue eyes & dark hair, 39 years old, lived at 439 E Mifflin Street, worked as boiler foreman at Lancaster Iron Works.

Aldus, World War I registration on 9/12/1918, grey eyes & black hair, 37 years old, lived at 507 Green Street, worked as an auto machinist at Queen Motor Co.

World War II registration on April 27, 1942, 5’5″ tall and 61 years old, grey eyes and grey hair, physically identifying characteristic was  a scar on the end of his index finger on his left hand.  He still lived at 507 Green street and was working at Lancaster City Water Works.

Luther, World War I registration on 9/12/1918, blue eyes & dark hair, 33 years old, lived in Coatesville, worked as a boiler maker at Midvale Steel and Ordinance Company.

World War II registration on April 27, 1942,  5’6″ tall and 56 years old, blue eyes and grey hair. Self employed and living on his farm in Londonderry  Township.

It’s interesting that many of the brothers had blue eyes and dark hair.  And they were not very tall.  I love that this information is preserved!  What do you remember that can be shared and preserved?


Samuel E. or Samuel M.?

You may be surprised at the answer.

Almost all of the records available for Samuel (1839-1931) do not list a middle initial or name.  Even his death certificate and obituary omit his middle name.  Fortunately, we can find a few instances where his middle name is listed.  One is the 1910 census.

Census records are fun!  You can learn a lot about people from a census record.  The far left of the census record below shows the street that was being surveyed.  Here we learn that Samuel lived on Rockland Street Pike in Lancaster Township on April 22, 1910, the date the census survey was taken.  We also learn that some Parmer families lived close by each other, at house 84 and 89.  Our Samuel was born in 1839, which would make him about 71 years old.  Do you see him listed on the bottom line?

1910 Census Samuel M Parmer

via Ancestry.com – 1910 United States Federal Census

Notice his middle initial, “M.”  But are we sure this is the right guy?  Well, he’s listed as the “Father” of the head of household, who is Luther J. Parmer.  Luther is Samuel and Hetty’s youngest son; so, yes, this is the right guy.

So here’s our Samuel M., widowed, 71 years old, and living in 1910 with his youngest son, Luther, who had been married one year.  Down the street lives another of Samuel’s sons, Samuel E. Parmer, and his family.  The similarities of the names might be one reason that Samuel M. has been known as Samuel E. for so long.

Notice that at 71 years old, Samuel M. was working as a fireman at a stone quarry.  He was working on April 15th, but had been out of work 10 weeks.  The two “No” marks at the end of the line signify that he cannot read or write, which is interesting because all his other census records do not indicate such.

Is it possible that the “M.” is a mistake on the census record?  Of course it is!  Luckily we can find a few other instances where his name is recorded as Samuel M.  One is the marriage license of his daughter, Margie, who was 18 years old when she married.   Consent to the marriage was given by “Samuel M. Parmer the father of the said Margie Parmer…”

Finally, one additional record that records Samuel’s middle name is in the Genealogical Card File at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  The record is for Martha S. Parmer, who was born October 21, 1873 and died January 26, 1877 at 3 years old.  According to the record, Martha is the daughter of Samuel M. Parmer and Hetty A. Parmer.

So how did Samuel M. become Samuel E.?

Way back in high school, I started collecting family history.  Of course the first source was family records.  Information collected from family has always listed my Samuel Parmer ancestor as Samuel E. Parmer.  Likewise, if you search the public member trees on Ancestry.com for Samuel Parmer born in 1839 in Lancaster, PA, you will see a lot of Samuel E. Parmer results.

Family history is collected in a variety of ways.  Often an informant provides information that they believe is correct.  However, informants can, unintentional, provide incorrect information that gets perpetuated.  Perhaps that’s what happened with Samuel.

Samuel and Hetty’s children


It’s fitting for my first post to be about Samuel and Hetty.  As I began my quest to find living Parmer relatives in Lancaster, PA, my starting point was Samuel Parmer  and Hetty Eckman.  Nine children were born to them in Lancaster.  Surely some descendants would still be living there.

The 1870 census excerpt below, from Ancestry.com, is the first census record showing Samuel and Hetty together.  Their sons, John and William are also shown.

1870 Census Samuel and Hetty cropped

By 1880, John was living as a boarder down the street from the rest of the family.  William still lived at home, along with Margie, Annie, Samuel and Harry, shown in the 1880 Census excerpt below, from Ancestry.com.  Missing is Martha S., born in 1873, after the 1870 census.  She died in 1877, before the 1880 census.

1880 Census Samuel and Hetty cropped

Samuel and Hetty had two more children, Aldus and Luther.  Aldus was born in 1880 after the census was taken.  Luther was born in 1885.  They would have shown up on the 1890 census, but much of that census record was destroyed in a fire.  Aldus married in 1899, before the 1900 census, so he again is not shown living with Samuel.  But the 1900 census does show Luther living with Samuel, as seen in the excerpt below, taken from Ancestry.com.

1900 Census Samuel Parmer

With Samuel and Hetty’s children identified, I began my quest.  Little did I know that finding living relatives is a bit more difficult than finding those who have already passed on.