GEDCOM & SITE UPDATE
The downloadable Gedcom file and web site have finally been updated to reflect my most current research.
I've created a public Dropbox folder where you can download some of my source documents.
The Beaver County Genealogical Society and the Research Center for Beaver County merged on July 1st, 2008 becoming the Beaver County History and Genealogy Center. Located on the second floor of the Carnegie Free Library of Beaver Falls, the BCGHC is a wonderful place to visit. In addition to surname files, the Center houses archives of newspapers, church records, city directories, maps, local reference books, and more. The staff are friendly and helpful.
The Center's genealogical society holds monthly classes/informational talks at the Mormon Family History Center on the third Wednesday of every month.
The Center's web site contains a listing of all of the surname files located at the Research Center for Beaver County along with a number of other useful resources.
VILLA S. STEFANO PHOTOS
In November 2002, I traveled to Italy, and I visited Villa Santo Stefano during that time. You may view my photos of the town and nearby cemetery at my Villa Santo Stefano Flickr Set.
All of the pedigree and family charts on the web site are now up-to-date with my most current genealogical research. You'll find a number of new ancestors here including a number of new Harts, many Cook ancestors (including a number of women), and the most recent - my great great grandfather and grandmother Giuseppe and Maria Lolli.
Those of you who have visited this site before may notice that the site has a "new" look. Actually, it's a "new old" look. This is the site as I originally designed it during a web site development course at Drexel University. For a while I took advantage of free domain name registration and site hosting at Microsoft Office Live, but I was frustrated by the inability to design and upload my own pages independent of their online tools (which unfortunately did not work terribly well). As a result, I've transferred the domain and moved to a new host which has enabled me to return to my original layout. I did loose a little bit of information in the News & Updates section. The online family tree is also due for a refresher, but the GEDCOM file is current.
I made my first visit to the Research Center for Beaver County on Jul 15, 2006. I was mostly intrigued by the surname folders described on their site: "There are about 10 file cabinets (4 drawers each) stuffed with files containing family group sheets, newspaper clippings and correspondence that has come from other genealogists for over twenty five years." I knew from the list on the BCGS site that the Center had a folder on the Hart family. I was pleasantly surprised to find not one, but two manilla folders brimming with information.
Among the contents of the folders were letters written by Royal Thayer, a genealogist working in the 1970's. He strongly suspected that his Hart ancestor, Margaret Hart, was related to John Hart, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Mr. Thayer, who lived in Virginia at the time, wrote a number of letters to the Research Center and others in the Beaver County area. Thankfully his correspondence and the recipients' responses were sent to the Center for preservation. Unfortunately, Mr. Thayer never was able to make the connection, but his efforts nonetheless provided me with a great deal of information.
Aside from Mr. Thayer's correspondence, the folder contained some other valuable leads including John (Carpenter) Hart's will and some Hart family cemetery records. Courtesy of the surname files I also discovered that JP Hart (from the 1860 census) was in fact James Parkinson Hart and not one of the John Harts as I thought. As it turns out, James was actually the brother of John (Carpenter) Hart. Likewise, I learned that John (Carpenter) Hart's parents were Daniel and Sarah, and I was able to assemble a little bit of biographical information about them.
Of course with every bit of information I discovered, a new mystery arose. The possible relation between my Hart family and that of John Hart, signer of the Declaration, is perhaps the most intriguing. Naturally, most of the evidence is circumstantial. For example, there is apparently some connection between the Hart family and the Boles family (James Boles' wife, Caroline Olivia Stowe, is documented as the great-granddaughter of John Hart, the Signer). Here's what I've sussed out so far:
Cast of Characters
John [Carpenter] Hart (1803-1853)
John [Ship Carpenter] (1827-1872)
Esther Hart (1835- )
James P [Engineer] Hart (1809- )
John Boles (1790/1800- )
Ann Boles (1793- )
James [Inkeeper] Boles (1820-1860/70)
Caroline Olivia Stowe (1830-1860/70) [great-gdhtr. of John, the Signer]
Anna Boles (1850- )
Hiram Boles (1853- )
Scudder Boles (1855- )
Charles Boles (1859- )
Mary Boles (1860- )
John [Boatman] Boles (1820- )
Minerva Boles (1845- )
Blandena Boles (1849- )
John [Carpenter] Hart and John Boles are neighbors in New Sewickley.
John [Carpenter] Hart's son John [Ship Carpenter] Hart is living with him.
John [Carpenter] Hart's daughter Esther Hart appears on the 19 Jun 1850 census living with John [Carpenter] and his wife, Esther Hart. She also appears on the 18 Jul 1850 census living with her uncle James P [Engineer] Hart (John [Carpenter] Hart's brother).
Minerva Boles who may be the daughter of John [Boatman] Boles is living with James P Hart.
Ann Boles is living with her son, James [Inkeeper] Boles.
John [Boatman] Boles, his wife Sara, and their one-year old daughter Blandena live with his brother James [Inkeeper] Boles. (Iím assuming that Sara is John [Boatman] Boles' wife and Blandena is their daughter.)
James [Inkeeper] Boles has an infant daughter Anna Boles living with him.
John [Carpenter] Hart dies.
The following people are now living with James P [Engineer] Hart: Ann Boles, Minerva Boles, Blandena Boles, and John [Ship Carpenter] Hart.
James [Inkeeper] Boles is now working as a clerk. Anna Boles is still living with him along with her brothers Hiram, Scudder, and Charles.
Siblings Anna, Scudder, and Mary Boles are now living with their maternal grandparents, Hiram and Martha Stowe. The other siblings, Hiram (17) and Charles Boles (11) must be living elsewhere.
To round out my pile of circumstantial evidence, I also offer the following tidbits:
Needless to say, I'd be grateful for any information that might help me to confirm or discredit the possible relationship between my Harts and John, the Signer. Please email me if you have any insights!
- John the signer's son, Jesse Hart, moved from New Jersey to Beaver County where he and his wife Martha Mattison raised six children.
- One of these children, Deborah Hart Darragh, is buried in the (Beaver Cemetery). John [Carpenter] Hart died before the Beaver Cemetery opened in 1865. Instead, he is buried in "the Beaver Burial Ground", known now as Clark Park, despite the fact that it was not in the same town as his residence (Rochester). Interestingly, the Darraghs were also from Rochester. John [Carpenter] Hart's son, John [Ship Carpenter] Hart, was buried in the Beaver Cemetery, but he is interred on his wife's family plot (the Johnstons).
It all started innocently enough. I think it might have been a banner ad. Lured by the promise of a free family search on Ancestry.com, I couldn't resist. One thing led to another, and I signed up for a free 30-day trial. Honestly, I didn't expect to find much. Boy was I ever wrong.
Let me back up a bit. I know my heritage on my mom's side. All of my maternal great grandparents came from Italy by way of Ellis Island. My mother's mother's parents are from Villa Santo Stefano, and my mother's father's parents are from nearby in the same province, Frosinone. I was even fortunate enough to travel to Villa Santo Stefano in November of 2002. (It's a beautiful town, by the way.)
What I didn't know much of anything about was my paternal heritage. My dad and his parents had always just sort of assumed we were English/German with maybe a bit of Irish and left it at that. Sure there had been a few stories of possible relationships to famous people, Thomas Jefferson and Robert Fulton, but I didn't have anything concrete.
The only thing that I did know was my grandfather's father's name was John William Hart. I remembered this information for a very distinct reason. In my grandparent's home hung a line drawing of a castle, and the crest featured the initials "JWH." This confused me as my grandfathers name was William John Hart. My grandparents explained that the artist hadn't made a mistake but rather this piece was created for my great-grandfather, and it bore his initials.
Starting with the 1930 census records, I looked for John William Hart. I knew that my grandfather grew up in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and sure enough there was the record of my great-grandparents and their son, my grandfather. Hot dog! From there, I traced back, and back, and...back. It turns out that the Harts have lived in Beaver County for a heckofa long time. My first efforts took me quickly to John Hart, born here in 1803. I was hooked.