My Introduction to ChatGPT


Today, I was introduced to the power of ChatGPT by my grandson who is an IT professional. He is convinced that it is an important demonstration of the power of artificial intelligence (AI). “

He signed into it on his iPhone and asked me to suggest a question to ask. I suggested: “What is Pymatuning Lake.” I grew up in Andover, Ohio, which abuts the state line between Ohio and Pennsylvania in Ashtabula County. It prides itself on being the “Gateway to Pymatuning Lake.”

Quick Search Result from ChatGPT

Within seconds, the app came back with the following statement:

“Pymatuning Lake is a reservoir located in the northwestern part of Pennsylvania in the United States, along the border with Ohio. It was created in 1933 by the construction of the Pymatuning Dam on the Shenango River. The lake covers an area of approximately 17,000 acres and has a maximum depth of 30 feet.

“The lake is a popular destination for recreational activities such as boating, fishing, camping, and hiking. It is home to a wide3 variety of fish species, including walleye, bass, catfish, and muskellunge, and is known for its excellent fishing opportunities. The Pymatuning State Park,. Located on the lake’s shore, offers many amenities such as campgrounds, beaches, and picnic areas, making it a popular destination for families and camping enthusiasts.”

That was a concise overview of the subject, containing 123 words. It would be sufficient for many situations.

Versus Wikipedia

Normally, I would look up such a question on Here is Wikipedia’s entry:

“Pymatuning Reservoir is a man-made lake in Crawford County, Pennsylvania and Ashtabula County, Ohio in the United States, on land that was once a very large swamp.[2] Much of it is incorporated into two state parks: Pymatuning State Park in Pennsylvania, and Pymatuning State Park in Ohio.[1]

History —The first known inhabitants were the Mound builders. Two of their mounds were flooded by the creation of Pymatuning Lake. The Lenape were living in the area when European settlers first came there. The lake is named for the chief who lived in the area at the time, Pihmtomink. The Lenape were pushed out of the area by the Seneca tribe, a member of the Iroquois Confederacy. The Seneca were defeated by General Anthony Wayne’s forces during the Northwest Indian War and left the area under the terms of the Treaty of Greenville. This treaty marked the end of Native Americans inhabiting the area.[3]

“The first settlers to the area were farmers, whose life was not easy, as the land was very swampy and very difficult to reclaim. Farm animals that wandered off were often lost in the quicksands of the swamp, or fell prey to predators like foxes, bears and mountain lions. The swamps were infested with mosquitoes that brought yellow fever to the settlers.[3]

“An unsolved murder case is associated with the then Pymatuning Swamp: in 1932 by herpetologist Norman Edouard Hartweg, while he was searching for reptiles, ran into a body of a lady. The police concluded that she had been murdered elsewhere, but her identity was never confirmed, nor the murderer identified.[4]

Dam and lake–“Building a dam on the Shenango River was first explored in 1911. A massive flood in 1913 caused $3 million in damage and took several lives. The Pennsylvania General Assembly approved a budget of $1.2 million to build at dam across the Shenango, but Governor John K. Tener slashed the budget to just $100,000.[3]

“The Pennsylvania legislature took action again in 1917, this time approving a $400,000 budget under the condition that the needed land in Ohio be purchased by the private sector. The Pymatuning Land Company was formed and raised the funds to purchase the needed Ohio properties. The land was finally acquired in full by 1931 when Governor Gifford Pinchot approved $1.5 million to complete the dam. 7,000 men began work on the dam in 1931 and the project was completed in 1934, with a final total cost of $3,717,739. The lake now holds 64.3 billion US gallons (243,000,000 m3) of water, covering 17,088 acres (69.15 km2) over a length of 17 miles (27 km) with a width of 1.6 miles (2.6 km) at the widest and 70 miles (110 km) of shoreline, with a maximum depth of 35 feet (11 m). The lake has served to provide a water supply for the Shenango and Beaver valleys, it has lessened the damage caused by floods, and provided recreation for the people of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Two state parks, each named “Pymatuning State Park”, are on the lake in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“A scenic 2-mile-long causeway bridge spans the middle of the lake, connecting the towns of Espyville on the Pennsylvania side of the lake and Andover on the Ohio side. The bridge is crowned in the middle, with tall pillars and broad ducts underneath to allow lakewater to flow freely across the reservoir, and to permit the passage of sailboats and other pleasure craft travelling from one half of the lake to the other. The bridge is also equipped with small concrete and earthen pull-offs large enough for several vehicles apiece, with concrete staircases and walkways below the parking spaces to allow travelers to stroll down and fish or sightsee beside the bridge.

“The Pennsylvania portion also has a spillway separating the (higher) upstream-most portion of the lake from the rest. A parking area along the spillway serves a popular warm-weather attraction commonly known as “where the ducks walk on the fish” because visitors throw bread to the thousands of carp and Canada geese who congregate there.”

That explanation consists of 677 words and might be better for certain research situations, with its more comprehensive discussion of facts and history. Also, it has several references listed for additional review.

I will continue to refer questions to Wikipedia, especially ones involving geography. I find that Wikipedia has the information I am looking for about a town, a city, a county, or a state for genealogical research. But I will be checking the free version of ChatGPT for quick searches.

But What Is ChatGPT?

Using Google, I found this simple explanation by, an online computer testing and researching website: “ChatGPT is a natural language processing tool driven by AI technology that allows you to have human-like conversations and much more with the chatbot. The language model can answer questions and assist you with tasks like composing emails, essays, and code.

“ChatGPT was created by OpenAI, an AI and research company. The company launched ChatGPT on Nov. 30, 2022.

“Usage is currently open to the public free of charge because ChatGPT is in its research and feedback-collection phase. As of Feb. 1 (2023), there is also a paid subscription version called ChatGPT Plus.”

Researching My Connection to The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia


A couple days ago, I asked the Chat feature of Microsoft Bing to write a short report on “Greenbrier Resort Through the Years,” Here is the result:

“The Greenbrier Resort is a National Historic Landmark and world-class resort that has been welcoming guests from around the world since 17781. The resort is located in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia2. The Greenbrier was known by the name White Sulphur Springs for the first 125 years3. It was the chosen place for relaxation by several Presidents through the years, and it also served as a secret fallout shelter for the US Congress during the Cold War4.”

The Greebrier Resort, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia

Why was I interested in The Greenbrier, a high-end resort? I had just learned that the Cleveland Browns professional football team was undergoing their 2023 National Football League preseason training camp at the Greenbrier. Apparently, other NFL teams have done the same in earlier years.

In a Jul 22 2023 interview on WKYC Channel 3 (the NBC affiliate in Cleveland) I saw Coach Kevin Stefanski explain that the team decided to hold the training camp at the resort to foster teambuilding. Apparently, the team believes that having the players and staff living together away from home for several days would help players and coaches learn more about each other and build togetherness.

When I first learned that the Browns were going to the Greenbrier for teambuilding, I had a flashback to 1963 when my employer, Penton Publishing Co, based in Cleveland, decided to take the entire staff of Foundry magazine to the Greenbrier for a sales meeting.

The stated goal for the meeting was also teambuilding. The president of Penton and various magazine staff members gave presentations to the group. And, of course, many of the staff members brought their golf clubs and enjoyed afternoon rounds of golf during the meeting.

At the time, I was a relatively new employee, with the title of Engineering Editor. I had graduated from Case Institute of Technology in June of 1960 with a degree in metallurgical engineering. As an undergraduate, the focus of my study was foundry technology, and I had a small scholarship from the Foundry Educational Foundation to help with tuition.

To round out my research, I asked Bing Chat to create a brief history of Foundry magazine: Here is that additional report: “John Augustus Penton was an iron molder by trade who began developing a trade publication to serve the casting industry. In 1892 he published the first issue of Foundry in Detroit. In 1901 John Penton moved to Cleveland, Ohio, to head the Iron and Steel Press Company. It published Foundry magazine and another magazine then called the Iron Trade Review, which eventually became Industry Week1,2.” 

I was interested to see that both Bing Chat “reports” included superscripts linking them to information sources. I have left the superscripts in the reports above, but removed the links to the sources, which include the Greenbrier website and, among others. The inclusion of sources in Bing Chat differed from my experience with the AI chatbot ChatGPT, which didn’t provide footnote links in the few cases I have used it.

For comparison, I opened a ChatGPT conversation with the following: “Greenbrier Resort through the years.” The result was longer than the Bing Chat report and included some interesting discussion about the resort in the American Civil War and details of the Cold War Bunker (see the reference to the fallout shelter above). Here is a link to my ChatGPT conversation:

A historical note: The paternal grandparents of Mary Jane VanCourt Huskonen (my late wife) came to Richmond Center in Ashtabula County, Ohio, from the tiny town of Ellenboro in Ritchie County, West Virginia. I used Google Maps to learn that the drive time from White Sulphur Springs to Ellenboro would be about 3 hours covering a little over 160 miles.

Another historical note: The only other time I have been to West Virginia was also related to my employment at Penton when I went to Parkersburg in northwestern West Virginia. That was before I became involved in family history and knew about Ritchie County and the homestead of Daniel S. VanCourt (MJ’s great grandfather) and his large family. Sadly, we never visited any distant relatives in West Virginia.

New Online Databases Reveal WWII Cousin Casualties In Finland


OK, so the online databases I’m writing about aren’t brand new; they were just new to me. Finding them recently reminds me to check online from time to time for records of interest.
Here’s the back story: In June of 2018, I visited Finland for the annual gathering of Finnish Americans known as FinnFest. It was to be the first time it would be held outside of the United States. I lined up some visits with Finnish cousins to create my Heritage Tour of a Lifetime.

One of the sites we visited was the church and cemetery in Vesanto, the town and parish from which my paternal grandparents emigrated to the U.S. early in the 20th century. Heli, my second cousin, showed me the headstones of her parents and grandparents.

Wally Huskonen and his cousin Heli in Vesanto Cemetery

Next to the church (see below) I noticed rows of neatly maintained headstones. Heli and the others I was touring with weren’t fluent in English and I speak almost no Finnish, so I didn’t ask any questions about the rows of headstones.

Vesanto Parish Church with memorial headstones in the foreground.

With the current events in Ukraine, and Finland’s decision to join NATO, I decided to do some research on the Winter War in 1939-1940 during which the Soviet Union attacked Finland. Though vastly outnumbered and out-gunned, the Finnish forces managed to fight the Soviets to a standstill.

Were those headstones in Vesanto part of remembering casualties of the Winter War? Did I have any cousins who lost their lives in this and two later conflicts through 1945?

After stumbling around on the internet, I accessed the FamilySearch Wiki and clicked on Military Records under Record Types. I found two sets of Online Resources:

• 1938-1944 Finland, Second World War Casualties at MyHeritage – index ($)
• 1939-1945 Finland, WWII Military Casualties, 1939-1945 at Ancestry – index & images, ($)

Clicking through to the resource, I came to “Finland, World War II Military Casualties,
1939-1945;” a database provided to by the National Archives of Finland, with the caveat
that the records were in Finnish. I entered into the search box only the terms: Huuskonen (my family
name in Finland} and Vesanto (see above).

This search resulted in 48 Finns from Vesanto and nearby towns who were military casualties in 1939
through 1945. Wow! What do I do next?

I created a research or speculative tree in entitled “Vesanto WWII Casualties.” My process would be to add one person by name with birth and dates as the home person in this tree. I would add each additional subject as a brother to the home person, then remove that sibling relationship. Even-
tually the result would be 48 free-standing persons in the tree. The objective would be to see what “hints” I might get from with information about each person and his family connections. Hints for online public family trees would be especially valuable. also has other Finnish record collections that might be useful in learning about each person.

Using this approach, one of my first searches was for Pentti Ilmari Huuskonen. I got a hit for him from a tree created on by Riikka, a cousin, so I knew the system worked. Her tree provided Pentti’s parents and other relatives. Soon I learned that Pentti’s younger brother also was a casualty. Pentti Ilmari and Simo Aulis Huuskonen were two of five children of Ville and Hilda Gustava Huuskonen. Losing them must have been devastating to this family.

Death record of Pentti Illmari Huskonen from the National Archives of Finland. Image retrieved from a database on

How was I related to Pentti and Simo? After I transferred the brothers’ profiles into my main family tree, calculated and provided the answer. I was a fifth cousin once removed. Our common ancestor was Johan Pehrsson Huuskonen who lived from 1688 to 1764 in the same area of Finland. The MyHeritage data search yielded similar results since the source data was the same, provided by the National Archives of Finland.

When I followed up with a Google Search for Finland WWII casualties, I learned about the website
WarSampo: Finnish World War II on the Semantic Web. This website is a project of Aalto University in Finland. It uses the same database of WWII casualties from the National Archives of Finland but transcribes the records into English. And it is free!

Source: Casualties database:

In addition, WarSampo has created a searchable database of military cemeteries complete with the names of “Buried People.” For Vesanto, it provides four photographs of the church and the nearby memorial headstones that I saw on my 2018 visit. Included in the associated listing of 134 “Buried People” are Pentti Ilmari Huuskonen and his brother Simo Aulis. Many of the family names in this list, such as Korhonen, Hytönen, Liimatainen, and Simonen, among others, occur in my family tree, so I will be working to see to whom I might be related.

I wish these online resources had been available five years ago before I made my Heritage Tour of a Lifetime to Finland. I would have been more prepared to discuss this aspect of family history with my

I’ll conclude by repeating this takeaway: Keep checking for new databases and resources. They are being added online regularly.

Searching for Ada in the 1950 Census


Ada Stokes was a good friend of my mother, Mary Jane Dingman Huskonen. For some reason, I became interested in trying to find Ada in the 1950 Census a couple months ago. This was more of a problem than I expected. It turns out I didn’t recollect her family name correctly. My other key fact was that I believed she lived in Kent, Portage County, Ohio. Also, I was guessing that she was born in 1908, since that was my mother’s birth year. Using with its updated indexing of the 1950 Census, I tried what I thought I recollected, but came up with no results.

I was sure that I recollected her name as Ada Burton, and her husband was Richard or Dick. I had met them when my mom and dad visited them, and they visited us during my growing up years in Andover, Ashtabula County, Ohio,. In that first search, I used Ada Burton; living in Kent, Portage, Ohio; female, born in 1908. But obviously my recollection wasn’t perfect, hence no success.

A few days ago, something clicked in my memory bank. Could their name have been Stokes rather than Burton? How that popped up, I don’t know. Anyway, I tried looking in the 1950 Census for Ada Stokes, female, born 1908, living in Kent, Portage, Ohio. Still no success.

I tried a different approach: looking in the 1950 Census for Ada (using only her first name); female, born in 1908; living in Kent, Portage, Ohio. Using just these bare facts, I found her misindexed as Ada Stoker <sic> in the 1950 census, the eighth listing in the results list. When I opened this entry, I knew I had found Ada.

The listing provided this information: Ada M Stoker <sic>, Age 43, Birth Date 1907, Gender Female, Race White, Birth Place Ohio, Marital Status Married, Relation to Head of House Wife, Home in 1950 Kent, Portage, Ohio, Street Name Walcatt Ave, Dwelling Number 140, Occupation Cook, Industry Fraternity House, Occupation Category Working, Hours Worked 36.

Household members: included Robert B Stokes, head of household, age 43; Richard E Stokes, son, age 13; and Virginia M Stokes, daughter, age 12. (Note: I’m correcting the misindexing of these entries from Stoker to Stokes.) There was one more important family member: Edna B Schmitt, age 68, mother-in-law, which gave me a possible maiden name for Ada.

So with this 1950 Census information, I was able to find records for Ada’s birth as Ada Marie Schmitt and her marriage to Robert B. Stokes.

Ada M Schmitt, from

In searching for information on Robert, I learned that his middle name was Burton and he often went by the nickname of Burt. Whoa! I wasn’t completely misremembering, just off a little.

I created the Schmitt-Stokes Family Tree on to research for ancestors and descendants of Ada and Burt. yielded everything I needed. They appeared in family trees created by others, but after a few hours of research, I believe that my research tree has more complete information.

Thanks to and the 1950 Census, I longer have to wonder about Ada.

This article was originally posted by the author on his blog at

King Charles and the Western Reserve


Under normal circumstances, I do not pay much attention to the royalty in the United Kingdom or any other realm. But when Prince Charles ascended to the British throne as King Charles III upon the death of his mother a few weeks ago, I was reminded about the involvement of another King Charles in the development of the Western Reserve.

King Charles II granted a Royal Charter to the Colony of Connecticut in 1662. The charter granted land to the colony extending westward from the Atlantic Ocean across the North American continent to the Pacific Ocean. During the organization of what became the United States of America the rights to the westward land owned by Connecticut was reduced to what became known as the Connecticut Western Reserve, which in turn became 10 counties and parts of five more in the northeastern corner of the State of Ohio.

So is King Charles III a blood descendent of King Charles II? With the information available today on the internet, it is relatively easy to learn about any such relationship.

According to the line of succession provided by Wikipedia (Family tree of British monarchs), Charles III does descend from Charles II through 11 generations, but not directly. There are some sideways relationships in which the direct descendent died before assuming the throne and the crown passed to a siblings. In one case, the sideways accession involved four royals.

To see this line of succession, go to

The official website for the monarchy of Great Britain is at This website offered up a fascinating look at the life of Charles II. For this report, go to

If you are interested, a Google search will lead to many other websites with additional insights into the royal family of Great Britain information,

I Found Myself in the 1950 Census


Today, April 1 2022, is the release day for the 1950 U.S. Census. Images of the enumeration pages were released by the U.S. Census Bureau in the early morning hours. I wasn’t one of the super enthusiasts who probably stayed up to access the census when it went live, but I did access it by 11 am. I glad I did.

I found it to be user friendly. It was simple to use with fairly unique names and for known places. And using it is completely free. To use it go here.

In brief, this is what makes it work: There is a name and place index that was generated by some sort of advanced optical character recognition software developed to “read” handwriting whether printing or cursive. From my short experience today, I am impressed with its accuracy.

I was able to find myself and my family by entering the search terms, Ohio and Ashtabula County, and the name Huskonen, Walfrid (my father’s name). The indexing took me to the proper enumeration page for South Main Street in Andover where I found Dad, Mom, my sister Viena, my brother Walfrid, and me. I did have to scroll down the page a bit to find us. Our southern property line was at the southern border of Andover Village, so to see our neighbors in Andover Township, I had to go to another Enumeration District to search for families I remembered by name or for pages to scroll through.

For other relatives in Ashtabula County, I went to the Enumeration District for Williamsfield Township, the next towhship south of Andover Township. By searching or scrolling, I was able to find my uncle Hugh Huskonen and his family living on a farm in the western part of the township. In the eastern part of the township, I found my uncle Wallace Dingman and his family.

I did find a bit of new information from my family’s listing: my father earned just over $5000 in the previous 12 months. I knew that he was working as a patternmaker for a brass foundry, and that was confirmed by the enumeration. This tidbit of extra information was provided because when he was enumerated, he was recorded on Line 13, which was designated as a Sample Line. Extra questions were asked by the enumerators for people who fell on the sample lines.

This was the second census that I found myself in, the first being the 1940 Census, when my father, mother, and I lived with my grandmother, Grace Tripp, on West Main St. in Andover.

I plan to do considerable additional research in the 1950 Census in the days ahead.

Our Connections with Ukraine


Watching the news coverage of Putin’s War against Ukraine has reminded me of what my late wife Mary Jane said some 60 years ago about teaching elementary music at Thoreau Park Elementary School on W 54th St. in Parma, Ohio. She said that her music room was converted most Saturdays into a classroom for area students to learn to speak Ukrainian. The school district has built several new elementary schools since MJ’s teaching days, but Thoreau Park remains as one of Parma School District’s eight elementary schools. (For info on elementary schools in Parma, including Thoreau Park, go here:

Another reminder popped up in my news feed The Wakeup published by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. This was presented with the headline: CNN visits Parma and Ukrainian Village; city prepares for expected refugees.

Parma City Hall showing support of Ukraine
Utrainian flag flying over Parma, Ohio, city hall.

For this news item, go here:

Some facts gleaned from this report:

• Parma has a Ukrainian ethnic community identified as Ukarinian Village. People involved are collecting donations of money and goods for Ukrainian relief. With some additional research I found this website:

• Parma has some 4,000 residents who identify with Ukrainian ethnicity.

• An important place of worship for Ukrainians in Parma is St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral on State Road. Over the years, I have driven by this church countless times without knowing its importance to Parma residents. has this entry with a photo and map:,_Ohio)

1950 Census — The Biggest Yet!


The countdown is nearing its end until the 1950 Census is available for genealogists and family historians to search. According to the “72-Year Rule,” the National Archives releases census records to the general public 72 years after Census Day. As a result, the 1930 census records were released April 1, 2002, and the 1940 records were released April 2, 2012. The 1950 census records will be made available on April 1, 2022.

According to, over 151 million people were recorded in the 1950 census (that’s 14% more than in 1940), and about 30 million of those were age 9 and under, appearing in a census for the first time.

I well remember my excitement leading up to the release of the 1940 census because I knew that I would make my first appearance in a census enumeration. Sure enough, there I was as a 2 year old living with my father and mother in the house owned by my maternal grandmother on West Main Street in Andover, Ashtabula County, Ohio.

For the 1950 census, I will be able to see the listing for our family in our house on South Main Street in Andover, including my sister and brother for the first time.

I will be interested in looking at the residences along South Main and East Main Streets because I delivered the Ashtabula Star Beacon along these streets six days a week at that time.

Initially, I will have to search out the enumeration districts for these Andover streets and scroll through the census pages because there will be no searchable index available until later, probably mid or late summer.

As I understand it, new technology is being utilized to create a draft index of names and places and then volunteers will proofread the draft to create the searchable index. This proofing effort is being undertaken by volunteers working with the National Genealogical Society,, and

Finding Your Roots for 2022 To Premiere Jan. 4


I just learned the details of Season 8 of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and I’m looking forward to watching every one of the 10 episodes. The series is set to premiere in January 2022 on PBS. Locally, it will appear on WCLV PBS IdeaStream.

The 10-episode series will feature 21 guests, including actors Amy Carlson (Blue Bloods), Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Tony Danza, Raúl Esparza (Law & Order: SVU), Kathryn Hahn (Wandavision), Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Passing), Nathan Lane, John Leguizamo, Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton), and Melissa Villaseñor (Saturday Night Live); filmmakers Lee Daniels and Damon Lindelof; fashion legend André Leon Talley; journalist Erin Burnett; talk show and radio host Mario Lopez; restaurateur David Chang; and activists Brittany Packnett Cunningham and Anita Hill.

To see trailers for the upcoming season, go to

Andrew Betts and His Two Wives Named Catherina/Catherine


My fourth great grandfather was Andrew Betts, born about 1755 and died in 1823. I have attended Betts family reunions in the past and we often visited his grave marker in the State Line (Betts) Cemetery near Jamestown, Crawford County, Pennsylvania. That gravestone states that his wife was Catherine Sherbondy. I recently received a message through messaging pointing out the error in the common belief that this Catherine was the mother of Andrew’s children, including my third great grandfather also named Andrew. I am sharing below the argument that Jeffrey Sherbondy, of the Sherbondy Family Association, makes that the mother of Andrew’s children was another Catherine, maiden name unknown. In his argument, he uses the given names Catherine and Catherina to refer to both women. Since receiving this message and evaluating his evidence, I have corrected my main family tree on to include two wives for Andrew Betts.

Here is the message from Jeffrey (with very slight editing):

Genealogical research is not an exact science. With old records (before 1900), there are often errors or irregularities. Many of those records were not created with the intention that they would be used over 200 years later. Standardization was not set up and accuracy was not monitored. For that reason, it is important when using old records that you do not rely on one source alone for your conclusions.

On the other hand, old records and records that were created, recorded, and/or transcribed at the time of the event are more reliable for genealogical evidence than records created later.

You must collect all of the information possible from the time period and the location and look at everything in its entirety (the “whole picture”). Each piece must be assembled and put together to see how everything fits together. One document or piece of evidence may then stand out as being inconsistent with the other documents. That document may have an error. Only then, after taking into consideration the date each record was created compared to the event and the consistency with other information, can you reach a proper conclusion.

One example of this is the birth date of Melcher Sherbondy per the census of 1850. Per his age of 86, his birth year would be 1764. However, according to the census of 1830, the census of 1840, and the church birth records, his birth year is known to be 1769 (Jan).

Now let’s look at Andrew Betts’ life.

Andrew Betts’ birth year is confirmed to be approximately 1755 according to a baptism record from 19 May 1771 and per the 1800 and 1810 census records. Some records show his birth to be 12 July 1755 but I have not seen a copy of that record. Also on the 1800 and the 1810 census is a female of the approximate (b 1756-1765) same age as Andrew. This would be Andrew’s FIRST wife. Andrew’s first wife’s name is first found in the birth and christening records of the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Manheim, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. These records for the birth of Christian and Emanual in 1779 and 1781 show the names of the parents as Andr. Bez and Catharina. This is the first evidence of Andrew’s first wife’s name. They had other children born from 1783 to 1797 and perhaps two who died young before and after these. Perhaps someone has more detailed church records for all of Andrew and Catharina’s children.

During the time that Andrew and Catharina’s children were born, Anna Catherina Cherpantier was born, daughter of Johann Cherpantier and Maria Catherina. She was born on 9 May 1784 and baptized on 6 June 1784 at Christ Church, Hamilton Square, Hamilton Township, Northampton County (now Monroe County), Pennsylvania. This proves conclusively that there were two Catherine’s during the time that Andrew’s children were born from 1777-1797.

In the 1800 and 1810 census records, there are females in different households that account for both of these Catherine’s. In the 1800 census for Andrew Betts, the female aged 26-44 is his first wife, Catharina. In the 1810 census for Andrew, the female over age 45 is also his first wife Catharina. At the same time, in the 1800 census for Melcher Sherbondy, the female aged 10-15 is Catherine Sherbondy, sister of Melcher. The census takers would have come near the beginning of the year, before May 1800, so her age would have been 15 at the time of the census. This year (1800) was only one year after the death of their father, John Sherbondy. Catherine and her brother, John, b. 1780, were living with their older brother Melcher at the time. All other family members of the Melcher household were accounted for in the 1800 census. In the 1810 census for Melcher Sherbondy, the female aged 16 to 25 is Catherine Sherbondy, sister of Melcher. Once, again, the census takers would have come near the beginning of the year, before May, 1810, so her age would have been 25 at the time of the census. All other family members of the Melcher household were accounted for in the 1810 census. This proves once again that there were two Catherine’s at the same time in 1800 and 1810.

Andrew’s first wife Catherine is not on any other records after the census of 1810. Andrew’s first wife Catherine must have died after 1810. In the Crawford County History, published in 1899, it states that Andrew Betts married “Miss Shibondi” in the “dawn of the century”. In the “dawn of the century,” would be after 1800, and since both Catherines are accounted for up to 1810, he must have married Catherine Sherbondy sometime around 1810-1815, and possibly as late as 1820. Catherine Sherbondy Betts is not shown on any documents until March 1820 when she signs a land sale with Andrew. She is also not on any documents after 1820 and some records show that she died in 1820.

Life was tough in Pennsylvania during this era. Catherine Sherbondy’s grandparents’ (Phillip and Eva Catherine Bossard) family was attacked and some killed by Indians in the 1750s. There was great reluctance to leave populated areas. If Andrew’s first wife died, he needed someone to help care for his children and she needed someone to provide her a living. This marriage may have been out of necessity.

In 1999, a memorial plaque was erected commemorating Andrew Betts and Catherine Sherbondy. This was approximately 245 years after the birth of Andrew’s first wife. It states Andrew Betts dates as 1755-1823. It also states Catherine Sherbondy Betts dates as 1755-1820. The donor, Ellis Royal Higgins, was not aware of the birth records for Anna Catherina Cherpantier from 1784 (found in 2006 and also was not aware of the two women accounted for on the census records of 1800 and 1810. The conclusion is that the memorial has two errors: 1) the birth date of Catherine Sherbondy is not 1755 and 2) Catherine Sherbondy Betts is not the mother of Andrew Betts’ children.

There may be key information that we will never know and, as is often the case, there may be undiscovered documents that turn up later with new information.

Please feel free to share this with other relatives.
Jeffrey D. Sherbondy
Sherbondy Family Association
Dec 2021