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In Search of George McConnell: Butler County to Dauphin?

September 2, 2008

A few days ago, I started again on the hunt through the 1850 census for George Washington McConnell, father of Sarah W. Kulp. Although a county biography (of her brother) says both parents were Dauphin County natives, I have long suspected this was incorrect. Her mother, Sarah Marsh was, certainly, but I can’t find barely a shred of info on McConnell and he’s definitely not in the 1850 census for Dauphin.

In the 1860 census, and in tax lists from the same area, he used the name George W. McConnell as I expected, but two sources refer to him by his middle name. Sarah W. McConnell’s first husband’s obituary lists her as “the daughter of the late Washington McConnell,” and when she remarried, her marriage license listed her parents as “W & Sarah McConnell.” So, I thought I might look for this name instead in the 1850 census.

I had actually found one Washington McConnell in that census for PA before, but the dates were very much off. He was listed as being born about 1836, and in the 1860 census for Dauphin County George W. McConnell’s birthdate was entered as 1828. What’s more, this Washington McConnell also was living with someone–a brother, perhaps?–by the name of George McConnell, who was born in 1826. That was a bit closer, but I obviously couldn’t be certain of it and didn’t really think it was likely. However, sometimes the other names in a household can tell you if you’ve found the right person, since you’ll often recognize family names among the other members. For example, I was once looking for a member of the Detweiler family, Charles, in one of the 20th C censuses, and couldn’t find him in PA where the rest of his family was. I then located someone by the same name in Ohio who was married to a Leila, but since it was an entirely different state I couldn’t verify it–until I saw that he had a son by the name of Parke Detweiler. Parke was Charles Detweiler’s mother’s maiden name. Later, thanks to FamilySearchLabs.org, I found Charles’ death certificate, which confirmed the relationship. (OH, unlike PA, makes its death certificates available online.)

So, since there was both a George McConnell and a Washington McConnell in the family, could it be possible that one of them was the person I was looking for? Possible, but not certain. Washington in those days was a more common first name than Parke, definitely.

This, by the way, was in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, a town called North Slipperyrock. Well, when I did a search on Ancestry for Washington McConnell, you won’t believe what I found.

Three different people by that name: the one in North Slipperyrock, Lawrence County–and two in Butler County. The name of the town was Slippery Rock.

Okay, so there’s a Slippery Rock in Butler County with two Washington McConnells, and a North Slipperyrock in Lawrence County with a Washington McConnell and a George McConnell in the same household. Well, Lawrence and Butler County are western PA, so I don’t know that area, but my subsequent travels through USGenWeb informed me that Lawrence and Butler are adjoining counties. I originally thought perhaps Slippery Rock and North Slippery Rock were across the county border from each other, but from a Wikipedia map, it seems that the Butler County Slippery Rock borders on Mercer County, not Lawrence. Also can’t find any mention of a North Slippery Rock in online maps, and by the way–if it were in Lawrence County, it wouldn’t be north, it would be west of original Slippery Rock. So, not sure about all that.

But back to Washington McConnell. In Slippery Rock, Butler County, there were two people with this name. One was only 6 years old, placing his birthdate at 1844, so he was definitely not the one I was looking for.

The second, however–who, btw, was only about three census pages away–was living in the household of a John Balph, wagoner. This Washington McConnell was also listed as a wagoner, so was Balph perhaps his employer? His age was listed as 21–born about 1829. This would fit excellently with the 1860 census’ claim of 1828. (Presuming the 1860 is correct; it’s the only census other than the 1850, and the only one I’ve verified, that he would appear in, since he died only a few years later.)

In the household, there was also a Boils family, but no other McConnells. So, if it is him, I still don’t know what I’ve been trying to find out–his parents’ names. I then did some more checking on USGenWeb, and the Butler County site mentions a lot of McConnells, but none with the name George or Washington. The site did link to a website for a Butler County library, however, which had a comprehensive index of Butler County obituaries. Really comprehensive. There, I found an entry for the obituary of a Washington McConnell who died in the early 1900’s, and whose age roughly fit that of the six-year-old in the 1850 census. But, nothing else. So, can we then assume that the 21-year-old Washington McConnell, wagoner for “John Balph,” left the county of Butler? And perhaps…moved clear across the state to the riverside borough of Halifax in Dauphin County? I don’t know, but it’s a possibility.

One of the things I do to see if I’ve found the right person in a census is check other earlier or subsequent censuses, and see if this person by the same name appears in a census where I know the one I’m looking for was somewhere else entirely. This, then, would disprove the theory. I did this with the Butler County people by searching the 1860 census, and would you believe? Not one of them appeared. Not the wagoner, the six-year-old (who would then be sixteen), or any member at all of the family in Lawrence County. ???

I didn’t check any other following censuses, but will try to do that soon. The fact that I can’t find any of them in the 1860 census is very odd. Plus, I will need to check out the Lawrence County GenWeb, although I’m leaning toward the wagoner from Butler County as being the one I’m looking for.

The question now is, if that really is him, was he related to any of those other McConnells? What happened to his parents? Was he orphaned, or did he leave home? Most importantly, why would he have moved to Dauphin County? And, if he made that journey then, was even Butler County his actual native home?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. jim reis permalink
    September 11, 2009 2:19 pm

    I have an 19th century photo of washington and sarah mcconnell. if interested contact jim reis 215 542 8600

  2. Jim permalink
    January 31, 2016 5:02 pm

    There is a G. Washington McConnell 1844-1906 and Sarah A. McConnell 1851-1931 buried in Zion Baptist Cemetery, Slippery Rock, PA. I am not aware of any town of Slippery Rock in Lawrence County.

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