Grandma’s Parents

Tuesday, January 3, 1911: Missing Entry (Diary resumes on  January 12)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later

The 1900 census image for the Muffly family on the Family Search website provides a few interesting clues about Grandma’s parents. Her father Albert Muffly was born in Pennsylvania in November 1857. He was a farmer. Her mother Phoebe (called Febia on the census form) Muffly was born in Pennsylvania in August 1862. At the start of the diary Grandma’s father would have been 53 years old and her mother was 48.

(An aside: According to the Family Search tool the spelling of Muffly also shifted on census forms. On the 1900 census Muffly is spelled Muffly–but on the 1910 and 1920 ones it is spelled Muffley. I’ve also occasionally seen the spelling that includes an “e” on other documents but “Muffly” seems to be the preferred spelling.  I guess the importance of consistent spelling for future family genealogists wasn’t considered back then. But onward–)

It is also possible to figure out that Grandma’s father was 38 years old when she was born and that her mother was 33. Grandma’s oldest sister Besse (called Bessie on the census form) was 6 years older than Grandma; her other sister Ruth was 3 years older. (By the time Grandma was writing the diary she also had a brother Jimmie who was about 9 years younger than she was. Grandma’s mother must have been about 42 years old when Jimmie was born which seems quite old for that era.)

I had always heard that Grandma was the third child (and third daughter) in the family. According to the 1900 census form her mother had had 4 children prior to 1900—and 3 were still living. So Grandma must have had another sibling who apparently did not live very long.

John and Sarah Derr Family. Taken about 1900. L to R. Front Row: John, Annie (Derr) Van Sant, Sarah. Back Row: Miles, Fuller, Alice (Derr) Krumm, Elmer, Phoebe (Derr) Muffly, Judson, Homer. Phoebe was the mother of Helena.

In the early 1900s prominent citizens in a county were sometimes invited to submit biographical sketches that were then compiled into county history books. The individuals were also required to pay a fee if they wanted their sketch included the book. Some of these books are now available online. Two of Phoebe Muffly’s brothers have sketches in county histories and I was able to glean bits of information about Phoebe from them. Historical and Biographical Annuals of Columbia and Montour Counties Pennsylvania (Vol.  II)   had an entry about her brother J. Miles Derr (pp. 753-4) and Bell’s History of Northumberland County  had an entry for her brother Fuller Derr (p. 1085).

Grandma’s mother Phoebe Muffly was one of nine children born to John F. and Sarah (Houseknecht) Derr.  As an adult Phoebe had brothers living in South Dakota (Homer) and Baltimore Maryland (Elmer). Another brother (Fuller) was a physician in Watsontown; while  Miles was a teacher at Limestoneville. One of Phoebe’s sisters (Annie) was married to a physician in Turbotville.

When Grandma Helena began keeping the diary her maternal grandparents John and Sarah Derr were retired farmers living  in nearby Turbotville Pennsylvania.

12 Responses

  1. I didn’t realize the spelling of names were so flexible back then. It looks like you’ve done a lot of good research on her.

    • Most people were born at home back then and didn’t have birth certificates–and apparently there was more variation across time in names and how they were spelled back then.

  2. [...] (See a photo of John and Sarah Derr’s family in the posting titled Grandma’s Parents.) [...]

  3. I found your site today through a link in Facebook. Gotta love Facebook! Loved reading through it….an hour has passed and I’m still reading…very interesting. Thank you for sharing!!

    • Thanks for the nice note. It’s a real day brightener to hear that you enjoyed the blog enough to spend more than a hour reading it.

  4. [...] child Besse was born in 1888. (There may have been an older one who died at an early age—see previous post.)   Phoebe probably felt good to finally have her youngest child almost ready to start [...]

  5. Typo… 1962

    Her mother Phoebe (called Febia on the census form) Muffly was born in Pennsylvania in August 1962

    We all do it.

    • Good catch-It’s so easy to make these kinds of typos–and I appreciate it that you took the time to let me know. Thank you!

      I’ve corrected it on the post.

      • I know people could see the typo, but I wanted you to know.

        BTW… How many posts did you write? Just want to figure how much days I will need to read all.

        • hmm–I started posting the diary entries on January 1, 2011. I guess that I must be up to about 720 posts by now. It’s amazing how quickly time has flown. Back when I started this blog, I thought that I might get tired on doing it, but I still have a lot of fun. If anything I enjoy it even more now than I did at the beginning.

        • hmm–I started posting the diary entries on January 1, 2011. I guess that I must be up to about 720 posts by now. It’s amazing how quickly time has flown. Back when I started this blog, I thought that I might get tired on doing it, but I still have a lot of fun. If anything I enjoy it even more now than I did at the beginning.

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