Phoebe and Albert Muffly’s 27th Wedding Anniversary

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, May 29, 1911: My mother’s wedding anniversary. 27 years ago. We are going to build a piece to the barn. Two of the carpenters came today. During a thunderstorm this afternoon, the lightning struck a large oak tree. 

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I’ve been curious about how marriage ages have changed over the years (see March 22 entry). Grandma’s parents must have gotten married in 1884.  Her mother would have been 21 or 22; her father would have been 26.

On May 10 Grandma mentioned helping pour mortar—I now wonder if it was in preparation for the construction of the piece they were going to build onto the barn.

Genealogy–The Maternal Side

Thursday, April 20, 1911: Missing entry (Diary resumes on April 28.)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write anything in her diary again today, I’d like to tell you a little more about her family.

Grandma’s parents were Albert Muffly and Phoebe (Derr) Muffly. Yesterday’s post followed the paternal line back to Switzerland.

Today I’d like to give some information about the maternal line.

My cousin (and one of Helena’s grandchildren) Alice Chepiga compiled this information for her son. Like me, she really enjoys digging into our family history:

 I had so much fun last summer putting these documents together. My Mom had a box with lots of papers. It was a challenge separating the documents to see how our family was related to our ancestors.

Alice Chepiga

Here’s what Alice found:

John Wilson (1726) married Phoebe Dawson, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Dawson from Karsborough, Yorkshire, England.

John and Phoebe had eight children including Hannah was born in England in 1763.

John and Phoebe immigrated to America in August 1764.

Philip Opp (1759 born in Germany) marries Hannah Wilson in 1787.

In 1786, John and Mary Opp sold land to their son Philip 250 acres near Muncy, PA.

They had five children including one daughter, Mary (1796) and Philip Opp – father of Colonel Milton Opp – Civil War.

Mary Opp marries Christopher Derr in 1818. Christopher’s father emigrated from Germany in 1771.

They have ten children including John Derr (1823). John Derr married Sarah Houseknecht. They have a daughter Phoebe who marries Albert Muffly.

One of Phoebe’s children is a daughter, Helen(a) Muffly.

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

A note regarding yesterday’s post on the genealogy of Muffly side of the family: Bill Dietrich sent me additional information from the 1850 census about  the 4th generation. I’ve updated yesterday’s post, and added several children to the list for Samual Muffly (April 21, 1797-July 1, 1873) and Anna Maria Kleppinger.

I’m at Least 0.4% Swiss!!

Wednesday, April 19, 1911: Missing entry (Diary resumes on April 28.)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I believe that there are only two spots during the entire four-year diary where  Grandma failed to write a daily entry—one place was in January 1911 near the very beginning of the diary; the other spot is here.

I will use these days to provide additional background information about Grandma. Today, I’d like to share some genealogical information about the Muffly family.

It looks like the Muffly family originally came over from Switzerland. I recently contacted Rootsweb—Northumberland County to try to find out more about the Muffly family. Bill Dietrich responded. He had traced the Muffly paternal line back to Bern Switzerland. Bill-thank you!

I organized the information by generation.

My cousin Stu Kurtz provided some additional details based upon census data  that  he found on the Church of Latter Day Saints’ FamilySearch site.

The Muffly Family in the United States

Generation 1

Nickolas Muffly (1707-1786). Immigrated from Bern Switzerland to Northampton County Pennsylvania; later moved to Centre County, Pennsylvania and eventually died in Centre County (At that time Centre County was part of Northumberland County.)

Generation 2

Peter Muffly (1739-1816) and Catherine Regina Wannemacher (1744-1831). Peter was born in Northampton County, Pennsylvania; later moved to Centre County, Pennsylvania (which was part of Northumberland County)

Generation 3

Heinrick Muffly (February 15, 1772 – February 4, 1853) and Julia Marie Walker (1774-1861).  Heinrick moved from Centre County, Pennsylvania to Montour County Pennsylvania (which was also part of Northumberland County at that time).

Generation 4

Samual Muffly (April 21, 1797-July 1, 1873) and Anna Maria Kleppinger (1795-1868). Samual lived in Montour County Pennsylvania.


Samuel K. (December 14, 1827-1896)

Catherine, born circa 1830 (20 years old in 1850 census)

Maria, born circa 1832 (18 years old in 1850 census)

George, born circa 1835 (15 years old in 1850 census)

Stephen, born circa 1837 (13 years old in 1850 census)

James W. (1842-1860)

Generation 5

Samuel K. Muffly (December 14, 1827-1896) and Charlette Treon (1827-1905). Samuel K. was born and died in Montour County, Pennsylvania.


Anna Maria (1852- )

Mentures (1854- )

Mary Eve (1855- 1912)

Albert James (1857-1949)

Oscar L (1860-1919)

Emma (1862- )

Elizabeth (1864- )

Samuel (1865- )

Asher (1869- )

Essie (1872- )

George (1874- )

Note: Stu looked at census data and found many of the names in this generation in  the 1870 census—but he did not find Mentures. Mentures apparently died young.  Stu says that according to an online dictionary menture means “intellect” or “mind” in Latin. In the 1800s Latin was commonly taught in schools, so maybe a version of  the word was used as a name.

Generation 6

Albert James Muffly (November 23, 1857- 1949) and Phoebe Jane Derr (1862-1941). Albert was born in Montour County; As an adult lived in Northumberland County.

Children: Bessie F. (1888-1981),

Ruth E. (1892-1977)

Helen(a) Mae (March 21, 1895-November 26, 1980)

James A. (August 30, 1905 – July 14, 1988)

Please note that this list may be revised. We’re still double checking some of the information—but I wanted to share what I had.

My son asked what proportion of my ancestry was Swiss. Well, nine generations ago I had 256 great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents. At least 1 of them came from Switzerland, so I’m at least 1 / 256th Swiss—in other words, I’m at least 0.4% Swiss.

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.

Helena, Helen, or Grandma?

Monday, January 2, 1911: Missing Entry (Diary resumes on  January 12)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

There are only a few days of missing entries in the entire four-year diary, and most of them are here at the very beginning of the diary.

Since there are no entries for the next several days–and since I’ve found some interesting contextual information as I’ve worked on this–I’ll periodically post background information over the next week or so. And, then the diary postings will really get going on a daily basis on the 12th.

Grandma’s Name

As I work at posting this diary I’ve struggled with what name to use when referring to the diary’s author.

The diary’s 15-year-old author called herself Helena. My grandmother called herself Helen. I grew up in the farmhouse where my grandmother had lived when my father was a child. When I was a teen I found Helena Muffly’s high school diploma in the attic.

I saw Grandma the next Sunday, and after church I asked her whether her name was Helen or Helena. She said Helen. When I told her about the name on the diploma. She replied, “Oh, that was just kid stuff.”

My cousin Stu did a little research on Grandma’s name using the Family Search tool that the Church of Latter Day Saints has on their website. He found that her name is listed as Helena in the 1900 and 1920 censuses–but that it is Helen in the 1910 one. For the 1900 census the image of the census page is even on the website.  (When I replicated his search, I had the best luck when I used Northumberland County Pennsylvania as her address.)

Helen? Helena? Grandma? It seems strange to call a 15-year-old Grandma, but that’s how I think of her. Maybe I’ll just call the author Grandma when I write about her even though she was many years away from becoming my grandmother.

Ruminations About Why Grandma Didn’t Post for Several Days

 Maybe Grandma had writer’s block and found it difficult to get the diary doing. Maybe she was sick and didn’t feel like writing.

Or, maybe I somehow missed copying a page in the early 1980s when the diary was circulated amongst family members. But how could I have missed copying page 2 of the diary?!?!?

More likely a page or two was removed from the diary. Maybe Grandma herself—or someone else—didn’t want others to read something that she wrote.  What could she have possibly written that she wouldn’t want others to read? . . . a fight with her mother?  . . . a description of potential beau? . . . .or maybe the 15-year-old wrote something that she feared would get her in trouble and tore the page out?  . . . .or maybe her sister read the diary and didn’t like an unflattering comment and tore it out? . . . . or . . . .?


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