March 10 — What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?
Growing up, I never heard anyone talk about church, talk about going to church or even mention what our ancestor’s religion was. This was normal for me and never thought twice about it until I was involved with genealogy for a few years. Once my research took be back so far, I wasn’t sure where to look next since my people were farmers out in the middle of nowhere. And by this point I just figured that you were only supposed to following the males since the women almost always seemed to drop of the face of the Earth never to be seen again…unless you were lucky enough to find a parent on a census listed as the mother or father-in-law of the head of the household.
It was only in the past couple of years that I received a death certificate listing a Lutheran Cemetery in Trevorton as the place of burial. Off to Trevorton I went, found my ancestors and discovered that the cemetery was affiliated with the local Lutheran Church in that town. I had searched every other avenue and turned up empty but this was something new to go on. A visit to FamilySearch.org told me that microfilm was available that contained the church records for the years I was researching…best $7 I even spent.
Once the microfilm was delivered to my local Family History Center, I began the task of trying to decipher when I was looking at and then it hit me that it was in German. Bummer! I kept scrolling until I hit a point where I understood a few of the words. A few years later all of the records were written in English…thankfully. WooHoo…I found a Wetzel! I turns out that my ancestor’s weren’t attending church or baptizing their children, not even a marriage record up to this point. Everything changed when my 2nd great grand uncle Howard Wetzel married Hannah Elizabeth Osman in 1903.
Hannah was baptized in this church in 1882 and this is the church she would attend for the entirety of her life. Her children were baptized here and this is also where a few of them married. Now, while Hannah wasn’t a blood relative she was the one who influenced my family to join the church. Through her guidance and example, many of my people did in fact join the church and would be baptized as adults. Once such baptism brought tears to my eyes; at the age of nine my great grandmother was baptized at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. The sponsors were her uncle and his wife; the parents list were Laura Wetzel and …Richard Williams. My great grandmother was born out of wedlock and the family never provided the name of the father so nobody ever knew who he was…including my great grandma.
Though my line of the family didn’t stay with the church, it was this introduction that generated enough records to help me find my family. I know that there are some Wetzel lines coming out of Trevorton that have remained with the church and continue to practice their faith to this day.