Hello, and welcome to a page which I hope will someday be a useful genealogical resource, but which is right now a jumbled mess. I've been doing historical research off and on, professionally and for personal interest for about 20 years, and now I'm going to attempt to post it up on the Internet.
I do this only partly out of vanity: Some of it is my family history, much of it is not. But all of it centers on parts of America from which thousands, if not millions, of people trace their descent. And I haven't seen this information elsewhere on the web.
The Harpers lived first on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where they were slaveowners and small planters until the family broke apart in an internal battle over slavery and money and madness. One son came, through abolitionist connections, to the Quaker-dominated central part of Chester County, Pennsylvania. There he and his descendants intermarried with some of the old Quaker and German Reformed families that had been in Chester County since William Penn's day and before.
I grew up in and around West Chester, Pa., the county seat of Chester County, and I've written two books about it, which were published by the Chester County Historical Society: "If Thee Must Fight: A Civil War History of Chester County, Pa." (1990) and "West Chester to 1865: That Elegant Notorious Place" (1999). In the course of researching these, especially the latter, I delved into many of the families that first settled this part of the world, to establish their connections to one another. West Chester, like many small towns, was a place where everyone was literally related to everyone else by blood or marriage. It is impissible to understand the social dynamics of the place without reference to its family story.
The Harper family tree was begun before my time, apparently by my childless Uncle Charlie (Charles S. Harper), who seems to have drawn on both documentary evidence and anecdote. With the help of other researchers in Oklahoma and California who have been tracing this line, I was able to verify most of what he discovered, correct a few errors, and expand the body of information. The anecdotal stories about the Harper slaves, which seem to me the most interesting part of the narrative, are beyond the reach of historical verification.
The Chester County Quaker families in the tree made for easy research, since I was able to spend lunch hours at the Chester County Historical Society for most of the 1980s, and because the Quakers, especially the Welsh, were superlative records-keepers.
A few years ago, wanting some useful employment, I took a detour into the incredibly tangled trees of some of the German Reformed families of northeastern Chester County -- starting with the Fetters/Brownback/Keely/Acker cluster that is in my lineage -- to try to make some sense of them and test my skill.
All of this amounts to more than 3,000 names, now in a huge sheaf of papers, which I spent the last month busily transfering into files that I'm in the process of uploading here, so you can see them and download them. They are in GEDCOM form, if I understand that correctly. You should be able to link to it here.
I'm not currently doing genealogical research, in Chester County or elsewhere. I might be lured back into it if the price is right (just kidding -- sort of ). What I'm posting up here is admittedly spotty stuff: some of the trees are filled in down to the twigs, others are merely sketched in. It's research that was not gathered with publication in mind; its appearance here is an afterthought. I apologize for its desultory nature.
Meanwhile, I've posted up a narrative history of the Harpers and some of their related clans in Maryland and others in Pennsylvania. I've also put in files on my mother's families, Jewish, German and Irish immigrants in Philadelphia at the turn of the century. If you have any questions about any of this, feel free to e-mail me.
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