Vintage 1840s Family Tannery Ledger Preserved, Digitized and Online

L-R: Linda Marker, Michael J. Miller, Jennifer Hurl

A vintage tannery business ledger in Somerset County, PA, from the 1840s, when the business was operated by Jehu McMillan and his family, has been brought to light, digitized and made publicly available online at no charge. Preserved by local farmer and collector Michael J. Miller, the volume was photographed page-by-page by Linda Marker of the Rockwood Area (PA) Historical Society. Jennifer Hurl, of the Meyersdale (PA) Public Library, consulted on the project.

The 180-year-old ledger lists the credits and debits of scores of individual customer accounts during the pre-Civil War years. Among them are myriad cousins of the Minerd-Minard-Miner-MinorYounkin-Younken-YoungkinHarbaughReam and Hartzell families. A number of customers later migrated away as pioneer settlers of western states, with the pen and ink entries serving as a rare record of their brief early years in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The one-of-a-kind book opens a fascinating window into how much the farming community depended on a good tannery during the 1800s to transform their livestock hides into leather farm tools and footwear. It also gives insights into the political and religious leanings of the McMillan family owners.

A new page features excerpts, images and analysis of the ledger and customers at this link. The full library of images is available for viewing and download on the Rockwood Area Historical Society’s page on [PDF, 132 MB].

Josephine (Emerick) Whelan of Iowa and and Her 1881 Pennsylvania-Maryland Homecoming Diary

Josephine (Emerick) Whalen and family, courtesy Google Books. Enlarge>>>

Born in Somerset County, PA in 1856, Josephine Emerick migrated to Iowa in infancy with her parents Emanuel and Elizabeth (Boderfield) Emerick. Still single at the age of 25, she seized an opportunity in the fall of 1881 to make an extended visit with her grandparents and many uncles and aunts who lived on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Fortunately, she kept a diary of her experiences, from late September 1881 to late March 1882, entitled Such Times: A Diary Kept by Josephine Emerick While Visiting Relatives in Pennsylvania and Maryland in 1881.

Josephine’s writings recount an extensive variety of rural social and community activities in which she took part. It seems that most every day she went somewhere with someone. She describes landmarks and towns she saw – Wills Mountain, Mt. Savage, Kennells Mills, Cumberland, Pompey Smash, Dans Rock, Wellersburg, Meyersdale, Salisbury, Pocahontas, the Casselman River, Palo Alto and Stringtown. She recounts seeing the old houses where she had been born and her mother raised, and touring a coal mine. Josephine attended camp meetings and church services, often where the preaching was entirely in German, and after one she wrote she “could not understand any.” Social activities included apple cuttings, singing school, spelling school, candy parties, boiling sugar and butcherings. She also spent time making dresses for cousins of whom she was especially fond.

Christmas Day was spent at church, then lunch at home, and then singing that evening in the Kennell’s Church House. New Year’s Day supper was held at her grandparents’ home, followed by evening Sunday School. To pay her respects to deceased relatives, she visited at least three cemeteries. She also transcribed a list of births and baptisms of her father, uncles and aunts, likely from an old family Bible.

Mountain travel in Pennsylvania was difficult, especially in the winter. She describes a ride in a buck wagon where “the mud flew right and left.” On walks through the rough mountain paths, a far cry from the Iowa flatness, she said “I thought my feet would come off stumbling over the rocks.” Sometimes the snows were so deep that she remained housebound for the day. Frequently homesick, she yearned for letters from her Iowa family. She finally left for home on March 28, 1882, embarking at the rail station in Cumberland, MD, having purchased a railroad ticket for $21.

Four-plus years after her return home, on Sept. 29, 1886, Josephine was united in matrimony with John L. Whelan, and they produced fouir children together. The family is seen in this studio portrait, with son Ralph and daughter Mary Eva. The image was published in the 1911 book History of Poweshiek County, Iowa, Vol. 2, authored by Leonard Fletcher Parker. Many years later, the diary was transcribed by her son Dr. Ralph Lewis “R.L.” Whelan, of Cedar Rapids, IA. A copy of the typescript in time was deposited in the Somerset (PA) Historical Center, where it was re-discovered in 2021 and then edited and published to this website.

Making a Home in Colombia, South America

Ruth (Van Horn) Snyder and daughters in South America – enlarge>>>

In the early 1950s, Donald and Ruth (Van Horn) Snyder and daughters Sally and Carol relocated from their home in Pasadena, CA to Colombia in South America. There, Don helped manage a contract to construct a 500-mile section of railway lines. Their hacienda was in the town of La Dorada, in the jungles near the Pontoná River. This image shows Ruth and the girls enjoying some sunshine and wildlife near their home.

Ruth later wrote a private memoir of that experience, entitled A Housewife in the Jungle: A 1950s Pasadena Family Goes to Colombia [McGann Publishing, Amazon Kindle ebook only]. According their daughter Carol McGann, the family was unaware of what they were getting into:

Ruth labored for almost two years to create some semblance of a normal life for her suburban Pasadena family, cooking with balky primitive stoves that could squire black oil all over the kitchen without notice, searching outdoor markets, wrestling with generators, home-schooling her daughters and in a thousand other ways dealing with an entirely different world that challenged her ingenuity. All the while there were snakes, parrots, bulls, floods, voracious insects, and impassible roads that were often reduced to long stretches of mud. Still, Ruth, a veteran teacher who had taught in a one-room schoolhouse in the Mojave desert, faced it all with good humor and kept her family healthy and happy as she learned to adapt to her second home.

The project was not entirely completed by the time the Snyders departed back to the United States. They traveled to home on a semi-freighter through the Panama Canal en route to New York City, and thence to Pasadena, where the spent the balance of their years.

See more in the biography of Ruth’s parents, Edward Jacob and Lucy Melia (Zimmerman) Van Horn, and in Ruth’s essay, Edward J. Van Horn: A Memoir of Early Southern California Life.

Osta (Cain) Miner Rests at Yosemite National Park’s Vernal Fall

Osta Miner, 1931 – enlarge>>>

High up in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Yosemite National Park in California, in 1931, Osta Arminta (Cain) Miner rests along the Mist Trail at the top section of the dramatic 317-foot Vernal Fall.

Osta’s husband, William Allen Miner, handwrote this caption on the back of this image: “Vernal Falls over twice as high as Niagra. in Yosemite Valley. We climbed hundreds of tiresome steps to get to the top of them where a beautiful lake lay in the basin of solid rock.”

Off and on during the late 1910s, and again from about 1920 to their deaths, the Miners made their home in Southern California, in the outskirts of Pasadena. Will and Osta enjoyed camping vacations throughout the southwestern United States, as shown by their snapshots sent to loved ones, taken in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada. The couple also resided over the years in El Monte and Rosemead, CA, where Will worked as a carpenter and house contractor during a time when these communities were booming in their growth as suburbs of Los Angeles.

It was a much different lifestyle than the rural farms where each had grown up, Will near Nineveh in Greene County, PA and Osta just over the state line in Hundred, WV. In an interesting twist, Will’s brother Harry Orlan Miner married Osta’s sister Armena Viancy Cain and dwelled in Washington, PA.

See more of their photographs in the “Out West Album.”

Newly Discovered Images of Civil War Veteran Frederick Weller and His Wife Mary Coleman

Frederick and Mary Weller – enlarge>>>

Photographs have surfaced of Civil War veteran William “Frederick” Weller and his wife, Mary Coleman, of the family of Joseph and Sarah (Weyand) Coleman of Somerset, PA. The couple were joined in matrimony less than a year after the war’s end, on Jan. 23, 1866, when he was age 24 and she 16.

Frederick stood 5 feet, 7½ inches tall and had a fair complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. He served with 52nd Pennsylvania Infantry during the conflict and often wrote letters to Mary. While on duty at Morris Island, SC in 1865, he contracted typhoid fever which led to bronchitis, heart disease and lung problems. Recalled Abraham Howard, his tentmate and messmate, “I never expected to see him get of[f] Morris Island alive, he was so low from the diseases…” Frederick was sent to a hospital in Charleston and thence to another in the District of Columbia. After receiving an honorable discharge, he came home in July 1865.

The couple spent decades as farmers. In the late 1880s, he began receiving a Civil War soldier’s pension from the federal government. An original copy of their marriage license, proving the legitimacy of their union, today is included in his pension file in the National Archives.

He found it difficult to work at farming, complaining often to neighbors Harmon Barron and Samuel S. Miller about “spells of sickness” which included pain in the chest and difficulty in breathing. Perhaps finding politics a lighter form of work, he is believed to have won the elected position of Director of the Poor in 1888-1892.

Circa 1898, apparently unhappy at home, Frederick made plans to become a resident of the Soldiers’ Home in Erie, PA. While en route, he stayed overnight in a hotel in Sharon, and nearly died of natural gas inhalation. Reported the Sharon Herald, “Frederick Weller … was found unconscious in his room … where he had blown out the gas before going to bed… To the physician at Sharon who attended him he said his wife is a consumptive and that when his pension money was exhausted his children kicked him out. He bewailed his fate, and wished he had died.”

On the last day of his life, on May 16, 1907, Frederick seemed to be in reasonable health. His brother came for a visit, and they talked for two hours. But after the brother’s departure, he complained of sharp heart pain, fell into bed and died. An obituary in the Connellsville (PA) Daily Courier said that he had been sick for a few days “but his death was unexpected and came as a blow to his friends and family. [He was] a consistent member of the Lutheran church and was well known throughout the county. He was an excellent citizen and the community will miss him.”

These images originally were published in The History of Christ’s, Casebeer Evangelical Lutheran Church 1845-1945, Berlin (PA) Publishing Company, 1945.

Portrait of Pharmacy Educator Dr. Charles Herbert LaWall of Philadelphia

The presentation of Dr. LaWall’s portrait. Enlarge>>>

Upon the death of Dr. Charles Herbert LaWall in Philadelphia in 1937, his portrait was painted and presented by artist Leon A. Spielman (right) to the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, received by President Wilmer Krusen

Charles had served for years as dean of the College, his alma mater. He was widely known as the author of a revised, comprehensive code of ethics for pharmacists in an effort to expand quality standards in the profession. It was entitled “Pharmaceutical Ethics” and printed in the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association. He served on its national executive committee of the Association in 1920-1921, and his other memberships included the American Chemical Society, The American Association for the Advancement of Science and Philadelphia’s prestigious Franklin Institute.

The choice of painting Charles seated reading, against the backdrop of crammed bookshelves, is especially appropriate. He kept an extensive research library in their home and relied heavily upon his accumulated body of knowledge for his many published writings. He once credited his wife as one “who does not object when I bring old or new books home, and who endures in silence the chaotic appearance of our home during periods when manuscript is in preparation or proof is being read; whose stimulating companionship has made all my work possible.” Among his many publications were The Curious Lore of Drugs and Medicines (Four Thousand Years of Pharmacy), The Pharmacy and Science of Dickens’ Writings and Tomato Ketchups.

His wife, Millicent Saxon Renshaw, of the family of Elizabeth (Heilman) Mills Renshaw of Mauch Chunk/Jim Thorpe, PA, also was a graduate of the College, having received her degree in 1904. She became a pharmacist in her own right and at one time served on the teaching staff of the Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia. She also helped to edit the publications United States Pharmacopoeia, the Practice of Pharmacy and the United States Dispensatory. She held strong views about stenography as “women’s work,” once writing that women should not work in jobs that “require arduous manual labor” but rather fields such as stenography where they could employ their “almost infinite amount of patience and capacity for endurance.” In addition to her many professional accomplishments, she retained a love of her German heritage and loved to bake yellow cake using saffron, known to her as a “common household remedy” among Pennsylvania Germans.’s Recommended News Stories and Blog Posts Since Late Oct. 2020

Here’s my updated list of news articles and blog posts which have impressed me most since mid-October 2020, all originally posted on the “Favorite Links” page of my award-winning website,

These stories have some connection to my favorite themes that help shape the website — Americana, culture, art, journalism, science, technology, faith, history/genealogy, German-ness … and my hometown of Pittsburgh. They cover important issues in our society but do more than just report on the who, what and when. The pieces go deeper which is why I like them.

Build America’s Libraries Act” – by Hon. Frank J. Lucchino, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 8, 2021
His Ship Vanished in the Arctic 176 Years Ago. DNA Has Offered a Clue.” – by Bryan Pietsch, New York Times, May 5, 2021
Coming Soon – Digital Collectible Books?” – by Michael Stillman, Rare Book Hub, May 2021
Archaeologists Solve a Decades-Old Harriet Tubman Mystery” – New York Times, April 20, 2021
Vartan Gregorian, Savior of the New York Public Library, Dies at 87” – by Robert D. McFadden, New York Times, April 16, 2021
The Real Meaning of Pennsylvania Dutch” – by James M. Beidler,, April 16, 2021
‘Magazines and the American Experience’ Review: The Imprint of History” – by Edward Rothstein, Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2021
Still green and mean, Mr. Yuk turns 50” – by Joanne Klimovich Harrop, Greensburg Tribune-Review, March 15, 2021
March 18, 1889: The First Carnegie Library Opens in America” – by Jenny Ashcraft, Fishwrap, March 5, 2021
Rare ‘locked’ letter sealed 300 years ago is finally opened virtually” –, March 2, 2021
Census of First Edition of Newton’s Principia Yields More Copies than Anyone Knew Existed” – by Michael Stillman, Rare Book Monthly, March 2021
The Pittsburgh Courier wrote the history of Black Americans from its hometown” – by Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 28, 2021
eDelivery is the newspaper’s future” – by Allan Block, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 28, 2021
NYC’s Robber Baron Library Has a Flair for the Dramatic” – by Keith Taillon,, Feb. 27, 2021
The Mystery of the Melungeons” – by Jennifer Churchill, Family Tree Magazine, Feb. 24, 2021
Almost everyone loses as newspapers collapse — almost everyone” – by Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 24, 2021
25 books for creating the ultimate Pittsburgh bookshelf” –, Feb. 23, 2021
Before making it big, Rush Limbaugh got his start in Pittsburgh as ‘Jeff Christie’” – by Paul Guggenheimer, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Feb. 17, 2021
What I did for the love of books and Benno” – by Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 14, 2021
Frick Collection Announces Temporary Relocation to Frick Madison” –, Feb. 10, 2021
Rare Books often have complicated lives” – by Clarence Wolf, Rare Book Monthly, Feb. 2021
The Huntington Acquires Telegraph History Archive” – Fine Books & Collections, Jan. 27, 2021
On the day democracy wept” – by David Shribman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jan. 10, 2021
The last massive vaccine rollout — for polio — started in Pittsburgh” – by Laura Malt Schneiderman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jan. 10, 2021
Major Changes to Trademark and Copyright Law Included in Massive Stimulus Package” – by Patricia M. Flanagan and Alex L. Braunstein, Fox Rothschild LLP, Jan. 4, 2021
100 years ago, KDKA gave birth to religious radio broadcasts at Calvary Episcopal in Pittsburgh” – by Paul Guggenheimer, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Jan. 2, 2021
~ 2020 ~
Beethoven’s birthday” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dec. 16, 2020
Historians will long debate legacy of transformative Trump” – by David M. Shribman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dec, 13, 2020
A Reporter Got Away With Sexual Misconduct for Years. His Paper and Union Looked the Other Way” – by Ben Smith, New York Times, Dec. 7, 2020
Bob Dylan Sells His Songwriting Catalog in Blockbuster Deal” – by Ben Sisario, New York Times, Dec. 7, 2020
August Wilson, American Bard” – by Maya Phillips, New York Times, Dec. 3, 2020
Collecting & Repatriation” – by Rebecca Rego Barry, Fine Books & Collections, Nov. 25, 2020
Pittsburgh Home to Many Aviation ‘Firsts’” – by Natalie Fiorilli, Blue Sky, Nov. 24, 2020
We’re Worn Out” – by David M. Shribman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nov. 15, 2020
RFPing Pittsburgh to the World” – by Donald Bonk, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Nov. 12, 2020
How Pitt’s library acquired the August Wilson Archive and what it means for Pittsburgh” – by Michael Machosky, NEXTPittsburgh, Nov. 10, 2020
In the Age of Ephemera” – by Bruce E. McKinney, Rare Book Monthly, Nov. 2020
August Wilson’s literary archive is coming home” – by Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct. 29, 2020
New York Public Library Acquires Arthur Miller’s Personal Study Library” – Fine Books & Collections, Oct. 28, 2020

Rev. William M. Minerd and Friends, in Colonial Garb, Help Mark George Washington’s 200th Birthday

Rev. Minerd and friends — enlarge>>>

Among the clergymen portraying the Founding Fathers in colonial costume in this color-tinted image was Rev. William Mullen Minerd, wearing the yellow jacket third from right. He appears to be holding a Bible as part of a June 1932 pageant in the railroading town of Rockwood, Somerset County, PA, honoring the 200th birthday of our nation’s first president George Washington. Reported the Somerset Daily American, “The group created quite a sensation at the pageant by their dress and their ability as actors. Their work was so impressive that they were given an invitation … to present their acts in the Washington Bicentennial at Fort Necessity, July 4…. The scenes depicted by the Rockwood folks were the inauguration of George Washington, the Ball and the corner stone laying.” In this troop, Rev. Minerd portrayed the character of Samuel Allyne Otis, inaugural Secretary of the Senate.

Others, left to right: Rev. Tomfea of the United Brethren Church; Rev. L.W. Gross of Glade, PA, dressed as Roger Sherman, Senator from Connecticut; Rev. Minerd’s cousin James “Jim” Younkin, portraying Vice President John Adams; Rev. V.N. Miller of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, portraying Washington; Domer Kimmel; George Hamilton, as Gen. Henry Knox, first Secretary of War; Rev. W.F. Berkebile of the Dunkard Church, as Robert Livingstone, who administered Washington’s oath of office; G.A. (or C.R.) Miller, as Gen. Arthur St. Clair, President of the Continental Congress; and Domer Kimmel of Schrock, PA. Seated: J.S.W. Snyder, trainer for a ball at the pageant.

The son of Charles Marion and Sabina Matilda (Pierce) Minerd, Rev. Minerd received his license to preach in 1916. His career took him to a number of communities in southwestern Pennsylvania — Freedom, Armstrong County (1916); Jennerstown (1918-1919); Bethany (1919-1924?); Freedom and Salem, Armstrong County (1924-1927?); Valencia (1930); and Harnedsville (1930-1936). His final charge was in the four-church Somerset Circuit of the Evangelical United Brethren Church — Husband, Pleasant Hill, Beulah and Mostoller.

This image is courtesy of the Rockwood Area Historical Society. This organization preserves the history and genealogies of Rockwood, Markleton, Casselman, New Centerville Boroughs, Black, Milford, Middlecreek and Upper Turkeyfoot Townships in Somerset County, an epicenter region of our family’s growth and development over more than two centuries. Several of our cousins recently have been active in a sweeping reorganization of the Society’s facility in Rockwood, among them Kristi (Gross) Brant of the family of Harry David and Amanda (Burkett Miner; Janet (Gary) Orawiec of the family of Jacob and Minnie (Miner) Gary; and Linda Marker and Laurel Peirsel of the family of William Lincoln and Margaret (Nicola) Younkin.

Greater Love Hath No Man – Newsboy Billy Rugh’s Donation of a Useless Leg

Disabled newsboy Billy Rugh

Billy Rugh’s grave marker is inscribed with this verse of scripture from the Book of John: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” His inspiring life followed by a heroic death plunged the city of Gary, IN into mourning and — unheard of — shut down its steel mills for an entire day.

William Arthur Rugh was born near Moline, IL, the son of William Oregon and Henrietta (Glenn) Rugh and stepson of Margaret Ann (Emerick) Baxter Rugh of the family of Iowa pioneers Emanuel and Elizabeth (Boderfield) Emerick. As an infant he lost use of his left leg and for the 40 ensuing years of his life he considered it a useless appendage. He migrated in adulthood to Gary, where he worked at the age of 40 as a newsboy, selling newspapers every day on the block between at Sixth Avenue and Broadway.

In the fall of 1912, he learned that Ethel Smith, a teenage woman whom he did not know, had been badly burned in a motorcycle gasoline explosion. She faced certain death unless receiving a substantial graft of skin. It did not take Billy long to decide that his bum leg could be used for this purpose and invited surgeons at Gary General Hospital to perform an amputation.

At first they declined, but when word became public, the hospital relented when the community was overwhelming in its support. Said the Chicago Tribune, “he has received $600 in money, a free life insurance, offers of enough artificial limbs to supply a centiped, and felicitations from all parts of the country.” Citizens of Gary nominated him to receive a Carnegie Medal from the Carnegie Hero Fund. Local women athletes organized an indoor benefit baseball game. Newspapers across the country voiced their support. One, the Pittsburgh Press, wrote this in an editorial.

When we come to think of it, Mr. William Rugh, you are not only a hero but you are also a gentleman. In the exclusive homes of the West End, London; of Fifth ave., New York, and of the aristocratic quarters of our own city of Pittsburg, there are many carefully nurtured and expensively “educated” and elegantly attired claimants to that latter title who are not capable of such gallantry as that shown by your offer. With all their advantages of ball-rooms and drawing-rooms, you are their superior in manners.

“I can’t understand it,” he said to a newspaperman. “Why are people so good to me?” The surgery went forward and was successful. But while 160 square inches of skin were taken from his removed leg, and grafted to Miss Smith, a recovery was not to be. The stump began to heal, but his lungs and bronchial passage became infected with pneumonia. And on Oct. 18, 1912, just 15 days after his surgery, he died. His final words, said the Moline Dispatch, were “Guess I’m some good — after all.” As the news of his passing became known, Gary’s Mayor Thomas Knotts appointed a committee to look into the possibility of commissioning a statue. A wreath was placed along the street where he once hustled to sell papers.

The St. Louis Globe-Democrat reported that “for the first time in their history the steel mills of Gary will be idle to-morrow. All stores will be closed. There will be no crowds in the theaters and concert halls. In every church there will be said a prayer for the soul of a crippled newsboy. Every minister will speak of the city’s greatest deed of heroism. Thousands of people will try to catch a last glimpse of the face of the man who had died with a happy smile on his lips…”

Honorary pallbearers included Gary’s mayor, the president of the Gary Commercial Club, general superintendent of Illinois Steel Company, general manager of the American Bridge Company, general manager of American Sheet and Tinplate Company, president of the YMCA of Gary, superintendent of schools in Gary, a banker and the commander of the Knights Templar. The cortege to the cemetery was a mile long. More>>>

Just How Many of Us Are ‘Out There?’ 3,800? 17,000? 146,000?

Malthus’ essay on population

This post is mainly for statistics geeks, and possibly insurance actuaries, and maybe also those with morbid curiosity. Keep in mind that I was a journalism major in college, not a mathematician.

Ever since starting into the Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor genealogy quest decades ago, one question among many has stayed on my mind — just how many of us are “out there?”

Hoping for some expert guidance, recently I read An Essay on the Principle of Population, authored in 1798 by church parson Thomas Robert Malthus, an Englishman. He observed that a population grows at a geometric rate and doubles every 25 years.

Applied to the Jacob and Maria (Nein) Minerd Sr. family, starting in the year 1791, when they settled in southwestern Pennsylvania, the couple and their family of children and spouses numbered about 15. If we double that “15” number nine times – the number of 25-year blocks of time in which the doubling theoretically occurred – it brings us to a possible MMMM population today of 3,840 cousins and spouses.

That number does not seem accurate for us, and was wholly unsatisfying to me. Our MMMMs reproduced at a rate far greater than Malthus’ prediction.

Actual facts show that Jacob and Maria had 12 children (of whom eight are known) who in turn bore 87 grandchildren, 469 great-grandchildren and 1,344 great-great grandchildren, for a total of 1,912 lives, virtually all before the year 1900.

So I looked elsewhere for a better way to make an estimate.

As dark and strange as it may sound, the death statistics posted on our website over more than 20 years may just help us estimate a reasonably accurate range of possibilities.

Work with me here. At year-end 2020, our “In Lasting Memory” webpage listed the names of 3,000 known cousins and spouses who had passed since July 1, 2000, the date 20.5 years earlier when I began counting in earnest.

Since 7,488 days had elapsed over that time period, to New Year’s Eve 2020, it means we lost one cousin or spouse about every 2.5 days.

Slicing and dicing those numbers another way, it means an average of 146.3 cousins have passed away every year since 2000.

But that’s only a fraction of the true total of deaths which have occurred in every nook and cranny of the extended family near and far. We still do not know many, many of the branches who are alive today.

Here’s why that matters in the pursuit of our big question.

The United States Center for Disease Control reports that 2,845,838 Americans died in the 2019 calendar year, which calculates to 869.7 for every 100,000. [More on the CDC website]

So if my math is correct – and please point out any errors of my ways if found – just under one in 100 Americans died the past year, which translates to a figure of 0.869 percent. So … if we assume that our MMMMS die at the same rate as the rest of their fellow Americans, then the 146.3 relatives we lose on average means our total population alive today could be 16,835 cousins and spouses.

Whoa. That’s a big number. But believe it or not, perhaps it’s not big enough. Our data might not match the CDC’s. Let’s look at another batch of statistics.

Sadly, I’ve observed that on a handful of days, our death rates were much higher than one every 2.5 days. In fact, on these calendar dates, the number was actually four per day – March 3, 2004 — Oct. 14, 2007 – March 11, 2008 — May 31, 2008 – and April 12, 2013 — totaling 10 every 2.5 days.

Is it possible that four deaths per day are closer to the reality?

Let’s run the numbers. If we truly lose an average of four cousins every day, or 1,460 a year, our total living population could be as high as 146,000. That blows my mind.

This count does not include the massive families of Jacob’s sister Maria Elisabeth Gaumer and brother Friedrich Meinert Jr. (Meinder) and their other siblings, which would propel the totals into the stratosphere.

The truth is that we will never know the actual number. I’m not sure God wants us to know. It’s just impossible. But the question is one of the first I plan to ask St. Peter at the Pearly Gates someday when it’s my turn to become a statistic.

What do you think?