52 Ancestors,
in 52 Weeks
Week 12:
Joined Together
Family Finds Charter Oak

Joined Together

This week’s prompt, Joined Together, seems a good opportunity for me to research one of my brick wall 4th great grandfathers, surname Russell. While researching this line, I came across some information indicating the father of my 3rd great-grandfather, William Russell, was a joiner. I had not heard of this occupation before and had to look it up. It turns out a joiner is an artisan or skilled craftsman, who builds things by joining pieces of wood together, like furniture. [1] A joiner is different from a carpenter because the work is considered more ornamental or finer. Also, a joiner usually works offsite, in a workshop, from where the item produced will be used. The term joiner is somewhat archaic and this sort of craftsman today would be referred to as a carpenter.

William Russell, ca. 1809-1873

Before looking for my missing Russell 4th great-grandfather, I need to review what I know about his son. My 3rd great-grandfather was William Russell, ca. 1809-1873. And, although I know about the middle part of his life, I do not know his exact birth or death. I do know he lived at least 20 years in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania working as a carpenter. Also, he lived at least 10 years in Indiana. Most of what I originally knew about William Russell I learned from the death certificate and obituary for his daughter, my 2nd great grandmother Eliza Russell Illges, 1837-1909. [2, 3]

Joiner's Workshop
Eliza Russell Illges w/ grandchildren

Above is Eliza Russel Illges surrounded by many of her grandchildren. This photo was taken about 1895. My grandfather Earl LaFara is the boy on the right, standing in the 2nd row.

1. From the DC I have both William and his wife Mary Hebble.
2. From the obit I learned William was in Tipton Co, IN in 1857
3. and resided there about 5 years, (through 1862?)
4. and returned to PA after that.

This information was probably provided to the newspaper by my great grandmother, Minnie Illges LaFara, 1867-1947. She was not alive when these events occurred so I do not consider her a primary source. Furthermore, I have been unable to find William Russell in Tipton County, or nearby counties, in the 1860 census. I DO find Eliza’s youngest sister, Sarah Russell 1847-1930, living with the Illges family in the 1860 census.

What I Know

1. William and Mary Anne Hebble married on 24 Dec 1835 in Martic Twp., Lancaster, PA. The ceremony preformed by Rev. John C. Baker. [4] He performed 8 marriages that day. Was that a thing, to marry on Christmas Eve?
2. In the 1840 census William is in Martic Twp., the ages of people in the household match with William, Mary and their two children, Eliza and George. [5]
3. In 1844 William was a carpenter in Martic Twp., from the Craftperson Files. [6]
4. By 1850 the Russell family was split apart, I wrote about this for last years prompt, Tragedy. [7]

What I Could Learn

1. What religion was Rev. Baker? Perhaps it could lead to finding William’s baptism.
2. Look for other families with surname Russel(l) in Martic Twp., and nearby townships. Perhaps I will find William’s parents. See 2nd paragraph below.
3. Look for other entries for Russel surname in the Craftperson Files. See paragraph below.
4. I have not found William’s 3rd child, Ann, in the 1850 census. Could she be living with his parents? The youngest child, Sarah, is with his in-laws. Look for a girl under 10, named Ann, in Lancaster Co. 1850 census.

Research Assumption

Since William was a carpenter, I assumed his father may also have been one. I searched the Craftperson Files for other carpenters named Russell, or similar, and found a few in Lancaster Co. during the right period. But, I also discovered a William Russell in Lancaster between 1816 and 1822 with the occupation of ‘joiner.’ This seemed a good lead and the basis for this post.

Census Data

From the 1840 and 1850 census, I know William was born between 1801 and 1810. [5, 8] So, I searched for a William Russell in the 1820 and 1830 census for Lancaster Co. with a male the right age to be MY William. For 1820, I found 2 with males between 10 and 19. One was in Rapho Twp. which is in the north part of the county, well away from Martic Twp. The other in Lancaster Twp., which fits with the data for the ‘joiner‘. There are 13 people in this family, which may account for all the Russell’s I find in Lancaster Co. in later census. This may be the family I am looking for, but I need more records to confirm that.

Lancaster Co Townships

In the 1830 census I found 2 families that fit the profile. Both in Strasburg Twp., which is where William was living in 1850. One household looked like two families that included a younger couple with 2 small children. So, I dismissed them. The other I tracked, but eventually discovered their son being listed as ‘idiotic‘ in future census. So, neither of these are a good fit. Does that mean William’s father died before 1830, and his is the household of 13 in the 1820 census? Or is his father someone else entirely?

Another Possibility

In Eliza Russell Illges’ obituary it says, “…she was of German and Irish extraction.” Her mother, Mary Hebble, had ancestors who came from Germany and Switzerland. The implication is that her father had Irish heritage. William Russell consistently gave his birth place as Pennsylvania, could his father have been an Irish immigrant? Unfortunately the early census do not include place of birth. Also, Mary Hebble’s family were Mennonite. My assumption has been that she may have married someone outside that community, but still a Protestant. It was a reverend who performed their marriage, after all. Maybe I need to search Catholic church records for Russell.

Rose Basket


This weeks prompt of Joined Together was a good excuse, um… opportunity for me to spend hours doing research on this particular brick wall. I’m still searching for my elusive 4th great-grandfather, surname Russell. He may not be the ‘joiner‘ I found in the Craftperson Files. But, I have several avenues to continue my research. Several bloggers have shared their tips for breaking through brick walls and conducting research. I have implemented some of those, particularly keeping a log sheet so I do not cover old ground. Which should help me since I may end up documenting every Russell family in Lancaster Co., as well as other counties in Pennsylvania.


  1. Entry for Joiner, Webpage, Wikipedia; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joiner
  2. Profile of Mrs. Eliza Illges, Death Certificate, “Indiana Archives and Records Administration”; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Death Certificates; Year: 1909; Roll: 12; Accessed online: Indiana, U.S., Death Certificates, 1899-2011 [database on-line] at Ancestry.com
  3. Entry for Eliza Illges, Newspaper Article, Obituary, “Aged Lady Dead”, Tipton Tribune, 18 March 1909.
  4. Entry for William Russell, Newspaper Article, “Married”, The Lancaster Examiner, 7 Jan 1836, page 3, col 1, below fold.
  5. Entry for William RussellU.S, Federal Census: Year:1840; Census Place: Martick, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Roll: 466; Page: 278; FHL Film: 0020547; Online: 1840 United States Federal Census [database on-line] at Ancestry.com
  6. Entry for William Rusle, Occupation; “Delaware, Craftperson Files”, 1600-1995, Card File of American Craftspeople, 1600-1995. The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, Inc. Winterthur, Delaware, Accessed online: U.S., Craftperson Files, 1600-1995 [database on-line] at Ancestry.com
  7. Blog post, Family Finds: Tragedy; https://barblafara.com/tragedy/
  8. Entry for William Russel, U.S, Federal Census: Year: 1850; Census Place: Martick, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Roll: 789; Page: 66b; Online: 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line] at Ancestry.com


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