My Ancestors Rock!

I’m a little stunned as I write this. I spent the day visiting relatives and ended up, as per a promise I made to my ancestors in November, hunting down the cemetery where my great-great-grandfather is buried. After that, things got beautifully weird.

To start with, I had no idea exactly where this cemetery was. I knew it was in Peach Bottom, PA but that’s it. I couldn’t find an address for it, not even on google. I figured it seems to be on or near Rte. 222 so let’s just drive that and if we have to, we can ask someone at a gas station or something. We’d no sooner crossed the PA border than we came upon an old, small cemetery. I had no idea if this was the right one and it seemed rather too close to the MD/PA border to be so but I had a feeling so I told my friend who was driving to stop and I got out.

rock spring


Almost immediately I found my great great grandfather’s stone.

stephen hanna tomb.jpg


His name is Stephen J. Hanna and he is the father of Perry Barnes Hanna who is the father of Roland Isaac Hanna who is my grandfather (on my mother’s side). When I visited MD on Thanksgiving, I had found his wife’s grave (Elizabeth Johnson) at West Nottingham cemetery and I’d wondered at the time where he was. It seems he died first and was buried in Rock Spring Cemetery in PA, with a lot of Hannas. A LOT of them. She died twenty years later and from what I can tell, was buried near her children who were part of the local parish.

In addition, and purely by chance, dumb luck, and my ancestors being sneaky, I also found the graves of my great-great-great grandparents, James Andrew Hanna (1800-1874) and Esther Ailes Hanna (1798-1887).

Esther Ailes, my third great grandma on maternal father's side

Esther Ailes Hanna

james andrew hanna

James Hanna

I poured out water to them and to all the Hannas buried there and thanked them for being my ancestors, for guiding me to the grave, and I showed respect by bowing to the ground.

james hanna esther ailes gravejames and esther tombstone

I didn’t think anything more about it. We had my aunt in the car and she was hungry and so were my travel buddies so we went to lunch. When I got home I started researching a bit, curious as to whether or not I could find a few more graves in the area and I didn’t, but I did get a major gift from my dead. I managed to trace a couple of the lines back to the 1600s , lines I’d been trying to research for months and months with no luck.

I’m not actually able to input a genealogy chart here (I wish I could, it would be far easier) so let me break it down.

I’ll start with Perry Barnes Hanna (21 April 1876-17 April 1949), my great grandfather. He is buried at West Nottingham Cemetery in Colora, MD along with his mother Elizabeth Johnson (1836-1909). His father Stephen J. Hanna (1832-1897) is buried in Rock Springs Baptist Cemetery in Peach Bottom, PA.

Stephen J. Hanna’s parents, James Andrew Hanna, Esq. (1800-1874) and Esther Ailes (1798-1887) are also buried in Rock Springs Cemetery though there is some question as to whether or not they were Baptist or Quaker.

I was able today to trace James Andrew’s parents: John Hanna (1773-1857) and Martha Jenkins (1781-1857). They married in 1799. I don’t know where exactly they’re buried yet. (I didn’t see their graves in Rock Springs but I may go back tomorrow to check again). John Hanna’s father was James Hanna (1725–10 December 1798) and Elizabeth Glenn (1731-1808ish) They married on 15 July 1748. I guess John was born late in life to his father. Interesting fact about James Hanna: he served as a private in Captain John Graham’s company, 1st battalion militia in the Revolutionary War and was born in Ulster county, Ireland. That’s as far back as I’ve gone on that side of the Hanna line. (Ironically, I may be eligible through him for the DAR!) Let’s continue with Esther Ailes’ line. This is information I’ve been dying to find out and today it just fell into my lap.

First, let’s look at her paternal line. Her father was Stephen Ailes (1771-1816) and her mother Sarah Byland (1773-1830). Let’s follow her father’s line.

Stephen Ailes’ parents were Stephen Michael Ailes (5 March 1750–21 Sept. 1828) and Elizabeth Swayne (1751- January 26, 1820). Stephen Michael’s parents were Stephen Ailes (1717-1754) and Ann Underwood (1718-1767). I’m a little saddened by those dates. Apparently Stephen Michael was only four when his father died and a teenager when his mother died. That’s as far as I can go with his paternal line. Stephen Ailes’ (1771-1816) mother was Elizabeth Swayne. Let’s trace her line:

Her father was Edward Swayne (20 November 1702- 24 April 1776). He was born in Binfield, Berkshire, UK. Given his date of death, I’m wondering if he fought in the Revolutionary war and on what side (more research will be necessary). He died in Pa. Her mother was Sarah Fincher (1703- 1 November 1804). It looks like she was born in London Grove, Pa. They married April 25, 1727 in New Garden, Chester County, PA. HER parents were John Fincher (1679-1747) and Martha Taylor (3 January 1680-1713). Edward Swayne’s parents were Francis Swayne (19 February 1665 – 30 November 1721). He was born in Binfield, Berkshire, UK. He married Elizabeth Melton (1667-1727), also born in the UK. They both died in East Marlborough, Chester County, PA so I think they were the first in this line to immigrate to the US (though it was the colonies, not the US then).

Elizabeth Swayne’s mother Sarah Fincher was born to John Fincher (born 28 January 1678 in Wolverly, Wyre Forest district Worcestershire in the UK, died 24 November 1747 in PA) and Martha Taylor. They married 1699. John’s parents were Francis Fincher (nicknamed “the Immigrant”, or “the Quaker”—so at least we know he was Quaker!) ( 2 October 1626- 1 June 1684) and Mary Achelly (1636 – 1699). They married on 3 April 1678. (He was first married to Elizabeth Mary Sibthorpe, but she died in 1676 ). Right now, that’s as far as I can take the Swayne line. John Fincher may have arrived, as per Quaker meeting notes, in the colonies on 14 March 1683. His father Francis died by drowning in Philadelphia and was a glover.

Finally, let’s return to Sarah Byland, Esther’s mother. She is the daughter of John Byland and Susannah Ailes. That’s all I have so far, but it’s so very much more than I had this morning! It’s like I poured out a couple of bottles of water on their graves to refresh and honor my dead and BAM! They opened up the line a little bit more for me.

So I am thrilled though I have a ton more research to do to verify all of this fully. This is not the first time I’ve visited graves, made offerings and had information fall out of the blue in my lap though. Honoring the ancestors….it works. 🙂


One thought on “My Ancestors Rock!

  1. I love tracing back family lines. I was told by my grandmother that my family tree has been traced to an ancestor who was a knight/commander of William the Conqueror and buried in Westminster Abbey. I have yet to find out the truth, but apparently there is still notification bearing the same surname as my mother maiden name, Ledson.
    The name also apparently very unique, everyone who bears it is somehow related to my mothers family, making tracing easy.


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