As I have mentioned before, Tom and I have done a great deal of work in genealogy. Two years ago we developed family trees for most of our relatives. While we were in Harrisburg, we decided to find out what we could about my ancestors in Pennsylvania. Our first stop was the Dietz Family Cemetery in Hellam Township, York County, Pennsylvania.
A lot of my ancestors lived in York County. Some of them were founding families or early settlers. The Dietz family, starting with immigrant Conrad Dietz, settled in York County as farmers. We knew that many of the descendants of Conrad Dietz were buried in the Dietz Family Cemetery. But my father looked for the cemetery years ago and was not able to find it. With the aid of Google, Tom and I decided to look again.
First we had to find Hellam Township, which is where Conrad Dietz’s farm was. Hellam Township was one of the first areas settled after York County was formed from Lancaster County in 1749. In order to do genealogy you have to know the history of counties so you can find records. Pennsylvania was formed by William Penn in 1681 with three counties: Philadelphia, Burks, and Chester. Chester County was 9/10ths of the state. As people moved west, more counties were formed. Lancaster County came out of Chester in 1729. York County came out of Lancaster in 1749. Adams County came out of York County in 1800.
Conrad Dietz, an immigrant from Hinterweidenthal, Rhineland-Palatinate which is now a state in western Germany. He was an Anabaptist and left because of religious persecution. Conrad immigrated to the British Colony of Pennsylvania in 1738. He sailed on the ship “Thistle” out of Rotterdam with his new wife Susannah. When he got to Pennsylvania, he settled immediately in Hellam Township of York County opened up on the other side of the Susquehanna River. Over time he bought about 350 acres of land. He and Susannah had six children.
Disaster struck the family in 1758. A dysentery outbreak killed four of the children in a week. A few days later, Conrad and Susannah died within hours of each other. A daughter died within another week. The only child left was 19 year old John George Dietz. Although John George was left alone, he also inherited all his father’s farmland.
Over the years, many generations of Dietz farmers lived on the farm. Most of these generations are buried in the Dietz Family Cemetery. Tom and I wanted to find these graves, especially the graves of Jacob and Sarah Dietz. Sarah was the owner of the beautiful coverlet that I wrote about earlier this year. Once we located Hellam Township, we found the cemetery by looking at satellite images. Getting to the cemetery was a little more difficult. We had to drive down several country roads, then up a farm lane, and into a cornfield. There was a path to follow to the cemetery but we were definitely on private land.
The cemetery is located on a little ridge overlooking the Kreutz Creek Valley. We could see the Dietz family farm adjoining the cemetery. It is no longer owned by Dietzes, but is still excellent farmland. As with many older headstones, some tombstones were hard to read. But we located all the people in my Dietz line who lived and were buried in Hellam Township. The first people buried in this cemetery were John George and Magdalena Dietz. The last ones buried were Dietzes that died in the 1940’s.
My father’s mother (my paternal grandmother), Grace Edna, was a Dietz. Her father, Calvin Jacob Dietz, moved to Hancock County sometime before 1885. An uncle and other relatives had moved to Ohio previously so they could buy their own farms.
It was good to find the Dietz Family Cemetery and stand where my ancestors stood. I could imagine them standing beside the grave of a loved one, and then walking home to the farm and land that connected them.