The more I delve into family history, the more I realize that maps are a researcher's indispensable friend. Here's why: remember the Schneider family I've been researching? After that German immigrant family arrived in the New World—and long before their move to Perry County, Ohio, before 1820—they lived in both Pennsylvania and Maryland.
My, I thought upon learning that, how very mobile they were, for an era in which travel presented so many hazards and few conveniences. After all, the width of a state such as Pennsylvania would try any traveler's patience. Add to that the fact that the Schneider family detoured to take in a residency in yet another state, and I begin to wonder about the accuracy of family assertions.
Once I discovered the family history web page posted by a distant cousin in 2008, I found some clues regarding the Schneider travels. Now, instead of searching for Schneider—or Snider, or Snyder—in Pennsylvania, I learned to look for the family in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Add to that the clue to look not only in the broad region of Maryland, but to look specifically in Emmitsburg. That's where I spotted something only a study of maps could have revealed.
As it turns out, Emmitsburg is located less than a mile south of the state border—a critical distance realized by students of the much-later Civil War battle at Gettysburg, which was located just on the other side of the Mason-Dixon line. Predating all that, back during the time period in which Nicholas Schneider was moving his family residence, he likely traveled little more than twenty miles distance.
What is also interesting about the move was the significance of church locations in and around Emmitsburg. The town is now the location of two Catholic pilgrimage destinations, which got their start only a few years prior to the Schneiders' arrival. One of those sites is where Elizabeth Ann Seton founded the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph in 1809. The other, established in 1805, is the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.
While national recognition of those two religious sites occurred long after the Schneiders' residence there, their establishment during the time period in which Nicholas and his family arrived at Emmitsburg gives an idea of the religious atmosphere of that time period. Being a devout Catholic, perhaps this mattered deeply to Nicholas, especially if he knew he had to leave his family while attending to military duties.
But did he leave for the just-declared War of 1812? After all, by that point, he would have been forty six years of age. Though it would be hard to determine—from our perspective, two hundred years later—just what the reason was for the Schneider family's move from Pennsylvania to Maryland during 1812, I discovered one other family tradition regarding Nicholas which may lend credence to the possibility that he served in some capacity for that war.
Map above, showing current driving distance between Emmitsburg, Maryland, and Conewago Township in Adams County, Pennsylvania, courtesy Google Maps.