Reading through the two hundred year old pages of baptismal records may require the patience of a saint. That was the first thought that occurred to me when, seeking any token of the Nicholas Schneider family's presence in Adams County, Pennsylvania, I found this:
Legible? Hardly. I am convinced it is merely through wishful thinking that I discerned the Latin version of the words Joseph, son of Nicholas and Elizabeth "Sneider" in the records of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus—otherwise known as the Conewago Chapel. If that was indeed what I read, I was looking at the baptismal record of a son born on February 12, 1807, in Pennsylvania.
"Our" Joseph, son of Nicholas and Elizabeth—the Sniders who surfaced in Perry County, Ohio—may not have been born quite so early. Consider this additional discovery found in the Conewago records, in a mercifully far more legible entry than the previous one.
Dated March 25, 1810, with a birth occurring the preceding February, this entry regarding one Aloysius Joseph, son of Nicholas and Elizabeth "Shnider" causes me to wonder. Does this mean the couple's original son Joseph may have died, but the given name Joseph was so important to the couple that they wanted to give a subsequent son the same name? Or could we be looking at a parish with not just one Schneider couple named Nicholas and Elizabeth, but two?
The promising shred of information in these two difficult to read entries is that there was, indeed, a couple named Nicholas and Elizabeth attending the Conewago Chapel, no matter which way their surname was spelled.
A subsequent discovery helped encourage me to slog through the records even further. For the next Schneider record found, the 1812 entry named our couple's next-born daughter, listed here as Maria Augusta.
There was, however, one problem with this entry: there was no mention of Nicholas. Likewise, there was only one entry provided where the godparents would usually be named—for a "matrona" named Catherine Gibbons. What happened to Nicholas?
Since we already know that Nicholas hadn't died—at least, not quite yet, since he subsequently moved with his family to Ohio before 1820—I wondered what might have caused his absence. Of course, a date like 1812 could eventually slap a researcher in the face, and that is exactly what pushed me onto my next research rabbit trail: what about the War of 1812? Was Nicholas involved?