Following the clues of trailblazing researchers can turn out to be helpful—if the trailblazer truly can find the way to the right genealogical answer.
Right now, lost without any sign of which research direction to take on my mother-in-law's third great-grandfather Mathias Ambrose, I'm open to suggestions. One researcher who had shared her Ambrose material online—Pat Asher—pointed me in the direction of Maryland. After all, Mathias Ambrose's residence in 1800 in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, wasn't far from the border with Maryland, so the possibility made sense to me.
The Ambrose website indicated that Mathias Ambrose himself might have been married in Frederick County, Maryland, and according to that same website, at least one of his daughters was baptized there. In fact, the church was listed in the website as Apple's Lutheran and Reformed Church.
I am always cautious in using online trailblazers, though, and a church name like that caused me to hesitate. I definitely wanted to check out that information for myself. That's what led me to discover that the location given for the church—in Thurmont, Maryland—was the present name for a town formerly known as Mechanicstown. While doing that double-checking, I also learned a few more details about that church.
Apple's seemed to be an unusual name for a church. Normally, you'd expect perhaps the name of the location—like Mechanicstown Lutheran, for instance—and I couldn't think of any Maryland town called Apple.
In addition to that doubt, I also got to thinking about the denominational designation, Lutheran and Reformed. I knew there was a Reformed church, and of course, that there was a denomination called Lutheran. I just hadn't heard about any mergers between the two entities.
For that part, neither could I find any explanation for such an organization. I did, however, locate some local history information which turned out to be helpful. An Internet search can be good for extracting those hard-to-find little websites.
My first glance at an explanation for this church's existence came from a website called German Marylanders, a group I would otherwise have never known about. In an entry posted at that site, drawn from a book by local historian George Wireman called Gateway to the Mountains, I discovered that a local property owner named Peter Apple had donated land for a schoolhouse there.
The deed for this transaction named three trustees, including a man called Mathias Ambrose. Given that the deed was dated in 1760, it is more likely that the man named was not our Mathias Ambrose, but his father.
While the history provided in this website seemed interesting, I wanted to look further for more information. I found another site with similar details, plus some digitized copies from the actual baptismal register, and, looking even further, a copy of a book which gave an original spelling for the landholder's name as Peter Appel.
The book, which I found courtesy of FamilySearch.org, was called, simply enough, Baptismal Records of Apple's Church (Lutheran and Reformed). There, on page five, author Elizabeth Kieffer added an explanation to Dr. E. E. Higbee's original 1857 transcription of the church's records, including the history of how Apple's Church evolved over the decades.
Once assuaged of that nagging doubt concerning the church's name, I returned to FamilySearch where I discovered there were several other resources for perusing the names in the church's records. Some, of course, were listed in the FamilySearch catalog, but only viewable in person. Some referred researchers to another resource online, the Maryland Church Records collection. But what I found most useful was the FamilySearch wiki's Maryland Church Records Digital Folder Number List.
From that list, I clicked through to every link which included images or transcriptions for Apple's Church records. Granted, some of the microfilmed records were a hodgepodge of many smaller resources and I had to hunt and peck to find what I wanted—like this transcription of baptismal records including Mathias' daughter Barbara, born in June, 1774.
While so far, I've only located two of Mathias Ambrose's children—Barbara and her sister Magdalena—I've also learned about some other Ambrose relatives attending the same church. Included in that discovery would be Jacob, Philip, Heinrich, and Johannes Ambrose—who are they? These are names to be added to my list of questions to be answered the next time I tackle this Ambrose research puzzle. Every discovery has the potential to lead to more information.
The search did produce a substantial list of resources to check further, all thanks to the start granted by a trailblazing researcher's website and following a chain of connected references. Granted, some discoveries yielded transcriptions, not actual handwritten records. There is a chance that some copy errors might be made. But for now, this is a first step in not only pushing back to previous generations, but gathering more documentation for this Ambrose family's history.