John and Mary “Polly” (Unknown) Craig

When you get back to a certain point in history, you are going to run into a few basic problems. First, it seems that every darn one of these people is named John – and there are tons of them. But only a couple of them were ever written about or mentioned in the county histories – and of course, none of them were ours. That would make this too easy.

According to my paperwork, John Craig and Mary “Polly” Unknown were the parents of Harriet Craig. Harriet and John Shaffer were married in the 1840s prior to the by name census, so it’s not possible to place Harriet in her parents home using census records. There are numerous family trees online, which agree with my paperwork; however, they provide no proof or documentation. My beginning source was my father-in-law’s family history. He was well acquainted with Harriet’s son Peter and would have been aware of the relationship. Based on that, I will continue with the research for this line and attempt to find some other documentation to back it up.

Records I have attached to John Craig:1
1840 census

Records for John and Mary Craig:2,3
1850 census
1860 census

Records for Mary “Polly” (Unknown) Craig after John disappears:4,5
1870 census
1880 Mortality Schedule

Several of the trees online have decent documentation back to the children of John and Mary Craig, but little if anything beyond the census records to connect them to John and Mary. I have connected as much as I can through Ancestry and the records available online. (I will remind you that I’m in Tucson, Arizona, and this family is in Armstrong and Indiana counties in Pennsylvania.)

I have an extensive list of items yet to research when I go to Salt Lake City this summer and (hopefully) back to Pennsylvania within the next year. Until then, I’m at a dead-end unless someone out there has some help they can provide with documentation of who married who, obituaries, family bibles, or newspaper clippings about family members visiting that would tie this family together.

The family as I know it:
John Craig (abt 1793-bef 1870)
Mary “Poly” Unknown (abt 1804-1880)
Their ten children:
Harriet (abt 1822-) m. John Shaffer
Margaret E. (abt 1824-bef 1870) m. Patrick Shaw
Mary Ann (abt 1826-bef 1878) m. Levi Fry
Exemnia (abt 1829-) m. P.J. Dunmire
Richard (abt 1832-)
John (abt 1835-1862)
Jesse (abt 1839-)
Priscilla (abt 1841-)
James (abt 1845-) m. Sarah Unknown
George (abt 1847-)

There is still a lot of research to be done on the children of this line to see if I can locate any information that might help. Once again, any help is appreciated.



1. 1840 U.S. census, Armstrong, Pennsylvania, Plumcreek Twp., p. 34, John Craig; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 23 Jan 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M704, roll 442.
2. 1850 U.S. census, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Plumcreek Twp., p. 350A, dwelling 234, family 234, John Craig; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.Ancestry.com: accessed 21 Dec 2011); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 749.
3. 1860 U.S. census, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Plumcreek Twp, p. 703, dwelling 834, family 737, John Craig; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.Ancestry.com: accessed 21 Dec 2011); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 1069.
4.1870 U.S. census, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Plumcreek Twp., p. 350B, dwelling 12, family 12, Polly Craig; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 21 Dec 2011); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M593, roll 1301.
5. 1880 U.S. Census Mortality Schedule of Pennsylvania, Armstrong County, Plumcreek Twp., p. 1, line 5, Mary Craig, age 78, general debility; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 20 Dec 2011); citing National Archives and Records Administration Archive Collection M1838; Roll 8.

John and Harriet (Craig) Shaffer

Let me begin this post by screaming, “Help me!” The information I have on John Shaffer and Harriet Craig is limited. Information has been hard to come by, but I’m hopeful that someone has the information (documented) that I need to move on with this family.

My information began with the two names John Shaffer and Harriet Craig, parents of Peter Shaffer. Harriet Craig was noted as being the daughter of John and Mary “Polly” (Unknown) Craig. That’s all the information in the family papers. No birth dates or locations. The only thing my father-in-law could add was that he “thought” Mary (Unknown) Craig was from Maryland, but the others were all from Pennsylvania.

He did tell me that Peter had a sister named Martha Jane who married Nancy M.J. Beatty’s brother William James Beatty.

Based on this limited information and the 1850, 1860, and 1870 census records, I can put together the following family group.1,2,3

John Shaffer born abt. 1815 in Pennsylvania
Harriet (Craig) Shaffer born abt. 1823 in Pennsylvania
Mary Elizabeth abt 1843
Nancy abt 1846
Eximinia abt 1851
Peter (1852-1934) previously discussed.
James Quinten abt. 1855
Martha Jane (1858-1891) previously discussed in Beatty posts.

Based on the birth of Mary Elizabeth, they appear to have married in about 1841/42. I have not yet found a marriage record for them.

In the 1850 census, the initials C.D. appear behind John’s name. This is the only census record with initials. The other two simply list him as John. Harriet never appears with a middle name or initials. These (1850, 60, 70) are the only census records that I can clearly attribute to this couple. There are several records later, which may or may not be John or Harriet.

I have been unable to locate any document concerning their deaths, or any newspaper articles concerning them. So, I will have to resort to my least favorite ways to track the existence of people – tax and land records. I’m not giving up on this family – I will find them. However, it will have to wait for my Salt Lake City trip this summer.

As for their children – I found limited records of their marriages, so I followed the clues provided by the family trees on Ancestry. None of those trees were documented, but there was some well sourced information in other places. If anyone has the appropriate documentation, please contact me.

Mary Elizabeth (5 Feb 1843 – 16 Sep 1885) I have seen several online trees list a marriage to George Koch, but they were not sourced and I was unable to locate any “hard” records with that information. Other trees listed a marriage to Henry Frailey, and I did find evidence of that relationship. Her tombstone is in Elderton Cemetery, next to Henry Frailey (Jan 1841 – 30 Apr 1916) and Henry’s second wife, Rebecca (Unknown). I have not yet found a marriage record or obituary for Mary Elizabeth.

Mary E. Shaffer Frailey


Henry and Rebecca Frailey

Nancy (Jul 1846 – after 1920) Several trees showed a husband of James Stark. I found a Nancy married to James P. Stark (abt 1844 – before 1900) in about 1873. I was able to follow her through the census records in 1920 in Kittanning, Armstrong, Pennsylvania. They had four children: Laura J., Robert Bruce, William Edwin, and Harvey. I found no obituaries for any of the Starks on NewspaperArchive or GenealogyBank.

Eximnia “Minnie” (abt 1849 – 9 Oct 1897)4 She married John Lefevre (1847 – aft 1920) on 3 Jan 1870.5 They had four children: Ella A., James W., Alice G., and Charles M. The History of Butler County Pennsylvania, 1895 has a small biographical sketch of John Lefevre and provides Eximnia’s parentage. She is buried in North Side Cemetery. I have requested a photograph of her stone.

Peter (12 Jan 1852 – 1934) Covered in his own post.

James Quinten (abt 1855 – aft 1880) James married Sophranna A. Blystone (abt 1857 – ) on 4 September 18746 and they had at least one child: Ida. I have found no records after the 1880 census for James Quinten, nor have I found a death record or obituary for him.

Martha Jane (abt 1858 – 27 Jan 1891) Married William James Beatty. She is covered in the posts about the Beatty family.

Since I have no idea of when most of this family died (or where), I don’t have any further information. Please contact me with any information regarding this family.



1. 1850 U.S. census, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Plumcreek Twp., p. 342A, dwelling 120, family 120, John Sheaffer; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.Ancestry.com : accessed 20 Dec 2011); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 749.
2. 1860 U.S. census, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Plumcreek Twp., p. 728, dwelling 991, family 879, John Sheaffer; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.Ancestry.com : accessed 20 Dec 2011); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm roll 1069.
3. 1870 U.S. census, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Saltsburg, Armstrong Twp., p. 13B, dwelling 184, family 192, John Shafer; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.Ancestry.com : accessed 20 Dec 2011); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm roll 1350.
4. Butler, Pennsylvania, “Death Records of Butler County, Pennsylvania 1893-1905,” Eximnia Lefevre.
5. History of Butler County Pennsylvania, 1895 (N.p.: Brown & Company, n.d.), 799
6. Married, “Shaffer-Blystone,” The Indiana Weekly Messenger, 30 Sep 1874, p. 3, col. 6; digital images, NewspaperArchive (http://www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 19 Dec 2011).

Peter Shaffer (1852-1935)

I think we need a little recap of where we are in the tree, it’s easy to get lost in the jumble of names. We are going to go up the Shaffer line next. While Peter Shaffer is not the biological father of Anna Mary Beatty, he was the husband of Nancy M.J. Beatty and Anna’s children considered him to be their grandfather. I have noted that he is her stepfather, but he appears on our family tree in the paternal slot. So here once again is the tree of Robert Clare Scott and we are looking at his mother’s paternal line.

Peter was born 12 Jan 1852, in Plumcreek Township, Armstrong, Pennsylvania, the son of John and Harriet (Craig) Shaffer. Right off the bat, we have the first “diffugilty.” His Pennsylvania death certificate and his obituary both state he was born in 1849.1,2 His tombstone actually has the correct date of 1852.

Why do we know the stone is right and the documents are wrong? He does not appear on the 1850 census with his parents, but he does appear on the 1860 census at the age of seven.3,4 He remains consistent in his age on the census records from 1870 – 1920, usually declaring himself to be born in 1852 (ages: 19, 28, 48, 58, 69).5,6,7,8,9 The only time this varies is on the 1930 census when his age is listed as 81.10 He is living with his son and his family so it is possible that Peter was not the informant. The informant on his death certificate was Mrs. John Frailey. That’s right, Peter and Nancy M.J.’s daughter Minnie. The same one who was living with her grandmother Rebecca Beatty on the 1900 census when all of Rebecca’s information changed. I have gone with the 1852 date that is consistent with the records that either he or his parents would have provided.

The second “diffugilty” comes with the middle name. As I mentioned in my post about Nancy, the middle names are an issue. Peter never appears on any documents (created while he is alive) with a middle initial or name. The only times the initial K appears is on his death certificate and then again in his obituary. That information was provided by daughter Minnie. The next odd middle name, Levi, appears in the obituary of his son Christopher and is probably provided by his daughter-in-law Zula.11 At the time Christopher died, Zula would have been well up in her 70s and Peter had been dead over forty years. I have not yet found the name of Levi used by any other Shaffer or Craig family members of Peter’s generation or previous.

His tombstone reads simply Peter Shaffer, which I believe to be the most correct. Based on the records created while he was alive, I have chosen not to use the middle initial or middle name. I will continue to explore records to see if he ever uses an initial on either tax, land, or voting records.

I have provided links to the images of all the census records on which Peter appears:
1860
1870
1880
1900
1910
1920
1930

He married Nancy M.J. Beatty in about 1874. I have not yet found a marriage record for the couple. This date is based on the 1900 census and the birth of their first child together. Peter remained in Plumcreek Township his entire life and did not remarry after Nancy died in 1909.

I found this article in the Simpson Leader Times newspaper dated 31 October 1931:12

Elderton Farmer Injured
An 80 year old Elderton farmer lay in his home today with a serious head injury, suffered when the wagon on which he and a 30 year old son were riding, was wrecked in a heavy fog Thursday morning.
The farmer, Peter Shaffer, living about a mile from Elderton, was unable to recognize members of his family late yesterday. He is in a semi-conscious condition.
The son, Christopher Shaffer, was less seriously injured.
The two were enroute to another farm when a car driven by Joseph Coulter, of Girty, enroute to Kittanning, collided with the wagon in the heavy fog.
The force of the collision hurled the two men on the wagon onto the concrete.
They were taken to their homes and Dr. E. E. Keeler of Elderton was summoned. He has been administering treatment since.

Peter died 4 January 1934 in Plumcreek Township of apoplexy. His death certificate lists the secondary cause as epilepsy, listing the duration of that condition as three years, possibly linking it to the accident above. He is buried with his wife Nancy in the Elderton Cemetery.

Peter Shaffer and Nancy M.J. Beatty had the following children together:

Minnie Elizabeth (28 Jun 1875 – 26 Jun 1944) m. John R. Frailey (abt. 1873 – 1953). Remained in the Elderton area all their lives, buried in Elderton Cemetery.
Charles Wilmer (18 Jun 1877 – 26 Aug 1939) m. Lillian May Kelley (1881 – 1922). Remained in the Elderton area all their lives, buried in Elderton Cemetery.
Leason J. Shaffer (Jan 1880 – 19XX) m. Mary A. Hilliard (15 Oct 1882 – 18 Jul 1942). Removed to Niles, Trumbull, Ohio, buried in Elderton Cemetery. His tombstone does not have the last two digits engraved.
Harry Oliver (11 Jun 1882 – 17 Mar 1960) m. Martha Pearl Williams (30 Mar 1886 – 17 May 1968). Remained in the Elderton area all their lives, buried in Elderton Cemetery.
George Addison (30 Sep 1887 – 26 Jan 1967) m. Zelma Smith (25 Sep 1895 – 26 Jan 1978) Remained in Elderton most of their lives, removed to Corning, Stueben, New York much later. Buried in Elderton Cemetery.
Christopher Nesbitt (1 Nov 1889 – 10 Jul 1976) m. Zula Agnes Smeltzer (15 Aug 1894 – 21 Nov 1986). Remained in the Elderton area all their lives, buried in Elderton Cemetery.

I have not included family group sheets for these people because many of their children are still living.

Does anyone have a picture of Peter Shaffer? If so I would very much like a scan of the image for Peter or his wife Nancy.

My next post will be the tombstones of these family members and then we will move back a generation and attempt to deal with Peter’s parents, John and Harriet (Craig) Shaffer.



1. Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate 2875 (1934), Peter K. Shaffer; Division of Vital Records, New Castle.
2. Obituary, “Peter K. Shaffer,” The Indiana Evening Gazette, 5 Jan 1934; digital images.
3. 1850 U.S. census, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Plumcreek Twp., p. 342A, dwelling 120, family 120, John Sheaffer; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.Ancestry.com : accessed 20 Dec 2011); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll M432 749.
4. 1860 U.S. census, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Plumcreek Twp., p. 728, dwelling 991, family 879, John Sheaffer; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.Ancestry.com : accessed 20 Dec 2011); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll M653 1069.
5. 1870 U.S. census, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Armstrong Twp., p. 13, dwelling 184, family 192, John Shaffer; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.Ancestry.com); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M593, roll 1350.
6. 1880 U.S. census, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Plumcreek Twp., enumeration district (ED) 5, p. 124, dwelling 283, family 301, Peter Shaeffer; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.Ancestry.com : accessed 6 Mar 2010); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T9, roll 1096.
7. 1900 U.S. census, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Plumcreek Twp., enumeration district (ED) 11, p. 6B, dwelling 137; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.Ancestry.com); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 1373.
8. 1910 U.S. census, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Plumcreek Twp., enumeration district (ED) 37, p. 5, dwelling 79; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.Ancestry.com); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 1310.
9. 1920 U.S. census, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Plumcreek Twp., enumeration district (ED) 15, p. 4A, dwelling 68; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.Ancestry.com); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T625, roll 1508.
10. 1930 U.S. census, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Plumcreek Twp., enumeration district (ED) 42, p. 13A, dwelling 298; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.Ancestry.com); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T626, roll 1994.
11. Death Record, “Christopher N. Shaffer,” The Simpson Leader Times, 10 Jul 1976, p. 7, col. 8; digital images, NewspaperArchive (http://www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 19 Dec 2011), Historic Newspapers.
12. News Article, “Elderton Farmer Injured,” The Simpson Leader Times, 30 Oct 1931, p. 1; digital images.