Shawn Nowlin firstname.lastname@example.org
The word perseverance is defined as “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” Mark Ingerson, a Salem High AP Government and Psychology teacher, says that term is applicable to many of the teenagers he has taught over the last two decades.
Two of his students this year, Zoe Prosser and Mady Church, were instrumental in discovering some buried pictures of a World War 1 Veteran and researching whom the individual was as well as his family history.
This is how Church remembers how things got started.
“One day we were working on cleaning Mr. Ingerson’s room where he has been for 11 years. We were finding a lot of random items on his bookshelf and I came across some pictures, and it caught my attention because it had an older look than the rest of the items on the shelf. Mr. Ingerson couldn’t remember how he got them so we started trying to figure out where they came from and then we got invested in the project.”
The Veteran in the picture was Harry Burke. Research from Mr. Ingerson and his students revealed, among other things, that Burke was the secretary for the local school board in the Tamaqua, PA, area. It was an elected position and he ran as a Democrat. In 1959, when the county cut his pay in half (from $1,200 to $600), he went on a very public strike. A couple weeks later, the school board fired him.
“I think the students who took part in this just got very excited about figuring out who was Harry Burke, Ingerson said. “Mady got increasingly excited as we found out each additional piece of the puzzle: Where he was from? Who was his wife? Who were his relatives? They are so excited they want to start an Ancestry Club here at Salem High. Maybe it will happen.”
As part of his research, Ingerson found Leah Freudenberger through ancestry. He then dumped her name in Facebook, found her immediately and the two began conversing back and forth.
“She was very excited because she is a committed ancestry researcher. She was quickly able to confirm relationships and knew of Harry’s mother and uncles, who she was a direct descendent of,” he said. “I was thrilled that we were able to unpack the ‘Mystery of Harry Burke’ as we called it and be able to unit his pictures with a blood relative who would appreciate them.”
More than 100 years have passed since World War I led to more than eight million military personnel causalities.
Some advice Prosser would give others who come across buried valuables or antiques “would be to try not to throw them away. Instead try to find any information about the antique that you can because they are important to someone.”
Added Ingerson, “Ancestry.com is an amazing resource. The key is finding out as much specific information as possible: Full name (middle name or initial), date of birth and death, place(s) they lived. If you have this information, you should be able to find either Census records (1940 or earlier), birth, death, or military records.”