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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Proctor

Independence Day

Updated: Aug 10, 2023


Image of the Declaration of Independence
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

As I research my family history, my fifth great-grandparents don’t feel so far out of reach. Learning family history brings life to the past in a way that reading and outlining a textbook does not. And so, this Independence Day, I want to mark the lives of a few of my Revolutionary War ancestors.


James Girdler was a fourth-generation Massachusetts resident, born in 1751. He enlisted as a private in the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment on 16 January 1780, and served for three years. After the war, he settled in Pulaski County, Kentucky, where he married Malinda “Lenny” Miles, the daughter of a sergeant in the 7th Connecticut Regiment.


James McGrew was a Scots-Irish immigrant who arrived in Pennsylvania as part of the immigration of Irish Quakers.[1] Quaker records are a rich source for genealogists, as they include not only records of births, marriages, and deaths, but also reports of community involvement, misconduct, and information about migration of members. And while Quakers are well-known pacifists, that does not mean some did not join the fight. James McGrew enlisted in the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment, even though by 1776 he was already in his sixties. And by then, James and his first wife Mary had seven children, including my fourth great grandmother, Ann, born in 1741.


Ann McGrew married in 1768, to Elijah Newlon, an event that places them within York County, Pennsylvania as of 1768. Elijah’s father William Newland served in Philadelphia in the Corps of Invalids, a regiment for those who were not able to serve in battle due to disabilities but could serve as guards.[2]


Hats off to all the patriots who fought for a new form of government, and to the people who seek to keep it, with equality and justice for all.


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[1] James’ mother, Isabella, is the ancestor I mentioned in my first post who many people give the last name “Finley” although there is no proof to date that she was a Finley. [2] The Newlon/Newlin/Newland name varies throughout the family.

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