The Elusive Life Story of Philip Slicker

Note on name spelling: The names in this post are written exactly as they appeared in the documents from which they were taken. In the 1870 Federal Census, Magdlena’s name was written as Martha.

The last time I checked the dead weren’t talking. Thus, if we want to learn the life story of our ancestors, we must rely on historical documents to provide the details that will tell us their stories. The more historical documents we find and the more the factual information varies within those documents, the greater potential we have to weave an elaborate, more reliable life story about our ancestors. Even when there are only a few documents, we can still piece together a short narrative about those who came before us. And so it goes with Philip Slicker.

Like treasure hunters diving to the bottom of the ocean to search for buried riches among a more than one hundred-year old ship wreckage, my mother and I have spent countless hours in various repositories searching for that treasure trove of historical documents that would enable us to piece together – gem by gem[1] – the life story of Philip Slicker.

In our exploratory search, we were able to discover three documents containing several genealogical gems: the 1860 Federal Census for Pennsylvania, the 1870 Federal Census for Pennsylvania, and Philip’s son’s death certificate.

From the 1860 census we can begin to piece together a life story for Philip. According to this collection of historical records, Philip was 45 years old and working as a coalminer. Given Philip’s age and the census year, we can estimate that Philip was born about 1815. The census also shows there was an adult female, Magdlena, age 46, living in the same household and bearing the same surname as Philip. Magdlena was most likely his wife. Both Philip and Magdlena were born in Germany.

In addition to Philip and Magdlena, there were four children bearing the Slicker surname listed as a part of the household in 1860: Conrad, age 15, working as a miner; Eve, age 13 or 14; Mary, age 10; and Johny, age 4. The three oldest were born in Germany while Johny was born in Pennsylvania. The family was living in Baldwin Township near Library,[2] Allegheny County, Pennsylvania the day the census was taken: August 17, 1860.[3]

The second useful document was John Slicker’s death certificate. The informant for the certificate, A.G. Seighman – most likely Albert Grant Seighman, John’s son-in-law – reported Philip Slicker as John’s father and Magdalene Slicker as John’s mother. A.G. Seighman also reported Germany as the birthplace of both parents[4], [5].

I believe we would not have found Philip’s family in the 1870 Federal Census for Pennsylvania, the life stories of Conrad, Eva and Mary Steinogle or the burial site of Magdlena, had it not been for Ruth Baker who willingly shared a bit of oral history that has passed from generation to generation.

In the first half of the 1990s, my mother and I had a sit down interview with Ruth. Ruth, the daughter of Matilda Belle Slicker and Albert Grant Seighman, told us Philip and Magdlena had been born in Germany and had lived in and was buried in Webster[6], Pennsylvania. Ruth also told us that Conrad, Eva and Mary were Philip’s step-children and their surname was Steinogle. This little bit of information was enough for us to locate most of Philip’s family members in the 1870 census.

According to this census year, the family household consisted of Conrad Steingle, age 23, born in Germany and working as a miner; Martha Steingle, age 49, born in Germany; and John Steingle, age 13, born in Pennsylvania. They were living in Forward Township, Allegheny County[7]. Eva, Philip’s step-daughter, was married to John Vogle. Eva and John were living in Rostraver Township, Westmoreland County[8]. Mary, Philip’s youngest step-daughter, couldn’t be found in this census year. Since Philip did not appear in the 1870 Federal Census, it is most likely he passed away. But when and where?

Based on the information at hand, we can estimate that Philip most likely passed away in the decade between 1860 and 1870. He would have been between the ages of 45 and 55. The answer to where did Philip died is not so easy. It is highly probable he died somewhere in Allegheny County perhaps Baldwin Township…maybe Forward Township.

Three historical documents and a bit of oral history have made it possible to develop a short narrative about Philip Slicker. This life story, although appearing elusive in nature, is not as comprehensive as I believe it could be. Other documents containing their own genealogical gems surely exist. Documents containing factual information that would make Philip’s life story more elaborate… more complete.

Those possible documents include ship passenger lists, naturalizations records, bible records, and church records. There may be a standing grave marker carrying Philip’s name and date of death. The gems to be found within these documents and on his grave marker may include Philip’s arrival date to the United States, the port he arrived to, when he was born, when he was married, when he died and the name of his parents. In fact, with the right documents in hand it would be possible to trace Philip’s life story to the motherland – Germany.

[1] In the field of genealogy, gem is used as a synonym of fact or good-find.

[2] Baldwin Township covered a larger geographical area in 1860 than it   does presently. Library is presently located in South Park Township, Allegheny County.

[3] “1860 United States Federal Census,”, ( : accessed 7, October 2016), entry for Philip Slicker (age 45), Baldwin Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

[4] Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate no. 77633, John Slicker (1929); Division of Vital Records, New Castle.

[5] Although the informant of John’s death certificate, A.G. Seighman, most likely presented an accurate account of the names of John’s parents and their birthplace, the information must be treated as suspect. Mr. Seighman, given his date of birth could not have known Philip and Magdlena. Thus he was relying on information passed down through generations which is less reliable than an eyewitness account.

[6] Webster is in Westmoreland County.

[7] “1870 United States Federal Census,”, ( : accessed 7, October 2016), entry for Conrad Steingle (age 23), Forward Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

[8] “1870 United States Federal Census,”, ( : accessed 7, October 2016), entryfor Eva Vogle (age 21), Westmoreland, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

© Robin Slicker, 2016. All Rights Reserve.

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