finding your roots

Irwin connection

Jim Strutz April 9, 2012

My 3rd great-grandfather was Irwin Anderson. Born in 1820 near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he served an apprenticeship as a blacksmith before moving north to Connoquenessing, Butler county, Pennsylvania, around 1853. There he raised a family and lived out his life as a farmer. Irwin’s mother’s name was McFarland and her mother’s maiden name was Irwin, so Irwin was an old family name.

Elizabeth Irwin, was a daughter of John Irwin and Martha (Maclay?) of Mercersburg, then in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania. John Irwin was very likely a first cousin of Archibald Irwin of Irwinton Mills, also near Mercersburg. The two Irwin families were pew holders at the Upper West Connococheague Presbyterian Church, where many of their family members were baptised and married. It was Archibald Irwin’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Ramsey Irwin, who married John Scott Harrison, of Indiana, in 1831. The Harrison family, however, was from Virginia; their members were included among the original settlers of Jamestown and signers of the Declaration of Independence. John Scott Harrison holds the distinction of being the only person in history whose father and son were Presidents of the United States: 9th President William Henry Harrison and 23rd President Benjamin Harrison.

An irony of this story is that my great-grandfather, and Irwin Anderson’s grandson, John H. Anderson’s middle name was Harrison – named after a distant cousin who happened to be the President of the United States. I wonder if he ever knew…

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The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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