52 Ancestors – Week 6


This week the meme is “Surprise.” I found this a bit challenging because it seems like it is always a surprise when I find another ancestor, another generation back, another grandparent. I did some thinking, reviewed my pedigree chart with that meme in mind and came up with my Week 6 ancestor.

My family, most of my ancestors, are relatively unremarkable. No celebrities, famous or infamous characters, just regular, middle of the road apparently hardworking folks. Not wealthy, not poor, just middle class through the generations.


Then I discovered Emaline Hoff and her husband Henry Johnston of Berks county, Pennsylvania. Emaline was born 28 July 1836 and Henry Johnston was born about 18301. Both were born in Reading, Berks, Pennsylvania and both came from money. It does not appear however the money survived their generation to be inherited by their children. When the dust settled Emaline her five children received a total of only $300 from the sale of personal property. The remainder of the estate which was comingled with Henry’s father’s estate was inherited by Henry’s siblings. Because of the lack of inheritance, the money and social status of this couple came as quite a surprise to me. It certainly was not reflected in the life of their son Harry Herbert Johnston.


Their son, my great grandfather, worked as a clerk for the railroad all of his life. I haven’t been able to find an estate settlement for Emaline. That was a surprise also. I wonder why. Further research into the Hoff family discovered the estate settlement of Emaline’s father John Hoff also of Reading Pennsylvania, a banker and influential citizen.  In his will, John Hoff left $5000.00 to each of his seven surviving children to be awarded in the first year after his death.  Then another $5000.00 to be awarded to each in the second year after his death.  Then the residue of his estate held in trust for his wife and distributed at her death which amounted to an additional $16,072.00 per child2.  Although Emaline was short changed on the estate of her husband, she was well taken care of by her father and remained well off for the rest of her life.  Her mother died in 1890 and the estate was finally settled in 1895.  It appears Emeline used some of her inheritance to purchase the home at 1608 Mineral Springs Road in Reading by 1900 where she lived the remainder of her life.


Emaline suffered from “spine disease” according to the 1880 US census. It does not seem to have stopped her from having five children or for living a long life.  Her children were Harry Herbert who was born in February of 1858, John H. of which little is known, George F. of whom little is known, William L. who died 13 Jul 1913 in Reading, Pennsylvania.  Her only daughter Olivia lived with her along with a granddaughter Dorthy Johnston. I have not been able to determine who the parents of Dorthy Johnston were.3

From newspaper articles I learned Emaline and Olivia vacationed for an extended period of time at Sea Island City in New Jersey in 1896 but I did not find any other snippets about Emaline participating in the social scene of Reading during her lifetime.4


In the dark dreary days of a Pennsylvania February, Emaline lost her battle, passing away on the 11th of February 1921 at the age of 84 years.5

Emaline was my second great grandmother on my father’s side. She is  likely an ancestor never remembered to her Archer grandchildren.  Here I remember her. Here I memorize her with what little information I have been able to find.

Footnote TitleFootnote Description
11830For Emaline Johnston, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1924, digital images Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 Feb 2019), listed as Mrs. Emaline H. Johnson, cert. no. 20413; citing Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission. For Henry Johnston see 1850 US Census, Berks County, Pennsylvania, population schedule (pop, sch.), South East Ward, p 286A, family 656, Adam Johnston; digital images Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 Feb 2019); citing National Archives Administration (NARA) micropublication M432, roll 752.
2per childIbid, "Probate Estate Files, Hoff, Almira R. - Hoffman, Isaac S., 1850-1915," image 755, estate of John Hoff.
3Johnston were.1870 US Census, Berks County, pop. sch., Reading Ward 2, p 790B, family 281, Henry Johnston; digital images Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 Feb 2019); citing NARA mp M593, roll 1307.
4her lifetime.Reading Times, 2 Dec 1896 Mrs. Henry Johnston returns home; digital image GenealogyBank (https://wwwgenealogybank.com : accessed Dec 2018).
584 years.Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966, Mrs. Emeline H. Johnson [Mrs. Emeline Hoff], cert no. 20413; digital images Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 Feb 2019); citing Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission.

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