Mid-Eighteenth Century Pennsylvania
Ledgers, Other Records Reconstruct Communities
Additional evidence can be found in other placesestate records and personal ledger books. Among the estate papers of John Jacob Eyerly (1750-1800) was a ledger book titled List of Outstanding Debts in the Mill Book. That record was a list of people who owed Eyerly money for grinding grain at the Friedensthal Mill in Northampton County. Upon closer examination, that mill book was a virtual census of every household located within a two-mile radius. A crosscheck of the names in the mill book with the names living in the immediate vicinity discloses that everyone in that neighborhood brought their grain to this mill. 
Mills are also mentioned in articles of agreement that detail how children were to provide for their aging parents. Among other things, children were directed to provide their parents with sufficient grain from the field; but not only were they to provide the grain, they were also directed to take it to the mill. 
Road petitions are another interesting source that furnish additional evidence. Settlers petitioning a court asking that a road be built state the reason why the road was needed. One explanation noted with surprising frequency was the need to get to the mill. 
The 1798 U.S. Direct Tax for Pennsylvania and the 1800 U.S. Census are invaluable sources that provide interesting and important detail on eighteenth-century life. The tax records note the person occupying the property as well as the owner, the neighbors, the dimensions of the house, the number of stories, and the material. Also mentioned are any out buildings, such as a separate kitchen or bake oven, and other buildings such as barns. The dimensions and type of construction of the barn and other outbuildings are frequently provided as well.
While the 1798 U. S. Direct tax furnishes detail on structures, the U. S. Census enumerates their contents. Christian Muffley, an early resident of Lower Mt. Bethel Township in Northampton County, was listed in the 1798 U.S. Direct Tax as living in a one-story log home that measured 24´30 feet.  The 1800 U.S. Census showed this same man living with nine other people.  His family of ten lived in 720 square feet. By contemporary standards, those sorts of living arrangements would have been very uncomfortable at best. When it came to living arrangements, privacy in eighteenth-century Pennsylvania was non-existent.
Inventories of estates are perhaps the most valuable source for studying domestic life in Colonial America. They are snapshots in time about a persons movable possessions at the point of death. The estate inventory of John Dietrich provided a view of family life with young children in the home. John Dietrich of Upper Mount Bethel Township, Northampton County, died in 1794 at 34 years of age leaving five children, all under the age of ten. John Dietrich was born in Pennsylvania; his father and grandfather were immigrants from Germany. In the ten years between John Dietrichs marriage and his death, he accumulated a substantial estate without the benefit of inheritance. As was typical of many Pennsylvania German farmers, John and his wife Magdalena did not own much furniture. The inventory lists three chests, six chairs, and one table.  It shows that the Dietrich family sat on chairs as opposed to benches when they ate their meals. Because only three beds and besteads were listed in the inventory, some or all of the children were sleeping more than one to a bed.
Kitchen equipment was sparse. Magdalena prepared food with two iron pots, two iron kettles, a teakettle, a coffee pot and a frying pan.  Not mentioned in the inventory were earthen plates, pewter dishes, or trenchers spoons. One has to ask the question, did the appraiser forget to mention eating utensils? Did the family actually lack these items, or were they not listed on his inventory?
Lamps or lanterns were not mentioned either, suggesting the Dietrichs probably illuminated their log home with candles. The house was heated with a stove and John Dietrich did own four guns. 
The most valuable part of John Dietrichs inventory was his livestock; he had more than most. Included in the count were four horses, four mares, three hogs, nine lambs, eight calves, eight heifers, seven cows, two bulls, a steer, and some oxen. The horses and oxen, combined with the listing of a wagon, swingle trees, and gears shows that he hauled good, possibly as far as Philadelphia. Also in the inventory were two wool wheels, a spinning wheel, a hemp break, and a loomclear evidence that they made cloth and clothing. The eight lambs provided the family with the wool needed to weave clothing. The inventory also listed wheat, corn, and buckwheat, crops grown by most eighteenth-century Pennsylvania German farmers. 
Writings Talk About Customs of Time
Family historians spend a great deal of time wandering through cemeteries searching for the gravestones of long-forgotten relatives. But, how many genealogists have ever stopped to think about eighteenth-century burial customs?
Evidence suggests large funeral attendance. Gottlieb Mittelberger wrote, Sometimes one can count at country weddings and funerals 300, 400, and even 500 persons on horseback.  When Jacob Ehrenhardt was buried on February 10, 1759 in the village of Emaus in Lehigh County, an audience of 400 was in or near the church, many hanging at the doors and windows.  On August 14, 1768 in York, Pennsylvania, 600 people attended the funeral of Catherine Heckedorn, wife of John Heckedorn. 
When someone died, a member of the family of the deceased notified the four closest neighbors, who in turn notified their nearest neighbors, and so on. In this manner invitations to funerals were extended to many friends and neighbors within a short period of time. 
Generally, funerals were held in the late afternoon or early evening. The funeral party assembled at the home of the deceased where they ate cake and a hot rum punch or sweetened cider. In an air of suspicion Muhlenberg wrote that friends and relatives came more for the rum and cake than for their interest in the deceased. 
When the party had assembled, the cortege moved to the church, led by the minister. The casket, carried on a wagon through the woods, followed him. The immediate family followed the wagon on horseback. The rest of the party, in turn, followed.  In one entry, Muhlenberg noted the men rode separately from the women who traveled with any young children. At the church the minister gave the funeral sermon after which a brief biography of the deceased was given. Then, they took the coffin to the cemetery for burial.  When John Dietrich died in 1794, his funeral was probably handled in much the same manner.
The Dietrich family is representative of numerous families living in southeastern Pennsylvania in the mid- to late-1700s, especially Germans. As in most Pennsylvania German families, John and Magdalena Dietrich did not have many household furnishing. The most valuable part of his inventory was the produce of the farmthe grain standing in the field or in the barn, and the livestock. One traveler concluded that most Pennsylvania farmers did not surround themselves with conveniences and live in plenty.  They were more concerned with the state of the barn and the barnyard.
Our eighteenth-century ancestors would have agreed with those priorities. A certain amount of sadness and discord accompanied the decision to leave home and family in England or Germany. They risked a dangerous voyage on an open, sometimes tumultuous sea; but they chose that route because they wanted the opportunity to take control of their own lives. They wanted the chance to succeed, many wanted religious freedom, and they wanted the opportunity to pass something on to their children. The evidence suggests most Pennsylvania families succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.