Main content

Grim-McFarland-Woodbridge family history collection


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The bond between the Grim and McFarland families was short lived and weakened by the premature death of Joseph McFarland Sr. at age 34. Shortly after Joseph McFarland married Susan Grim in 1866, the couple learned he was dying from tuberculosis. At the time they were living in the crowded home of Joseph McFarland’s parents at 1653 N. 8th Street in Philadelphia. However, her father, Jacob Grim (1819-1896), had just built a new, spacious house, and the young couple moved into what would later be called “The Historic Grim Home” at 1314 Franklin Street, Philadelphia.

Joseph and Susan McFarland had one son, Joseph McFarland (1868-1945) who married Virginia Elmira Kinsey (1870-1942) in September 1892. Virginia was the daughter of General William Baker Kinsey (1836-1919) and Ada Lelia Wenzell (1847-1935). Her younger sisters included Alice Kinsey, born in 1872, and Helen Kinsey, born in 1877.

“The Historic Grim Home” was built in 1867 and was the setting for many significant family events including the death of Joseph McFarland, Sr. and the birth of his son, Joseph McFarland, Jr. This was also the home of Dr. Joseph McFarland, Jr. and his wife, Virginia Kinsey, and the place where their children, Helen Josephine McFarland (1893-1971) and Katharine Adele McFarland (1896-1986), were born. Helen Josephine McFarland married Donald Eliot Woodbridge on August 11, 1917; her sister Katharine Adele McFarland married Roy Victor Gerken on April 7, 1930. Susan Grim's mother, Rebecca Grim, formerly Pleis (1818-1894), died of apoplexy here; and Susan's father, Jacob Grim (1819-1896), died of cardiac disease in the home he had built thirty years earlier.

Jacob Grim was one of eleven children born to Henry Peter Grim (1783-1849) and Mary Shively or Sheble (1782-1860). His younger brother Benjamin Grim (born 1824) was the father of Nicholas Grim who was born about 1845. Nicholas later served as a Union soldier with the 28th Pennsylvania Regiment Volunteers and the 147th Regiment which participated in General Sherman's 1864 march. Nicholas wrote letters to his cousin Susan Elmira Grim detailing the war until his death in 1864.

The Grim-McFarland-Woodbridge family history collection spans from 1844 to 1953. The collection was organized prior to being donated to HSP and required minimal work to re-house into seven boxes. The bulk of the early material focuses on family history and genealogy and is transcribed from original documents not housed with the collection. These typed transcriptions arrived at HSP in three-ring binders and record the genealogical notes of Virginia Elmira Kinsey (1870-1942) and Dr. Joseph McFarland, Jr. (1868-1945); the letters to Susan Elmira Grim (1842-1927) and her diaries; the recollections and experiences of Joseph McFarland, MD, ScD; and the memoirs of Helen McFarland-Woodbridge (1893-1971), the older daughter of Joseph and Virginia McFarland. The later material centers on the school life and post-World War I Red Cross nursing experiences of Katharine Adele McFarland (1896-1986), the younger daughter of Joseph and Virginia McFarland. Much of this part of the collection is original and includes a high school yearbook from the Agnes Irwin School, 1916 (Box 6, Folder 1); diplomas and certificates; travel photographs and memorabilia; letters; and hospital reports.

The first and second transcribed binders are housed in Box 1. The first binder, “To the Dear Ghost” (1943), was built from family papers collected by Virginia Elmira Kilsey over a fifty-year period. It is her interest in preserving family history that provides much of the genealogical material found in this collection. The material was edited after her death in 1942 by her husband Joseph McFarland, Jr. into a logical and interesting genealogical report as a tribute to his wife and her lifetime passion. The chapter on the life of Susan Elmira Grim in “To the Dear Ghosts” (Box 1, Folder 3) mentions a family break with the McFarland line; consequently, this family narrative centers mostly on the Grim and Kinsey lineages. The Grim line extends Susan Elmira Grim’s family tree through her great-grandparents and beyond. Susan Grim’s maternal lineage through the Pleis and Klett names is rooted in Germany. The Kinsey line extends Virginia Elmira Kinsey’s lineage to her great-great grandparents and beyond. The second binder “Letters to Susan, 1844-1869” contains some of the oldest and most interesting material. There are photocopies of ancestors' letters rich in details about life in the mid-19th century. Civil War letters from her cousin Nicholas Grim who served as a Union soldier with the 28th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers and the 147th Regiment detail both the daily drudgery and the brutality of war. Nicholas Grim took part in Sherman’s march through Georgia, during which he gave his life in battle on June 20, 1864.

The third transcribed binder is housed in Box 2. Its contents include the “Recollections and Experience of Joseph McFarland, MD” and “I, Myself, and Me” a memoir by Helen McFarland-Woodbridge. Dr. McFarland reminisces about a childhood in a very different Philadelphia where the streets smelled of manure and the floors of streetcars were covered “with some four or five inches of straw” that provided warmth at first but by late day had turned “filthy and disorderly.” He divides his memoirs into Childhood, Manhood, Travels, and Fifty Years of Summer Outings and Married Life. The memoirs of Helen Woodbridge, Dr. McFarland’s older daughter, cover a later period. Born in 1893, Helen Woodbridge graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1915 and married Donald Woodbridge in 1917. While serving as a visiting professor at the University of Cairo, Helen Woodbridge worked on these memoirs that begin with her childhood and end “with her trip to the Old World with three friends in 1956.” Also in Box 2 is another summer memoir from 1907 entitled “Windy Brow” (Box 2, Folder 8).

The collection’s focus shifts beginning in Box 3. The material housed in Boxes 3-7 is more original, more 20th century focused, and almost entirely centered on the life of Katherine Adele McFarland (1896-1986). A CD of the earlier transcriptions, some genealogical charts, maps, and ship lists (Box 3, Folder 1) done around 1905-1910 by Helen Kinsey, the sister of Virginia Elmira Kinsey, comprise a small part of the collection (Box 3, Folder 2). Katharine Adele McFarland’s “Trip Out” began in 1921 and took her first to Houdoin, Czechoslovakia where she served as a Red Cross nurse from November 1921 to April 1922 (Box 3, Folders 3-6). After a vacation in the spring of 1922 (Box 3, Folder 7), she was transferred to Constantinople where she served from June 1922 until November 1922 (Box 3, Folders 8-9). Her letters from that time, which document travel to Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Austria, and Greece, have been transcribed and typed in a binder entitled “News from Abroad, 1921-1925.” These transcriptions comprise the balance of Box 3.

In November 1922, Katharine McFarland’s work took her to Greece where she served until August 1924. Her work in this country took her to Skala Aropos (Box 4, Folders 1-2), Corfu (Box 4, Folder 4), Athens (Box 4, Folder 5) and the Polyclinic Hospital (Box 4, Folders 6-8). A vacation in 1923 took her to Austria, Czechoslovakia and Italy (box 4, Folder 3). Photocopies of an original photo album (Box 7) can be viewed in Box 4 (Folders 9-14) along with an address book kept by her while abroad 1921-1925 (Box 4, Folder 15).

More memorabilia connected to Katharine Adela McFarland’s life from 1921-1925 is housed in Box 5. Typical of most travelers, she kept a scrapbook, collected postcards, bought souvenir books and purchased materials of local interest, such as art books displaying the work of Joza Uprka (Box 5, Folders 3-4). She saved newspaper clippings from home, took photographs, saved negatives, and wrote and received letters. As an overseas Red Cross nurse, she was involved with Near East Relief work (Box 5, Folder 12) and filing nursing school reports (Box 5, Folder 13).

Box 6 documents Katharine Adele McFarland’s life before and after her Red Cross experiences of 1921-1925. There is her high school yearbook from the Agnes Irwin School in 1916 (Box 6, Folder 1), a sculpture notebook (Box 6, Folder 5), along with photographs and certificates. Later in life, she recorded her trip to South America on the freighter Mormacowl in 1953 (Box 6, Folders 6-11).

Gift of Virginia G. Laplante, 2008, 2013.

Accession numbers 2008.004, 2013.030.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Susan Kearney
Finding Aid Date
; 2014
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Collection Inventory

“To the Dear Ghosts” (1943) – Parts 1-7, 1943.
Box 1 Folder 1-7
“Letters to Susan” (1844-1869) - Parts 1-7, 2007.
Box 1 Folder 8-14
“Recollections and Experiences by Joseph McFarland, MD” (1943) - Parts 1-7, 1992.
Box 2 Folder 1-7
“Windy Brow” (1907), 1998-1999.
Box 2 Folder 8
“I, Myself, and Me”, undated.
Box 1 Folder 9-15
CD: PDFs of Transcriptions, Photos, Genealogical Charts, Maps, Ship Lists, undated.
Box 3 Folder 1
Sewing Patterns and Samples: Helen Kinsey, circa 1905-1910.
Box 3 Folder 2
“The Trip Out: October 16, 1921-November 3, 1921”: Katharine A. McFarland, 1921.
Box 3 Folder 3
“Houdoin, Czechlosovakia (sic), November 1921-April 1922”: Katharine A. McFarland – Parts 1-3, 1921-1922.
Box 3 Folder 4-6
“Vacation 1922”: Katharine A. McFarland, 1922.
Box 3 Folder 7
“Constantinople: June 1922-November 1922”: Katharine A. McFarland- Part 1-2, 1922.
Box 3 Folder 8-9
“News from Abroad: Letters of Katharine Adele McFarland (1921-1925)" – Parts 1-5, circa 2007.
Box 3 Folder 10-14
“Skala Aropos, Greece, November 1922-July 1923”: Katharine A. McFarland – Parts 1-2, 1922-1923.
Box 4 Folder 1-2
“Vacation 1923-Austria, Czechlosovakia (sic), Italy”: Katharine A. McFarland, 1923.
Box 4 Folder 3
“Corfu, September 1923-October 1923”: Katharine A. McFarland, 1923.
Box 4 Folder 4
“Athens, Greece – October 1923-June 1924”: Katharine A. McFarland, 1923-1924.
Box 4 Folder 5
“The Polyclinic Hospital, June 1924-August 1924”: Katharine A. McFarland – Parts 1-3, 1924.
Box 4 Folder 6-8
Katharine Adele McFarland Photo Album 1921-1925 – Parts 1-5 (photocopy), undated.
Box 4 Folder 9-14
Katharine A. McFarland Abroad 1921-1925: Address Book, 1925.
Box 4 Folder 15
Katharine A. McFarland: Scrapbook, Loose Postcards, circa 1920s.
Box 5 Folder 1
Katharine A. McFarland: Budapest 1922 Souvenir Book, 1922.
Box 5 Folder 2
Joza Uprka Z Pouti U Sv. Antonicka, Art Book, circa 1922.
Box 5 Folder 3
Obrazarna Zvonu: Ioza Uprka (1861-1921), Art Book, circa 1922.
Box 5 Folder 4
Katharine A. McFarland Abroad, 1921-1925, Newspaper Clippings, 1921-1925.
Box 5 Folder 5
Katharine A. McFarland Abroad, 1921-1925, Newspaper Clippings – Philadelphia in World War I, circa 1918-1919.
Box 5 Folder 6
Katharine A. McFarland Abroad, Photographs and negatives, 1921-1925.
Box 5 Folder 7-8
Katharine A. McFarland, Miscellaneous letters, papers, envelopes, circa 1921-1926.
Box 5 Folder 9-11
Katharine A. McFarland Abroad, 1921-1925, Near East Relief, 1921-1925.
Box 5 Folder 12
Katharine A. McFarland Abroad, 1921-1925, Athens Nursing School Reports, 1921-1925.
Box 5 Folder 13
“Shorn Acres: Scotland, Connecticut (1934-1945)”: The Summer Farm of Roy and Katharine Gerken, 2006.
Box 5 Folder 14
Katharine A. McFarland: Agnes Irwin Yearbook; Reunion Material, 1916, 1965.
Box 6 Folder 1
Katharine A. McFarland, Photo Album, undated.
Box 6 Folder 2
Katharine A. McFarland, Photos Removed from Photo Album, undated.
Box 6 Folder 3
Katharine McFarland-Gerken: Certificates, 1931, 1932, 1935, undated.
Box 6 Folder 4
Katharine A. McFarland: Sculpture Notebook, undated.
Box 6 Folder 5
“To South America and Back on the Freighter Mormacowl, 1953” – Parts 1-2, 1953.
Box 6 Folder 6-7
Katharine A. McFarland-Gerken: Freighter Trip correspondence, photographs and negatives, postcards, miscellaneous, 1953.
Box 6 Folder 8-11
Katharine A. McFarland Photo Album (Original), 1921-1925.
Box 7
Katharine A. McFarland diplomas, 1919, 1935.
Oversize Flat file 1
Map of Czechoslovakia, undated.
Oversize Flat file 2

Print, Suggest