2016 June – Pennsylvania Research

Pennsylvania: Research in the Keystone State

Coordinators: Sharon Cook MacInnes, Ph.D. and Michael D. Lacopo, D.V.M.

Additional Course Instructor: Richard G. Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA

Held June 26-July 1, 2016, at La Roche College, Pittsburgh, PA.Registration Information.

We have designed our course for intermediate and above researchers who understand how the Genealogical Proof Standard forms the foundation for solid research but may not know much about Pennsylvania resources.  Our goal is to present a practical, in-depth, and fast-paced exploration of Pennsylvania record groups with a bit of fun and hands-on exercises thrown in.

If you want to know more about the lives of your Pennsylvania ancestors beyond the basics, join us for five days of digger deeper in to the wealth of online and on-site resources that await you. Every one of our Pennsylvania ancestors has a tale to tell, and it is our responsibility as genealogists to tell it. The Pennsylvania track will expand your knowledge of resources necessary to fulfill the reasonably exhaustive search your ancestors deserve. We will present comprehensive overviews of the records in which your ancestor may appear, delve into how and where those records can be accessed, and demonstrate how the records should be used to expand an understanding of your ancestor’s life. We will provide you with interesting case studies and practical methods illustrating how ancestors reveal themselves within their social, economic and historical context in Pennsylvania and beyond. During the week you will be challenged to solve hands-on problems in small groups while adhering to the Genealogical Proof Standard.  We will assign some homework that is optional but highly recommended

Please note: the following schedule is subject to change.

Monday: Setting the Stage

8:30 a.m.:  Push-Pull Factors and Historical Context (Sharon MacInnes)

This session provides a historical foundation for the course and should help you understand migration issues and why records may be missing. Some topics are: What factors caused Germans to become such a large part of colonial immigration? What records did they leave behind and where can you locate those that survived? How did the Penn’s pacifist Quaker government evolve, leading to the French & Indian War as well as the Revolutionary War? What caused the Scots-Irish to emigrate and, once they got here, to go to the frontier and leave so few records? Who and where were indentured servants and what can we know about them?

10:15 a.m.:  Challenges and Issues in PA Research (Sharon MacInnes)

Common sense dictates that you can’t find your family in Pennsylvania records unless you know what local, county, and state government had jurisdiction over a family. Learn about Connecticut claims to the northern third of Pennsylvania and the war they fought until the boundary was settled after the Revolutionary War. Acquire a personal understanding of the numerous Pennsylvanians who believed they were actually living in Virginia and left records in Virginia until 1780. We’ll particularly focus on how to determine changing county and township boundaries through the years. We’ll explore what strategies to use before official vital records were required to be kept in 1906.

1:00 p.m.: An Essential Starter Kit (Michael Lacopo)

Every serious genealogist and Pennsylvania researcher should have some highly recommended references at their fingertips. This arsenal of knowledge includes printed sources, digitized books, downloadable resources, and frequently visited websites that need bookmarking. A discussion of accessible periodicals, wikis, webinars, and databases that are particularly helpful for Pennsylvania research will presented.

2:45 p.m.: Urban Research Strategies (Rick Sayre)

If your ancestor lived in a larger urban area, there are many more sources available beyond those found in a rural setting. This session will discuss tools available for Pennsylvania (plat maps, successive fire insurance maps, city directories, census, and other records). Integrating examples will be presented.

After-Hours Workshop (optional):  Using your skills on a document (group work)

Optional Homework:  Strategies assignment

Tuesday: Planting the Players

8:30 a.m.: Migration Patterns Within Pennsylvania and Onward

Part 1 (Sharon – early to about 1800):  Using historical context and major transportation paths, we’ll discuss why and how settlers pushed into western Pennsylvania and down into the Shenandoah Valley, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio.  Learn how to work backward through migration trails so that you may home in on their whereabouts in Pennsylvania (and Maryland).

Part 2 (Michael – after about 1800): We’ll explore major transportation developments (canals, turnpikes, steam, railroads) that channeled westward and outward expansion.  People moved in groups, and you may have to triangulate neighbors and associates to pinpoint your ancestor.

10:15 a.m.: State Land Research, Part I (Sharon MacInnes)

Pennsylvania was a state-land state rather than a federal-land state.  In practical terms, that means landowner records are at state and local repositories rather than at the Bureau of Land Management.  Learn about the Pennsylvania colonial and state land acquisition process, the records each step produced, and where to find them. We’ll examine successive Indian treaties that opened specific PA territory for settlement over the years and their associated online ledgers. Time will be given for practical exercises.

1:00 p.m.: State Land Research, Part II; State & County Tax Records (Sharon MacInnes)

Continuing the first part of the class, we will discuss Donation and Depreciation Land, caveats, private land sales recorded in the American State Papers, and we will touch on what can be found in BLM and territorial records feeding into Pennsylvania. Also learn how PA and federal tax records pinpoint families year by year, showing their changing economic status. See how tax records can give you clues to years of birth, marriage, migration, and death of our Pennsylvania ancestors.

2:45 p.m.: County Land Records and Footprints in Court Records (Michael Lacopo)

We’ll focus on county land records and accessing them through the notorious Russell Index. In addition to deeds in county repositories, land ownership was recorded in Orphans Court records, civil cases, sheriff deeds, mortgage books, and bills of sale.  Traces of Pennsylvania settlers are also found in federal land records after they moved to other states.  Have you explored these and other alternate sources?

After-Hours Workshop (optional):  Using your skills on a document (group work)

Homework (optional):  Migration or land assignment

Wednesday: Advancing the Plot

8:30 a.m.: Court and Legal Records (Michael Lacopo)

Court records are hard to access but essential to thorough research.  What’s a Prothonotary?  If a father died but the mother still lived, why search Orphans Court records? What types of cases were assigned to what courts, and what supporting case files can be found5? From bastardy and divorce to selling liquor illegally and slander, court records can make for interesting reading… and sometimes even petty complaints can yield a huge treasure trove of genealogical data! How do we access them?

10:15 a.m.:  Estate Files (Michael Lacopo)

If you haven’t ventured further than the will and dug into the estate files of your ancestor, you are missing important research clues. Probate files, inventories, vendue lists, signatures, and accounts can yield information you may not find anywhere else. Learn how to find them and evaluate them fully.

1:00 p.m.:  Military Records of Colonial Pennsylvania (Sharon MacInnes)

Many scholars consider the Revolutionary War an extension of the French and Indian War, and an enormous trove of military records was generated by these colonial wars.  We’ll assess what records were produced at both the federal and state level, including militia rolls, pensions, burials, reports, military abstract cards, and bounty land. We’ll also touch on Hessians, Loyalists, and pacifists. We’ll explore the differences between the 138-volume online Pennsylvania Archives and how it differs from what is in the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg.

2:45 p.m.: Military Records of Pennsylvania State (Sharon MacInnes)

The unfortunate truth is that wars leave a plethora of records, and the 19th Century produced an overwhelming wealth of military files and documents.  We’ll explore those generated by the War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I and II.  Learn how to use ARIAS, the Archives Records Information Access System, at the Pennsylvania State Archives.

After-Hours Workshop (optional):  Using your skills on a document (group work)

Homework (optional):  Military or probate assignment

Thursday: Telling Their Story

8:30 a.m.:  Church Records, Part I (Michael Lacopo)

Some organized religions did not practice infant baptism, so looking for that elusive baptismal record for an ancestor may be pointless. The basic organization and theology of the religions of our Pennsylvania ancestors will be discussed, especially how they relate to record keeping and why so many church records are missing. We’ll discuss where to look for Pennsylvania church and pastoral records.

10:15 a.m.: Church Records, Part II (Michael Lacopo)

What type of records are available for specific denominations—Quakers, Mennonites, Lutherans & Reformed, Catholics, Presbyterians? What alternate records can we use to determine year of birth? What hints are there in the records to link families?

1:00 p.m.:  Adding Character: Using Repositories and Archives (Michael Lacopo)

We’ll focus on finding and using manuscripts, city directories, diaries, letters and photographs to flesh out our ancestors’ stories. We’ll show you how newspapers, school records, scholarly journals, lateral files, and research in specialized collections add fascinating layers to a person’s story. We’ll give examples of where to find newspaper collections and journal articles.

2:45 p.m.:  19th and 20th Century Research in Pennsylvania (Sharon MacInnes)

What records can we use to document the lives of our 19th and 20th century ancestors? After briefly discussing the Industrial Revolution, we’ll look at resources such as accident reports, non-population schedules, Social Security applications, ethnic church records and newspapers. We’ll end with a focus on how to locate the various immigration and naturalization records and the tales they often tell.

After-Hours Workshop (optional):  Using your skills on a document (group work) Homework (optional): Focus on your brick wall

Friday – The Final Act: Putting It All Together

8:30 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.:  Case Studies, Brick Walls, and Q & A (Michael Lacopo & Sharon MacInnes)

11:30 a.m.: Certificates and farewells followed by lunch