2018 July – Pennsylvania Research

Walking in Penn’s Woods: Pennsylvania Research
Coordinator: Amy E. K. Arner
Additional Instructors: Michael Lacopo, DVM; Richard “Rick” Sayre, CG, CGL; Kimberly Powell; and Marian L. Smith

Held July 22-27, 2018, at La Roche College, Pittsburgh, PA. Registration Information.

Intermediate researchers who are not familiar with the idiosyncrasies of
Pennsylvania records, but have some experience with original records such as deeds and probate files, will enjoy this course. Focusing on commonly used record types, there also will be hands-on exercises in class and optional homework assignments. Students should bring a laptop or tablet to use for the in-class exercises. The homework assignments may also require the use of a computer. If you want to know more about the lives of your Pennsylvania ancestors, join us for five days of digging deeper into the wealth of resources that await you in Penn’s Woods.

Orientation & Introductions (Arner)

Pennsylvania History & Geography: An Overview (Arner)
Truly understanding how to research in Pennsylvania requires a solid background about the history and geography of the commonwealth. This session will start students along the path to that understanding and provide the basis for the week.

Pennsylvania Vital Records (Arner)
Pennsylvania does not have the long history of requiring the civil registration of vital records that New England states do, however Pennsylvania started requiring the civil registration of vital records before some of the states in the Mid-West, South, and West. Topics discussed will include when civil registration was required at state, county, and local levels; what information will be included in the records; and where to find the records. Adoption records will also be covered.

The Early Religious Experience in Pennsylvania: Church Records, Part I (Lacopo)
Pennsylvania was the most religiously diverse colony of the original United States. Understanding the theology of each religious denomination helps understand the records that were kept – as well as those that were not. What kind of records did each religion maintain, and in what format? What other external factors affected record keeping in Pennsylvania and how do your research strategies differ from religion to religion?

Finding Church Records in Pennsylvania: Church Records, Part II (Lacopo)
Once you understand the type of records kept by each major denomination in Pennsylvania, the next challenge is locating them! While some are located in state or regional denominational archives, others remain in the church after hundreds of years. Major repositories will be discussed as well as research strategies for locating church records in Pennsylvania.

Homework Assignment (Optional) (Lacopo)

Homework Review (Optional)

Pennsylvania’s Military Records (Sayre)
Military records often contain evidence of kinship. This class will focus on finding that evidence in original records and published (both in print and online) records. The discussion will include the resources of the Pennsylvania State Archives and the National Archives.

Using Newspapers in Pennsylvania Research (Arner)
Newspapers are a key resource for genealogical research. This session will focus on what
information students can find in this rich record set, different types of newspapers, and where to find newspapers published in Pennsylvania.

Finding Treasure in the Pennsylvania Court House, Part I and Part II (Lacopo)
Pennsylvania seems unique (and often frightening) to a researcher first entering the courthouse. What is a Prothonotary? What cases were heard in the Court of Oyer and Terminer? We will take a tour of a typical Pennsylvania county courthouse and visit each individual office, identifying the records kept by each official and what importance they hold for the genealogist. Finding aids and the use of the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg will be covered in your search for county records.

Homework Assignment (Optional) (Arner)


Homework Review (Optional)

Finding Places and More – Maps and Gazetteers (Sayre)
Finding a place is getting easier every day as online resources expand. This will class will focus on the latest online resources. Equally important is recognizing how place data can be correlated with other information to solve genealogical problems. Examples will illustrate this technique.

Pennsylvania State Land Records (Powell)
Learn about the colonial and state land acquisition process in Pennsylvania, including the
treaties, boundary disputes, and laws that governed settlement. We’ll also explore the records created by the land patent process, what they mean, and how to find them.

Pennsylvania Deeds & Other Local Land Records (Powell)
We’ll dig deep into the local land records available for research in Pennsylvania, including how to find and use deeds, tips for navigating common index systems such as the Russell Index, and some lesser-used alternative sources for locating the land where our ancestors lived.

Taxation in Pennsylvania (Lacopo)
Probably one of the most useful and underutilized record groups in Pennsylvania are tax
records. Not only do they survive largely intact for the majority of the counties in Pennsylvania, they can give valuable clues to parentage, birth, marriage, death, migration, and more. A seemingly boring record group can hold the key to unlocking the secrets to your family research dilemma.

Homework Assignment (Optional) (Arner)


Homework Review (Optional)

Pennsylvania – Urban Resources (Sayre)
Researchers in Pennsylvania’s urban settings have an abundance of sources to consider. Many times the challenge is to analyze the significant amount of information available. This class will suggest strategies to discover kinship and correlate significant amounts of information often developed in urban research

Probate Research (Lacopo)
A separate discussion of the county Orphans’ Court and Register of Wills will present the rich information resources that can be found there, and we will walk through a sample estate file to illustrate how clues can be extracted from seemingly non-genealogical documents, such as inventories, vendue lists, and administration accounts.

Philadelphia & Erie Immigration Records (Smith)
Pennsylvania has two ports, one major (Philadelphia) and one minor (Erie). This session will explore the records that were created at both.

Archives and Manuscript Collections for Pennsylvania Research (Arner)
The records helpful for researching our Pennsylvania ancestors are not held solely by libraries and governmental offices. Private and public archives also hold records we may need. This session will cover some of the archives that students may find helpful.

Homework Assignment (Optional) (Lacopo)


Homework Review (Optional)

Pulling it All Together: Pennsylvania Case Studies Parts I and II (Arner)
During the week, students will learn about the records and resources helpful for researching in Pennsylvania. Those records and resources cannot be used in isolation. The class will work through and discuss several cases studies as examples of how researchers can use a variety of records to trace their ancestry.

Certificates and Farewells (Arner)