Going to take a moment here this Friday morning to give a shout out to all the genealogical communities scattered in counties and municipalities across the country, and around the world.
Yesterday I traveled down Route 11, crossing the Susquehanna River at Plymouth, and dodged potholes on the San Souci Highway. A right turn at the Hanover Area High School light took me up the hill to the Hanover Green Cemetery, and the building that houses both cemetery maintenance and the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, Inc.
Mind you, I am researching roots in southWESTERN Pennsylvania and southside VIRGINIA. Yet I make near-weekly treks to this site and am warmly received as the “Document Lady.”
NEPGS is a certified member of the Family History Library network, and when I sit at their computers I can access ALL the digital records within Family Search’s database. Plus, this local library can receive any microfilm records that I request because they have yet to be digitized.
Over the years I have been able to accumulate dozens of wills, deeds, tax records, and court documents from Mecklenburg County, Virginia because of the generosity and kind spirit of these dedicated folks.
A hearty thank you to my local genealogical society board of directors and staff. I couldn’t chase my ancestors without you.
Deadlines are a writer’s friend, and I desperately needed one if I was to transform an octopus of a research project into a finished story. Analyzing my mother-in-law’s old book, The Mine Foreman’s Handbook, for heirloom status had proven to be a daunting task.
The editor of my local genealogical society newsletter reminded me each time I visited their library of my promise to contribute a story. This past spring I committed to pressing “send” by the summer solstice. And the account of Martin Corrigan’s book flowed out, line by line by line.
I urge all you family history lovers to venture out from tree shaping and blog posting. We all have some big stories to tell. Find a genealogical or historical society near you and make friends with their newsletter deadline.
Here is an excerpt of Inside Out: Judging a Book By Its Cover, which begins on page 11 of the summer issue of Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society’s newsletter, The Heritage.
“In 1887 Martin Corrigan was granted a Certificate of Service by the Pennsylvania Mine Foreman Examining Board, an alternative certification which recognized men who had served as mine foremen for at least one year prior to the 1885 Mine Safety Act9 . Martin Corrigan did not own this book in order to take the Mine Foreman Exam himself. Martin may have originally purchased the book for his own private library, consulting its contents in his role as mine boss for Augustus S. Van Winkle’s Milnesville collieries. But Martin also loaned this book out. The words “Please Return” were found inside the front and back covers, and on one of the first pages someone inscribed the words: Martin Corrigan No. 90 North Wyoming Street Hazleton.”
Chances are that you, family historian, live within reach of a local genealogical server, an organization that is dedicated to preserving your sanity, as you preserve your family’s stories. These genealogical societies can host educational events, house regional history archives, and provide encouraging words during even the most discouraging of times.
My local server, The Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, includes an amazing team of photographers who have rigged up a splendid system of cameras, lights and reflectors. These digitizing fiends capture a myriad of local documents, from baptismal records to century-old newspapers, AND, as I discovered, members’ family treasures.
I recently acquired a set of deeds for my husband’s childhood home in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. The series begins in 1883, with a wonderful document from the Diamond Coal Land Company conveying title to a parcel in Square #6 of the Diamond Addition. Measuring 16¾ inches by 27¼ inches, the yellowed paper proved impossible to scan and challenging to clearly photograph at home. After explaining my predicament to these local genealogists, the guys offered to make digital copies for me! While the cameras worked their magic, I read the Hazleton (PA) Sentinel’s 1884 account of the coal trade on an in-house computer, another product of their preservationist zeal.
Local genealogical societies are wonderful groups to support, with your membership fees and your company. We all have so much to gain from the camaraderie and sharing.
Most family historians, I would dare say, do not live close to the towns, farms and churches of our ancestors. Fortunately, somebody else does. Their location is prime real estate for your genealogical searching. Try this: in your search engine type the name of the county and state in which your ancestor lived, then + “genealogy” . From my experience your query will return a list for at least one historical or genealogical society in the county or the region of your foreparents. These local societies often have resources available that the big data banks don’t carry.
For instance, Ira and Serena Sayles, my 3rd grandparents, lived for years in various towns of Allegany County, New York. I have been compiling data about their lives for my Project 150: My ancestors in the Civil War. The Allegany County Historical Society has transcribed an index and scanned the images for the 1865 New York census, an absolutely stunning document which is available elsewhere for other counties but not Allegany. I contacted the web master to relay my thanks, and was able to extend my contact to the individual specializing in Whitesville, Ira and Serena’s family home in 1865. In another query I discovered the Cornerstone Genealogy Society of Greene County, Pennsylvania, and was able to order an 1865 county map that will come in handy as I study the Minor family in the Civil War.
I wish I had a magic carpet that could whisk me to the physical locations of these libraries, where I would grab a coffee and chat with fellow enthusiasts. Until that acquisition, a long distance membership and the internet will just have to do. And when all is said and done, that makes for a pretty remarkable ride.