Saturday, July 30, 2011

Visiting The Archives: Surprise findings.

Part 2

After our trip to the Carbon County archives, we drove around Eastern Pennsylvania just to look at the small towns and the countryside. It is a beautiful state. We didn't really have specific plans so we drove back to Allentown and spent the evening there. On Tuesday, we decided to visit the historical district and possibly stop in at a museum. There was a museum listed in one of the hotel brochures that sounded interesting; it was the Lehigh Valley Historical Museum. The brochure mentioned that it told of the history of Allentown and had displays about the Pennsylvania Dutch. We had about five hours until our flight home, so we headed downtown. The city was interesting and I enjoyed looking at the old buildings mixed in with the sky scrapers. After a short walk around the city, we found the museum.
Upon entering we were greeted by volunteers who were very happy to tell us about their displays. I mentioned that I was in Pennsylvania doing genealogical research and the volunteer told me that this museum also housed a genealogical library that contained many collections. I was very excited to see what might be held here. I tried to stay interested in the displays but my mind kept drifting to what I might find in the library. Finally, I just left Curtis in the museum and headed down. This was the highlight to my trip. This library contained church records, cemetery records, family histories, state archive collections, etc.

I spent several hours searching the church and cemetery records for traces of the Peters' ancestors, but I came up empty handed again. One of the other patrons mentioned to me that she saw a book on one of the back shelves that was a history of the Peters' families in Pennsylvania, so I headed back to look. I found the book, but determined that this was not the same family line. As I was perusing the collections, though, a name I was familiar with jumped out at me. There was a two volume collection of family history for the Peter Fullmer and Susannah Zerfass family. I was familiar with this name, as this is also the name of my 4th GGF. I didn't know that this book existed and I was thrilled to see it. I quickly opened it and verified that this was the same family line. It was. I had not realized until this moment that my family line and Curtis' family line had all settled in the same county in the same state. What a SMALL, SMALL world! I took a picture of the contact information for those who put the book together, and I plan to contact them and see about getting a copy for my library. After this find, I was done for this trip. It was a great trip and I did find some new information to help me along. Some of the information was not expected and very eye opening for me.

Until next time...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Visiting The Archives

Part 1

My trip to Pennsylvania began on Sunday morning. I do my day job for an airline, so I have the benefit of flying standby to my desired destinations. This can certainly save on money, but not necessarily time or patience. My goal was to get to Allentown, PA that day so that we could start our research first thing Monday morning. We started out at 5AM with a plan to reach Allentown about 4PM. Unfortunately, the flights didn't work out as we hoped, but a quick search for alternatives, got us into Allentown, PA at midnight.

There are a few things I did to prepare for this trip in hopes of making it successful. The first thing I did was to look up the archive sites in the area and call ahead to make sure that they would be open and available to me on the dates I would be there. The website had a list of the available records and I made a listing of which records I would want to search and for which ancestors. My research goal was to find evidence of Evan Peters' birth and death. To find out what land he owned and to tie together the families I had found in previous census records.

We woke up on Monday morning to a beautiful landscape of lush green hills and beautiful old buildings. It was really exciting to be in a place where our ancestors had once lived. I imagined what it might have been like to live there in the 1800's, how hard the travel must have been from township to township. As we drove the thirty minutes to Jim Thorpe (formerly Mauch Chunk), Pennsylvania, we passed signs for the cities and towns in the area. Many of these I recognized from my research. I shared the stories I knew with my husband of ancestors who had lived there and what they had done while they were there. We drove through the towns just to see the places of their history. We loved the homes there. Almost every one of them had porches with chairs and tables. In the evening, we actually saw folks just sitting out on the porch watching the sun set and the people pass by.

When we arrived in Jim Thorpe, it was raining. Not really raining, but dumping sheets of water from the sky. A quick two or three minute walk had us soaked through to the bones. I would have loved to spend more time just wandering the streets here, but the weather was horrible. The historical town of Jim Thorpe was beautiful. The old buildings were fascinating. Our first stop was the archives. It wasn't anything like what I had expected. My previous research has all been done at LDS church family history centers where there is so much information to browse through that you could spend days looking. This center housed just a few collections. I was disappointed to find that some of the indexed records that I had hoped to search could not be located by the staff. In the future, this is one of the questions that I will ask before taking a trip.

The staff was very accommodating and took the time to show me where to find the information I was looking for, how to use the microfiche machines and explained to me the cost for making copies. I began my search. Unfortunately, I could find not a single record for Evan Peters. I moved my search on to his wife Margaret and was able to find a will for her. This gave me a firm date and place of death and also confirmed the spelling of her second husband's surname. This information is valuable even though it wasn't exactly what I had hoped to find. The staff explained to me that the records I was looking for, may not exist or may have been recorded in another county. The search will continue for Evan, but for now, I was done in Jim Thorpe.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Looking for a missing link: Not (necessarily) a cavemen!

Finding Clues In Census Records

Growing up I always disliked geography, mostly because I could never remember where anything was! That and I hated memorizing states and their capitals and I still can't tell you where anything is outside of the United States. My fascination with genealogy has really opened up my mind to the importance of knowing geography in the sense that I need to know where my ancestors lived. One of the first things I do when I start my research is to locate the city, township, county and state of the ancestor I am researching. This helps me to know which records I might want to collect while doing my research.

I recently found some records that helped me to find the parents of an ancestor who was missing from our family tree. His name is Griffith Peters. I knew quite a bit about his adult life from other research that I had done, but not much about where he came from or who his parents might be. I knew that he was born around 1845 and that Pennsylvania was listed as his birthplace. This was where I would start.

Start Out With A Broad Search

I started out doing a broad search in the census records for this relative with only a name, estimated birth date, and birth state. The only thing I found was a single mention of a Griffin Peters in the 1850 census. The name didn't match exactly, but census records are often not correct. So many different things can influence the information contained in the census record. It may have been written incorrectly by the census taker, the names may have been given second hand by a neighbor or even the foreign accent of the person giving the report might cause the name to be recorded incorrectly by the census taker.  I needed to find other records that might link this record to my ancestor. I logged what I had found and set it aside as a possible match.

Keep A Log Of The Clues You Find

In my log, I took note of the family group:

Father: Evan Peters, age 30, born in Wales
Mother: Margaret Peters, age 34, born in Wales
Child: Griffin Peters, age 5, born in Pennsylvania
Child: Richard Peters, age 2, born in Pennsylvania

And the location:
Banks Township, Carbon County, Pennsylvania

I also noted that of all the records in several pages of census reports, Evan was one of the only persons to record that they owned real estate. (This will hopefully help me find more information later.)

Investigate Leads

Armed with this information, I logged onto Google maps and researched Banks Township, Carbon County, PA. I familiarized myself with the neighboring towns and counties and then I headed back to do some more research. I knew from family records that Griffith had joined the Union army in 1864. I was able to find records that showed that he had enlisted in his company when they were recruiting in Mauch Chunk, PA. Through my research I could see that Mauch Chunk was quite close in proximity to Banks Township, Carbon County, PA. I surmised that the family must have stayed in the general area at least until the time that Griffith joined the military. So where did they go?

My next step was to search the 1860 Census. I could find no Peters' families in the area that seemed to match my family group, so I broadened the search. In a neighboring county of Luzerne, I found a census record with a listing of Margaret, Richard, Griffith and another child, Mary Ann (who was born shortly after the 1850 census) but all under the surname Haycock. Once again, I pulled out a map and determined that the new location was just a few miles from the one where Evan and Margaret had lived in 1850. It appeared to me that Margaret may have remarried and the children from Evan were now being listed as part of the Haycock family group. Once again, I had a possible match through census records, but the names didn't match completely. I needed to try to tie the pieces together to determine if I have a match.

I began searching for the surname Haycock in the census records. In the 1870 census, I found the Haycock family group again in Luzerne county. Griffith had left home by 1870, but I found Richard and Mary Ann and now they were listed with the surname Pierce, easily a misspelling of Peters, and living with the Haycock family. This confirmed to me that Richard and Mary Ann were listed in the 1860 census with the wrong surname. And once again in 1870 with the wrong surname but a very close match to the Peters name that I had been searching for.

I was able to follow Margaret's life through census records until her death in 1880.  Now I need to take the information that I found in the census and try to find birth, death, or other documents to make sure that I have truly located Griffith's family.

Beyond The Census

My next journey is to visit the Carbon County court house and search the archives for more information. Since Evan is listed as owning $500 worth of real estate, I am hoping to find a will or probate record that will confirm Evan's death and possibly Margaret's second marriage and also her inheritance of the real estate. These other records will help to ensure that I am barking up the right family tree.

Over a year ago...

I am thinking about starting another blog and when I pulled up blogspot, what do I find, but a list of neglected blogs... Go figure. I reread my past posts and it reminds me of how lucky I am to have the persons and things in my life that I do. I am truly blessed.

Perhaps this is the place to continue my new blog. It is going to be about genealogy, and what better title to use than "Who Am I". I am a collective set of DNA from my ancestors. I am a collection of their experiences. Without them, I would not BE... Thank you to all those who came before me, for the events and experiences that led to my birth, my life and my turn here on this earth!