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.

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