Historical Societies: News and Highlights

Historical Societies: News and Highlights presents news and information about Pennsylvania's regional and county historical societies.

Federation Meeting Planned

The 73rd annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies will be held on May 2 and 3, 1980 at the Pennsylvania Farm Muse­um at Landis Valley. This year there will be a change in format with a two­-day meeting planned to replace the regular one-day program. Workshop sessions will be scheduled as well as award presentations and a business meeting.

The federation has also recently sponsored a number of workshops on various topics, including sessions on local history at the Delaware County Historical Society (June 2, 1979), preservation at the Clarion County Historical Society (September 15, 1979), and funding at the Lancaster Sheraton-Conestoga Inn (October 27, 1979). In addition to the annual meeting, two workshops are planned for the fall of 1980, one each in the eastern and western parts of the state.

Details on these future workshops and formal programs for the annual meeting should both be mailed to federation members within several weeks.


Historical Society Notes

Sound recordings are often irreplaceable and require unique preserva­tion-restoration techniques. Their per­vasive role in our cultural, historical, musical and economical life has made them today into significant holdings in archives, museums, historical societies and special libraries. Realizing their importance, all historical societies should obtain a copy of The Preservation and Restoration of Sound Recordings by Jerry McWilliams. The publica­tion sells for $8.95 and is available from the American Association for State and Local History, 1400 Eighth Ave., South, Nashville, TN 37203.

Two Pennsylvania historical soci­eties recently received National En­dowment for the Humanities Grants. The Wayne County Historical Society (Honesdale) received $10,000 to plan an exhibit on the effect of coal discovery on the county. A plan to de­velop an exhibit of “Chester County History” was also funded. The recipient, the Chester County Historical Society (West Chester), received $7,481.


Beginning Genealogical Research

You are the beginning “twig” on your family tree. Start with yourself, the known, and work toward your un­known “roots.” Find out the vital information about your parents, write it down, then look for data about your grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. You will be concerned with pulling from the many and varied doc­uments of recorded history, four key items: names, dates, places and rela­tionships. These are the tools of the family searcher. People can be identified in records by their names, the dates of events in their lives (birth, marriage, death), the places they lived and by their relationships to others either stated or implied in the records.

The place to begin is close to home. Here you will find much information in family bibles, newspaper clippings, military certificates, birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, diaries, letters, scrapbooks, backs of pictures, baby books, etc. Visit or write those in your family who may have informa­tion, particularly older relatives. More often than not others before you have already gathered family data. You should write letters, plan personal visits and conduct telephone surveys to find out about such persons and what information is already collected.

Before launching your research programs in libraries and archives, search for distant relatives who may have already performed research. Advertise in the local genealogical bulle­tins (city, county or state) where your ancestors lived. The most widely circu­lated genealogical magazine (which also specializes in getting people to­gether who are working on the same families) is The Genealogical Helper (bimonthly). Many libraries subscribe to this publication and others, such as the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, the Journal of Genealogy (monthly), and Family Puzzlers (weekly). These magazines all have special ancestor “query” sections.

A few churches have records of important events in the lives of members, but many do not. investigate the possi­bility of finding genealogical data in the records of the church to which your ancestors belonged. Some states be­gan to keep records of birth and death earlier, but for most of the US., birth and death registration became a require­ment about the turn of the century, between 1890 and 1915. Before that time. these events generally will be found recorded only in church records and family bibles. Marriages will be found recorded in most counties, dating often as early as the county’s establishment.

Records of property acquisition and disposition can be good sources of genealogical data. Such records are nor­mally filed in county courthouses. Often the earliest coun­ty records, or copies of them, are available in the state archives.

The National Archives in Washington, DC, also has records of use in genealogical research. The federal census made every ten years since 1790 is a good source. The census records are also available on microfilm in the Na­tional Archives’s regional archives branches located in eleven metropolitan areas throughout the country. The National Archives also has military service and related records, passenger arrival records and others.

The Pennsylvania State Archives has voluminous material for searching ancestors, including state and federal census manuscripts through 1900. In addition, your local historical societies often contain countless bits of information, in­cluding family papers and biographies.