West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania Genealogical ...€“-West-Virginia-and... ·...
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West Virginia and Southwestern
Pennsylvania Genealogical Research
What is Genealogy?
Definition of GENEALOGY
1: an account of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or from older forms
2: regular descent of a person, family, or group of organisms from a progenitor (see progenitor 1) or older form : PEDIGREE
3: the study of family ancestral lines
4: an account of the origin and historical development of something
West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania are rich in history ranging from the founding of our country to the American revolution to the Civil War and then into the industrial revolution and on in to the modern era. This are is rich with fascinating family histories and the unique and beautiful culture of the Appalachian mountains and the deep cultural and industrial history of Pennsylvania. This area is also the focus of the Marcellus and Utica shale drilling boom.
The family history in the mountains of West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania is brimming over with stories of immigrants, settlers, steel workers, coal-miners, deaths, marriages, murders, secret children, and so much more. The best part of which is that all of these amazing stories and pieces of American history tie together to create the history of the land that we as oil and gas professionals seek to explore and power our country with.
The short is answer is because we need to know about the families in order to have clear and accurate title, but the long answer is all about the mystery, intrigue, stories, and rich cultural findings.
MethodsHow do I start or create an family tree/genealogy tree/heirship tree?
You have several options but the most common are a1. Genealogy Software such as Legacy Family Tree, Family
Historian, Family Tree Maker etc.2. Websites such as Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com,
FamilySearch.org etc.3. Excel4. Powerpoint5. Visio6. Handwritten
– Start with as much information you can gather from the record room.
– Organize your information into categories: by type of source, who the information applies to, or it can be organized by time and name.
– If you are working electronically with a online tree or service I would still keep a notebook– you will want to have easily accessible notes that you can compare and sometimes you may to theorize
– Don’t be afraid to gather too much information
Different Types of Records
When doing research you may come across hundreds of different types of records.
Which records, documents, information can you trust?
It is important to understand what is a solid source than can be mostly trusted
It is also important to understand how to use derivative documentation or derivative sources as help in proving information to be true or as supporting documentation.
Much like any research genealogy involves human error and information that can be interpreted differently.
Primary or Secondary
Information• Refers to the information versus the source• Can be firsthand or secondhand information• DOES not mean it is not accurate or valuable- but for technical purposes there is a
Primary: is information contributed or received from a knowledgeable eyewitness or actual participant in the event, occasion, occurrence of what is being recorded or by an official whose job is to make an accurate, full record of the event, activity or occurrence.
Secondary: information or data that comes from someone who recorded the information after hearing about it from someone else or even may have read the original record and regurgitated it.
** MANY RECORDS HAVE BOTH TYPES OF INFORMATION**
Original Source/ Direct Evidence
• Sometimes called Primary source- but not exactly accurate• The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual states that it is “an evidence
item that is adequate in itself to answer the question.”• There are several definitions set forth of original sources by different
genealogy groups, and by the National Archives• Most authoritative source• not from oral record or information that was already written• Can be examined as an image copy such as microfilm, digitized image,
or other• Must be recorded at the time of the event• Must have been written by someone with direct and personal
knowledge• Prefer to have the original document versus a copy
-copy can be acceptable if it is a facsimile, photocopy, microfilm, digital image etc..
Certified Birth Certificates- delayed birth certificates would likely not be original*
Death Certificates Certain Types of News Reports Court Records or documents Baptismal records Letters of Diaries written by the
subject Speeches Original photos Certain aspects of military records Immigration records*
Examples of Original Sources:
– Defined as any record that relies on other records for its
This can include written, oral, and photographic evidence.
Can be a lifesaver that clarifies the information from
– Family histories
– Affidavit of heirships*
– Census records*
Examples of Derivative sources
– The record room is great start as many have original records that have not been digitized and can often be viewed free of charge.
– Think about the following while you are in the record room
- deeds can have clues
-leases have clues
– Gather as much information as you can about your “starting” person or the base of your tree.
– Don’t be afraid to ask family members questions if you have access- the information is not always 100% but it can be a valuable starting point
– Google it! Sometimes an internet search can reveal a lot about a person and even give clues to family members.
– Remember to look for maiden names– using a married name for a woman will not be much help in researching her side of the family
– Sometimes the research starts in strange ways- for instance you might know the name of the child who is currently living and you can use the internet, social media and other tools to get clues into where you start looking.
Tips to get started
More tips– Start with as much information as you can:
1) Middle names are important and can make a big difference- but can often be recorded incorrectly in census documents etc.
2) Names of parents, spouses, and children can help breakdown road blocks
3) Addresses and maps can help resolve issues
You know that John R. Smith, Jr purchased the acreage in 1899 that his deed and his leases state John R. Smith, Jr. and his wife Laura W. Smith. Now you know at least 5 things.
1) John is a Jr- that indicates his father is likely to be John Smith also
2) He’s married– now there might be a marriage records that could reveal his parents names, birth date, where he was born etc…
3) You know his wife’s name
4) You know that he is a property owner so that when he purchased the property he was at least over 18 these dates can help determine age and makes him more likely to be found in a census record
5) He has a middle initial “R”
1. County record rooms
2. County court house
3. Official State Vital records offices
4. Ancestry.com: has huge collection of resources including: death records, birth records, newspaper obituaries,
census records, baptismal records, but not exhaustive and not always accurate
5. West Virginia Division of Culture and History- great resource http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_select.aspx
6. Local libraries- often have microfilm records of newspapers or other historical documents
7. Local genealogy groups such as:
11. West Virginia University- West Virginia & Regional History Center: https://wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu/about/
13. The Genealogical Society of Southwestern Pennsylvania http://www.genealogicalsocietyswpa.com/
14. Washington County, PA http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pawashin/
15. Funeral Home websites- some have obituary archives.
16. Google News Archives
17. Military records archives.gov
19. Social security death index – available on Ancestry.com, Genealogy Bank, Family Search
– First things to look at are birth, marriage, death, and census records
- If you are working with more modern people then you might start with Obituaries, internet searches, social media searches
- Try alternate spellings
- Look for age ranges if you don’t have exact birth dates
- Cluster search: look for relatives and neighbors that you are familiar with if you can’t find the “subject”
Pay attention to the markings all of the notes around the records.
The handwriting can be difficult so it may be necessary to have a magnifying glass
Also, if you are coming across difficult to interpret letters try reading a few pages
before and after to familiarize yourself with that person’s handwriting
Some local records such as marriage or birth can get especially difficult to decipher
if the clerk was forced to write on every single line.
Evidence AnalysisCarefully consider each piece of evidenceDo you have missing evidence?Is there a hypothesis but not supporting documentation?
When analyzing documents you must pay attention to each and every single item OccupationDate of BirthNames of ParentsLocation of BirthMaiden namesMiddle namesRented or Owned homeHow many children?Age of motherLast names of childrenAge of Children
Finding the correct personNames can be confusing because there can examples of families that not only have father/son scenarios with the same name but grandfather/son/grandson or grandfather/son/grandsons
– For instance two brothers both have sons about the same age and they both name their sons after their father– this is a common scenario.
– John Smith b. 1840 and Laura Johnson b. 1842
Jed Smith b. 1867 John Smith b. 1868
– John Smith b. 1888 John Smith b. 1889 --? How do you know which John Smith?
– Often Census Records give estimations of birthdates so that can cause confusion. That is why going back a generation or two maybe necessary
– Re-examine birth and death records check for the names of parents
Issues with Records Think about cultural norms at the time period
Remember your types of documents
marriage at young age
lots of children
children without birth certificates
name spelling issues
multiple marriages with children’s names changing with each marriage- this was common for many reasons
Missing records- ask “Do I have gaps in census years?”
People falling off the records/ and coming back on
The last name of wife
Age of children compared to mother and father- can be indicators of prior marriages
First marriages didn’t usually happen after 30– check for prior marriages
Children going to live with other family members
Immigrants “changing” birth information
1940 Census compare the information
Date April 2 1948
Finding and Filling in the Gaps
Often census records are good starting places because it can be obvious where you
have gaps in your research for instance:
Or you may suddenly have a Obituary that doesn’t match an affidavit of heirship.
What do you do?
The trick is then to re-examine your evidence and if you have a name starting looking at records with a more broad lens
In SWPA and Northern WV there was a lot of movement back and forth because of the timber and coal mining industries.
• It is not unusual to see families move from Monongalia, Marion, Wetzel counties to Greene, Fayette, Washington counties and vice versa
• In the Eastern panhandle similar movement is common from Allegany and Garrett County, Maryland to Mineral and Preston County, WV
• There was also quite a bit of movement west during the post civil years and into the industrial revolution. It is not unusual to see movement from West Virginia to Washington state
• During the first World War there was also quite a bit of movement into cities for work• So you may see people moving from Fayette County to Allegheny County
• Some professions are more likely to see this type of movement but do not rule out anything if you have supportable evidence.
Compare locations-For instance if you are unsure if you have the correct John Smith in the 1880 census but in 1900 you aren’t sure if it is him because he is in a new location compare the locations.
Alf. Alfred, or Alphonse
An. Anne, or Anna
Jab (US) James
Help I’m Stuck!
So you have now hit
the inevitable brick
wall what do you ?
• Did you use Maiden or married names?• Check for social security numbers on the Social Security Death Index and use Maiden
names• Look at your records and check the middle names• Use the most unusual named ancestor for instance if you have a “Theophesus Alphonso
Jones” and his siblings are “John” search for Theo and see what comes up• Immigration documents• Use multiple spellings in your searches- even for short names like “Jon” try “John” “Jno”
“Jn” even perhaps “Johan” • Reverse the middle and first name: John George and George John this was extremely
popular and also try the mother’s maiden name as her middle name• Look out for nicknames such as “Mamie” “Polly” “Molly” “Allie”• Try spelling names differently such as: All instead of Hall or use soundex searches
names from other countries were often mispronounced and written down improperly and therefore a name like Arbanoff might have been written down as Carbanoff or Tasker was confused with Fosker
• Cluster search in the census by using the known neighbors
• Pay attention and research using old maps just like you would for minerals- over time census districts changed and in West Virginia a whole new state created.
• Pay attention to occupations– let’s say you have two Henry Adams both have identical names, even the same parent names, and same wife (this happens) look at their occupations and if they owned or rented their homes
• Check poorhouse societies
• Check prison records
• Look for baptismal records• Electoral rolls• City directories– often listed the dead spouse• Tax Rolls• Land Records• Check for children living with other family members• Check for female children still living at home but working as
• “Domestic Servants”
The method of looking for information or connections by researching the entire family group or cluster of family members.
The method requires that you examine and build out information about the entire cluster including but not limited to: family members, extended family, friends, and/or neighbors
Often times can be used to locate information that cannot be easily found- for instance one of your ancestors skips off the census records but you notice
that the neighbors have been consistent for the past 20 years you can then use the neighbors information to search the records.
- parent dies and the children disappear and are able to be located living with extended family or neighbors
Potential Ethical Issues
– What if you discover an adoption?
– What if you discover “hidden” or “secret” family members?
– To share or not to share?
– Remaining confidential
– Stories that can “rock the boat”
– Being mindful of the living
– Giving proper citations
– There have been a lot of advances in DNA information over the last few years.
– Individuals may want to take DNA tests
– It can “help” or “aid” in research does not solve problems or answers on its own
– Not 100% accurate
– Can be upsetting and have traumatic results
– Currently not a method I would use for research in the oil and gas industry
Summing it all up
When you research is complete you should look at your final research from the Genealogical Proof Standard and ask:
1.) Have you completed an exhaustive search?
2.) Do you have each statement backed up with a complete and accurate source citation
3.) Has the evidence been reliably and skillfully correlated and interpreted
4.) Any contradictory evidence has been resolved- and well documented if not resolved
5.) Have you considered and carefully worked to eliminate or mitigate ethical issues?
5.) The final report has been written and soundly supported