Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pennsylvania Research Trip, Snyder County Historical Society

The Snyder County Historical Society
30 East Market Street, Middleburg, PA   17842   

Snyder County Historical Society is located on a country road near a scenic stream and across the street from a Civil War monument. The library is small with shelves of books stretching to the ceiling and alcoves filled with volumes of county, town, military, emigration and other histories.  The library’s holdings include: genealogies, local histories, church records, pastoral records, microfilm records of local newspapers, and microfilms of US Census records. There are a couple large tables to spread out papers and books. A set of wooden gallows dominate one alcove. They are authentic gallows, last used in the county in 1883 and donated to the historical society. Perhaps they are a reminder to follow the rules of the library or face the consequences. 

The most valuable asset at the library however, is the friendly people there. I was looking for Johannes Ritter, Sr. 1743 – 1816 & wife, Maria Elisabeth Keck 1747 – 1813 who were pioneers in West Beaver Township in Snyder County c. 1796. The librarians helped me to find information that might match my search.
I began my visit there, at the suggestion of the librarian, by looking at genealogies of Ritters in the area. I found an early copy of: Knox, Larry D. The Ritter Family. Ohio: Privately Printed, 1999. I have this book, given to me by Larry Knox and have used it often. I also saw this book in the Lehigh County Historical Society. More than one of the binders of Ritter genealogy information may well connect to our family. However, at this time I do not know how to put those pieces together. There was one Ritter family genealogy that I can connect up with and the photocopied pages will be useful as I analyze them.

Other sources I used at the library include:

A folder of Ritter family information includes obituaries, clippings about weddings & anniversaries, etc. I asked for copies of some of this information.
175th Anniversary of St. John's Union Church. 1965. The first Baptism on record for the church was our ancestor, Daniel Ritter in 1798.
Everts, First, First Peck, and First Richards. History of that Part of the Susquehanna and Juniata Valleys embraced in the Counties of Mifflin, Juniata, Perry, Union and Snyder in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Volume II. Philadelphia: 1886.
Dunkelberger, George Franklin. The Story of Snyder County. Baltimore, Maryland: Gateway Press, Inc., 1997. Print.
Parish Records (1798 – 1857) of the St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed Church, Black Oak Ridge, West Beaver Township, Snyder County, Pennsylvania.  Many of ‘our’ Ritter family names appear in these records. 

The librarian even presented me with a copy of: Shaffer, Jimmy A. A Look at Snyder County Before the 20th Century. Middleburg, Pennsylvania: The Country Print Shop, 1975.  In my first look through this wonderful overview of the county’s history I went to the section on West Beaver Township and found “George, Henry Jr. and Sr., and Jacob Ritter, farmers” living there between 1839 – 1850. The librarian also gave me map of Snyder County that shows the locations of all the county cemeteries. 

When I gathered up my photocopies and my laptop I asked directions to St. John's Black Oak Ridge Cemetery.  I wanted to find the graves of Johannes & Maria Elisabeth Ritter, my fifth great grandparents. I have seen photos in the book by Larry Knox but wanted to go there myself. When I told the people where I was headed everyone in the small facility was suddenly involved in giving me directions, the librarians and another patron. A gentleman went to the computer and printed out a Google map. One librarian warned me to go slow around the sharp turns on the country road. The other librarian told me about the cemetery and country store where I would make important turns. The other patron talked about the pleasures of wandering through old cemeteries. Armed with my laptop, my notebook & photocopies and the direction I headed for the door. As I left they waved me out and asked me to call if I needed more help.

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