Saturday, May 7, 2011

Pennsylvania Research Trip, Preparations

 Last spring I took a trip to Ohio to research my links to the Mark and Gruissy families.  This spring I am doing research in Pennsylvania to uncover more about my Dick, Keck, Ritter and Wolf ancestors. 

In looking through the information I already have on these branches of my family I can see that they lived primarily in four counties in Pennsylvania: Adams, Lehigh, Snyder and York. In some cases those were not the names of the counties when my ancestors lived. The county lines were redrawn and renamed more than once since the early 1700s. In some cases the names and borders of towns were similarly changed. Learning a little history of an area helps immensely with family history. 

When I planned my trip to Ohio I found that libraries there had genealogical sections with holdings including: published family histories, local histories, church and cemetery records, obituaries, and more. Combining the libraries with visits to the Department of Health and Probate Courts for each county gave me a vast supply of information. For this trip I went on the internet and searched for libraries in the Pennsylvania counties I hope to visit. I did not find the same resources. However I did find that historical societies are full of treasures. I found the historical society for each county, their holdings, the days & hours they are open and directions to each facility. I printed out an information page on each: the Lehigh County Historical Society in Allentown for information on the Kecks & Ritters; the Adams County Historical Society in Gettysburg for information on the Dick & Wolf families; the York County Heritage Trust in York for the Wolf & Dick families; the Snyder County Historical Society in Middleburg for the Ritter family. 

I printed out a family group sheet for each family. I do travel with my lap top computer that holds my genealogical information. However, in case there is no place to plug in my lap top (and battery life is limited) or in case of any other technological problem, I will still have information at my fingertips. On my worksheet for each county I also make a note of which particular branch of the family lived there and the years each family lived in that particular county. 

For example I would like to learn more about the Ritter family. My direct line includes, in order: Heinrich Ritter, Johannes Ritter, Sr. Johannes Ritter, Jr. and Isaac Ritter. Heinrich was born in Germany and came to Pennsylvania; both Johannes Ritters lived their lives in Pennsylvania. Isaac was born in Pennsylvania but moved to and died in Ohio. Johannes Ritter, Sr. moved in his lifetime lived in Montgomery, Lancaster, Northampton and Snyder Counties. To best use my time in each county I need to know who lived there when. I set up an accordion folder with a section for each historical society with everything from maps to family data. I have plenty of pencils because most archives do not allow pens or markers, paper clips to organize photocopies, change for copy machines, and a spiral notebook because binders are sometimes not allowed.

Yesterday I left home as the sun was getting out of bed and headed to Pennsylvania, the Keystone State.

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