Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pennsylvania Research Trip, York County Heritage Trust

The library at the York County Heritage Trust is a marvelous place to spend an afternoon. They have an abundance of information on families from the area. Large wooden tables give you plenty of room to spread out your papers. You will need plenty of space. They have over 8000 genealogical surname files. On my first visit there I asked for the Wolf/Wolff family file, #2736. They brought the file over on a cart. Four large archival  boxes filled to the brim with papers: family group sheets, trees, letters of inquiry, short genealogies, pedigree charts; related correspondence and copies of original documents and photos. One box alone was filled with newspaper clippings related to Wolf: marriage announcements, obituaries, honors earned, etc. I remember wishing I had someone with me to help sort it all out. I did not want to overlook a single shred of paper that related to ‘my’ Wolf branches but I had to watch the clock. I had only one day. I followed my usual plan when I have limited time at a place far from my house. I pulled anything that had a good possibility of matching and asked for photocopies so I could analyze it further at home. 

On my second visit there I asked for the Dick family file and was rewarded with one large box of goodies, followed by a long wooden box of Vital Record Cards. As their website explains: “Five sets of index cards accompany each surname file. These cards include abstracts from church records, cemetery tombstone abstractions, will books and Orphans Court dockets (1749-1850); a sampling of pre-1800 tax records; and other selected sources.” They are happy to photocopy these cards for you. A notebook explains the source code for the records and can lead you to the original.

Besides this wealth of information there are shelves of published genealogies, stretching across two walls. These vary in their usefulness and accuracy. There are probably eight volumes related to the Wolf family. My personal favorite is Wolfe, J. Arthur. Jonas Wolf of Berwick Township, York County, Pennsylvania: A History and Genealogy of a Colonial Ancestor and Some of His Descendants. Privately Published: 1987. This is filled with my family. Young, Henry James. Genealogical Reports for the Historical Society of York County, evidences of the Wolf Families of York County before the year 1950. Volume XX. The Historical Society of York County, 1938 is another useful book.

There is more information I have not begun to access at the York County Heritage Trust. This is due to lack of time, not due to any failings on the part of the library and archives. On each of my three trips they have been friendly and helpful. There are only two difficulties I encounter there. First is stopping every two hours in my research to go outside and feed the parking meter another eight quarters. The second is a lack of power outlets for my laptop. Only one small table in a corner has a power strip for times when my battery runs low. So be sure to go fully charged. I also print out my family group sheets in advance in case the power strip is being used by others.

On this visit I began by asking for the Vital Record Cards for the Wolf family. My laptop was fully charged, my pencil was sharpened and I was looking forward to going through a box of births, marriages, tax lists, etc. to see if I could match any with people from my records. After just a couple minutes the librarian wheeled a cart over to my table. There were five long wooden boxes of cards. Once again I had under estimated the scope of the Wolf family in York County, Pennsylvania. Fortunately they are able to photocopy eight or ten cards on a single piece of paper and copies are only 25 cents a page. As I made notes on the source for each card I quickly discovered a pattern. My people were, naturally, associated with particular church records. I could look not only for their names and dates, but for the particular source codes. For example code #268 is for the Emanuel Reformed Church in Abbottstown. When I finished with the box I went to the book for the church and checked that in case I had missed something in the boxes.

I also skimmed through histories of Adams & York Counties. At one time the counties were one county. I looked both in the index for my Wolf and Dick families and in the Table of Contents for the towns they lived in. I found useful information in the following volumes:

1886 History of Adams County, Pennsylvania. 1977 Reprint. Chicago: Warner, Beers and Company, 1886.
Bloom, Robert L. A History of Adams County, Pennsylvania 1700 - 1990. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Adams County Historial Society, 1992.
Prowell, George R. History of York County, Pennsylvania. Volume I. Chicago: J. H. Beers and Company, 1907.
Eisenhart, Willis W. A History of Abbottstown. 1953. 

As usual, I have a pile of information to sort through carefully. If you have any connection to the Wolf families in the area I strongly suggest you spend an afternoon at the York County Heritage Trust. Be sure to have plenty of quarters for parking and take a friend to help!                    



  1. Sounds like you need an archival assistant. Too bad I don't have time to go with you because that used to be my job!!

  2. AJP, Whenever you are available, your assistant job is waiting. I'll even 'let' you help with the driving. ha.


Thanks for stopping by my blog & for leaving a comment. It is always good to hear from visitors, cousins & fellow bloggers. Note that I do not publish anonymous comments.