Family trees in the Pennsylvania Wilds
Who are we? Where did we come from? How does the past lead to the present? These are questions that have been discussed for thousands of years. Over the last few decades, it’s become trendy. We call this research genealogy.
Some people are very interested in learning about their family trees. Though websites exist to help with this, online work is not the best way to find out the past. DNA isn’t the magic research juice people think it is, either.
The best way to do this kind of research is to visit the site where your ancestors lived, and look through the records. Obituaries, marriage records, wills, deeds, and cemetery records are available at various museums, libraries, and courthouses.
If you happen to have ancestors from the Pennsylvania Wilds, there are some great places to search. This is not a complete list of resources, but more of a starting point: suggestions for places to begin looking if your ancestors lived in these areas.
ALLEGHENY NATIONAL FOREST
In the Allegheny National Forest and Surrounds landscape, Warren has places to search. The Warren County Historical Society is at 210 Fourth Avenue in Warren, and the Warren Public Library has their Pennsylvania History Room at 205 Market Street.
In McKean County, the McKean County Historical Society is conveniently located by the courthouse. At 502 West King Street in Smethport, it’s in the Old Jail Museum right across the street, which makes it easy to get both genealogical documents and court documents.
The Forest County Historical Society is in Tionesta, at 206 Elm Street. Hours change with the season, and you can also make an appointment by calling 814-755-4422.
Up in Dark Skies, the Potter County Historical Society is located at 308 Main Street, conveniently within walking distance of the two courthouses that hold county records. “When folks want information about their relatives they can email us, contact us on our Facebook page, or send letters of inquiry,” said Dianne Caudell, librarian and genealogist. “We do ‘lookups,’ a term genealogists know well, which means we will look up the information that they have asked for, in our collection and also at the courthouses. We have also been known to go to cemeteries and take pictures of tombstones for folks.”
Potter County Historical Society does not charge for research, but does accept donations.
More information can also be found via the Painted Hills Genealogical Society, which focuses on Potter and McKean Counties.
The Lycoming County Genealogical Society is within the Thomas Taber Museum, at 858 West Fourth Street in Williamsport. They maintain a library of genealogical research, which is open Tuesday through Friday from noon to four and run by volunteers.
The Annie Halenbake Ross Library, at 232 West Main Street in Lock Haven, Clinton County, has an archive of newspapers going back to 1813, all indexed by last name to make finding obituaries easier. The Pennsylvania Room inside the library holds books about local history, marriage records, and cemetery indexes.
The Centre County Library and Historical Museum is at 203 North Allegheny Street in Bellefonte. They have what is described as a “massive collection” of newspapers, files, church and cemetery records, and genealogies.
The Clearfield County Historical Society allows you to do your own research, or have their staff do it, both for a fee. They are based at 511 Van Valzah Avenue in Clearfield, and can be contacted at 814-768-7318 or through their website.
COOK FOREST & THE ANCIENTS
The Clarion County Historical Society maintains a library within their museum at 18 Grant Street in Clarion. Though they cannot offer research services by phone or e-mail, they are available to assist anyone who visits on site, and offer a wide selection of books and records. They can be reached at 814-226-4450.
Jefferson County has the Mengle Memorial Library, which is a helpful place for genealogy research. Located at 324 Main Street in Brockway, the library even has a genealogy group that meets on the fourth Monday of every month at 1 PM.
The Elk County Historical Society is at 109 Center Street in Ridgway, but call ahead at 814-776-1032 for hours, which change with the season. They have a huge collection of information dating back at least a century, which they are currently in the process of digitizing.
The Cameron County History and Research Center is at 125 Greenwood Street in Emporium. This nonprofit holds information on thousands of families who lived in or passed through Cameron County, and exists on donations.
PINE CREEK VALLEY
Tioga County has the Green Free Library at 134 Main Street in Wellsboro. They hold local newspaper archives going back to 1804, all searchable.
Nearby at 120 Main Street, Wellsboro, the Tioga County Historical Society has a collection of resources donated by Rhoda Ladd, formerly of Wellsboro. These include newspaper clippings, books, and cemetery records.
Of course there are many other places and resources, but if you’re looking for your past relatives in the PA Wilds, this will give you a start. Happy hunting.
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