One of the great bonanzas in researching Colonial and Revolutionary American families is the preponderance of compiled genealogies. Because these families literally laid the foundation for our country historians and genealogists alike have taken the time to do the research and document their pedigrees. Finding a genealogy on your family can be the express lane to building your tree. (The caveats being we always want to check their research, and as I learned the hard way, not every compiled genealogy contains all descendant lines!)
That’s the good news. The bad news is that compiled genealogies can be a very tough nut to crack. Unless your ancestor’s name is in the title, i.e. The Descendants of John Smith, it’s tough to find genealogies pertinent to your research. As we know there are often hundreds of collateral lines in any genealogy that go unmentioned in the title, but may be spot on with your research. So how do you find them…without looking at the index of every genealogy on the shelf?
Today’s post offers a few finding aids to locate your family’s published genealogies in Pennsylvania and tips to locate those golden narratives regardless of where your family resided.
Finding Aids for Published Pennsylvania Genealogies
- Pennsylvania Genealogies and Family Histories by Donald O. Virdin (Heritage Books, 1992). This impressive catalog enumerates 2,800 published genealogies that relate to Pennsylvania families. The families may not be predominately Pennsylvania, and the author acknowledges that this can’t be comprehensive because some genealogies are in private collections and/or not widely available. Further, the list is simply a catalog organized by dominate surname and without annotation save a notable effort to list the primary archive (Allen County Public Library, DAR Library, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Library of Congress, NGS Library, and NY Public Library) in which it is found. It’s a great place to start looking.
- Guide to Genealogical and Historical Research in Pennsylvania by Floyd Hoenstine (self-published, 1978) Very admirable in scope and detail, the author catalogs more than 2,000 references for all manner of genealogy research in Pennsylvania. From military to tombstone to church records to town and county histories, you’ll find just about everything here. As for genealogies, he has a very respectable list and goes further to include autobiographies and biographies. What makes this book stand out and well worth your time to investigate is the combined index. Mr. Hoenstine has taken the unimaginable amount of time to glean the indexes of the 2,000 references and combine them into one super-index. You can use the nearly 300 page index as a guide to finding books – including genealogies – that reference your family! Realize that this is a work around to our original problem of collateral lines not mentioned in published genealogy titles. Mr. Hoenstine confesses that the super-index isn’t comprehensive, but it is a great start.
- Genealogies of Pennsylvania Families from the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1982) The authors/publishers have pulled every genealogy published in this magazine from its founding 1895 to 1980 and reprinted them in this three volume set. But, they went one golden step further. They had the three volumes every name indexed. And there you have the collateral lines in these genealogies now made transparent. I found some of my “Foulks” popping up in the “Green” family tree. I would have absolutely never have looked in a Green genealogy for Foulks. But there they were.
- Genealogies of Pennsylvania Families from the Pensylvania Magazine of History and Biography (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1981) Identical to the above reference, this one volume book virtually extends the prior reference with dozens more genealogies and thousands more family names. Don’t miss this one in your research. (As an aside, I found a lovely Foulk pedigree here. Not my “Foulk” family, but a very nice pedigree nonetheless!)
- Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania edited by John W. Jordan (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1978) Another three volume series of compiled genealogies of “people who have made Pennsylvania what it is today.” Mr. Jordan collected the genealogies from independent researchers put them in this three volume set. Fortunately or unfortunately the only indexing provided is a table of contents listed by dominant surname only. No every name index or even a summary of key names per genealogy is offered as a finding aid. That said, a thorough researcher may want to look for genealogies named for those collateral families in his or her own line. You might find a connection to your tree hidden in another family’s research.
- Pennsylvania Genealogies Chiefly Scotch-Irish and German (full text online, Internet Archive) by William Henry Egle (Clearfield, 2003) An anthology of about 50 genealogies researched and compiled by the author with an every-name index at the back.
- NEW Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Biography and Index to the Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Biography (Clearfield) The Encyclopedia is self-defining as a mammoth work of biographies of early Pennsylvanians. Because the work is so exhaustive, two compilers created indexes published in one book. The first index by Frederic A. Godcharles reflects Volumes 1-20. The second index by Walter D. Stock reflects Volumes 21 to 32. Speaking for myself, it is easy to dismiss a work like this thinking my ancestors were humble farmers and wouldn’t rise to the level of a biography. But I would be wrong. You just never know where your ancestor may appear – even in some one else’s biography.
Last but not least I offer a tip all genealogists can use to make more of published genealogies. When searching for genealogies in an online catalog representing digitized books online or hard copy books in a repository, our first inclination is to search for the surname of interest. And you certainly want to do that. However, don’t stop there. Next, search for “families” with the geographic region of interest, i.e. “Pennsylvania families,” or “Jackson County Missouri families.” Often you’ll find other genealogies that have been written about families in the same location your family lived. Your ancestors may be their collateral lines. Granted, it may be too much to look at all of the Pennsylvania genealogies, but you can narrow it down by looking at the ones in the appropriate county(s), or with surnames you’ve seen pop up in your tree as collateral lines.