John T. Humphrey was a well-known and well-respected genealogy author and lecturer. Unfortunately, he died suddenly last year of a stroke. I feel all the more fortunate now that I had the pleasure of attending a couple of his classes at a national conference a few years back. I was very impressed at his scholarship and depth of knowledge.
While he is gone, he leaves a legacy of exceptional research and books, which can help us today. One of the areas he focused on was Colonial Pennsylvania. To that end he discovered a need to aggregate information on births from among the many church resources. Early Pennsylvania was awash with various Protestant including Quaker (monthly meeting houses) and Catholic Churches. He and his team scoured the countryside to identify and index these records. Then he published about a dozen books with those indexes.
Mapping the References
To get my hands around this series I found it very helpful to map the counties he had done work in. As I’m not a native of Pennsylvania, it made understanding the material as it relates to the geography much, much easier.
So, as we can see from the map, he worked exclusively in southeast Pennsylvania, which makes sense. That’s where the Colony was first settled. Most of the books stop at 1800. They can be identified on the map by the darker outline. The research for the four counties on the northern edge of the grouping (showing in lighter outline) stop in 1825. And his research in Philadelphia (again, a lighter outline) stops in 1780.
Finding the Books
The books are consistently titled, “Pennsylvania Births of ___________ County, .” You can find them at your nearest library or archive through WorldCat, a catalog service offered by most public libraries.
What Does this Mean?
If your ancestor lived in Pennsylvania before 1780 (Philadelphia), the rest of southeast Pennsylvania before 1800, or the German settlements (the four northernmost counties highlighted above) before 1825, you may be able to find record of their births in Humphrey’s indexes.
What you’ll find is the child’s name, parents, date of birth/baptism, and a cross-reference to the original records from which the index came. Don’t stop at the index. Once you find the name, go for the actual record. It’s pretty cool.
If you look at the other records either from the same source or with the same last name you may find other family clues that you didn’t expect to find! I’ll show you what I mean in the next post.
until then…Happy Researching!