Genealogy by the States: Pennsylvania coal region

Hidden Genealogy Nuggets has started a new weekly blog prompt called Genealogy by the States.  This week’s prompt is the state of Pennsylvania.  Luckily for me, my family (or at least part of it) has called The Keystone State home for over 200 years.

Of the lines I have traced back to the point of immigration to America, each arrived and directly settled in Pennsylvania.  While there are a few twigs that have branched out across the Unites States, the bulk of the tree has remained within a three hour drive from where our ancestors settled over more than two centuries ago.

Since this week’s post is all about Pennsylvania, I figured I would list some of the web sites I have found most helpful…aside from and Family Search.  I also use Find A Grave on a regular basis; this is a great tool but data included in memorials cannot be considered absolute fact.  Since my people are primarily in the central Pennsylvania coal region, I am only listing sites related to that region.


State Wide

The Pennsylvania State Archives

The Pennsylvania State Archives: Digital Copies of Documents  Digital scans of a variety of valuable records to aid in online research.  Included in the images are landowner maps from the 19th century that have aided in finding where my ancestors have lived.

Pennsylvania Department of Health: Public Records  PA birth and death indices for those records which are public records due to their age.  I use this to get death certificates for the years 1906 thru 1962.

Online Pennsylvania Death Indexes and Obituaries  Various genealogy records; this site put me in touch with a volunteer in Nevada who provided me with a free copy of an old obituary from her local library.

Genealogy Inc  Pennsylvania county formation map.


Northumberland County

Northumberland County USGenWeb  Various transcriptions of Northumberland County records.

Shamokin  Shamokin nostalgia.

Dalado Photography: The Thomas Collection  Photographs from Thomas Studios, regional photographer.

Roy Schreffler’s Homepage  Stone Valley Cemetery Listing.


Columbia County

Columbia County USGenWeb  Various transcriptions of Columbia County records.


Dauphin County

Civil War Blog  While historical society’s primary focus is the preservation of the history and heritage of northern Dauphin County, their blogs also cover the people and history of central Pennsylvania.


Schuylkill County

Schuylkill County USGenWeb  Various transcriptions of Schuylkill County records.



News Item  I use this for keeping up with deaths and local information, including occasional historical information.

Historic American Newspapers – Chronicling America  Great source for older newspaper archives; doesn’t include every paper but still good.



The Mount Carmel Area Public Library  Northumberland County newspaper and obituary resource.

Genealogy and Local History Materials at the Pottsville Free Public Library  Excellent resource for all things Schuylkill County related.

Mappy Monday: The Jordan Township farm

2012 was the year that I just had to find where my 4x great grandfather Peter Wetzel lived in 1860.  Based on the census records, this was the same farm that the Wetzel family lived 10 years prior.  Could this also have been where my 3x great grandfather Henry was born?  I searched…and searched…I spent so many hours scouring through records and microfilm but I wasn’t coming up with anything but I was not about to give up.

While preparing for a trip back up to Northumberland County to go cemetery hopping, I did a quick search for township maps for the county to help me get around (sometimes maps are just the preferred method over a GPS).  A few clicks later I was looking at an 1858 land owner’s map of Jordan Township and there it was in flashing neon “P Weitzel”.  Oh, but how could I be certain this was my Peter?  The map showed the landowners and the Federal Census lists the “Value of Real Estate owned” so let’s compare.  Ha…his neighbors match up!  I found Peter’s home…at least on this roadless, streetless map from 1858.

1858 Jordan Township land owner's map

1858 Jordan Township land owner’s map

Luckily, I have been using the U.S. Geological Survey’s website for quite a few years so I immediately used their site to pull up a map of the general area.  From there it was a matter of matching up natural and man-made features to find the right location.  I actually got really lucky with this as the nearby features were the same then and now but the nice feature was the line of Troutman owned houses in 1858 with was easily found on the current day map as Troutman Lane.  I now knew the exact location of the farm my family owned so many years ago.

2010 USGS street/topo map

2010 USGS street/topo map

Now you didn’t think I was going to be in that general area and pass up tracking this farm down now did ya?  Once the coordinates were in the GPS it was not only easy to find but it was also exactly where I thought it would be based on the maps.  What to do once there…uh, knock on the door?

Original barn and outbuilding in background

Original barn and outbuilding in background

It turns out that the property was purchased from my ancestors by the current owners ancestors…how cool is that!  For an hour and a half they shared with me all they knew about the property, the buildings (two of which are original), the area as well as local cemeteries I may find my family buried.  Before leaving, they invited me to look around and take some pictures.

I am so thankful that someone thought to make these maps in 1858 and that others have protected them and made them available to others over the past 155 years.


The original house is underneath some nice upgrades.

The original house is underneath some nice upgrades.


Map source: 1858 Jordan Township map,; 2010 road/topo map,


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