Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Pursuing my Elusive Ancestors - Part 4 (end)

This is the fourth and final installment about my 2004 research trip and vacation to the Northeast. Parts 1 through 3 are below.

After leaving Watertown NY, we drove to Toronto for two nights, and visited the CN Tower and doiwntown Toronto. When we planned the trip, I had hoped to stop in Kinston and Delhi Ontario to visit a cousin, Cheryl Taber, with whom I share Kemp ancestry. But she was unavailable, so I'll have to see her another time.
We drove to Niagara Falls and spent three nights there on the Canadian side. Then it was off to western Pennsylvania.

My third genealogy stop was in Mercer County, PA. Three generations of Carringer families plus the Daniel Spangler family and Cornelius Feather family resided here in the 1800-1860 time frame.

I had identified the Shenango Valley Public Library in Sharon PA and the Mercer County Historical Society in Mercer as repositories to visit. The library had a relatively small collection of books, including some 20th century marriage and death records. The most impressive resource was an entire book rack of Sharon newspaper obituaries – a notebook for each year since about 1950. My best find there was an 1864 plat map and an 1878 plat map of each township in Mercer County. Based on the map, I was able to identify the location of the Carringer 1797 homestead.

We drove out to Perry township after dinner, but the houses were fairly modern and since it was almost dark, we didn't stop to look for the graveyard in back of the house.

The next day, I went to the Historical Society in Mercer, and found an excellent repository for a small county. It is located just across the street from the Mercer County Courthouse and the society folks do a lot of research there. I reviewed the collection of manuscript and vertical files, and found some newspaper articles about the first settler Martin Carringer and the probate records for Cornelius Feather.

The next day we drove from Mercer County to southern PA, then we went on to the Washington DC area.

My fourth genealogy stop was at the Prince Georges County Public Library in Hyattsville MD, just north of Washington DC. My wife’s McKnew and Pickrell families resided in PG County and in DC. This library had a special room with history and genealogy books and reports, but no manuscripts or vertical files. I reviewed cemetery records, newspaper records and vital record books, with a small success – I found that Benjamin Pickrell resided in Washington DC during the 1820-1830 time frame, along with several other Pickrell families. Funny, I hadn’t really considered DC for this family until now – although it was part of Prince Georges County before 1790.

All in all, the genealogy part of the trip was a success. I was able to review records not available in San Diego or on the Internet. While I made no major research breakthroughs, I gathered quite a bit of material on some families and visited two of the homesteads.

I also learned that I need to prepare more thoroughly for my research trips, make better to-do lists, and spend more time at each repository.

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