Saturday, February 7, 2009

Searching for Mary's Parents - Post 2

I really appreciate the Family History Library microfilm and microfiche collection, because I've learned that many research problems involving elusive ancestors can be solved by using them to find original records that clearly define names and relationships.

However, I get frustrated sometimes by the time it takes to obtain information from requesting and reading the microfilms. A case in point:

11/1/08 - I met with Sandy Hewlett at the Wholly Genes conference and cruise in a one-on-one to talk about my Mary Hoax/Houx/Houks/Hokes, etc. ancestral problem. One of her suggestions was to search land and probate information in Westmoreland County PA where she married in 1785 - perhaps she is mentioned in a deed or will or probate settlement. I came home from the cruise very enthused, and set to work on the task.

12/6/08 - I posted about some preliminary work in Searching for Mary's Parents - Post 1. I captured images on my USB drive from the deed grantor and grantee indexes. I also found a book with the index to the early wills, which identified several persons with surname Hokes/Houk/Hawk,etc. persons that might be of interest (I made photocopies). I didn't order any microfilms that day - I needed to make a list of the deeds in the early deed books and the wills in the will book with the target surnames. I did the will list because I had the photocopy handy.

12/13/08 - still enthusiastic about my mission, I went to the FHC to order microfilm of the early wills and to order the early deed microfilms. When I got there, I realized that I had not listed the early deeds I wanted, so I didn't know the exact volumes I needed. Okay, Plan B was to enter the very first book of the deeds. I also ordered the film with the first two volumes of the wills, since those were the volumes I needed.

1/22/09 - The FHC called right after Christmas to say the microfilms had arrived, but I had to go to Salt Lake City and the FHL for a weekend so it took another week to get to the FHC. I still had not listed the deeds I wanted from the Grantor and Grantee Indexes! When I got to the FHC, I found and captured the images of the three wills in Volumes 1 and 2 of the Will Books. I scanned the wills, and did not see that they are helpful, but they might be to other researchers. Uh-oh, the first deed book I ordered doesn't have an index on the film, I'll have to wait until I make the list.

1/29/09 - I went to the FHC on the CVGS Research Trip, but didn't have time to check the deed microfilm. Ooops, I still haven't made my deed list.

2/6/09 - I finally made my deed list from the images of the Grantor and Grantee deed books. I came up with about 30 deeds in the period 1771-1820. Great -- now I can go to the FHC and find deeds on the film I have waiting patiently in the drawer for me to read.

2/7/09 - I looked at my list, and there's only one deed that is on the microfilm that I ordered. Volume A, page 309, recorded 3 March 1783, Conrad Hawk grants land in Huntingdon Township to Peter Huber. No mention of Mary, but now I know where Conrad Hawk lived. I ordered the next two microfilms in the series that will provide about 14 more deeds on volumes B through D and 1 through 2 that might be useful. So I have to wait another two or three weeks for these films to come in.

Most of the delay here is my own fault - I didn't make my target deed list when it was fresh in my mind. If I had, I would have saved at least four weeks to obtain the first 15 target deeds.

When I was at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City in January, I intentionally did not work on this research problem because I knew that I had the films waiting for me at the San Diego FHC. The FHL is especially helpful to use for probate and deed records because all of the films are available and the researcher can obtain many records in a day or two. If I had done that, I would have saved 6 weeks and would be much further ahead!

I keep learning lessons over and over again. I need more discipline in my genealogy life, I guess. The major lesson here is to not let record images just sit in your USB drive and computer files - you have to use them effectively to move ahead on the project. Hmmm, I still haven't transcribed the three wills. Drat - I hate it when I remind myself of things I haven't done. Where's the to-do list I made several months ago?

Ah, I wonder when the FHL will have the imaging and indexing done for these Westmoreland county PA records? Probably not for several years, so I'm going to have to keep ordering films or visit the FHL more often in order to make progress on my elusive ancestor problems.

Like the old saying goes - "no one is completely useless, s/he can always he held up to others as a bad example!"

1 comment:

Kathryn Doyle said...


I hadn't noticed before that you had connection to Westmoreland Co., PA. It is where my father was born and reared.

Have you looked at the WorldConnect database Thomas Maxwell of Pa 1738-1785?