A common scenario: We get a new record for an ancestor and that ancestor is in a new state we have never researched before or in a new county we didn’t know existed.
When you have an ancestor who lived in a place new to you, what do you do? Most people just keep on searching for more records in that new state or county. They end up frustrated or hitting a brick wall. Why? One reason: they are missing historical and local context to inform them where to look offline or online.
When you encounter a new state or new county, the first step is to look around and see what you can learn about the place and time period. It will feel like you are wasting time, but in the long run it will inform and speed up your research. How? By teaching you about the events in that place, the kinds of people who lived there, what kinds of jobs they had, and so many other things. No two places are alike.
Suggestions of where to look around in PA:
- Historical county maps at the Pennsylvania State Archive
- Pennsylvania Historical Association has many inexpensive books written by scholars on the various people and events in PA.
- Local genealogical and historical societies for the county. A search of the county name and “genealogical society” will give you links to their websites. Most have journals or articles to learn more of the history and people of that area.
- And for easiest access, you can always use Wikipedia.
So when that ancestor is in a place new to you, stop, take a look around, and learn what life was like for them. It just could help you find what you were looking for about that ancestor!