Research in Western PA

Washington County, Pennsylvania

The first stop on my travels will be Washington County, Pennsylvania.  Well, actually it will be the second stop, since Eric and I will be visiting Gettysburg for three nights on the way.  But Washington County will be the first place where I’ll be doing genealogical research.

My mother grew up in Pittsburgh, and summered in Union Township near the little town of Finleyville, on the farm of her much beloved grandparents.  There’s a cemetery there where her extended family, back three generations, is buried.  That’s where I’ll bury my parents and my two brothers when I’m there, which is my reason for making this the first stop on my trip.  So if there is a place which I could call home, this would be it.

I need to spend about three months there at some point.   I’m so fascinated by my extended family history in the area that I can envision writing a book about them.  This visit will only be for a week, though.  That’s longer – by far – than any other time I’ve been there, but not long enough.  It’s just not the right time of year for an extended stay.

My mother’s paternal line is filled with miners, most going way back into the 1700’s.  Three Furlong brothers (James, Lewis, and Thomas) came to America from south Wales mining country in the mid-1800’s.  Other families in this line, the Paynes, Weightmans and Tunneys, all came from Northumberland County in northern England in the 1870’s and 1880’s.

One of the things that fascinates me is how so many relatives from each family in England came to the same place in America, and then intermarried here, to the point where many couples were second or third cousins.  I wonder if they were aware of that.  I know this was common with all families, but this is the only area where I’ve found it happening in mine.

In addition, their relationships and activities tie together the old country and the new.  For example, in some cases, one sibling went back to England while the other stayed in America.  And of course another fascinating aspect is their occupation – the life of a miner was extremely difficult.  The family suffered many deaths in the mines.

I need to decide exactly what I want to accomplish while I’m there next week.  There are actually three counties involved for my extended family:  Washington, Allegheny, and Fayette.

One thing I might do is get the full divorce file for my grandparents.  They divorced in 1944 in Allegheny County.  I have parts but not all of it.  I’ll have to check to see where I would find it.

Another time when I was in Washington County, I found the original delayed birth certificates for the County.  In the mid-20th century, if an ancestor  needed a birth certificate (for example to apply for Social Security, or a passport), and they were born before birth certificates were issued by the State (in Pennsylvania, this was 1906), then they could obtain a delayed birth certificate from the County.  As I recall, the certificates were stored in the basement of the courthouse.  We were in a hurry so I couldn’t make copies of them at the time.  I wrote down the information as best I could, but there are so many more that I need, and I would really like to have photocopies or photographs of the originals.

A third project that comes to mind is to research the land.  My 81 year old uncle (my mother’s brother) has asked me when the family acquired the grandparents’ farm where the kids spent their summers, and he wants to know if I can find out anything about the house burning down and being rebuilt in the early 1900’s.  I’d like to find the answers for him.  I haven’t had time to do much land research before.

I think that sounds like a reasonable plan which could be accomplished in a week, so that is my goal.  More to come as I do the research!

2 thoughts on “Research in Western PA

  1. Chris, you are very courageous to take this path! It’s wonderful that you’re actually walking in the footsteps of your ancestors! I can’t wait to follow your journey over time, back in time! I wish you the best of luck!


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