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AfriGeneas Writers Forum

Writer compiles guide to records

Writer compiles guide to records
Lebanon Daily News

Sometimes half the battle in locating an ancestor is finding out what records exist in which your ancestor can be found.

Which makes John T. Humphrey’s new book, “Pennsylvania Research: County and Township Records,” an especially good “find” in and of itself.

Humphrey is the current president of the Mid-Atlantic Germanic Society, a vice president of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania and a past vice president of the Pennsylvania Chapter of Palatines to America.

His principal genealogical publication until this point has been the 16-volume set of “Pennsylvania Births” that lists more than 200,000 births in eastern Pennsylvania counties before 1825. He has written other books and numerous articles and lectures widely at national and local conferences.

Currently he is working on genealogical records created during World War II of interest to researchers in Germany and the United States and is helping coordinate the first statewide genealogy conference ever held in Pennsylvania.

In “Pennsylvania Research: County and Township Records” (Published by PA Genealogy Books, 326 pages, $29), Humphrey brings together a listing of the “essentials” — the most commonly needed record groups for the commonwealth’s counties and townships from the 17th through 19th centuries.

Among these records are the following:

• State and county tax records. These assessments are separated by township and therefore locate the ancestor within a certain municipality, and they give varied information on his economic status — sometimes only an amount of tax is shown. Other times, the individual’s quantity of land and livestock owned are shown.

• Septennial census. This was an enumeration of taxpayers by Pennsylvania for the purpose of apportioning representatives to the General Assembly. It was taken every seven years between 1779 and 1863, but only about 11 percent of the records survive.

• 1798 U.S. Direct Tax. Also nicknamed the “Glass Tax” or “Window Tax,” because the number of windows that a house contained was a key factor in its assessment. This was a federal tax that was so unpopular that it was repealed during its first year of existence. But for that one year, its listings provide a wealth of detail about the houses and properties of the time.

• Warrantee maps. These maps compiled by the Pennsylvania land office are connected survey maps showing names and data about the first owners of each parcel of land. They truly show how the neighborhoods “fit together” when first settled.

Other records listed include land ownership maps that can be found at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and Internal Revenue Assessments for the first income tax in 1862, which are found at the National Archives.

Humphrey gives the dates of county formation along with the name of the parent county or counties. Records kept at the county level — such as estate files and deeds — and available on microfilm are included with an indication of the years covered.

On the township level, years of formation for these municipal units and parent townships are identified for most.

For more information about the book or to order a copy, Humphrey’s Web site is at the URL below His e-mail is, and the mailing address is PA Genealogy Books, P.O. Box 15190, Washington, D.C. 20003.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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