Today’s Friday’s Find is a website that I was lucky enough to first come across several years ago. It is an amazing resource for anyone with Pennsylvania German (more commonly called Pennsylvania Dutch) ancestors and relatives. It is Charles F. Kerchner’s website and the home page can be found here.
While there are a lot of useful tips and information on this site, two pages that I found absolutely invaluable are the one that discusses naming conventions and the one that discusses nicknames.
In addition to listing common naming patterns for both males and females, the naming conventions page does a great job of explaining the concept of the “baptismal name.” This is why you may run across a family with sons named something like Johan George, Johan Adam, Johan Philip, etc. The Johan part is the saint (or baptismal) name. These men would have commonly been known as George, Adam and Philip – and these are the names you need to look for in civil records. In fact, Johan and Johann are almost always baptismal names whereas Johannes would be the form used if the child was to go by John. Kerchner also discusses on this same page the feminine suffix of “in,” use of the terms Jr, Sr and cousin, and more. If you are researching Pennsylvania Germans, you really need to read this page and bookmark it (or save it to your tool box or resource list).
The nickname page has also been a great help to me with my personal research. The one in particular is Rebecca as a nickname for Margaret. (Or is it vice versa?) Not only is this one not obvious, but it leaves me scratching my head as to how they (the 18th century Germans, that is) ever came up with it. But it has gone a long way in explaining some of the families I’ve been researching. Without this information I would not have known that the baby girl baptized as Margaret was the same person as the daughter named Rebecca in the will. It also helped explain why baptismal records for the children of Henry and Margaret were interspersed with records for those of Henry and Rebecca. (I had previously thought that there were either 2 Henrys or that Henry was a bigamist!)
Anyway, the website of Charles Kerchner is today’s Friday’s Find. I hope you’ll check it out and that some of you find it as useful as I did!
I would venture to say that most genealogists/family historians have heard of findagrave.com. It is definitely one of the most popular websites for user-submitted burial information. Well, a few months ago I came across webcemeteries.com. In a way they are the opposite type of service in that they provide “cemetery internet packages” to cemeteries both large and small in order for them to create websites and searchable databases of their own records. They also have an American Legacy Initiative that provides small cemeteries and independent genealogists with the tools needed to create and manage websites and databases for the burial records of legacy cemeteries.
When you visit the webcemeteries home page, you can click on the “Search Cemeteries” option to get a listing of all the cemeteries participating in their program. I did a quick count and came up with about 36 or 37 on the current cemeteries list and almost as many on the legacy list. I noticed several from Pennsylvania (which is where most of my research is centered), but there are other states represented as well.
If you find a cemetery of interest on the list, you can click on it to go directly to the website for that cemetery. From there you can then click on the “Search Records” option and enter the last name (and optionally the first name) to get a list of matches within that cemetery. I tried a partial surname search (i.e. I typed “SMI” for the last name, and all the Smiths, etc were returned by the search.)
In addition to searching on a per cemetery basis, you can optionally search all the cemeteries in their system at once. In order to do this, select “Genealogy and Memorials” from the home page. You will be taken to the site cemsearch.com. The search box on this site will return a list of all the matching records from all the cemeteries in the webcemetery program. Clicking on one of the returned matches will take you to the individual cemetery record for further information.
Webcemeteries is a site definitely worth checking out. You may also want to monitor it every couple of months or so to see if any new cemeteries of interest to you have joined their program.
So that’s the Friday’s Find this week — webcemeteries.com!
Laurel Hill Cemetery, located in the East Falls section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is the final resting place for many famous and not so famous Philadelphians. Founded in 1836, it is one of the few cemeteries designated as a National Historic Landmark. It comprises about 78 acres divided into three sections: North, Central and South. If you have ancestors or extended family who lived in Phladelphia in the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth centuries, there is a very good chance that one or more may be buried in this cemetery.
And the best news – Laurel Hill has an excellent website that you can check out here. In addition to detailed historical information, the website also has a searchable database!! To access it, go to the main website, select “Resources” on the side menu bar, then “Records” on the top menu bar. From there, just click on “Search” and enter your ancestor/relative’s surname. The results include the Section and Lot number, so if you are planning to visit the cemetery, you have a pretty good approximation of where to look for the grave.
This is definitely a site to add to your Resource List or Toolbox if your researching Philadelphians!
Last week’s Friday’s Find was historical maps of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This week we move across the state to a site hosted by the University of Pittsburgh that has a great collection of historical maps of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and vicinity. Check it out here.
The format of the maps at this site is quite a bit different than the layered maps of Philadelphia, but the content is (I think) equally as useful. For my own research, I was focusing on the City of Pittsburgh Geodetic and Topographic Survey Maps. I was trying to locate the street where my husband’s great-grandfather lived when he was naturalized in the early 1920s. Not being familiar with Pittsburgh, I was not having very much luck. The street was not showing up on current maps, so I suspected that it was either renamed or closed down.
As it turns out, I was able to find the street on the older maps on the University of Pittsburgh site. Then, by comparing the older maps to newer ones, I was able to determine that the neighborhood where the street was located was subsumed by the expansion of the J&L Steel plant. This lead me to search the area newspapers and I was able to find an article describing the expansion. (The article, however, did not name any of the condemned streets by name.) In my case these maps were key in helping me find the information I was seeking.
So the Pittsburgh maps are my Friday Find for this week. Hopefully someone else might find them as useful as I did!
I was recently trying to geographically analyze census data from the mid to late 1800s. More specifically, I was looking at various families of the same surname who were living in the city of Philadelphia. I was trying to get a feel for the proximity of the various neighborhoods in which they lived and potentially a better feel for their relative socio-economic status. The problem was that I was unfamiliar with the neighborhoods and their locations within the city.
I was finally able to find an incredible mapping site that is almost too good to be true! The site is The Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network. On the site is an Interactive Maps Viewer tool. It contains various historic maps of Philadelphia and is designed such that they can be overlaid with a semi-transparent current Philadelphia streets map!
The map viewer works much like any graphics software that supports layers. In this case each layer is one of the maps. You are able to toggle the visibility of each layer/map independently as well as adjust it’s transparency with a slider control. You can also drag the various layers/maps up or down the stack.
The maps are very high-resolution, so you can zoom in close and see the details. In fact, the only drawback could be the load time if you have a slow internet connection. If you’re looking for historic Philadelphia maps, this is definitely a resource worth checking out.