Category Archives: Personal Family History/Research

PA Probate Records on FamilySearch — YEAH!

CRASH! BANG! That’s the sound of another brick wall breaking down!  Last evening, after clicking send on an email to two cousins who also descend from Thomas Dilliplane and his wife Mary, I went to my GoogleReader and saw the Genea-Musings post from Randy Seaver on a new database available on the FamilySearch.org website [link]. I was absolutely stunned to see that Pennsylvania Probate Records are now online since the email I had just sent was regarding getting a hold of the Berks County, PA estate file of Adam Swavely. We were suspecting that Mary was a daughter of Adam and were hoping that she would be named as such in the file.

Talk about pay dirt – this was the genealogy equivalent of hitting the lottery! Despite the Probate Records being browse-only, it was fairly easy to locate Adam Swavely’s file – all 25 pages! And yes, we now know that Mary Swavely, daughter of Adam and Esther, was indeed the wife of Thomas Dilliplane. (See my previous post on this topic [here].) And as if that wasn’t enough, since Mary died before her father, we also know the names of all of Mary’s children. There were actually twelve — which was a few more than previously identified.

And the best part is that with these probate records now available online  I am positive that additional brick walls and uncertain linkages will be confirmed and sorted out!

If you also have PA ancestors, you are going to love having these records online! Here’s the [link].

Thank you FamilySearch for hosting these records and thank you Randy Seaver for posting about them the first day they went online!

Did Mary Swavely marry Thomas Dilliplane?

For a very long time had I nary a clue as to the maiden name of my third great-grandmother Mary Dilliplane. Even learning her first name was hindered by the fact that she presumably died before 1850 and so was never enumerated in the US Censuses by name. The only record of  her first name that I have found is contained in the death record of her son Joshua (presumed brother of my ancestor William). This is also the only source cited in “The Delaplaines of America” by Marvin G. Delaplane – which also only provides her first name.

But now I have a working theory as to her maiden name and parents – a hypothesis. I think that there is a chance that she might be Mary Swavely, the daughter of Adam Jr. and Esther. So far, the facts I’ve found regarding Mary Swavely are consistent with what little is known about Mary Dilliplane. (For more details see my website [link].) I am hoping definitive proof – one way or the other – lies in the estate file of Adam Swavely Jr. He died in November of 1842 and the Berks County, PA Register of Wills online index shows that there is a 25 page estate file. My next step in this process is to check out that file.

Have You Found Anyone in the 1940 Census Yet?

I have to say that after a rocky start I made out pretty well yesterday – which was Day 1 of the 1940  US Federal Census release. I started pretty much at 9:oo EDT on the dot trying to access the ED where both my sets of my grandparents lived from the NARA website. After several hours of no luck — meaning the site was too busy and I was not even able to view one image – I tried Ancestry.com. Luckily for me, the state of Pennsylvania was near the top of the queue. By mid-afternoon, some of Chester County was available so I starting looking at North Coventry and South Coventry townships for some “cousins.” I hit the jackpot finding several families.

In the evening Montgomery County, Pennsylvania came online and I was able to access the ED for the 6th Ward of Pottstown. On one of the very first pages was my maternal grandparents with my mom as a little girl!!! A couple pages later I found my dad and his family!! There were really no surprises – everyone in the immediate families were right where they were supposed to be, working in the jobs I knew they had. But it was so cool to view their families and their neighbors and to actually recognize names of people I knew or had heard about!!

If you weren’t as lucky as I was on Day 1, don’t give up. Ancestry is continuing to load the states and seems well-equipped for the volume of people wanting access. (Currently, I have a subscription, but it is my understanding that the 1940 census images will be available for all to view thru 2013.) FamilySearch doesn’t have images for quite as many states uploaded, but they’ll get there — plus they have a small army of indexers! And, of course, since images are becoming available on these other sites,  there will probably be fewer people trying to access directly from the NARA site. So you may have better success with access there too.

Good Luck and Happy Researching!

(Almost) Wordless Wedding Wednesday

In keeping with the Geneablogger Wednesday themes of (Almost) Wordless and Wedding, today’s post is a tribute to the 151st wedding anniversary of my 2x’s great-grandparents Charles James and Emma Ibach. They were married in Pottstown, Pennsylvania on February 28, 1861. I don’t have an actual wedding photo, but they are pictured here in a family photo along with one of their daughters. I used my own scrapkit for the layout.

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday’s Tip – PA State Death Index, 1906-1961 — WooHoo!

The long awaited (for me, anyway) Pennsylvania State Death Index for the years 1906 to 1961 finally came online yesterday and I have been making the most of it! The vast majority of the individuals in my genealogy database are from Pennsylvania. All of my immigrant ancestors arrived in America between the late 1600s and mid to late 1700s and came to PA. My direct lines as well as many cousin lines stayed.

I am using this index as additional death date source for those individuals for whom I have already found a death date – i.e. in an obit or on a tombstone, etc. I am also using it to find an exact date (which can be confirmed with further research) in the cases where I have only a year or a month and year. At this point, I have found just over 100!

As other bloggers [link and link] have noted, the database is not searchable. It is really just a collection of browse-able files which are images of the paper index. For some years the index is alphabetical. For other years, the index is alphabetized by soundex codes. There are instructions on the site to calculate the soundex code by hand, but I found an online calculator here: [link].

The index for each year is broken up into several files – usually about 5 or 6 or more. To make things go a little faster, I used Legacy Family Tree’s advanced tagging feature to find all the individuals who may possibly be in the PA Death Index. I then exported those individuals to GenViewer (a Legacy add-on) for ease of sorting so I’m not flipping back and forth between different years and different files within a year. This has really helped to streamline my workflow.

If you have Pennsylvania people in your database for these years, then this is a resource that you really need to check out. (Oh, there’s also a birth index, but due to the 105 year privacy restriction, it is only for the year 1906 for now.)