Friday, June 20, 2008

Something New

Since I started the Beallsville Cemetery website ( I have received so many wonderful emails. I wanted to try something new to see if I could add this same type of interactive element to the website so anyone can participate. Therefore I'm experimenting with a blog. I am relatively new to blogging so I guess I'll learn as I go.

First I thought I'd give you a little background into what inspired this ongoing project. In 2001 I sold a business that I had owned for 10 years and decided to take some time and just have fun. Researching my family tree had been on my to-do list for a long time so that is the project I started on. Little did I know how addictive genealogy could become. I now actually teach a beginning genealogy class at CCAC near Pittsburgh (next session is this October).

I grew up thinking my Hill family (my dad's side of the family) was very small. I knew my grandparents, my Dad's brother and his wife and 3 kids and that was about it. I knew that my Grandparents were buried in Beallsville Cemetery so I thought I'd start there on the off chance that any other relatives were buried there. I paid a visit and talked to the caretaker. I asked if there were any other Hills buried in Beallsville or nearby. He just started laughing at me. Turns out there are more Hills buried in Beallsville than any other surname (and everyone of them is a "relative"). It also turns out that the caretaker's father owned a farm in nearby Scenery Hill (more about Scenery Hill later) and adjacent to his property was a Hill Cemetery with approximately 100 or so Hill family burials. As I found out later, this was indeed a branch of my family. And so my involvement with Beallsville Cemetery began and that was 7 years ago. I have now identified approximately 600 people buried in Beallsville that are directly or indirectly related to me in some way. Through my family research I discovered many living relatives and in 2002 we had a great family reunion which we held in Scenery Hill with people from all over the country. The reunion included a tour of 4 cemeteries in the Beallsville area where family is buried. So much for the small family that I thought I was a part of!!

Many people wonder what the attraction is to researching dead people. Some of the best fun that I've had is connecting with the living descendants and helping people find their ancestors. Many people in the past have transcribed and recorded some of the smaller cemeteries in this particular part of Washington Co but I think because Beallsville Cemetery is so large, no one ever wanted to tackle the project. As I stated earlier, I have received so many wonderful emails from people who have been able to find ancestors and relatives by looking through this website and that is what makes all the effort worthwhile. People have taken the time to send me wonderful photos of their ancestors and to include genealogical information, obituaries, etc. This interaction and collaboration is what is making the site so special and that is what the inspiration was for this blog. Hopefully we can help each other with family research, share family files, ask questions, etc. I will try to add some genealogy tips that I have learned over the years - especially about Washington PA. I will post a bibliography of about 200 - 250 research resources for Southwestern PA, interesting books that I've read, websites that I've found, local research resources, etc. I urge everyone to be active in participating and posting as well.

I hope this will be as much fun as building the website has been and continues to be.


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