Saturday, June 28, 2008

Record of Births and Deaths

This isn't the best image but it will give you an idea of what the death records look like at the Washington county courthouse. My greatgrandfather, Ira Hill is listed here. There is a second page that lists the rest of the information like cause of death, etc.

Washington County Courthouse has Birth and Death records dating from 1893 to 1906. Births, and deaths prior to 1893 were recorded in church records. after 1906 the records can be found at the Pennsylvanis Deparment of health, Division of Vital Records, PO Box 1528, New Castle, PA 16103.

There are also some delayed birth certificates at the courthouse that do not follow the 1893 - 1906 dates. These are birth records that were made years after a birth. Maybe someone needed proof of birth for something later in life. They could go back to the courthouse and if they had enough proper documentation, could get a delayed birth certificate issued. These certificates actually have some great information but there are not very many of them. One of the interesting things on the certificates are the number of siblings - how many were born before, how many were born after.

One word of caution when working with these records, - don't assume just because they are official courthouse records that they are correct. I found my grandfather Hill listed in the Birth records twice - a few months apart in terms of date recorded. It's possible that two different family members went to the courthouse at different times to report the birth, or it is possible that a clerk recorded the birth twice. The information for both births was the same in terms of date, place, parents and father's occupation. the only piece of information that was different was his name !! The first time it was recorded it was right - Heston Hill. The second time it was listed as Deston Hill. I know from my grandfather himself that he did not have a twin so this is just an error in the records.

The website for the Pennsylvania Department of Health is

You can go here to download forms that will let you order birth and death certificates. When the cost was only $3.00 I ordered many. many death certificates for ancestors. Now that the price has gone up considerably, I haven't been quite as active in ordering. The ordering instructions and fees, mailing address and forms are all found at the website. These certificates can have valuable information such as burial location, marital status (single, married, widowded), cause of death, parents names and sometimes birth locations, sometimes spouse's name, military service, next of kin, last place of residence, location of death. Below is a sample of a 1907 death certificate. Over time the forms change and the information required is different.

The Hide of a Rhinoceros / The Doctor of Scenery Hill

The Hide of a Rhinoceros.
by Marjorie Patterson Kaiser
Book; English
New York, Vantage Press, [1975]
Related Subjects:
Patterson, Frank. Scenery Hill, Pennsylvania.

The Doctor of Scenery Hill
by Marjorie Patterson Kaiser
Book; English
[S.l.] : The Author, 1998.
2nd ed

Library location:
University of Rhode Island, Kingston
Kingston, RI 02881 United States

This book was orginally published under the title "The Hide of the Rhinoceros" and was then republished as "the Doctor of Scenery Hill". It is the true story of a young doctor and his wife who moved to Scenery Hill, Washington Co PA to take up his medical practice. It tells about the challenges he faced when he moved to a small rural farming community in the late 1890s. He was doctor to the townspeople as well as to those who lived in the nearby mining town. It tells of some of the backward ways in which people used to deal with medical problems, the resistance that he faced from some people because he was so young and they didn't trust him yet. It also describes many medical treatments and diagnosis that I personally didn't realize were actually known at that time. I was suprised at how advanced they really were. The book also deals with the problems his young bride faced as the wife of the town doctor, and the illness that finally took hold of the doctor after many years of tireless service to the town.

It is a very interesting look into what life was like in the area of Washington County just up the road from Beallsville on Rt 40. Even though it is not listed in WorldCat I do know that the Library and Archives at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh has a copy but you will have to read it at the library as their collection is non-circulating. This book may be hard to find - it took me months to locate a used copy online and then I paid a pretty penny for my copy. If you are interested in getting a snapshot of rural life in Southwestern PA and the coal towns in the area, it is worth trying to find.

Marriage Records at Washington Courthouse

I have seen many postings to the Washington County PA discussion boards at various genealogy sites requesting look ups for marriage licenses. I thought I would offer a few tips. At the Washington County Courthouse located in Washington, you will find marriage records dating from 1885 to present. The process of finging the actual license involves three steps.

The first step involves looking in a large set of ledgers for the bride and groom's name. There are two sets of ledgers, one listed by the woman's name and another by the man's. Once you find the name, you will also find a book and page number. This takes you to step two.

For step two you move on to another set of ledgers. You find the book # mentioned in the first set of ledgers, and the page #. On this page you will find a number of different marriage licenses for differnet couples, each listing some of the information for the marriage - names, date, signature of the person who officiated and a certificate #. The certificate # is the key to step three. (TIP: One thing I learned while doing research here was that even though you can find some of the documentation, the marriage may never have actually taken place. Sometimes people would fill out an application to be married and the license would be made out, but if something happened and the marriage never took place, then the signed marriage certificate would not be returned by the official. One of my ancestors got this far but apparantly never actually went through with the marriage so I can find all of the other documentation but no actual certificate. Before I realized that this could happen, I just assumed that they were married and that the certificate was just lost. So check for the official's signature to make sure there actually was a marraige.)

For step three, you take that certificate # and go to the microfilm. On the microfilm you will find copies of all of the documentation involved in this marriage. This is where you can find all kinds of wonderful information so make sure you take this process all the way through. You will find microfilmed images of the marriage application which will often show age, sometimes even birthdates and places of the bride and groom. Sometimes you will find occupation and information concerning prior marriages. There may be relatives signatures as witness. If you are lucky, either the bride or groom was a minor and there will be a consent for a minor to marry form signed by the father (and sometimes the mother if the father was deceased). Then if the marriage took place, you will find the certificate that will list the date of the marriage (which is most likely different than the date of the application so be careful which date you record), possibly the location of the wedding, name of bride and groom and signature of the official. Sometimes you may even find copies of divorce papers from a prior marriage.

These ledgers were microfilmed and copies were obtained by the Citizens Library in Washington (a few blocks from the courthouse). However only the records for step 1 and step 3 are at the library. Step 2 is missing so you can't do a complete search at the library. However, if you can't get to the courthouse during the week when they are open, you can do the first part of your search at the library, get the book and page number and the couple's names, then call the courthouse to find the certificate # and then go back to the library to search their microfilm for the documents.

Happy hunting !

To the left is the application for marriage for my Great Grandparents Ira Cleaver Hill and Ora Gertrude Baker. Ira was 23 and Ora was 18 so there is a Consent to the Marriage of Child or Ward below signed by Ora's father James R. Baker.

To the left is the marriage certificate, signed by the clergy that officiated at the ceremony. So the marriage offically occured !

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Who Are You Searching For?

Please list the families you are researching, questions you are trying to answer, and an email where other's can contact you. These families don't have to have connections to Beallsville Cemetery.

Some of the surnames from that area that I am researching are:
Hill, Dorsey, Ruble, Baker, Regester, Sargeant, Wise, and many others. These are the main ones but it seems that there is a connection between the Hill family and almost every other pioneer family from Scenery Hill, Beallsville, Centreville area. I'm hoping we can help each other with our research so post away !!

Research Tip # 1

If you are looking for a hard to find book or an archive collection, a good place to start is World Cat website. This is a listing of books and archives that are in libraries all over the world. You can search by title, author, keywords. Not every library is a member so this is not a guarantee that you will find what you are looking for and just because you don't find it doesn't mean it is not out there somewhere.

For example, a small non-profit library may have to pay $2000 a year to be able to have their collection show up in a search. The items they hold may show up but the library location will not. I have donated a copy of my Hill Family genealogy to a local library and if I search for it, it will come up on World Cat but it will say that no library has the item. That is because the library can't afford the fee.

However you can find books and archives in libraries that are close to you and may have interlibrary loan. When doind research on the Ringgold Cavalry I entered the name of the author of one of the books that I have and found that his personal papers from the writing of the book are held in an archive at Emory University.

Try it out and see what you can discover - things you've been looking for and things you didn't even know existed. Have Fun!!

Always in a Hole: Life in a Pennsylvania Coal Town During the Great Depression and World War II

Always in a hole : life in a Pennsylvania coal town during the Great Depression and World War II
Arthur Vincent Ciervo
Book; English
Camp Hill, PA : Plank's Suburban Press, 1996.
Related Subjects:
Coal mines and mining -- Pennsylvania. Richeyville (Pa.) -- History.

This was a very interesting book about life in Richeyville, a Pennsylvania Coal town during the Great Depression and World War I. Several people mentioned in the book are buried in Beallsville Cemetery. The author's father was a miner. the book dedication reads " this book is dedicated to my parents, Carmine (Tony) and Beatrice (Bessie) Ciervo, and all other coal miners and their wives who endured too many hardships and heartaches".

I never realized that during this time period miners could work for days and not get paid. They worked days getting to the veins of coal, shoring up the tunnels, clearing away rock. They weren't paid for this work. They were only paid for the amount of coal that they brought out of the mine. The books tells of the hardships that the families in the coal towns faced,the bad working conditions, the sicknesses that sometimes ran through the many families and took many lives, the mining accidents, the efforts the families went through in an effort to support the war effort. This included, food rationing, scrap metal drives, as well as the ultimate sacrifice in terms of sending young men off to the service and not having all of them return alive.

The book has wonderful old photos of people and places and gives an insider's look at what coal mining used to be like.

If you can find it, I would recommend this as an entertaining and enlightening read.

Some of the libraries that are listed as having copies of the book are as follows:

Showing libraries that own: Any Edition
Reeves Library
Greensburg, PA 15601 United States

California University of Pennsylvania
California, PA 15419 United States

Allen County Public Library
Ft Wayne, IN 46801 United States

New York Public Library - Research
New York, NY 10018 United States
318 miles

Hillsborough / Scenery Hill PA

When I was growing up my Grandfather Hill used to like to talk about the family history. Unfortunately, like most teenagers I wasn't really that interested. I'm kicking myself now for not paying more attention and taking advantage of the knowledge and interest he had. Fortunately, he saved everything, was great at labeling people in photo albums, taking pictures of everything and everyone. He was an avid letter writer with many friends and family members and he saved many of the cards and letters he received. When we would visit my grandparents in Washington PA, we used to sit for hours and watch the slides that he had taken of family get-togethers, the grandchildren, aunts and uncles, etc. Fortunately some of that soaked in.

I did have the foresight at one time when I was in college to ask Grandpa to write a diary of his life and I gave him a blank book. He wrote faithfully until his health started failing. I didn't know that he had stopped writing though until he was gone. He had written in detail about his life growing up in Centreville, PA (near Beallsville) and about many of his relatives that also lived in the area. He sketched out the family tree and was very proud of the fact that we were descendants of a Revolutionary War Veteran (he even started writing a letter explaining our connection in hopes that one of the granddaughters would become a member of the DAR which I'm proud to say I finally did some 5 years ago!). He stopped writing when he got to the time of his life when he was a Freshman at Penn State. There is so much more I wish he had written about - his time at school, his service in the war, his courtship and marriage to my grandmother, the family they had (the children that they lost young). I am thankful for what I do have and that my dad and his brother have been able to fill in many of the gaps. I'm also thankful that my grandparents both lived well into their 80s and that I did pay some attention to much of what the talked about. I was also fortunate enough to inherit the slide collection of a few thousand slides, all his photo albums, boxes of letters, family trees that he had created, boxes and boxes of family memorabilia. These things have fueled my love of genealogy and have made my family research so much easier. Grandpa gave me a great start even though I didn't appreciate it at the time.

Grandpa was also very proud of the fact that one of our Hill ancestors built the Century Inn in Scenery Hill. This tavern was built in 1794 and has been in continuous service ever since. People such as Lafayette and Andrew Jackson among others, are listed in their guest books. We held our Hill Family reunion at the Century Inn pictured below.

"Hill's Tavern - this tavern, in continuous operation since 1794 when it was opened by Stephen Hill, is one of the oldest on the National Road. It was a popular stop for stage coaches and waggoners"

This is my Grandfather Hill under the Hill's Tavern sign outside of the Century Inn.

My 4th great grandfather Stephen Hill built the inn and there is a plaque with his name on it next to the front door of the Inn.

Stephen's father George served in the Revolutionary War and is buried in a small family Cemetery not far from Beallsville. The George Hill/John Welsh Cemetery listing and photos are on the cemetery website.

Stephen's grandson, Joseph Welsh Hill, served as Quartermaster Sergeant in Co B. of the Ringgold Cavalry in the Civil War. This is another source of interest that Beallsville Cemetery holds for me as there are many, many Ringgold Cavalry soldiers buried here as well as many other Civil War and other war veterans. My Grandfather Heston McKinley Hill served in the Navy during World War I.

Joseph Welsh Hill - Co. B Ringgold Cavalry - Civil War

Heston McKinley Hill - Navy - World War I

Scenery Hill is located on the Rt 40 - the famous National Pike. It was formerly named Hillsborough after Hillsborough County Down Ireland where my Hill family came from in the mid 1760's. The Hill family settled the town and named it for their homeland (which research has indicated was probably named for the Hill Family).
Scenery Hill/Hillsborough Sign

Hill Fort in Hillsborough, County Down, Ireland

Century Inn menu from 1965. A shrimp dinner was $2.75 !!

Below are several old postcard and photos of the Century Inn that I have collected.