Pennsylvania Research SIG

The leader of this SIG is Diane McVicker ( Meetings will be held on the fourth Wednesday of each month at  06:00 PM at Shaler Public Library (GoogleMap). Meeting times and dates are subject to change.  Please check our website Events calendar or ( for additional details to confirm dates and times of upcoming meetings. Joining and subscribing to North Hills Genealogists will allow you to receive automated weekly updates on all of our NHG activities.
Below please find notes from past meetings:
At the June meeting, members discussed the best place to store photos, the Family Tree Maker situation, and the option to use RootsMagic in Family Tree Maker’s place. One member is in the process of proving her Mayflower lineage, and another member, a Mayflower Society member, shared her books and documents with the group. The disrepair of St. Joe’s Cemetery was in Bellevue was brought up, and suggestions were given to the gentleman who is trying to handle this situation.The problems that arise with conflicting dates on an obituary and gravestone were discussed. Chronicling America was noted as a good place to look for records – it has newspapers published before 1923.
In the May meeting, the group had a lively roundtable discussion. The first order of conversation was successful cemetery finds, where members shared different accomplishments. A member with a Civil War ancestor interned at Andersonville Prison discussed the records he found related to his ancestor. Immigration and passenger lists were deliberated, and the resources held by the Westmoreland County Courthouse were mentioned. The group also talked about writing the family history, and the “writing for fun” bimonthly group at the Northland Public Library was mentioned. Finally, valuable inherited family heirlooms and their protection was conversed.
During the April meeting, a roundtable discussion was had. The group discussed Fold3’s user interface, the importance of revisiting your records, and the last NHG meeting regarding organization. The group agreed that whatever methods works should be utilized, as the important end result is to preserve the documents! Pinterest’s usefulness in genealogy was discussed, for its various ideas and useful forms. The group discussed a handout “12 Rules of Geneaogy” from – an important one being “If unsure, say so.”
One of the group’s members mentioned that she had attended a program at the Heinz History Center presented by the Ulster Historical Foundation, which led to a short discussion about the various spelling of Irish surnames. The discussion then focused on the “Cloud”, what it is, and how it can help in genealogy research (as NHG’s last meeting regarded technology). Lack of privacy and the potential for tracking documents, etc., were mentioned as potential concerns. The general consensus of the group was to back up documents and always have them in more than one place. For obtaining copies of documents, a member recommended a free phone app called “Genius Scan” that can be used instead of a portable scanner. Another topic discussed in this meeting was the importance of revisiting older records, as it is easy to overlook important information the first time around. The group finished their jam-packed March meeting with a discussion of wills, land, and financial records.
Members of the Pennsylvania SIG suggested their members share information regarding contacts, facilities, and other resources when they’ve had success in a particular county. The group then discussed direct and indirect evidence, and the importance of finding reliable information from which to construct a family tree. Three words of importance arose: source, information, and evidence. The group also talked about the difficulty of finding early passenger lists, various military records, and same and similar surnames. For those researching the Civil War, Samuel P. Bates’ History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65 was mentioned as a very helpful resource.
At the January meeting, old newspapers and a tape brought about a discussion about Ellis Island and its role in immigration to America. The Carnegie Library’s naturalization project was discussed, as was the benefit of road trips to historical societies and genealogical groups, and revisiting previously found census records, land records, etc., to see if any details were missed the previous time. The members moved on to a document preservation discussion, and mentioned the Heinz History Center’s website on archival programs as a good source of information as well as Archival Methods and Gaylord Archival.
A variety of topics were discussed at the December meeting, varying from's discontinuation of the FamilyTreeMaker software, to Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained, and how useful it can be in crafting citations. Wills were discussed, as well as how local historical societies can be helpful in providing information. One member wanted to know more about locating death records pre-1906, and newspapers, libraries, and FamilySearch were all suggested as places to look into as possible sources for these records.
At the November meeting, handouts of “Beyond PhotoShop”, a list of Genealogical Sites by county and a newsletter from Family Tree Magazine entitled “Is It Time to Ask for Help?” were distributed. The benefits and successes of were discussed. One member recounted how he found a cousin using AncestryDNA. Another member brought his family binders which he is trying to organize, and showed the group a Family Group Record template that he designed. The DAR Library in Washington, DC, was discussed as a potential avenue for research. Another member offered information regarding the website at, which offers a free newsletter.
Personal research stories and challenges were discussed - including how sometimes, one needs to research in Ohio to solve a Pennsylvania problem! A suggestion was made that members can share problems to the group as a whole so those with experience may be able to assist. THe helpfulness of both early census and tax records was discussed. Will books, libraries, distant cousins, and the location of Pittsburgh Lutheran church records were all discussed. The Archives Service Center at the University of Pittsburgh was mentioned as a possible resource.
At their September meeting, Pennsylvania SIG members highlighted their genealogy discoveries over the last two months. Among the highlights were Allen County Public Library's assistance in placing self-published genealogies in their collection, the Findmypast free weekend, roundtable discussion of DNA records.
10 members attended the meeting at the Shaler Library. The members discussed their findings in newspapers, various records including school records, and employee records housed at the  PA Archives.  Several members had taken trips and reported on their findings, one having success in New York with the updated passenger lists, and another at the DAR Library in Washington, DC.
Following the program presented by Dave Egelston at the last NHG meeting, the PA SIG discussed various ways to record their family history and how to achieve that goal. Members also had the opportunity to discuss their brick walls. Some suggestions made to help with these problems were: utilizing the resources at the Heinz History Center, the PA Room at the Carnegie Library, and the City Directories. One member has been trying to find the biological parents of her grandmother. Another member provided her with documentation entitled “SWAN PA Adoption Search Guideline” to help her with her search.
Tips that were shared among the members involved the online site “Chronicling America 1830-1936”, New York census records, Carnegie Library Military Alcove, tracing migration routes, and using the videos and tutorial available to better use Family Search. One member brought in 4 books called the “Laurel Messenger” from Somerset County. Several members found their surnames in the books.