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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Travels on the Web -- Resources for Genealogists -- Bucks County, Pennsylvania


Counties of Delaware, Montgomery and Bucks. Atlas of Pennsylvania. (Published by Stedman, Brown & Lyon, Philadelphia, 1872) David Rumsey Maps.

This week's Travels on the Web goes to Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Many of my ancestors came from Bucks County and when I was initially entering the information into the computer, I remember typing Bucks County so many times, I began to believe they all came from Bucks County. Of course, now I know better, but I still have a number of strong ties to Pennsylvania and particularly Bucks County. If you study the Newberry Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, you will see that early in Pennsylvania history, Bucks County was created in 1682 as one of three original counties, but no territorial limits were specified until 1 April 1685. The area comprising Bucks County at the time its boundaries were specified includes 10 modern counties in whole or in part. In 1752 Bucks County lost most of its territory to Northampton County and it assumed its present county boundaries. 

I have spent considerable time in Pennsylvania, that is, long enough to realize that I could get lost anytime I tried to go anywhere without a GPS. I have done some searching for original records and have a Great-great-grandfather and most of his family buried in the Westminster Cemetery in Bala Cyncyd, outside of Philadelphia. 

All of Pennsylvania is rich in history and even a partial listing of the basic source documents available for a county as old as Bucks County would take volumes. Even though there are a lot of records, there are some limitations. If your people go back to early times, you might try probate records that begin in 1683 and deeds that begin in 1684. But recording of marriages did not begin, on a county basis, until 1885 and births and deaths were not recorded until 1893. Of course there are records going back much further, but you might want to look at the records held by Ancestry.com and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania but available only to members. As usual, I suggest that you do a Google search on the name of any database to see if someone else has the same records. The FamilySearch Research Wiki has a list of the records in the Pennsylvania, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985. See Buck County, Pennsylvania

Here are some of my suggestions for history books about the county. But you might bear in mind that a Google search for books about Bucks County History returned 131,000 items. 

Battle, J. H. History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania: Including an Account of Its Original Exploration, Its Relation to the Settlements of New Jersey and Delaware, Its Erection into a Separate County, Also Its Subsequent Growth and Development, with Sketches of Its Historic and Interesting Localities, and Biographies of Many of Its Representative Citizens. Philadelphia: A. Warner, 1887. [Digitized on Google Books]

Davis, W. W. H. The History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania: From the Discovery of the Delaware to the Present Time. Doylestown, Pa: Democrat Book and Job Office Print, 1876.

I would always suggest starting with a general history of the area to get a feel for why, how and where your ancestors may have lived in that particular spot. Too many genealogists do their research in a vacuum.

A good place to start getting an idea of the records available for any given area, and especially for an old U.S. county such as Bucks, is to look at the list of records available in the Family History Library Catalog by place. Here are the results of a place search for Pennsylvania, Bucks:

The numbers following each entry are the number of catalog entries in each category. You can tell that you have a pretty good supply of documents to review. Most of these will be microfilms, but if they are available online from FamilySearch, they will be marked as online. Remember to do a Google search for the title of any documents to see if someone else has the document online before you order the microfilm. 

Next, you can do the same thing in Ancestry.com by going to the Card Catalog, Here are the first 25 of 65 entries just for Bucks County:

I think you get the idea. I also suggest looking at the Library of Congress' National Newspaper Project Chronicling America for newspapers published in Bucks County over the years. If you still need more there are a lot of other places to go, such as the Bucks County PA GenWeb. That should keep you busy searching records for a while. 

Stay tuned for my next Travels on the Web. If you would like to request a destination, leave a comment.

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