Top

Franklin County Visitors Bureau

Researching House Histories: First the Family, Then the House

One of the most frequently asked questions at our Historical Society and our Archives in Franklin County is, “How can I find when my house was built?” Following is a taste of our workshop, “Researching Franklin County House Histories.” When researching house histories, the most important principle is that you must research the family to research the house. However, another guideline is to find similar houses in the same area, that may provide clues to builders and time periods.

I’ve lived in my late 19th century house since 1986. Unlike urban areas, my house sits alone in rural Franklin County, and it’s harder to find an exact duplicate. But driving to Greencastle, six miles southwest of where I live, there is a house that always attracted my attention—because it’s my house’s twin. The exterior has the same brick pattern, front porch style, side porches, slate roof, chimneys, windows, doors, etc. Photos of my house are on the left, and it’s twin are on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I’ve always wondered about the inside—until now. Through county tax records, I found the current owner and researched the title back to the earliest deeds. Like my house, there was no mention of the house itself—only the property. Like mine, it was likely built in the late 19th century. I then contacted the owner, who invited me to see his house. Merritt and I spent about two hours talking about how our houses were similar.

His kitchen is still located where my original kitchen used to be. My former kitchen is now my dining room. My current kitchen is part of a 1970s addition. My former and his current kitchen also differ in that mine has a bay window, and his doesn’t, something he would love to have to let more light in. But both have the original wainscoting. Our basement doors are located in this room, and both have an exterior access.

Our interior doors, baseboard, and trim are also similar.

   

But I have transoms over the downstairs doorways.

    

And my floorboards are wider.

   

My double front doors are original. Merritt couldn’t find anyone to repair his and had to replace them with a sidelight and single door. But the transom and trim remain the same. Our tiny front entrance foyers are the same, with one room to the right and one to the left. However, Merritt removed wall sections on both sides of the main stairway to give it a more open feel, which brightens the whole area. His stairway had full walls on both sides, but mine is open on the top left with a railing on the second floor. One huge difference is that my house has a second back stairway leading into the former kitchen, and his only has the front stairs.

   

My first and second floor side porches (opposite side of his house) were enclosed by former owners to add hallways and a bathroom. His remain original, and they are awesome.

   

Neither of our houses had bathrooms in the 1800s, and the former owners chose different locations for our upstairs bathrooms. We both have identical second-floor closets, located under the stairways, that are accessed by going up 2 steps.

I then invited Merritt to my house, and he was also amazed at the likenesses. We believe our houses were built around the same time, don’t know by whom, but will continue to look for clues. Merritt will also be my guest at the 5-hour “Researching Franklin County House Histories” workshop on Monday, June 27 2022 that I am coordinating with the Franklin County Archives and Geographic Information Systems. It will be held at the Franklin County Visitors Bureau, one of our sponsors with the Franklin County Historical Society. To register, complete and return the Registration Form to Pam@AndersonCogen.com.

Through researching my house history, I found more than my house’s twin. I found another historic house enthusiast. Maybe you will, too.

Vacationing with Your Ancestors – With the Help of a Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA)

It’s that time of year when we all begin planning and looking forward to summer vacations. And if you’re like me, you try to schedule at least one trip around researching some of your ancestors in a really great place—and everyone in Franklin County, Pennsylvania hopes your ancestors lived here—and that you’ll be visiting us soon!

To help prepare for your trip, check out our Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) program through the Franklin County Visitors Bureau (FCVB). This year, the FCVB invested in this nationwide program whose objective is “to increase regional tourism by inspiring front-line employees and volunteers to turn every visitor encounter into a positive experience.” So how does a CTA fit into a genealogy vacation?

Franklin County’s First CTA Training

 

 

 

 

 

 

My hope is that by becoming a CTA, I can make every researchers’ visit to Franklin County the most fulfilling it can be. I do this by studying all aspects of Franklin County, to be the go-to source for finding Pennsylvania ancestors. I’ve learned through experience that my most successful trips were those where I contacted area experts who helped guide my research. Rather than using the hit-and-miss method when I wasn’t familiar with county towns and townships, these knowledgeable people pointed me to the most important repositories and sights, such as:

  • Courthouses & Archives
  • Historical Societies & Libraries
  • Ancestral Homes & Farms
  • Schools
  • Businesses
  • Churches
  • Funeral Homes & Cemeteries

Besides giving directions, locals also know what records each repository may hold that will helpful when researching your family history. We also know the best and most convenient lodging, restaurants, and other non-genealogy things to do (for any family members who might not be into the research thing).

So when planning your “family” vacation, don’t forget to contact someone who will make sure you spend your time as efficiently and productively as possible. In Franklin County, it’s definitely a CTA—and it could be me!

Janet Pollard, Franklin County Visitor’s Bureau, and a new CTA

 

You Always Remember Your First Time. . . .

Your First Franklin County Genealogy Workshop, Of Course!

Yes, it’s over *sad face* but it was so much fun! A great group attended our first “Finding Family in Franklin County” genealogy workshop. Because of their honest feedback, I am calling this our Pilot Program. I especially enjoyed catching up with everyone at breakfast and dinner. My first question was always—hesitantly—“Did you find any new records?” And the answer from everyone was, “YES!” Someone even found a real live cousin!

The attendees from Virginia, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh checked into the Mercersburg Inn at noon on Wednesday. That afternoon, we presented three 45-minute sessions:

Wednesday night, we met for dinner at the James Buchanan Pub and Restaurant for great conversation and discussion of plans for Thursday—where people going and what they were looking for.

Justin McHenry with Bill & Nancy at the Franklin County Archives

On Thursday morning we met for breakfast to give everyone an encouraging send-off. Individuals went to the Conococheague Institute in Welsh Run, Fendrick Library in Mercersburg—actually 2 people went there Wednesday before and after dinner—the Franklin County Historical Society and of course, the much heralded Franklin County Archives. Coincidentally, everyone was researching in the south-western part of the county, so they could discuss where they were going and what resources they were looking for. As I checked in at the various repositories, it was evident that everyone was doing fine, and appreciated the time to research on their own. We met again for dinner and to share what everyone found. Justin McHenry at the Archives was clearly the star of the day, finding records that others were not aware existed.

Jean working at the Franklin County Historical Society

On Friday morning, at our final meal together, the group openly shared their thoughts on the workshop. This was a true debrief of what everyone liked and what could be improved for next time—and there WILL be a next time! Because of the great relationships we developed in three short days, we got excellent feedback on what to continue and what to add. Some of the suggestions were to include historic tours as an option, rotate the venue around the county, discuss more about cemeteries and church records, and include more “locals” from the genealogy community—all ideas that we will definitely look at incorporating into the next session.

But mostly there was praise for the workshop:

“This workshop would benefit beginning researchers as well as more experienced researchers because we could choose What and Where to research and go at our own pace. The discussions about the local repositories and what they offer was the jumping off point for us to explore what interested us. Pam was an excellent facilitator to point us in the most advantageous direction for our personal research goals.”

I couldn’t have worked with a better team. Thank you Janet and Justin—and my advisors!!

Me with my group of “Advisors”

After the group picture—it’s what we genealogists do—I thought everyone would head home, but I was wrong. After checking out, everyone went on another excursion, either to a repository or sight-seeing around the county. And I went home, satisfied that we did what we set out to do—help others Find Family in Franklin County.

We take pride in our work, and it shows

What Our Clients Are Saying