Published January 23, 2018| | Leave A Reply
It’s a not infrequent experience for me to encounter a genealogist – at a conference, by e-mail or even an occasional “cold call” on the phone – who utters the magic phrase, “Well, I’ve searched everything.”
Sometimes these folks are talking about a website.
Or a library.
Or a courthouse.
Or one particular type of record.
In virtually all instances, they’re wrong.
One of the few things I’m more confident about now after 30-plus years of genealogy is how much more there is that I don’t know.
It’s rare that any of us can know everything about what I call the “universe of possibilities” – that is, the full gamut of a type of record or the resources of a particular repository.
There’s always – always! – another record to check.
This was drilled home to me a few months ago when I researching in the Lebanon County Historical Society’s Hauck Research Archives.
I should note that I’m the type of researcher who doesn’t particularly like to be “mothered” once I’ve become oriented at a repository. I try to work independently and only ask for staff attention when I have focused questions.
As a result, Dr. Adam Bentz, the society’s librarian and archivist, pretty much lets me alone when I’m researching.
But on this occasion, I mentioned somewhat casually to Bentz that it was unfortunate that there are no surviving tax lists from the county’s beginnings in 1813 until the 1840s.
Bentz kind of scrunched is face at this and went to work in the database of the society’s holdings, which yielded a couple of interesting items.
One was original register titled “List of Taxable Inhabitants of Lebanon County” that appears to be a tax list from about 1826.
This, of course, was pretty darn interesting to me – a tax list from an era for which one was not previously known to exist – and about halfway between the once-in-a-decade federal censuses, to boot.
Among the features that interested me were the alternative spellings for some Lebanon County towns, such as “Mayerstown” for Myerstown and “Sheafferstown” for Schaefferstown (and Fredericksburg was known by its archaic name of “Stumpstown”).
While poking around the “cobwebbed” corners to find the 1826 tax register, Bentz also showed me a register from the county’s Prothonotary Office titled “Insolvent Debtors, 1824-1841.”
This register appears to be an index with only the names of the debtors and a date (presumably the term of the Court of Common Pleas term in which the insolvency was declared).
Naturally, a familiar name showed up, listed for the April 1834 term: My great-great-great-grandfather Peter Daub.
There’s always something more to research.