Monday, May 2, 2016

Looking for Resources
in All the Old Places

The most likely go-to resource for genealogical research now seems to be online: the various collections at websites such as,, or FindMyPast.comor a myriad of other sites springing up each year. When I first began this journey into the history of my husband's Gordon ancestors in the early 1990s, the choices were decidedly limited: either locate the source documents, or find material via published books.

Fortunately, unbeknownst to me at the time, our local library had been the recipients of a decades-long tradition of donations of genealogical reference books, courtesy of our county's genealogical society. While the collection back then was nowhere near the three thousand volumes of which they can boast today, it was sizeable enough to include old volumes on the very counties in which our Gordons once resided. And for those books not in our local collection, there wasat least back thenthe option of requesting specific titles to be borrowed, free of charge, via inter-library loan.

In addition to that sixty-two page gem I mentioned yesterday, The Gordons of Greene County Pennsylvania, somehow I had located two other helpful books.

One, originally published in 1950, which was written by Howard L. Leckey and sponsored by the Greene County Historical Society, ran well over seven hundred pages. Thankfully, The Tenmile Country and its Pioneer Families included several gems about the extended Gordon familytidbits a researcher might not ordinarily discover without actually traveling to the local area where the family once lived.

The other one, William Hanna's 1882 History of Greene County, Pa., though seemingly more generic in its approach, was sufficient to provide background informationplus include a few entries concerning the extended Gordon family.

I pulled out my Gordon notes from the old file cabinetI hadn't put that drawer of material through its paces in probably a decadeand took a look at where my research progress stood, pre-advent of computer-assisted family history research. I have more details tucked away in the folders labeled with surnames of affiliated family lines which I'll need to delve into, as well, but for now, one thought occurred to me: why not marry the old to the new? Refer to the old notes to find direction for which items to follow up on, now that we have the research power of online access at our fingertips.

That's when I tried to find these books online. After all, between Google Books, Internet Archive, Hathi Trust, Project Gutenberg and other websites digitizing public domain books, surely I could locate complete copies of these volumes online. And then, plug in the option of looking for specific search terms germane to this quest to discover more on the Gordon family.

Because the Leckey book has received several updates, it is not considered to be in the public domain, so not available online. However, not only did I find the Hanna History of Greene County, Pa. online, but Internet Archive also had another similarly named book by Samuel P. Bates, published out of Chicago only a few years after the Hanna volume. (An added bonus was the discovery, once I looked there for specific titles, that the latter volume was also included in the catalog at, yielding me several Gordon references which can be added directly to my husband's family tree on that website.)

The one book lacking of my old bibliography was The Gordons of Greene County, Pennsylvania, making me all the more thankful that when I first requested a copy via interlibrary loan, since the volume was so small, what I got was actually a photocopy of the book. Judging by the listings on WorldCat, there are not that many copies out there to be had.

There seems to be a tendency, once we are gifted with new research toys, to forget the discoveries from years backthe very ones we were once thrilled to locate. It never hurts to review old material, to see with fresh eyes the old text in which might be hidden clues we were too dull to comprehend when the search was new to us. Bonding those gems with the search techniques with which we are currently enabled, thanks to technology, we may find the combined approach to supercharge our research progress.     


  1. I love finding and reading "self-published" (in a manner of speaking) family genealogies - even if they aren't my family!

    1. They certainly can make for some fascinating local history discoveries! At least from the "micro-history" angle.


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