Family Genealogy Road Trip Travelogues

Genealogy Road Trip, Day Two

This morning leaving Clarion, there was frost on the car and on the grass. Pretty early for me. But after an hour or two, things began to warm up and I spent the day in a short sleeve shirt. But why am I telling you this? Just east of Clarion is a bit of roadside Americana.

I know I didn’t rave much about Clarion. It was a so-so PA town, not nearly as pretty as Bellefont or Lewisburg, but still a “going concern.” Not so Kittanny. By the way, say it with me once: ki – TAH – knee. I kept wanting to say “Kitattinny,” which is a common place name in New Jersey. But I digress. It’s kind of a sad place. 9:00 a.m., the county seat, the sidewalks were empty.

The storefronts that weren’t abandoned or shuttered hosted dollar stores, diners with empty seats during the breakfast rush, thrift shops and the like. I wanted to find a t-shirt store and have some made up:

My dad went to Kittanny and thank goodness all I got was this lousy t-shirt.

Snarky? Sure. It’s clear that the town used to be “someplace,” based on the nice real estate on the park along the Allegheny River.

And we had to wonder where it all went wrong. I guess the answer is the usual suspects for most towns like this. A better question would be why some towns continue to thrive and be beautiful places to live, and others wither and die.

Right along the riverfront is a lovely well-landscaped park near the bridge over the river:

Shari and I strolled along the river, cut up into the nicer neighborhood, such as it was, and spent the morning in the library.

The library here was actually more interesting than the very good one in Clarion. The staff was really helpful, and we found some good leads. One of them turned out to be a bit of a dead end, so to speak.

Sorry, couldn’t resist. I was hot on Anna Laura because we had lots to work with. A gravesite, a will, a family. But alas, it doesn’t appear to be a relation. It’s something to watch out for in this genealogy game. Like the drunk looking for his wallet under the lamppost because the light is better there, a lot of information doesn’t mean that you’ve found someone that fits.

Likewise, we approached the County Courthouse with a lot of hope and enthusiasm. We found the relevant names, looked them up in the microfiche, but found very little. This is the courthouse itself, occupying a dominant position at the head of Market Street, straight up from the bridge shown above.

After generally striking out, we drove over to Butler, PA, which we’re confident will be the motherlode of information. Our grandfather was born there, and his parents lived there. It should be no problem to find the documents and locations we want, and we’re excited to be spending the next two days there.

Here’s a tombstone from the “North Cemetery,” where one of our great-uncles is buried, with his family:

Tomorrow, the offices there will be open, so we’re hoping to find even more dead people. [googleMap name=”Kittanny, Pennsylvania” width=”450″ height=”400″]Kittanny, PA[/googleMap]

Tom McGee has been building web sites since 1995, and blogging here since 2006. Currently a senior developer at Seton Hall University, he's also a freelance web programmer and musician. Contact him if you have the need for a blog, web site, redesign or custom programming!

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