St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Monday, November 08, 2010

Tis the Season: Making the List and Dabbing Our Eyes

How many times have you cried when reading of a death or while attending a marriage? Early newspapers can be a great source for us genealogy buffs.  Just think. Our ancestors used the printed press as a great way to communicate items of importance.

It's just so rewarding in today's world to find those old notices.  Of course, sometimes those old notices leave a lot to be desired.  As a friend reminded me recently, our loved ones didn't move around that much in the old days and so detailed obituaries weren't necessary.  If one could read and knew the family, then the reader would most likely have known the details that today's genealogy buffs are digging for.

The all volunteer group that is diligently working on indexing Pittsburgh and Allegheny Co, Pennsylvania deaths, marriages, divorces and photos from early Pittsburgh area newspapers is still digging in the newspapers to find them.

I just can't believe this little project I suggested and spearhead is now close to being one year old.  Our actual anniversary is in January, but now is the perfect season for me to give thanks to the wonderful volunteers who are involved with me on this list.

The last update for deaths now includes 56, 599 names while the marriage index now has 14, 440 happy couples.

Be sure to check it out at

The project was noted in recent editions of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter,Georgia Front Page, and the Western PA Genealogy Society.  Here is the press on our little index project:

Early Pittsburgh Marriages and Deaths Indices are Online and Growing

In January 2010, a small band of genealogy seekers embarked on a project to make anyone who has roots in the Pittsburgh area jump for joy.  43 volunteers have been indexing marriages, deaths, and divorces from early Allegheny County newspapers and putting it all online at no cost.  Over 52,000 death entries and over 11,000 marriages have been indexed and put online through August.  The dates of the newspapers range from 1806-1987.

Project coordinator Ann S Eldredge says the idea of an index came to her as she regularly keeps in touch with other Pittsburgh researchers on the popular mailing list of Allegheny County sponsored by  An avid genealogy researcher, Eldredge remarked, "I saw on the list that Google had put images of several old newspapers online and Pittsburgh was on it. After spending many hours of looking for my family and investing in Visine for the eye strain, I realized I couldn't be the only one who had uncovered a few golden nuggets of information. It seemed so simple.  If anyone was looking at any of the dates, they could write down all the names of that day.  After all, how many of your ancestors do you not know when they married or died?"

With that simple question posed to the group, an index was born.  Eldredge volunteered to capture the names the volunteers put on the list. List member Norm Minert quickly set up a page for the newspapers submitted so there would be no duplication of efforts.  USGenWeb Allegheny County Archives File Manager Ellis Michaels volunteered to get the the submitted indices online.

The daily newspaper lists began to pore in.  "It didn't take long for the sheer volume of names being submitted to become overwhelming," said Eldredge.  "I quickly realized I needed help.  I put a call out for volunteers to assist on my end, and they came. The enthusiasm and dedication of the volunteers are inspiring.  The work they are doing for family researchers and genealogy buffs is just fantastic.  What a gift to give."

"It's been an amazing journey over the last eight months as the volunteers have graciously given their time to read the old newspapers.  We have so many death and marriage entries from 1889 and 1890.  Since the census was lost for 1890, this almost serves as a substitute. I've found my relatives through this project.  Some of the death entries have even led to connections with living cousins.  It's been worth it."

"Stop on by and see what our volunteers have done," Eldredge said as a smile came across her face. "After all, the good folks of Pittsburgh are just dying to get in."

To view the death, marriage and divorce indices, go to .

Permission was sought from other groups to reprint the press release while kudos poured in.

Here are some of the comments sent.  While the comments came in my mailbox, the words are for all of the fantastic volunteers on this project.

"Thank you again and you have done a wonderful job.  A tip of the hat to you."
JR Jamieson, Project Volunteer

"Thank you for taking the time to index these newspaper articles.  They are wonderful for any Allegheny Co., PA researcher."
Melinda Pennington, Editor, Pennington Pedigrees

"Congrats on taking on the Pittsburgh newspaper indexing project. It is well-appreciated. Although some of the newspapers were indexed on microfilm, there was a huge gap."
Elissa Scalise Powell, CG

"I saw the article in Eastman's newsletter about your indexing project.  It's a great project.  Would you grant me permission to use the article or excerpts from the article in the North Hills Genealogists newsletter?"
Amy Arner, Co Editor, North Hills Genealogists Newsletter

Ahhh, genealogy.  Sometimes you just got to have a box of tissue nearby.

Update 11/16/2010:  Another great comment on our work:
"In 1905 there were 5 Buckley children placed in St Joseph's orphanage. No one in today's generation knew about them. Because of your efforts and the additional scraps of information made available we were able to find descendants of each of the 4 who had children. We are building the bridge back. Thank you for your fine work.'
John S

©2010 AS Eldredge

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