April 2021 Program - Mother Cumberland:
Researching with Cumberland County Records
By Cara Curtis, Cumberland County Historical Society
In its early years, Cumberland County spread west toward Pittsburgh and north into modern day Centre County. Many immigrants traveled through south-central Pennsylvania. Sometimes they would only stay for a short period of time before continuing on their journey. Others stayed and put down very strong roots. This discussion will take a look at the records that are available in Cumberland County that will be will useful on your genealogical searches. We will also learn about some of the institutions where those records can be found. While some of these records will be similar to what is found in other Pennsylvania Counties, some resources are unique to Cumberland County. Come and learn some useful tips for researching in Cumberland County.
Cara Holtry Curtis has been the Archives & Library Director of the Cumberland County Historical Society since 2008. She has an Master’s in Applied History from Shippensburg University and a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. She is working to tell a fuller history of Cumberland County and making the collections more accessible to the public.
This archived presentation may be watched here.
Summary of the April 11, 2021 program, “Mother Cumberland”
Cara presented an interesting and informative look at the various research opportunities in Cumberland County. She started with a 1775 map of Cumberland County which showed the extensive boundaries of the county at that time, pointing out that Bedford, Franklin, and Perry counties were all formed from this vast area of land. Carla recommended Raymond M Bell’s book – Mother Cumberland- Tracing your Ancestors in South Central Pennsylvania – as a necessary reference for anyone researching the 10 counties in South Central Pennsylvania. She described the various research locations in the area and their holdings – stressing that they each have materials relevant to that particular area- before an in depth look at the holdings of the Cumberland County Historical Society.
The locations presented were:
- Newville Historical Society - https://newvillehistoricalsociety.weebly.com/
- Mechanicsburg Museum Association - http://www.mechanicsburgmuseum.org/
- Shiremanstown Historical Society - http://www.s-townhs.org/
- Historical Society of East Pennsboro (Enola Miller House) - https://eastpennhistory.org/
- West Shore Historical Society - https://westshorehistoricalsociety.com/
- Cumberland County Historical Society (https://www.historicalsociety.com)
Also included were the following colleges – their archives contain collections that include information on local history, college organizations and students
- Dickinson College (student archives) - http://archives.dickinson.edu/
- Shippensburg University - https://library.ship.edu
- Messiah University (regional archives for the Brethren Church)- https://www.messiah.edu/info/20271/collections/337/archives_of_messiah_college
- U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center - https://ahec.armywarcollege.edu/
Cumberland County Historical Society was founded in 1874. There are over 2400 genealogical and publication files. Some of those files contain the special collections of Mary Lou Schuman, the Flower Files (DAR). The society has a Church and Cemetery Records Index which has over 900 entries. The photograph collection has over 50, 000 photographs starting with the 1860’s. There are 49 volumes to the “First Family Series” – each volume tracing land ownership for a specific part of the county.
The society does not contain government records. Those were transferred from the Society to the Cumberland County Archives. There are some records which were on microfilm at the Society.
Future plans are to increase document preservation, accessibility to records, expansion of research on “ignored history” and to create “genealogy road trips”.
Summary by Becky Anstine.