Family History Focus Areas


Cumberland County Historical Society
Saturday October 21st
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Each Focus Area will be staffed with experts to answer your specific questions and offer guidance. Focus areas are designed for one-on-one conversations and as time permits, experts will make suggestions relevant to your own family research. While the expert will not be able to actually research your family, they can point you to resources for you to later explore. While you are waiting to talk with them, you will have the opportunity to examine printed resources and books, view relevant source documents, and see cultural artifacts from the period. Equally important, you can share your family story with others whose ancestors followed the same path as yours. Your stories may resonate with each other.

Cumberland Pathways will offer five Family History Focus Areas:

Trends in Genealogy

This area is designed to answer your genealogy “how to” questions.  These can range from steps on getting started to suggestions for breaking through a brick wall in your research.   Experts in using and other on-line resources will answer specific questions related to popular data bases and tools.  At the resource table, you will be inspired by books and family history products.  You can find new ways to present your research by viewing samples created by others.  We encourage conference participants to share examples of how they have documented their own family story.

Searching for Colonial Ancestors

This area is designed for people who wish to trace ancestors who arrived in America before the American Revolution.  If your ancestors include early Scots Irish and German-speaking immigrants into Pennsylvania, regional experts will be here to guide your search.  They will be able to explain early Pennsylvania land and other governmental records that are vital to family history research.  D.A.R. members will be in this area to explain the requirements for membership for those interested in joining a lineage society.

Recreating the Journey of 19th Century Americans

The period between the founding of the United States and the Industrial Revolution saw great migration into America.  Blight destroyed potatoes in Ireland and Europe was rocked by violence.  Europeans drawn by the hope and promise of a new country fled to America.  Many immigrants sought land to farm in America but soon became soldiers as they were drafted into the Union Army.  During this time, an ever increasing wave of land-hungry migrants moved west from Central Pennsylvania, leaving clues behind in our archives to be found by their descendants. Experts will help you unravel these clues and point you to resources you may have overlooked.

Tracing Your African American Story

Many African Americans can find their story in the history of the Cumberland Valley.  The Valley reflects America’s story.  Slavery existed here in the early days of Cumberland County but died out by the 1840s.  In the next decades, the Valley became a pathway to freedom for many African Americans via the Underground Railroad.  After emancipation, many freed blacks made their home here and several African American communities grew.  At Cumberland Pathways, you will have the chance to talk to experts who can help you trace your ancestor’s journey from slavery to emancipation, and then follow their migration north and/or west in the late nineteenth or twentieth century.

Finding those who arrived in the Great Migration of the late 19th – early 20th Century

“Huddled masses yearning to be free” arrived in America in great droves during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Revolution had rocked Europe, toppling monarchies, and throwing much of Eastern Europe into chaos and violence.  Experts stationed at this focus area will offer suggestions to people tracing ancestors who arrived in America during this period.  They may be able to provide suggestions for finding your ancestral records in the “old country.”  Share your story with others whose ancestors came into America through Ellis Island or one of the other Eastern ports.

©2017 Cumberland County Historical Society | Cumberland Pathways | A Biennial initiative of the Cumberland County Historical Society