Lost and Found in Coudersport PA

Bartoo Circus

Detail of the Bartoo Carnival on display at the Potter County Historical Society.

A repost from my old blog. Originally published on 8/26/09 as “How I Got Lost In Pennsylvania and Found My Grandparents,” presented in a slightly edited format now … Enjoy!

A while back, I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the Potter County Historical Society in Coudersport, Pennsylvania. It was one of those times when I just wanted to turn my face heavenward and say, “God, I don’t know why You bless me like this, but I’m sure glad You do.”

I was actually angling for the courthouse to look up birth, death, marriage, and land records. However, when I got there, the security personnel said the records I wanted would be stored at the annex. He told me how to get there, but I walked out on the street and promptly became confused. I kept walking up Main until I looked up, and there was the the Historical Society.

They’ll know where the courthouse annex is, I thought wisely.

So I walked in off the street and into a little house and a little room full of books and files and old newspapers. Seated at the tables were six or eight people, working busily over a variety of texts. I spent the next few minutes feeling as stupid-but-lucky as anyone has ever been. It went something like this:

“Duh,” I said, twirling my hair and smacking my gum. “Like, I wanna do some genealogy and junk? So like, do you know where the courthouse annex is or whatever?”
“Certainly, it’s up the street two blocks on the left. Do you know where the old school house is?”
“Like, no. I’m from Georgia. Wow, like, you have a lot of stuff in here.”
“What names are you researching?”
“Wow, I totally can’t think of anything about my own family enough to have an intelligent conversation or whatever. Um, Van Pelt? Oh, and Baker?
“Samuel Baker?”
“I have this genealogy that was only distributed to members of the family. It was donated to the Society but no one here ever uses it. Would you like to have it?”
“Duh, like, totally!”

I was not unaware of the daggers being shot at me by twelve to sixteen eyeballs in the room. One of the women working over a two inch binder which appeared to be a list of names looked at me sweetly and said, “Wow. You got a whole book. How nice for you.”

And it was nice for me. This book lists the generations of Samuel and Maranda Ingly Baker’s descendants through my own mother’s generation. Samuel and Maranda are my great-great-great-great grandparents, and this genealogy included photocopied pictures of them. Not the greatest quality, but guess how many others of my 4th great-grandparents I have pictures of? 10 points if you said “Zero.”

While I was flipping through the Baker book, the woman in charge of the Society also ran photocopies of some Van Pelt obits for me. And that is how I learned that William Van Pelt’s parents were Samuel and Sarah Neal Van Pelt. Thus I was able to add another set of great-great-great-great grandparents.

I still shake my head that I just walked in off the street for directions, and walked away with such a treasury of information on two different lines of my family tree.


“Duh,” I said, twirling my hair and smacking my gum…ย @brandyhei wins the genealogical lottery in Potter County PA. (Click to tweet this.)

My great-great-great-great grandparents? That’s… great! (Click to tweet this.)

A funny thing happened on my way to the courthouse annex…ย (Click to tweet this.)

Question for You

Got a great happy accident story? Tell it in the comments! (It doesn’t have to be genealogy- or research-related!)

6 Replies to “Lost and Found in Coudersport PA”

    1. I recommend it, if circumstances permit. Those on-site research opportunities are a rare treat for me, since I live so far from any clump of dirt where my ancestors may have trod. When you’re used to searching online, it’s a completely different experience. ๐Ÿ™‚

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