PENNSYLVANIA ORIGINAL LAND RECORDS SERIES FOR YORK COUNTY, PA

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  THE LAND RECORDS' STORY:

It's all Charlie's fault. I never intended to publish books and maps. I'm a victim of circumstance.  He made me do it! It just sort of - you know - happened.

In 1986 I was serving as pastor of a rural congregation in southern York County, PA that was founded in 1794. I'm the curious sort. And having written church histories before, I began to look into some of the early records. They were all there - founding documents, Baptism Registers, early Communion lists, early lists of Catechisms - and they were in good shape. So far, so good.

But I had also just begun a doctoral program, and one of my independent research advisors, Dr. Charles H. Glatfelter, Professor of History, Gettysburg College, who was appointed to my thesis committee, strongly urged me to look into the founding church family angle, especially from the original land records' perspective. Now, those of you who have ever done graduate study work know that when an advisor strongly suggests something, you'd better do it, or your Piled higher (and) Deeper will just sit there as compost.

So, as long as I was being required to do this meaningless drivel, (we call it "Mickey Mouse stuff" in graduate school, and there's a lot of it!) I thought I'd better get it over with. So, armed with a ton of misinformation and half guesses (sound familiar?), I sallied forth to the Pennsylvania Archives in Harrisburg, PA for a look-see, convinced that it was a waste of effort, and one of the dumber things I was about to do, in a long list of very dumb things I've done in my life. Apparently, I'm a slow learner.

Later I was in cahoots with the folks at the Historical Society of York (PA) [now the York County Heritage Trust], and the chase was on in earnest. It still looked like a pretty dumb thing for a grown person to be doing.

Soon I had the original Bethlehem (Steltz) church property surrounded with the original contiguous land warrant holders - all founding members of the church. And I thought, "why not?" So, I looked up their neighbors. And then I queried, "why not?" And I looked up their neighbors.

It wasn't long before I had done all of Codorus Township - thirty-some thousand acres, and that's a lot of "nexts". And it seemed like a good place to stop. But then a really awful and contagious illness hit! People actually wanted what I had researched, and were willing to pay real money for it! Now I was in real trouble.

"Would I do Manheim and Heidleberg Townships," they asked? Well, I'd had to do some of that work to finish the western boundary of Codorus, sure - why not?

And the rest is as you see. But, it's still all Charlie's fault. He modestly smiled when I say that - like there's some inside joke. See, I really am a slow learner. I still don't get it. Charlie and I had a running joke about all of this, that I won't be satisfied - or really done, until I hit the Mississippi River. Fat chance.

I received an e-mail a while back inquiring where I "copied" the work you see listed in this web site under my name. So everyone is clear. This is original research. No one else had ever done it previously. It simply isn't available anywhere else, from anyone. Period.

Some research confusion lies in that the PA Archives, under the auspices of the PA Legislature initiated a project some time ago that fully researched original land records for a number of the early PA counties: Berks, Bucks, Philadelphia and Lancaster, I think. These are at the PA Archives in Harrisburg, and copies at various Historical Societies in the Commonwealth.

York and Adams Counties were not among them. With downsizing in the PA Archives staff they no longer do this research on any sizable scale for any county. Except for private, independent research, there is no original land records research being done in PA.

The actual original records themselves are at various locations around the Commonwealth of PA: The Historical Society of PA in Philadelphia; the PA Archives in Harrisburg, PA; The Historical Society of York County, in York, PA, the Adams County Historical Society in Gettysburg, PA. Locating, securing copies, collating, organizing, indexing, plotting the surveys together, researching the township and county history, early road research, colonial church research - is what I do. If you think it looks easy, try it and let me know how you make out. If you are a real fanatic, get my "How to Plot" book, which guides you to do what I have done.

Another e-mail inquired what computer software I used to plot my connected draft warrant maps. Answer - none up through Map 25. I've tried a bunch of programs, and spend umpteen thousand dollars trying to find just the right program for what I do. There are many that have fine attributes and are worth your consideration, but none do quite what I needed them to do. So, until Volume 9, by hand - on a big drafting table I plotted out - by hand, with protractor, pencil, T square and ruler, the courses and distances for the maps. And also a BIG eraser! This really isn't as easy as the published versions look!

The newest maps: after Map 26 for York Township and Map 27 for Windsor and Lower Windsor Townships are CAD (Computer Assisted Design). All the Adams County maps are computer assisted design. The computer techno age had even reached Chambersburg, PA.

By January 2003 I had finished all of York County. For those who are into the vital statistics: 11,400 colonial surnames, 4,545 tracts of land, sixteen published volumes indexing 34 connected survey maps. If you meet me somewhere and inquire where such-and-such a piece of land was located, please pardon the blank look on my face. Over four thousand tracts of land covering some 580,000 acres is a lot of territory.

Since 2003 I re-did my earlier hand-plotted maps on CAD to bring them up to more contemporary standards, and to consolidate into one map the original smaller multi-section maps that were required to cover some townships. Now I've converted all of the earlier blueprint versions into CAD maps. Thus, on the map summary listings you may see, as an example: Maps 1-4 and 12-14 (consolidated): Codorus and North Codorus Townships.

When I moved to Franklin County in 1994 from Lancaster County, all thought that I was going too far west, and that I had broken my promise to "head west". But the work still continues as time and energy permit with a busy parish schedule and family life.

Thanks for visiting this web site and your tolerance with this story. But it's relatively harmless, and usually doesn't get you arrested like some other nasty habits. If you're doing similar work, be sure to do it discretely.

Should it be the case that you also do similar work with land records, please e-mail me. There are so few who do this work and we need to stick together.

God's blessings to you in all your worthy and loving endeavors!

Sincerely,

Neal Otto Hively (updated September 2014)

 

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