Uncover Hidden Heritage in Greene County
By Colleen Nelson and Emma Herrle
Think your ancestors might have passed through Greene County? Visit Cornerstone Genealogical Society and take a stroll through local history.
This nonprofit, all-volunteer organization maintains a library dedicated to recording the documented history of Greene County, PA. The collection of records has attracted those interested in family history and the migration patterns of the early settlers of the nation. At the center of the genealogical society’s collection is 2,000 family histories, many of which have been privately published, and are categorized by at least 1,700 surnames. Their collections also contain 400 microfilm rolls of Greene County newspapers dating back to 1861, cemetery records, maps, wills, and deed information. They house the complete Pennsylvania Archives, the Mayflower Families Collection, general genealogical works, and materials on other Pennsylvania Counties, particularly Washington and Fayette.
Visitors to the Library also have access to Ancestry’s Library edition and FamilySearch’s Affiliate Library proprietary databases.
Visit Cornerstone Genealogical Society
If you wish to know more about the roots from which you came, we strongly suggest a visit to the library or purchasing membership access to the library’s databases. Being that Greene County populated from such a rich and diverse background, there’s is a strong chance you will come across family lines and history that will unlock unknown stories of the past. Serendipity has its way when people arrive at Cornerstone only to find strangers researching the same family tree. Volunteer Bonnie Kiger remembers, “I walked by a table one day that was full of photos that someone had brought in and there was my husband’s graduation photo!”
A visit to Cornerstone Genealogical Society in itself is a trip back in time as you visit the old log building that was once Greene County’s first courthouse. Within the restored log courthouse’s research annex are answers that identify lost relatives or family’s attached to a gas and oil leasing, scrapbooks of the County’s many village churches and once extensive network of one-room schoolhouses, and over 140 books, many rare and published in the 19th Century, related to the settlement of the Upper Ohio River Valley and the pioneer history of the Trans-Allegheny frontier. Leave the annex and stroll into the log courthouse to stand by the turkey breast fireplace where lawyers once warmed themselves as they prepared their briefs to be taken to the judge who had his chambers upstairs. This historic room is now used for meetings that include speakers who deep-dive into stories of the past.
The Society’s Foundings
The society was born September 29, 1975 when author Dorothy T. Hennen and a group of friends, already busy researching their own family histories, decided to draw up bylaws and make things official. Within a year, there were more than 200 members and growing, as researching family histories became a national craze with the upcoming bicentennial of 1976.
Hennen had a passion, not just for her family and her husband’s, but for all the family lines in Greene County. The genesis of Cornerstone can be found through the cemetery records that were gathered by these founding members. Hennen and her friends began hiking the hills in 1975, looking for old cemeteries and documenting the inhabitant of every grave. When the cemetery records were completed in 1980 there were 13 volumes including a master index, printed and ready for sale.
One thing lead to another as passions and members grew. Years of research went into the documentation of 19th century censuses on microfilm, families began to share and tell their stories, photos were collected and organized for the public to enjoy, and social media brought Cornerstone’s followers together in a space where information could be instantaneously shared.
Find more Records online through Greene Connections
Looking for further resources and records? Cornerstone encourages you to explore their sister website, Greene Connections. The web archive contains thousands of family and Greene County archival items such as photographs, letters, Bibles, diaries, Justice of the Peace dockets, maps, newspapers, and more have been shared by families and repositories. Photo collections are added regularly.
Greene Connections also has an active Public Group on Facebook, with over 2,000 members. The page is used to share finds relating to the details of Greene County’s rich genealogical heritage.
Through the resources page on Greene Connections website, one can find links and references to additional Greene County records available either online or in-person.
Discover more Local History
Still haven’t had your fill on history? The Greene County Historical Society and Museum, Carmichaels Area Historical Society and the Paul R. Stewart Museum have more stories to tell about the history surrounding this corner of the state. Collections of local artifacts, displays of significant historic items, and plenty of stories to be told are at your disposal upon visitation to any of these locations.
History prevails as one of this area’s greatest attractions. Whether its Native Americans, early settlers from across the seas, remnants of colonial America, and even legends of past spirits that haunt the lands, those who look are sure to find.