PENNSYLVANIA LATTA RESEARCH
By Sue Lattea Cox, Branch 17
I had a wonderful discovery this past week when my sister Charlene and I went to Pennsylvania to do some research. As Branch Captain of Branch 17, I have been corresponding with Sharon Crouser in California and Betty Kitchen in Ohio. We had pooled our information together about John Latta, the beginning of our branch, who lived in Huntingdon County, PA. We had come to the conclusion that between the 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820 and 1830 Huntingdon County Census, that John and his wife had 5 sons and 7 daughters. John died sometime around 1831 at the home of his son, Abraham who was living in Henderson Township during the 1830 census. Abraham died in 1831 and his estate was started and dropped in Huntingdon County because his wife, Martha had moved to Ohio after stating that "she never would pay the heirs of said dec'd one cent of the money coming to them from said estate and that they never should have one cent of it." Unable to find Martha, the court dropped the proceedings. Nothing else is recorded about who got what, if anything. We determined that John's others sons were William, who first showed up with a wife and one son and one daughter, both under the age of 10, in the 1800 census, and another son "M" who showed up with a wife and three young sons under 10, and 4 daughters under 10, in the 1810 census. We knew that John also had another son named John, because Betty and I are descendants of him. That left us with one son unaccounted for. Sharon is a descendant of a daughter, Rachel Latta who married David Cornelius. Another daughter, Catherine married Isaac Burns and moved to Iowa. After deciding what information we already had and what information we needed, I made a list of what we wanted to look for and asked Betty and Sharon for their input. Sharon had found on the internet where a James Dailey had sold 300 acres in Dublin Twp on the waters of Aughwick Creek to John Latta. The deed was dated 1774 and recorded in Bedford County, PA in Deed Book A, page 84. Huntingdon became a county in 1787 from a part of Bedford.
With this information in hand, my sister and I started out early on Wednesday morning from Morgantown, West Virginia and drove two hours to Bedford, Pennsylvania. Bedford is a quaint, quiet little town with a beautiful little courthouse. Many of their records are on microfilm and a courthouse secretary was giving a tour to a group of people about genealogy. Listening in on the tour, we discovered that the computers on the tables held a lot of information. If we typed in our "Latta" the computer would list all of the records in the courthouse with that name. The only old listing that we found for Latta was the deed that we had gotten a copy of and an estate for William Latta that Paul Calhoun had already talked about with us and who was not related to our branch that we knew of.
We left Bedford and traveled on to Huntingdon to the courthouse. Although Huntingdon became a county in 1787, they did not start recording a lot of their information, such as marriages, until 1885. Thus, there were only two books in the whole courthouse that we had access to with records as far back as we wanted. Old records were stored in the basement, but the index was upstairs. Since we had all the information in the Courthouse from my last visit, we decided to wade through some of the old books in the basement to see what they had. Drifting out of the basement dusty and dirty an hour later, we headed over to the Historical Society located behind the library just down the street. The Historical Society is only open on Tuesday and Wednesday and we, luckily, were there on a Wednesday. I had visited the Historical Society about four years ago, but was unaware that they had the county tax assessments on microfilm there. Arriving at 3:00 p.m., we learned that they were only open until 4:00 p.m. So after paying our $3.00 search fee each, Charlene and I set out on our research. Charlene wanted to look through the books and since there was only one microfilm recorded working half-way decent, I started on the microfilm. The two elderly women attending the society that day were a great help. However, looking for the "Shirley Township" records proved interesting. Looking through the microfilm drawer, the first lady decided that Shirley records must be included in "Dublin" since she could find no box labeled "Shirley." After searching for about 20 minutes in Dublin township and finding nothing, I turned and opened the microfilm drawer myself to double check the boxes. I knew that our notes had stated that John Latta was assessed with 200 acres, two horses and two cows in 1795, but I could not find him in the 1795 listing for Dublin Township. Seeing me open the drawer, the second woman came over and informed me that I was not allowed in the drawer and that she would have to assist me. I told her what I was looking for and she looked through the microfilm again. Turning over a box that was upside down, we discovered "Shirley." I then had about 1/2 hour to continue my search. Since John had bought the land in 1774, I immediately started finding him taxed. In 1788, John was taxed for 200 acres, one horse, one horned cow. In 1789, he was taxed for 150 acres, one horse. In 1791, he was taxed for 200 acres, two horned cattle, and one horse. I began to get confused over the 150 acre assessment one year, then 200 the next, back to 150 the next. I never did figure out why the assessment changed. However, in 1791, I found his son William Latta assessed as a "single freeman" for the first time. I rewound the tape to make sure of the year. Rewinding the tape and forwarding the tape proved to be interesting, since the crank was not working and I was winding by hand. Then came the discovery. In 1795 under single free men, I found the name "George Latta." I looked at it and said "George?" Where did "George" come from? The first George that I had a record of was George Madison Latta, son of John Latta II> This George must be the 5th son that we didn't have a name for. This was very exciting. I sat looking at the name in front of me, and then I heard "we are closing now, you will have to rewind that tape." At that moment, I wanted time to stand still. I still had records to look up through 1876, and I knew that if I only had another hour that I could find out what "M's" real name was (a son listed in the census). The woman informed us that we could back on a Saturday by calling a certain woman and paying her $10 an hour to open for research. I think I will go back on another Wednesday.
Leaving the Historical Society, we headed to the Beeghly Library on the campus of Juniata College, about five blocks away to look at microfilm of the Huntington Gazette from 1806 through 1835. Having decided that our Abraham died in 1831, we thought we would look for his obituary or death. Perhaps we would be lucky and find a death for John Latta, who was listed as being between 70-80 years old in the 1830 census. But alas, after an hour and a half of reading the fine print, we found that the records for 1823-1833 were missing, and the only other area information for Huntingdon County between 1806 to 1810 was militia meeting announcements and notices of an occasional horse that had wandered onto someone's property who they were trying to find an owner for. Other news included national information and stories. A few deaths and marriages were listed, but were very rare.
After leaving the college about 6:30, we decided to head over to the town of Shirley and see just where our ancestors lived. We had no idea which plot of land was his, but we found a quiet little valley with a stretch of houses up both sides of the road and nothing but meadows behind them to the mountains. We looked through the Old Baptist Cemetery, of which the Presbyterian cemetery had merged, but found nothing. We left the area and I arrived home about 11:00 p.m. I still could not get to sleep for about an hour because I was going over all that we had found that day in my head.
My resolution about hunting genealogy is that even if you have been to a courthouse or county doing research once, go back again. I would never had discovered the roll of microfilm, but now I know where to look when I go back in a few weeks.
I also went to the Internet and started looking at www.google.com. I search for Ft. Shirley, Huntingdon County and found a lot of interesting information on the Cluggage family of the area. They lived there at the same time that John Latta did. Robert Cluggage witnessed John's deed. I found a lot of interesting information about the area and people where my ancestors lived.
With a description off the deed, I looked at a topographical map that Sharon had sent me. John's land was bordered on the south by Sugar Run and on the east by a "scruby ridge." Could it be "Sandy Ridge", a mountain chain that runs east of Shirley bordered on the south by Sugar Run? Going to the Internet, I found a map of Shirley in 1873. I have narrowed the land that John could have owned down to two areas. Taking the names off of the map of the owners in 1873, I am going to backtrack their property at the courthouse on my next visit and see if they bought it from John Latta. Perhaps his name was spelled wrong in the indexes.
Now I have another list of things to look for on my next trip to Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.