DONNA'S “HISTORICAL GENEALOGY”
A year before the Independence Day Bicentennial, an aunt gifted me a list of my Bingham ancestors that went back to the mid 1500s in England. This gift turned out to be a significant challenge. Her list was barely documented. Although I knew she had done the research, how could I trust her results until I had evidence for every person, event, and fact she listed?
A second question loomed large: did I, a published historian of science and medicine, want to do family history? I decided I should at least explore the possibility. Off I hurried to the Pennsylvania State Library in Harrisburg to find out what would be involved. We lived in Hershey at the time; the state library was the only nearby resource. I was familiar with its very large history collection, but to my surprise, the library had a vary large genealogy collection, a well versed state and local history librarian, and a genealogy patron who liked to help others.
I quickly found some ancestors who played significant roles in American history, but that was in secondary sources. Where would I find primary sources? More important, what were the primary sources for genealogy? To answer those questions, the friendly patron suggested one particular book. Published in England, the author concisely listed and explained the major sources, gave a recommended order of using them, and provided a model for recording the source and notes. This was a pre computer era - I borrowed the book and went home to study.
Soon, I realized that very few genealogists incorporated history into their findings. I also realized that genealogists and historians used very different sources. Here was my chance to do two new things: learn a new set of records and place ancestors in their historical time. One experience led to another. I went from library work in published sources like The Susquehanna Company Papers and the U.S. Census, to court house work in original records like deeds and wills. What fun - I got out of the library and traveled the counties in several states. Unbeknown, this was preparing me for the position of Historian, and later, Chief of the Division of Land Records with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. There, I was able to prepare the state’s oldest land records for moving into the state archives by placing the records in their historical time and composing my book, Pennsylvania Land Records: A History and Guide for Research.
While at the PHMC, I was also able to complete, with the help of an AARP assistant, research on the Connecticut based Susquehanna Company. The result was my three-volume Connecticut’s Pennsylvania Colony: Susquehanna Company Proprietors, Settlers and Claimants published in 2007.
Much of my research on Michael Springle (Sprinkle, Sprengle, Sprenkle) was also done at the PHMC. Years later, after the York County Archives made their land records and wills available online, I made time to put everything together in my book on Michael Springle (Sprinkle, Sprengle, Sprenkle) : An Evidence Based Reconstruction of His Life and Land.
Over the years, I continued my Bingham research. Within a few months of researching in the Pennsylvania State Library, I found The Bingham Association. I met president, A. Walker Bingham. Walker and I agreed to publish a new family history when we had enough material. The new family history would replace the existing three volume genealogy published 1927-1930. The new book would contain bio sketches, correct errors, add unfound family members, bring each line up to the present, and most important, be fully documented. As some have labelled it, the new book would be encyclopedic. After twenty years of research, coupled with submissions from over one hundred Bingham contributors, the Association published in 1996, The Bingham Family in the United States: The Descendants of Thomas Bingham of Connecticut. The book is sold out, but copies are available in libraries in every state, and sections are available in a different format for download on this website.
As soon as the book was in print, we had more material. Research and contributions continued, thus the periodic Bingham Association UPDATES. The UPDATES use the same format as the 1996 book for ease of incorporation with the book. All UPDATES are available for download on this website.