Tag Archives: neighborhoods

Go West…

As an outreach librarian for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, I find myself in various neighborhoods throughout the city from week to week. In my year-end reflections, I’ve realized that through my job I’ve had the opportunity to discover new (to me) or otherwise unfrequented parts of this exquisite city of ours. Thanks to some programming I’ve been involved in over the past year, I’ve become much more familiar especially with two of our more western neighborhoods – The West End and Sheraden.

The West End branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is one of our 19 locations which has had the benefit of a recent renovation. Now replete with a newly paved parking lot and elevator access, along with a very warm and comforting sitting area, this little branch is managed by colleague Mark Lee. It is a gem in the West End neighborhood both physically and with regard to the multitude of programming that goes on both in and outside of this sweet space, provided to visitors by a very excellent and welcoming staff.

westend

The West End branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Those of you who only know the West End as that place at the end of the West End bridge as you leave Heinz Field, would be surprised to know of all the library activity that goes on in that neighborhood. Beyond the branch at the corner of Neptune and Wabash are also the offices of the Allegheny County Library Association. Here, county librarians and library advocates work to promote library services around the county. In addition, just next door to the West End branch is the Library Support Center, which houses some great library workers who are responsible for everything from cataloging and labeling the many items that you see on our shelves, to the shipping department responsible for getting those materials out to the city and county libraries.

Here, too, resides the wonderful sorting machine, the staff who attend the machine, and van delivery staff (10 drivers, 1 manager and 8 vans!) – all of which make it possible for your requests to go from one library in the county to another in the matter of just a few days. These special workers are akin to Santa’s elves for the magic they perform in sorting and delivering to your local library that bestseller, DVD or much needed item for your child’s school project. (In 2013 alone, 4,099,800  library items were moved among the 74 libraries served by the shipping center).

sorting

A portion of the magical sorting machine which sorts hundreds of thousands of items a month!

Just beyond the West End, over a hill or two and around a couple of bends (through the hamlet of Elliott – which requires some further research on my part), one eventually gets to the neighborhood of Sheraden not even 2 miles from the West End. Here, the Sheraden Carnegie Library branch (headed by Ian Eberhardt, whom you may have seen on your TV as of late) shares a building and hallway with the Sheraden senior center, tucked away on Sherwood Avenue. Although one of our smaller branches, this location lacks for nothing in terms of programming, and has an extremely welcoming and helpful staff too!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this neighborhood, it is home to what I believe to be one of the most beautiful school buildings in the city of Pittsburgh, Langley K-8. Named for the same Langley of Langley Air Force base fame – Samuel Langley, a 19th c.  Western University of Pennsylvania (University of Pittsburgh) astronomy professor. The school sits high atop a hill in Sheraden, but be careful not to attempt to gaze at this school as you’re making your way through the busy intersection that sits just below, as I have a tendency to do when I’m out that way.

LangleyHighSchool

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

Both of these western neighborhoods, and more specifically, the senior centers that reside nearby to the neighborhood branches welcomed me for some exciting technology programming recently. I’m grateful to the centers, their directors and the fact that these programs opened up new doors and vistas in my daily work. I’m looking to discovering more of our many neighborhoods in the coming year(s) of my outreach and hope to share some more with you in 2015.

Happy New Year!

-Maria J.

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Obstacles to Genealogy Research

A genealogical friend from Eastern Pennsylvania asked me recently what I might consider to be obstacles to research in Western Pennsylvania. I think that the number of minor civil divisions, neighborhood names, unincorporated villages, and railroad names that researchers encounter in Pittsburgh and Western PA is the biggest headache that many of my patrons deal with.

Unlike Philadelphia, Allegheny County still has 130 active minor civil divisions (cities, boroughs, townships). The City of Pittsburgh itself grew by annexation, so researchers are always finding references to long-gone places like Birmingham, East Birmingham, Temperanceville, McClure Township, Ormsby, Monongahela Borough, South Pittsburgh, West Pittsburgh, Allegheny City, etc. in their research. There were even two locations called Duquesne!

Pittsburgh in 1902, from the Library of Congress American Memory Collection.

The Pittsburgh city wards were re-numbered several times, most notably when Pittsburgh absorbed Allegheny City in 1907, which resulted in a major shift between the 1900 and 1910 census enumerations. Many duplicating street names in the two cities were changed at that time as well. Also, Pittsburgh has 89 (more or less!) neighborhood names still used within the city. Then we have the old unincorporated places in Pittsburgh such as Bayardstown, Cowansville, Minersville, Riceville, Sidneyville, Sligo, etc.

There are many similar place names in Allegheny County as well: post office names, railroad station names, clusters of houses with names which pop up on documents to confuse the researcher, such as Bakerstown, Barking, Ferguson, Library, Linhart, Option, Semple, Wildwood, and many, many more. The best thing researchers can do for themselves is make friends with maps – both current maps and maps of the time periods they are researching! Then, if they have a question, they should just call us; we can usually steer them in the right direction, right away.

Sometimes it’s as simple as interpreting old handwriting. I had a patron looking for “Millersville Cemetery” the other day, but I knew that wasn’t right. I looked at the document in his hand and saw that it was “Minersville Cemetery” instead. So just ask us – it saves wear and tear on everyone! Our sister organization, the Western PA Genealogical Society, also has several publications which can help: their reprint of the 1911 street atlas (which shows the street names and ward changes) and the Allegheny County Cemetery Directory, which they compiled.

There are very few older Pittsburgh records online as of yet; however, WPGS coordinated a project with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka, the Mormons) to index the Pittsburgh City death records for 1870 to 1905, and they are online via FamilySearch. The Allegheny County Courthouse only has indexes for marriages after 1995 online on their website thus far. The Carnegie Library’s Pennsylvania Department now has the vital records which the county used to have – they passed them on to us in 2006. We also do research in our collection for patrons for a fee–click here for details.

Perhaps the best advice I can give is to e-mail us at padept@carnegielibrary.org, or call us at 412-622-3154.

–Marilyn

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