Sharon Cook MacInnes, Ph.D., C.G.

Sharon Cook MacInnes, Ph.D., C.G., retired after teaching for 28 years to pursue her lifelong interest in genealogy. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from American University and honed her researching skills through those programs. Eventually, she submitted her portfolio to the Board for Certification of Genealogists and was awarded status as a BCG Certified Genealogist®.

A dedicated family historian since 1976, she gradually uncovered her ancestry which includes a young English separatist couple who came into Puritan New England in 1638 with the rest of their church; a 17-year-old British lad who sold himself into bondage for five years in 1722 to make the trek into Maryland Colony alone; a 14-year-old German girl who immigrated into the Colony of Pennsylvania with her family in 1738; an Irish middle-aged widower who sailed into Baltimore harbor with his brother and two children in 1765; and countless other fascinating ancestors who have stories to tell. In other words, she discovered that she has deep American roots and a passion for family history.

Several years ago, however, she was stymied by her Pennsylvania ancestors. She had gone beyond the 1790 census and was flailing around, trying to pinpoint the exact location of her ancestral migration trails. She took advantage of where she lives near Washington, D.C. and visited the National Archives, DAR Library, and the Library of Congress countless times. And she was able to drive to county archives, courthouses, and historical societies throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland in her search for deeds, tax records, and wills. It is on one of her trips that she discovered, to her surprise, that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had commissioned draftsmen to draw connected plat maps of the earliest landowners. Since then, she has been transcribing and indexing these plat maps and publishing them in her Early Landowners of Pennsylvania: Atlas of township Warrantee Maps of *** County, PA. She also maintains a web page at on which she posts free Pennsylvania resources.

"I think our ancestors had very different ties to their land than we have today, perhaps because there was almost no chance that they would ever own it in Europe unless they were the eldest son and inherited it," says MacInnes. "Land ownership made the difference between being a peasant or having the right to determine your own life. That's why they were willing to board ships for a three-month journey into the unknown. That's why so many of them were willing to actually sell themselves for several years of their lives as indentured servants and then, once they were free, to claw their way past anyone who got in their way. Remember, the people in these books were the first to trek into the wilderness and make their claims, often while conditions were life-or-death dangerous. I want genealogy to be more than just a bunch of names, lists showing where and when people were born and died. I hope that, by locating where and when these pioneers lived, researchers can place them into history and learn how they lived—their triumphs and tragedies."
Pennsylvania Research – Saturday, 1 April 2017
9:00-10:00 a.m.
(S71) Push-Pull Factors and Historical Context of Early PA Immigration.  This session provides a historical foundation for better understanding why your European immigrants left and came to Pennsylvania, as well as what records they left behind. Focus is particularly on colonial Scots-Irish, Germans, and indentured servants.
10:30-11:30 a.m.
(S72) Migration and Boundary Challenges.  This presentation explores the problems of where to find records for your ancestor as the colony, and then the state, evolved.
1:15-2:15 p.m.
(S73) Vital Records. Were your ancestors living before official B/M/D records were kept in 1906? We’ll discuss the following substitutes: (1) church records; (2) tax records; (3) pension applications; (4) Orphans Court records; and briefly (5) census records.
2:45-3:45 p.m.
(S74) Land, Give Me Land.  Two sets of land records exist for Pennsylvania landowners: (1) transfers from the PA government to the first individual owner of a tract; and (2) county deeds transferring land from one person to another. Learn about both sets of records.