Pennsylvania Death Certificate of Peter Whitlock

Pennsylvania death certificates covering the 1906-1924 time frame were released online yesterday at Scanned in full color, they are available to Ancestry subscribers, and to Pennsylvania residents for no charge.

I am looking for the death certificate for one Peter Whitlock, a Civil War soldier who ties into my own New Jersey Carson line. He died in 1908 from lockjaw, possibly in Union County, Pennsylvania. I entered that information into the search form, and got zero hits.


I had an exact date of death for Peter Whitlock, so I decided to browse the collection instead. Fortunately, this collection can be browsed by year, and is arranged in order by certificate number.


I searched for roughly 30 minutes without finding his death certificate. From what I can tell, the certificates are batched as received by the state, so you might find a number of Luzerne County certificates, followed by those of another county, with more Luzerne County certificates after that. There were plenty of other death certificates I was interested in, so I quickly got lost in those for a time.

I decided to tackle this again today after speaking with a friend, who reminded me that the death certificate indices are online in a separate database. I quickly found the link to the indices at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Drilling down by year and then by the letter of the alphabet yielded a PDF file, which did not seem to be searchable. Nonetheless, I did find the correct page for Peter Whitlock’s entry.


The entry reads as follows:
Whitlock, Peter: 59352: Fayette Co.: June 25
The number 59352 following his name is the “State File Number” needed to locate the certificate on Ancestry. Further down on the Ancestry search form is an area that permits one to search by certificate number. I typed 59352 in the data field, and then checked the box to do an exact search.


This time, I received a total of 19 hits, which does seem a bit odd. The last entry on this list of results is the one of interest to me.


The reason I was initially unsuccessful in my search was likely because Peter Whitlock’s last name was indexed in this collection as WHITTOCK. Clicking the View Images icon on the right led me to the digitized death certificate.

Portion of the death certificate for Peter Whitlock on

Good luck researching in this incredible new record set!

[Last modified: 24 Jan 2018, to update link]


How to install the 2012 digital edition of “Evidence Explained” on your PC


When at the 2013 Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) earlier this month, I learned one of my classmates had lugged two weighty tomes to Salt Lake City: “Professional Genealogy” (aka “ProGen”) and “Evidence Explained” (EE). Both are essential reference works for the serious genealogist, but at 654-pages and 885-pages respectively, they’re not books you typically want to carry with you when traveling any great distance.

What was most surprising to me is this same person also brought along a laptop and an iPad. Although ProGen is not yet available in digital format, I questioned why she hadn’t simply purchased and installed the digital edition of Evidence Explained. (Yes, it will set you back another $29.95, but that is nothing when compared to luggage overage limits for air travel.) She responded by saying that although she had purchased the book in electronic format, she had been unable to figure out how to get the digital edition installed.

I had some trouble with that, too.

Although the Evidence Explained bookstore is quite clear that what you are getting when making your purchase is an Adobe DRM version of the eBook, somehow I simply glossed over the “DRM” portion of that description. I knew DRM means “digital rights management” and that it is a way that artists and authors, like Elizabeth Shown Mills, protect their work against piracy and copyright infringement. However, I had previously purchased the EE 2007 edition several years ago and recalled that version of the eBook was a regular PDF file format that opened in the free version of Adobe Reader. What tripped me up this time around is that when I attempted to download the EE 2012 edition, what I got was an *.acsm file, which I could not open using Adobe Reader. So, I did what anyone would have done: kept clicking. Nothing happened, or so I thought. In actuality, I exhausted my four allowable downloads of EE but was unaware of that at the time due to web page caching issues.

I researched *.acsm files and learned they are Adobe Content Server files designed to protect “PDF and reflowable EPUB eBooks for Adobe Digital Editions software and supported mobile devices”.1 Being unfamiliar with Adobe Digital Editions (ADE), I went to the Adobe Systems website at and learned that it, thankfully, was a free download. Ultimately, through the novel concept of actually reading the FAQ at Evidence Explained and the FAQ for ADE, I now understood the process to download and authorize the purchased file. Imagine my surprise when I learned I was out of downloads. Fortunately, the tech support rep readily understood my problem and re-enabled my download link.

I was finally successful installing EE on my laptop at home and on my iPad, which I took with me when I went to SLIG. When I learned of my classmate’s travails, I could definitely sympathize, and walked her through the process. It was a bit late to prevent her from bringing the hardback copy of EE with her to school, but perhaps these instructions will assist readers of this blog.

Here are the 5 steps to download, install and authorize the “Evidence Explained” eBook on a Windows PC or laptop:

1.  Purchase the 2012 digital edition of Evidence Explained at the website’s book store by navigating to You will need to set up an account at the book store to complete your purchase.

Do *NOT* attempt to download the eBook just yet! If you do, you will get an URLLink.acsm file. This is essentially a license file that you cannot do anything with initially without ADE installed. It is not the eBook.

urllink.acsm file

2. Set up a free Adobe ID account at

Setup Adobe ID

Don't have an Adobe ID?

Fill in required information

3. Download the free Adobe Digital Editions software from the website: This is the software that will allow you to open DRM-protected PDF files.

ADE downloads available for Windows and Mac

ADE should be downloaded and installed to a Windows or Mac computer, not to a smartphone or tablet.

4. Once installed, authorize your copy of ADE with the Adobe ID you created in Step 2 by going to Help > Authorize Computer.

Help>Authorize Computer

Input the e-mail address and password you set up in Step 2, and then click Authorize.

ADE authorization

ADE authorization success

5. Go back the EE bookstore, and download your “Evidence Explained” eBook file.

EE 2012 download

Your eBook will open in Adobe Digital Editions!

Evidence Explained Second Edition, 2012 (Digital Edition)Evidence Explained (Second Edition) by Elizabeth Shown Mills, as seen in the Adobe Digital Editions software.

Not only does having the digital edition of “Evidence Explained” save room and weight in my backpack when on the road, but being able to keyword search for terms is a fantastic bonus. I especially like viewing it on my iPad, but those directions will have to wait until another day.

Sources: : accessed 31 Jan 2013.

Post last updated 03 Feb 2013

Using the Wayback Machine

Locating, a website which has “vanished” from the Internet

Afrolumens Project by George Nagle

Header image from the Afrolumens Project: Central Pennsylvania’s Journey from Slavery to Freedom

Now that Pennsylvania probate records have been made available online, it has rekindled my interest in tracking my Bigham and Richey lines from Drumore Twp., Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania.

One thing I wanted to investigate further was information previously uncovered: both the Bigham and the Richey families of Lancaster County were slaveholders in the latter part of the 18th century. A note in my database reminded me that I had acquired this information from the Afrolumens Project, a website by George F. Nagle. This fantastic site once documented information on slavery in the state of Pennsylvania. Information previously obtained from had been transcribed data. Now I wanted to learn whether images of original documents had been posted online in the interim.

So, I typed in the URL (Uniform Resource Locator, i.e. web address) for the site into my Google Chrome browser and immediately noted a problem. The site couldn’t be found at
Other sites were still referencing Afrolumens, but nothing came up from Afrolumens. A little more sleuthing indicated that the site had been taken offline late 2007. How could that be? My research log indicated I had last accessed the site in November 2010. Even more sleuthing indicated the site went back online some time in 2009. Regardless, it was clearly unavailable today. That’s when I remembered something called the “Wayback Machine”.

The Wayback Machine is one part of the Internet Archive, a non-profit entity established in 1996 to build an Internet library. One of its stated goals is ‘to prevent the Internet…and other “born digital” materials from disappearing into the past’.1 One way it does that is by making cached copies of crawled web pages available via the Wayback Machine. As of today, more than 150 billion web pages have been archived.2

While the Wayback Machine is an invaluable tool to assist in locating websites that are no longer available, it is not a complete snapshot of every page on every website from 1996 to the present. From the FAQ, it seems that there are four criteria which must be met before a website will appear in the Wayback Machine archive.

1.  The site must be publicly available (i.e. no user login required);
2.  The site must have been online a minimum of six months;
3.  The site must be well-linked to from other sites;
4.  Robots.txt must not exclude crawlers from indexing the site’s content.3

Another caveat to using the site is that it is not keyword searchable. You must know the URL to navigate the Wayback Machine at present. With that aside, let’s search for an archived copy of the Afrolumens website.

First, navigate to the Internet Archive website using your favorite web browser. Your result will look something like this:

Internet Archive Main Page

The web page is a bit busy, but you’ll find the Wayback Machine near the top, in the middle of the window.

Wayback Machine

Now, we’ll type in the last known URL for the Afrolumens site:

This is our result showing that the website was crawled by the Wayback Machine 103 times between 2002 and 2011. A calendar is displayed with the last year the site was crawled displayed first, in this case 2011. The selected year is shown in yellow on the timeline strip near the top of the screen. Each of the blue circles on the calendar below the timeline represents a website snapshot.

Afrolumens Crawls in 2011

Click on a blue circle to bring up the cached version of the website as it existed on that date. Here’s what the Afrolumens main page looked like on 22 Jul 2011:

Cached page for the Afrolumens Project

From here, you can navigate to other available cached pages by clicking the arrows, or by placing your cursor directly in the timeline strip. However, I’m interested in learning whether images were ever uploaded to the “Slavery in Pennsylvania” section of the site, so that’s where I’ll go next. This is the resulting page:

Cached Afrolumens Project page for slavery in Pennsylvania
Note that as we get deeper into the Afrolumens site hierarchy, there are less snapshots. This part of the site was only crawled 65 times, and this 25 Nov 2010 snapshot represents the last time this part of the the site was archived by the Wayback Machine. You’ll also note that some of the images are missing (probably linked to from another site). I’m interested in drilling down to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, so I need to click County index.

Cached Afrolumens Project page for Slavery County Index

I continue to explore the archived site, but by this time it is apparent that no images of original records have been uploaded, as this cached image dates to the same time when I last visited the site and recorded the results of that search in my research log made in November 2010.

What sites will you explore using the Wayback Machine?


1 Internet Archive >About IA: ( : last accessed 03 Jul 2012).
2 ( : last accessed 03 Jul 2012).
3 Internet Archive FAQ > ( : last accessed 03 Jul 2012)