I’m looking for any evidence of the Pennsylvania births of my two cousins. Soon after their 1886 marriage, their parents, Peter Robinson and his wife Anna Robinson nee’ Brammer, made a short trip in early 1888 from Buffalo to somewhere in Pennsylvania for a brief visit.

While in Pennsylvania, they gave birth to a daughter, Sarah (aka Sadie) Robinson, in of 1888, at Warren, Pennsylvania. Then, the news of the July 1889 tragedy of the Johnstown flood spread across the country and to family members in Buffalo.

The following month, Peter and Anna gave birth to another child, a son named Daniel W Robinson, born in August 1889, at a location he later reported as “Kensa,” Warren, Pennsylvania. After the news of the disastrous flood, the family back in Buffalo didn’t hear from Peter and Anna and thought they must have been among the thousands killed in the flood.

But by 1905, the family had returned to Buffalo and reassured relatives they had not been killed in the Johnstown flood, and explained communication to Buffalo was disrupted and quite difficult. They may have returned to Buffalo by 1890, but the 1890 census was lost, so I have depended on the 1895 New York State Census.

My problem is I cannot find any record of the birth of Sarah Robinson in 1888 at Warren, PA, nor can I find any record of the birth of her brother, Daniel W Robinson at a place he later referred to as Kensa, PA. In fact, I can’t find any evidence of such a place at all.

Can anyone help me solve this mystery of these two births?

2 Answers 2


When you are looking for historical place names, the best type of reference source is the gazetteer. This is a book containing information about places, usually with descriptions, often with origins for the place names, and frequently containing maps.

The FamilySearch Wiki has lists of gazetteers for Pennsylvania places.

Among these gazetteers are the following, which both list a village and township named Kinzua in Warren County. This is audibly close enough to Kensa that it may be the name that was written down by the clerk or official who heard it.

The former lists the postmaster of Kinzua as Mordecai N. Powell, so if you can't find your folks in the census, try looking for Mordecai Powell and you'll at least have the right village.

The latter says:

Kinzua, stream, township, and village in Warren County: variously explained as "fish" and "they gobble"--in evident reference to wild turkeys

The FamilySearch Wiki also has lists of historical Pennsylvania maps, in which you can probably find the location of Kinzua. Google Maps does not show a Kinzua town, but it does show a Kinzua Dam about six miles east of the town of Warren, PA.


When you are looking for a person in a record set, you'll have the most success when you know three things:

  • the time the event took place
  • the place the event took place
  • the name (including variants) the person may have been listed by

The previous answer has already addressed the problem of the historical place name.

Research guides like the FamilySearch Research Wiki can help you find records that might contain the information you're seeking. Start with one of the main articles like Pennsylvania, United States Genealogy to get an overview, then look on that page for record type articles like Pennsylvania Vital Records and research strategy pages like How to Find Pennsylvania Birth Records. Long-distance researchers will also want to take note of the blue button that takes you to the summary of Pennsylvania Online Genealogy Records.

The Wiki says:

During the period 1855 to 1892, no births were recorded by the county or state. You must search substitute records to locate your ancestor’s birth date and place.

The article gives specific suggestions for collections at FamilySearch that may be useful, followed by general suggestions for records that might have birth information, with links to the article for each record type.

Try this collection first: Pennsylvania, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Births and Baptisms - FamilySearch Historical Records

Then look for birth information that might be contained in other record sets.

Records that give birth information:

  • Death Records
  • Cemetery Records
  • Newspapers
  • Church Records
  • Census
  • Military Records

You've already used some of these record types. To look for more records at FamilySearch, do a place search in the FamilySearch catalog. Check all jurisdictions that apply to the area, not just Warren County. Look at nationwide records, state-level records, county-level records, and records at the town level.

Search all relevant jurisdictions when searching for reacords on any site, when searching for finding aids and research guides, when using directory sites like Cyndi's List and Linkpendium, and when searching for published works on the Internet Archive, Google Books, HathiTrust, etc.

Tips for Newspaper research

When you're searching for birth notices in historical newspapers, bear in mind that the birth notices may not list the name of the child. They might only say a son or daughter.

Look for what papers may have been published in the area by using the US Newspaper Directory at The Library of Congress' Chronicling America website. Note the frequency of the paper, and take that into account when doing your searches.

It can help to choose a newspaper from the time period and read an issue from cover to cover, to get an idea of the layout of the paper, what kind of news is covered, the geographical coverage of the paper, the time lag between events and when they are written about in the newspaper, the style of how names are listed and the abbreviations that are used. Use the information you discover to help with your searches.

You may not get that 'lucky dip' in the newspapers or church records that was created near the time of the birth, but you may be able to get more information than you have now if you search widely. I have found information in the newspaper much later than the event itself via features that reprint information from long ago. It's common to see '25 years ago', '50 years ago' features. The longest gap I've seen so far in my own research gave news about a visit in the '150 years ago' feature.

Don't just look for birth notices. Look for any information about the family that might give you a clue about their church affiliation, which could help you identify the correct family when searching church records. For visits, look for items in the social news for both locations (for your case, both in Buffalo and in Pennsylvania) and in any locality where relatives lived.

Resource list

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