In February the state of Pennsylvania finally bowed to pressure and made birth and death certificates available to the public. These records began in 1906. At this point only 1906 birth certificates are available. One more year will be added each year as the records reach the age of 106. Death certificates are available from 1906-1961. The index is online but one must visit the State Archives in Harrisburg to see a copy of the actual certificate.
When I was writing Aaron's Civil War I searched for days to find the maiden name of Catherine Ressler, wife of Valentine Ressler. Valentine was one of the characters in the story who ran away from home to join the army in the Civil War. After he returned home he married Catherine _____. I was able to trace their movements from Lancaster County, Pa. to New York and back to Pennsylvania, births of their children, his burial place in Lancaster County, her move as a widow to the Pittsburgh area, and finally to Harrisburg where she died and was buried. I found her obituary but it did not tell me the names of her parents. I tried to get a copy of her death certificate but was refused because I was not a relative. I was finally forced to give up and let the book go to print without her maiden name. It was not a big deal because it would only have been one word in the Epilogue. But I still wondered who she was.
Yesterday I went to the State Archives to help my sister with some of her research. I asked for and received (free of charge!) a copy of Catherine's death certificate. At last! There was the answer to my question. Her parents were Michael and Hanna (Trego) Reeser. When I got home I found them in the 1860, 1870, and 1880 U. S. Census. They lived in Gap in Lancaster County. The surname was spelled differently each time---Razor, Rasor, Reser. The information on the death certificate was supplied by Catherine's daughter so I am going to assume her spelling is the correct version.
It's too late to put the name in the Epilogue but I am satisfied that I finally know who she was. I can stop wondering if she was one of my Stauffer relatives from Earl Township where Valentine lived.
As Winston Churchill said, "Never, never, never give up."