The First Families of Western Pennsylvania (FFWP) is a lineage society dedicated to honoring the early residents of Western Pennsylvania and preserving the family history of their descendants.  

Special Notice

The First Families of Western Pennsylvania is now accepting applications for 2021 using our updated application and Rules of Evidence.  If you have completed an application using the previous version, you may still submit it.  However, all applications will be subject to the revised Rules of Evidence. 

Applications are due by November 30, 2021, to be considered this year. 

Please email the FFWP Chair, Megan Clark Young at FirstFamilies@wpgs.org if you have any questions about the revised application process or if you submitted an application and would like an update.

Qualifications

First Families of Western Pennsylvania (FFWP) is open to: 

  • Any Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society member who is able to prove direct descent from an ancestor who lived in Western Pennsylvania before 1811.  Not a member?  Join Now
  • The first family ancestor must have been a documented resident of one of the 26 Western Pennsylvania counties (or in the appropriate section of the parent county) by 31 December 1810.
  • The applicant must provide proof of bloodline descent (birth, marriage, death and relationship) for each generation to the first family ancestor.  See Rules of Evidence for more information.

Western Pennsylvania Counties and Years of Formation

Allegheny 1788Armstrong 1800Beaver 1800
Bedford 1771Blair 1846Butler 1800
Cambria 1804Cameron 1860Clarion 1839
Clearfield 1804Crawford 1800Elk 1843
Erie 1800Fayette 1783Forest 1848
Greene 1796Indiana 1803Jefferson 1804
Lawrence 1849McKean 1804Mercer 1800
Somerset 1795Venango 1800Warren 1800
Washington 1781Westmoreland 1773 

How to Apply

If you believe that your ancestor qualifies you for membership in First Families of Western Pennsylvania, please:

  • Download and complete the application and assemble your documentation according to the instructions and the Rules of Evidence.  
  • Include a non-refundable check made payable to WPGS-FFWP in the amount of $40.00 for an initial application or $10 for a supplemental or immediate family member short-form. 
  • Mail your completed application, documentation, and application fee to:

First Families of Western Pennsylvania
Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society
Pennsylvania Department, 4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-4007

Short-Form Application 

A short-form application may be completed by an existing First Families of Western Pennsylvania (FFWP) member for a supplemental application or by a direct family member of an existing FFWP Member. 

  • A direct family member is defined as: children, parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt and uncle, and great-aunt and great-uncle. If your relationship falls into one of those categories, then you may use the “short form” procedure. 
  • You must be a member of WPGS, and you may submit a completed application form that describes the descent from the ancestor to yourself. However, you need to submit documentation only for the generations that differ from your relative FFWP member’s lineage. 
  • At the most recent generation that appears on both applications, you should note “See application of [name of relative], First Families member [number].” 
  • A non-refundable $10 application fee must accompany your application.

Judging

Applications are evaluated according to our Rules of Evidence. You may be asked to provide additional documentation for an application, but there will be no extra fee for that documentation.  Be sure to check out the additional Tips for a Successful Application.   

Applying to the First Families of Western Pennsylvania is a wonderful way to honor your ancestor(s) and test your genealogy skills. We hope the application process will be enjoyable and provide these tips to give you the best chance of success.

  • Neatness counts. If a document or citation is not legible, it will be returned.  If the document itself is difficult to read, include a transcription.
  • Print labels to put your name/member number on the back of each physical document submitted.
  • Family Search has county-level research wikis, showing in what year birth, marriage and death records began and where to obtain them. The research wikis are not perfect but are an excellent place to start to determine if a record “should” exist and where to find it. For an example, see the Family Search Research Wiki for Allegheny County.
  • If an exact date is not known, acceptable entries would be: Between 10 Oct 1842–30 Nov 1842 (i.e. writing and proving of a will); Bef. 1842; Aft. 1842; Circa 1842.
  • Underline or draw attention (preferably with red pencil, ink or font) to the relevant portion of a document. Do not highlight.
  • Many documents are available online. Many are not. If a document, such as a birth, marriage or death certificate is known to exist, it must be included in the application. Such records may need to be obtained/purchased from the recording county or entity.
  • Don’t fret about writing “perfect” citations. A proper citation should allow another reader to find the exact information you used. Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore: GPC, 2017 provides countless examples and models for writing citations.
  • A layered citation is needed when the information you viewed is not the original medium. For example, a digital image of a county will book found on Ancestry.com must cite the original information (county, volume, page, etc.) and the digital information (recordset, online repository, image number).
  • The name and address of the repository should be included in the citation if the referenced document is only available at that repository.
  •  One document may include multiple types of evidence from multiple informants with varying degrees of knowledge. Each item of information must be analyzed to determine credibility. For more information, see the “Evidence Analysis Process Map” on the inside cover of Mills, Evidence Explained, 2017. For example, a death certificate may include:
    • A spouse, identified as the informant, provided primary knowledge as to the address and marital status of the deceased.
    • The doctor provided primary knowledge as to the date and the cause of death
    • The spouse provided secondary knowledge as to the date of birth and parents of the deceased
    • The address of the deceased could provide indirect evidence for the relationship to a family member who lives next door.
  • Supplemental documentation must be provided for any item that is secondary information or indirect evidence. Applications that do not include supplemental documentation for secondary information or indirect evidence will be returned. Using the example above, a census record listing the age and names of parents could be submitted as proof of birth in conjunction with the death certificate.
  • The closest census record after the year of birth should be submitted as supplemental documentation for birth.
  • Census records that don’t name the individuals in the household can still be used as evidence in conjunction with other records, especially if writing a proof summary. The identification of all “likely” members of the household is necessary.
  • Conflicting evidence often exists. Some conflicts are minor (like the age between census records being off by a year or two in subsequent decades) and some are major (like a marriage license application and death certificate giving a different name for a mother). Major conflicts must be addressed and resolved through a statement including how a conclusion was reached. For example, a marriage license gives the name of the PATRICIA’S mother as JANE SMITH, but PATRICIA’S death certificate gives the name of her mother as MARY JOHNSON. A statement such as, Patricia completed her own marriage license application and would have known the name of her mother. The informant on the death certificate was Patricia’s son-in-law, who only knew Patricia’s stepmother, Mary Johnson. Therefore, the marriage license application is the more credible source. Of course, documentation of the date of Jane Smith’s death and the remarriage of Patricia’s father to Mary Johnson would only help to solidify the case.
  • Retain a copy for yourself of the entire application prior to submitting it.
  • If additional documentation is requested, documentation may be submitted by Nov. 30th of the second year following the request. If additional documentation is not submitted, the application will be closed.

Recognition

Certificates and First Families of Western Pennsylvania membership pins are mailed throughout the year as earned. New First Families members are announced and recognized annually.