I have been reading about Punxsutawney Phil for fifty years including articles in the Weekly Reader, an important, well-known source of news. Wikipedia lists his surname as Sowerby but that is uncorroborated. I have never checked a Pennsylvania map for his hibernation spot. The movie Groundhog Day doesn’t get to the geography question. Genealogists know that in order to find the records, we need maps. Researchers used to need a library to get the nitty, gritty details available on maps and in atlases. Now, the Internet has dozens of maps on any subject. No excuse not to have the political subdivision maps, topo maps, and landownership maps on the computer when you start researching in a new area.
Maps Are the Answer
Here is map with the Jefferson county boundaries delineated in central western Pennsylvania on both sides of Interstate 80.
Doing some research in Jefferson Co., Pennsylvania, I saw Punxsutawney was there and smiled. What a great name, probably Native American. Without the county, a genealogist has very little to go on, what census, what clerk of courts, what recorder, etc. Sure Louisiana has parishes, many records in New England are kept on a town level, and Virginia has Independent Cities interspersed with its counties, but, by and large, most states’ governmental records are sorted into counties.
Some states further divided each county into townships and within those townships sometimes villages, towns, and cities. It might be important to get a land map of the area to see where the Sowerby property is. Does Phil’s family still own it? Did he remember to pay taxes or did he establish a 501? If the NFL can get by without paying taxes, certainly, Punxsutawney Phil could also incorporate. Given this groundhog’s accuracy ratings, a bit higher than a third right, it may not be important at all.
The USGS Topographical Map for the Punxsutawney Quadrangle in Pennsylvania shows the spot of elevation known as Gobbler’s Knob. The highlighting is mine.
Finally, my favorite kind of map, a land ownership map.
This type of map was made for various counties in various states roughly between 1870 and 1890. Look for them. The ones in color are nice enough to frame.
An aside: Wouldn’t it be a huge help newswise, if stories from around the United States included the name of the county concerned?