Identifying Pennsylvania ancestors born early 1900s?


I have hit a brickwall when trying to find any information on my great grandparents on my grandfather's side.

I found his obituary online when I was actually looking for my uncle's obituary on my mother's side. My great grandfather's name (Benjamin Earnest) is the same as my brother's name and information I find seems to go back to my brother who I know is very much still alive. My great grandmother's name is Mary Earnest (maiden name: Stevenson).

I just know that they lived in Pennsylvania and that my grandfather Ronald L. Earnest was born in Butler in 1936. (

I tried finding a census record for 1940 since my grandfather was born in 1936 and was not able to.

I have tried and and I can't seem to find anything on any of them which is really frustrating. I have also asked my half brother if he knew anything and he didn't know any information. I am starting to think I am doing something wrong as I can't seem to find any information and all I want to do is identify my great grandparents.


Posted 2016-04-06T20:15:53.177

Reputation: 31

Or how can I find information on relatives that have no paper trail and relatives have no information on? – Gayle – 2016-04-06T20:31:26.840

Welcome to G&FH SE! As a new user of this site please take its 2-minute [Tour] because we have some protocols that can take a little getting used to. At our [help/on-topic] there is a Privacy Policy that comes into play anytime we are dealing with ancestors born less than 100 years ago. For this reason I will need to remove your grandfather's name and any other identifying details about him. If he is deceased and you can provide a link to an obituary, death notice, etc for him then we will be able to use his name again freely. – PolyGeo – 2016-04-06T22:06:52.170

1Can you include a link to "his obituary online", please? – PolyGeo – 2016-04-06T22:30:38.273

When you make edits to your question please login first so that they will appear immediately. Otherwise, they need to await someone approving them. – PolyGeo – 2016-04-08T03:23:13.980



First of all, everything @Hammy said - it's all good advice. Bear in mind that children don't have first-hand knowledge of their parents' precise birthplaces (I thought for years that my mother was born in the town she grew up in, and only learned differently when I started doing genealogy). In any case, if he was born in Pennsylvania, his birth certificate can be ordered for a fee from the Pa. Dept. of Health:

If the Benjamin Earnest referred to was actually born in 1911, he will also have a birth certificate available from the same source, which will list his parents (including mother's maiden name). If you're willing to wait to pay a smaller fee, the 1911 index will be available on-line in early 2017, when the certificates for that year are transferred to the state archives.

If you aren't already in touch with the aunts and uncles mentioned in the obit, contacting them would also be recommended (if you don't have contact info, might be good place to start).

If Ronald Earnest's birth certificate doesn't yield any definitive new clues, you might try locating his marriage license application, although unless someone in the family knows where he was married, you may need to make inquiries at multiple county courthouses (starting with Butler, obviously). Similarly, locating the marriage license application for Benjamin Earnest and Mary Stevenson should yield information about both of their parents.

There appear to be a number of Ancestry member trees owned by other descendants of what may be the same ancestral Earnest family (although there also appears to be some confabulation of multiple Benjamin Earnests in these trees). At least two seem promising:

Contacting the tree owners may prove useful.


Posted 2016-04-06T20:15:53.177

Reputation: 2 427


That's a tough one for sure- I don't see them in the 1940 census. I would start by looking more into the Benjamin L. Earnest that was born 14 Jan 1911 in Portage, Blair, PA, and died 8 January 1977 in Butler, PA. Him and your grandfather both seem to be in Butler in the 1950s according to military and directory records on Ancestry. If you know someone with access to the Butler Eagle newspaper, I would try to get a copy of his obit and go from there: Name: EARNEST, Benjamin L Title:
Locality: Butler Relation Info:
Newspaper: Butler Eagle Date/Page: 8 Jan 1977 p9 Film #: 447


Posted 2016-04-06T20:15:53.177

Reputation: 727

There certainly do seem to be a lot of records for that Benjamin L. Earnest available in If @Gayle does not have a subscription, she may want to try and look for him before 13 April at American Ancestors who are opening up their Billion Records for FREE from now until then:

– PolyGeo – 2016-04-08T03:31:53.630

Hammy - thank you I will most certainly look into that. PolyGeo - thank you for telling me about American Ancestors and I will most certainly look into that today! – Gayle – 2016-04-08T19:26:01.147


You could try placing an advertisement in Pennsylvania's newspaper(s), and talk or e-mail a Religious place like a Church.

You already know your great grandparent's Name and Job.


Posted 2016-04-06T20:15:53.177

Reputation: 1