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It seems that most PA counties have large fancy biographical histories published at the turn of the century. They usually have an index of the biographies in that section of the book (they also cover general county history). Each one varies in the amount and quality of genealogical information contained. So what happened was something like this: a prominent distant cousin of yours became famous as a politician or store owner or whatever. When the announcement went out about the new county history, these folks would pay a certain amount to have their names, achievements, and ancestors in the books. Great huh ? ?
While there were a few errors, I've found most of the data to be pretty good. You'll definitely want to get second (original) sources though. A hand thing to have when looking at one of these books is an "Everyname Index to xxx Co". Often these indices were added later and often they are only found in that county's library or historical society. You may want to check around first for the index. Here are a few of the many county histories, for example: