Genealogy Resources at Historical Society of Pennsylvania

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania was founded in 1824. It is one of the oldest historical societies in the United States. It holds many resources for genealogists and community historians. The society is one of the largest family history libraries in the nation.

Some of their genealogical collections include:

Family Papers and Manuscript Collections: HSP holds many diaries, journals, family trees, and related family documents and manuscripts that contribute to the understanding of many family histories. Collections of particular interest include those of Pennsylvania’s founding families, including Penn, Logan, Norris, Pemberton, Drinker, Shippen, Cadwalader, Chew, Biddle and Powel.

Wills, Probate Records, and Deeds: HSP holds microform copies of wills and deeds for many Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware counties. Generally indexed and often abstracted – especially helpful if you’re looking for family connections – these records are typically available for the period of the first year of record through the 19th century. HSP also has indices to letters of administration for many counties, as well as Orphans Court records for Philadelphia and other counties.

Genealogical Scrapbooks and Research Folders: Originally compiled by members of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania (GSP), the society’s collection of scrapbooks and family history folders contain original research pertaining to literally thousands of family lines. The family history folders may contain a single sheet of paper or hundreds of pages of research and correspondence.

Tax Records: Available in both original and microform format, tax records for Philadelphia and other tri-state localities can reveal information on family relationships, occupation, residences, and general economic status.

Church Records: A large number of the records of the region’s many churches meetings, and synagogues may be found within HSP’s collections. Available in original, transcribed, abstracted, and microform format, these records offer invaluable access to information on births, marriages, deaths, burials and community activities.

Birth and Marriage Records: Pennsylvania began issuing birth and death certificates in 1906. Before that time, some Pennsylvania counties kept birth registers as early as the Civil War, and some counties kept marriage records even earlier. HSP’s collection of birth records includes published compilations covering various time periods, geographical regions, and religious affiliations.

Death and Burial Records: Death and burial records can be accessed through various published, unpublished and microform sources. In many instances, official records of deaths were not compiled until after the Civil War. However, church records often contain information about deaths or burials in church graveyards.

Census Records: The society holds census indexes and films for Pennsylvania from 1790-1900 (and the entire country for 1850). Materials available for additional states vary widely.

Some of the HSP genealogy resources can be found online. You can do an online search on the HSP’s Discover online catalog.

Related Articles at

* Viewing Pennsylvanian Newspapers from the 1850s to the 1870s

* Pennsylvanian Civil Marriages 1677 – 1950

* Pennsylvania Death Certificate 1906 To 1924

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