Local libraries, Archives, and Other Repositories

Free Library of Philadelphia

  • How-to genealogy books, especially those for beginners and those concerned with ethnic or national-group genealogy.
  • Standard genealogy reference books, especially those dealing with Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.
  • Local ward and fire insurance maps, from around 1859 to the present.
  • Gazetteers for all countries.
  • Local directories of all kinds.
  • Biographies and collective biographies.
  • Lists of published genealogies.
  • Local newspapers, from 1719 to the present.
  • The federal census of Philadelphia 1790 - 1930, with either indexes or enumeration district descriptions.
  • Government publications. The Free Library is a Government Depository Library.
  • Social Science and History Department, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103. (215) 686-5396
    Email to: eref@freelibrary.org

    Generally, questions concerning city directories and newspapers should be directed to the Newspapers and Microfilm Center (NEWS) at 215-686-5431. All other questions should be directed to the Social Science and History Department.

Library of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

This library houses the collection of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania. Collectively, this collection is the outstanding historical and genealogical collection in the Philadelphia area. The following list only hints at its scope.

  • Published genealogies.
  • Genealogical periodicals and the indexes to them.
  • Major genealogical indexes.
  • Church records.
  • Bible records.
  • Cemetery records.
  • Newspapers and the indexes to many of them.
  • Local histories.
  • Manuscripts.
  • Censuses.
  • City directories.
  • Wills and administrations.
  • Deeds.
  • Tax records.
  • Military reference section.
  • Published immigration, naturalization, and passenger lists.
  • Servitude and slavery records.
  • Hereditary society publications.

The Library of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. (215) 732-6200.

Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania

  • Review books (many published genealogies) and accessions received by the GSP since 1994.
  • Published and manuscript family histories.
  • Hereditary and patriotic society information and lineage papers.
  • Pennsylvania church, cemetery, and undertaker records.   Over 800 microfilm reels.  Some of these records have been indexed by volunteers.
  • Land records for various Pennsylvania counties.
  • Griffith's Evaluation and Householder's Index. Irish tax records.
  • Marriage and death indexes to many Philadelphia newspapers.
  • Bible records.
  • Philadelphia Orphan's Court Records, 1719-1851 and 1854-1856. Microfilm of originals.
  • The published Pennsylvania Archives.
  • Germans to America, vols. 1-56.
  • Bates' History of Pennsylvania Volunteers.  Civil war personnel from Pennsylvania.
  • Numerous CD-ROMs and the computers to view them.
  • Special collections such as the Richardson, Engle, Minter, Kephart, Rubincam, Stout, Dunkerly, Hocker, Gerberich, and Ely Collections.

Back issues of Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine are available. A review of the indexes to this magazine is a MUST for Pennsylvania research. For example, an examination of the table of contents of the first few issues of this magazine reveals the following items: burial records, marriage certificates, necrologies, tombstone inscriptions, extracts from diaries, family notes, indexes to biographical sketches, marriages, and gleanings from family Bibles. A CD-ROM product that indexes the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine from its first issue to the mid-1990s is also available.

The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, 2207 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-3010. (215) 545-0391 (fax 215-545-0936). It is important to call before you go to make sure that one of the expert volunteers is available to assist with your search. GSP volunteers are exceptionally helpful.

National Archives - Mid-Atlantic Branch

  • Federal Population Census for the entire United States, 1790-1930, with many indexes. Philadelphia enumeration district descriptions are available.
  • Naturalization petitions and declarations filed with the federal courts of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia. Dates vary. Indexing available for Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
  • Passenger lists for Baltimore, Galveston, Philadelphia, Vermont ports, and various other Atlantic and Gulf Ports. Dates vary. Indexing available for most lists.
  • Military records.
Revolutionary War:
Compiled service records. Indexed. Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Files.
War of 1812:
Index to compiled service records.
Mexican War:
Compiled service records of volunteers from PA.
Civil War:
Index to compiled service records of Union soldiers from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Index to compiled service records of Confederate soldiers from Maryland and Virginia.
Spanish American War:
Index to compiled service records.

The holdings of this archive are described in Guide to Records in the National Archives-Mid Atlantic Region (SSH 016.974 Un3g), and in numerous handouts available from the Mid-Atlantic Branch. For a list of the holdings of the National Archives in Washington, D.C., see Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, 3 vols. (AE 1.108:G 94/ - Government Publications Department at the Free Library).

Pennsylvania State Archives

  • Passenger lists.
  • Naturalization records.
  • Birth, marriage, and death information.
  • Military and war records.
  • Occupational records.
  • Prison records.
  • Land records.
  • Church records.
  • Cemetery records.
  • County records.
  • Census records.
  • Family papers.
  • Miscellaneous records.

It is important to note that much of the information at the State Archives has been published in Pennsylvania Archives (LR974.8 P3821). It is always prudent to consult the guide listed below, then look at the Pennsylvania Archives before making a trip to Harrisburg.

The holdings of this archive are described in Guide to Genealogical Sources at the Pennsylvania State Archives (016.9293 P384g2 - SSH).

Pennsylvania State Archives, 350 North Street, Harrisburg, PA 17120 (717) 783-3281

Philadelphia City Archives

  • Philadelphia birth records, 1 Jul 1860 - 30 Jun 1915.
  • Philadelphia cemetery returns, 1803 - 30 Jun 1860.
  • Philadelphia death records, 1 Jul 1860 - 30 Jun 1915.
  • Philadelphia marriage records, 1 Jul 1860 - 30 June 1915 (Records only not offical certificates).
  • Naturalization records for the following courts: Common Pleas, Philadelphia County District Court, Quarter Sessions Court, Mayor's Court, Recorder's Court of the Northern Liberties and Kensington, Criminal Sessions Court, and General Sessions Court.
  • Deeds, 1683 - 1952.
  • City Directories, 1785-1930, 1935.
  • Common Pleas Court divorce dockets, 1850 - 1874.
  • Tax assessment registers, ca. 1769 - ca. 1820, varies by area.

The complete holdings of this archive are described in Descriptive Inventory of the Archives of the City and County of Philadelphia (016.9748 P53d - SSH) and Subject Index to the Photographic Collection of the Philadelphia City Archives (016.9748 P53de - SSH). Handouts that describe specific aspects of the holdings as well as indexes and finding aids are available at the archive.

Philadelphia City Archives, 3101 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104. (215) 685-9401.

Pennsylvania Department of Vital Records

This office has birth and death records for all Pennsylvania counties since January 1906. The address is listed below.

For birth and death records prior to 1906, contact the Orphans Court at the County Court House in the county where the event occurred. Court house addresses can be found in Ancestry's Red Book (SSH 929.1072 R245b, 3rd ed. 2004). If the event occurred in Philadelphia from 1 July 1860 to 30 June 1915, contact the Philadelphia City Archives. If the event occurred in Pittsburgh from 1870 to 1905 or in Allegheny City from 1882 to 1905, write to the Office of Biostatistics, Pittsburgh Health Department, City-County Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

For marriage records, contact the Marriage License Bureau at the County Court House where the license was issued. For Philadelphia, contact the Marriage License Bureau of the Orphan's Court.

For divorce records, contact the Prothonotary at the County Court House where the divorce was granted. For Philadelphia, contact the Court of Common Pleas.

Department of Vital Records, State Department of Health, Central Building, 101 South Mercer Street, P.O. Box 1528, New Castle, PA 16101. (724) 656-3100.

Philadelphia Office, Department of Vital Records, 1400 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA 19130. (215) 560-3054, call for a recorded message.

Philadelphia Register of Wills

Philadelphia wills, administrations, and inventories, from the earliest times to the present. Indexes are available at Room 185, City Hall. The actual will and administration folders may be at City Hall or at 401 North Broad Street.

Wills prior to 1901 and the indexes to them are also on microfilm at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Register of Wills, City Hall, Broad and Market Streets, Room 185, Philadelphia, PA 19107. (215) 686-6269.

Philadelphia Orphan's Court

  • Marriage records from 1 October 1885 to the present are at the Marriage License Bureau. For transcripts of marriage records from 1 July 1860 to December 1885, contact the Philadelphia City Archives.
  • Court records concerning disputes about probate actions.

Orphan's Court, City Hall, Room 415, Broad and Market Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19107. (215) 686-2234.

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas

  • Divorce information from 1875 to the present. Generally, the only information available is names of parties, dates, and final disposition of the case. Actual divorce records are only available to the parties of the divorce and their attorneys of record.
  • For divorce dockets prior to 1875, make inquiries at the Philadelphia City Archives.

Court of Common Pleas, Room 269 Prothonotary's Office City Hall, Broad and Market Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19107. (215) 686-6662.

Philadelphia Department of Records

  • Deeds after 1951. For copies of deeds prior to 1951, contact the Philadelphia City Archives.
  • Deed transfer sheets. Good for following the chain of title for a particular Philadelphia address from the mid-1950s back to the 1870s.
  • A handout, Architectural Research Sources at the Philadelphia City Archives & the Department of Records, is available from the Philadelphia City Archives.
  • Department of Records, City Hall, Broad and Market Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19107. (215) 686-2260.

Religious Archives in the Philadelphia region.

Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archives and Historical Collections, 1000 E. Wynnewood Road, Overbrook, PA, 19096-3001. (610) 667-2125 or Archdiocese Web Site.

Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center at the Balch Institute, 18 S. 7th Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19106-2314. (215) 925-8090. Jewish Genealogical Society of Philadelphia, JGSP Web Site.

Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, City Line and Lancaster Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19096. (610) 896-5000.

Episcopal Church - Diocese of Pennsylvania Headquarters, 240 S. 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19106. (215) 627-6434.

Lutheran Archives Center at Philadelphia, 7301 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19119. (215) 248-4616.

Haverford College Library, Quaker and Special Collections, Haverford College, Haverford, PA, 19041-1392. (610) 896-1161. Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore College, 500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, PA, 19081-1399. (610) 328-8496.

Historic St. George's United Methodist Church, 235 N. 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19106. (215) 925-7788.

Presbyterian Church (USA), Department of History, 425 Lombard St, Philadelphia, PA, 19147. (215) 627-1852.

For other religious denominations see the keyword index in the Encyclopedia of Associations (SSH 061 G131e7). Search under significant words; e.g., MENNONITE, SCHWENKFELDER, MORAVIAN, BRETHREN, etc.

For a nationwide list of religious repositories, see the Genealogist's Address Book (SSH 927.1025 B444g).

Family History Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has the largest genealogical collection in the world. Much of this collection has been microfilmed and can be borrowed through this Family History Center. A catalog is available on site.

Also available on site is the International Genealogical Index, the Ancestry File, the Social Security Death Index, and a listing of servicepersons killed during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Excellent guides to all aspects of this collection are available at all Family History Centers for a nominal fee.

One important factor that most guides do not mention concerns the difference between Philadelphia City and Philadelphia County. Both of these headings should be searched for relevant records.

See the LDS Family Search site.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Family History Center: Two locations in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Pennsylvania Metro, 2076 Red Lion Road, Philadelphia, PA. (215) 673-2770.
Hours: Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.; Thursday 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.

West Philadelphia Pennsylvania, 3913 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA. (215) 382-2359.
Hours: Sunday, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Closed major holidays
Attention: Please call before coming for update on hours

Note: These are not mailing addresses. Due to limited staff, Family History Centers are unable to respond to mail inquiries.

Balch Institute of Ethnic Studies

  • Merged with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 2002. The Balch Institute's catalog is fully integrated with that of the Historical Society.
  • A vast collection of material about the various ethnic groups that have immigrated to North America.
  • One unique aspect of this institute is the fourth category in their card catalog: ethnic group.
  • Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. (215) 732-6200

Independence Seaport Museum

Temple Urban Archives

  • Vast newspaper clipping archives.
  • Vast newspaper photograph archive.
  • Handout that lists holdings.
  • Temple University Urban Archives, Paley Library, 13th and Berks Mall, Philadelphia, PA 19122. (215) 204-8257. Call before going.

Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet