Pennsylvania Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections

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This entry was originally written by Roger D. Joslyn, CG, FUGA, FGBS, FASG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
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the Pennsylvania Family History Research series.
History of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Vital Records
Census Records for Pennsylvania
Background Sources for Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Maps
Pennsylvania Land Records
Pennsylvania Probate Records
Pennsylvania Court Records
Pennsylvania Tax Records
Pennsylvania Cemetery Records
Pennsylvania Church Records
Pennsylvania Military Records
Pennsylvania Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Pennsylvania Archives, Libraries and Societies
Pennsylvania Immigration
Pennsylvania Naturalization
Ethnic Groups of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania County Resources
Map of Pennsylvania


The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, published by the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania since 1948, has tended to focus on the Philadelphia area, with some coverage of New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, but in recent years the editors have strived for more inclusive coverage of the commonwealth. The first issue was numbered volume 16, as it succeeded the society's Publications of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, started in 1895. Volumes 1'39 are available as Family Archives CD-ROM #213 (Brøderbund, 1998). Genealogies of Pennsylvania Families, 3 vols. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1982), was reprinted from these two journals.

The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography is the publication of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. It contains excellent articles on Pennsylvania subjects, although mostly with a historical focus, and since 1936 without 'genealogical' material. Volume 1 was published in 1877, and in 1954 the society issued a consolidated index to the first seventy-five volumes, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Index, volumes 1'75 (1877'1951) (Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1954), edited by Eugene E. Doll; it does not include names from 'genealogical' articles, however. Ian M. G. Quimby edited The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Index, volumes 76'123 (1952'1999) (Philadelphia: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 2001). Volumes 30 to 67 (1906'43) were reprinted by Johnson Reprint Corporation of New York in 1969. In 1981 Genealogical Publishing Company of Baltimore reprinted a volume of Genealogies of Pennsylvania Families from The Pennsylvania Magazine.

The Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society has published the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society Quarterly since 1974. It is one of the more important regional journals since it covers a large area and has many fine articles and abstracts of source records.

Another journal that concerns the central and western parts of the commonwealth was Your Family Tree (1948'83). Besides queries, it featured abstracts of wills, tax lists, grave marker inscriptions, and newspaper items.

Publications of the Pennsylvania German Folklore Society was issued in twenty-eight volumes (1963'66), when it merged with the Pennsylvania German Society Proceedings, which since 1891 had produced sixty-three volumes. Many emigration and church records have been published in these periodicals.

More historical than genealogical, but still useful, is Pennsylvania History, published by the Pennsylvania Historical Association since 1934. A cumulative index for volumes 1-28 is available at the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania.

Much Pennsylvania material has been published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. There are also numerous one-county, one-township, and regional publications that should not be overlooked.


In 1984 the Pennsylvania State Library published an updated Pennsylvania Newspapers and Selected Out-of-State Newspapers, originally compiled by Louis F. Rauco in 1976 and arranged by county, locality, and title. See also Glenora Rossell, ed., Pennsylvania Newspapers: A Bibliography and Union List, 2d ed. (Pittsburgh: Pennsylvania Library Association, 1978). This updates the earlier edition by Ruth Salisbury, but the most current information is available through Online Computer Library Center. The commonwealth sponsored a newspaper project to identify, catalog, preserve, and microfilm old newspapers. The state library, with the largest collection, makes microfilms available through interlibrary loan. Check the library's website for its newspaper holdings. Other excellent collections of newspapers are at the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Several volumes of newspaper abstracts have been published. Some representative titles are:

  • Duer, Clara E. Pittsburgh Gazette Abstracts, 1786'1820. 5 vols. Pittsburgh: Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, and Apollo, Pa.: Closson Press, 1986'95.
  • Hawbaker, Gary T., ed. Runaways, Rascals, and Rogues: Missing Spouses, Servants and Slaves. Hershey, Pa.: the author, 1987.
  • Hocker, Edward W. Genealogical Data Relating to the German Settlers in Pennsylvania and Adjacent Territory: From Advertisements in German Newspapers Published in Philadelphia and Germantown, 1743'1800. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1980.
  • Scott, Kenneth. Genealogical Data from The Pennsylvania Chronicle, 1767'1774. National Genealogical Society Special Publication No. 37. Washington, D.C.: National Genealogical Society, 1980.

An index of death and marriage notices from the Public Ledger of Philadelphia (1825'1875), created by volunteers of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, is in that society's library and in other libraries.


Many wonderful collections of manuscript material at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania are on microfilm at the The Family History Library (FHL), such as those of Gilbert Cope, Alfred R. Justice, Israel D. Rupp, and many others. Nearly every repository in the commonwealth has extensive, helpful collections. For a beginning guide to some of these, see Irwin Richman, comp., Historical Manuscript Depositories in Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, Pa.: Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission, 1965), which is arranged by place, and especially Guide to the Manuscript Collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: the society, 1991). Catalogue of the Manuscript Collections in the Libraries of Western Pennsylvania, by Jean O. Morris (Pittsburgh: the author, 2003), includes the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh Archives Center.