Pennsylvania Archives, Libraries and Societies

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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
Pennsylvania sil.png
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

Pennsylvania State Archives

350 North St.
Harrisburg, PA 17120-0090

The Pennsylvania State Archives holds various source materials, including vital records, censuses, maps, tax lists, military records, and state land records. See Robert M. Dructor, Guide to Genealogical Sources at the Pennsylvania State Archives, 2d ed. (Harrisburg, Pa.: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1998). This should be supplemented with these titles also published by the Historical and Museum Commission:

  • Suran, Frank M., comp. and ed. Guide to the Record Groups in the Pennsylvania State Archives. 1980.
  • Whipkey, Harry E., comp. Guide to the Manuscript Groups in the Pennsylvania State Archives. 1976.

Most updates, however, appear on the state archives' website. The commission also publishes a number of books on Pennsylvania. These are detailed in their catalog.

State Library of Pennsylvania

Bureau of State Library
333 Market St.
Harrisburg, PA 17126-1745

Genealogies, local histories, maps, censuses, newspapers, periodicals, and city directories are at the state library. Of particular use is the Genealogical Surname Index, about which see Janice B. Newman in 'Genealogical Research at the State Library of Pennsylvania,' Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine 35 (1988): 199-212. Also to be consulted is A Guide to the Genealogy/Local History Section of the State Library of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, Pa.: State Library of Pennsylvania, 1989).

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania

1300 Locust St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107-5699

Founded in 1824, the historical society has published the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography since 1877. See Guide to the Manuscript Collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 3d ed. (Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1991), and the society's online catalog. The society charges a research fee for mail inquiries.

In 2002, the collections of the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies were merged with those of the HSP (see

The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania

215 S. Broad St., 7th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107-5325

In 1892 a group of Historical Society of Pennsylvania members formed the adjunct Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, which became a separate body. Beginning in 1895, the society produced Publications of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, renamed Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine in 1948. Helen Hutchinson Woodroffe compiled 'A Genealogist's Guide to Pennsylvania Records.' Beginning in volume 31 (1979), it is a listing of the county material in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's extensive collection of materials and includes call numbers. This guide is also available with the same title as a separate publication of the society, edited by Marion F. Egge (Philadelphia, 1995). See also J. Carlyle Parker, comp., A User's Guide to the Manuscript Collection of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania...Microfilmed by the Genealogical Department of Salt Lake City (Turlock, Calif.: Marietta Publishing Co., 1986).

Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania

1212 Smallman St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-4200

Covering the western half of the commonwealth, the historical society has an extensive library and has published The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine (now Pittsburgh History) since 1918, with cumulative indexes for volumes 1-43 and 44-54.

Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society

4400 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-4080

Formerly housed with the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, the Genealogical Society, covering twenty-six counties, publishes Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society Quarterly, with volumes 1-25 available on CD-ROM, which also includes Allegheny County naturalizations (1788'1905) and Lists and Indexes to the Legal, Court and Municipal Records of Allegheny County. For a list of the society's holdings, see volumes 4 and 6 of the genealogical society's Quarterly.

The South Central Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, Inc.

P.O. Box 1824
York, PA 17405-1824

This society has distinguished itself through the publication of many source records, including Bible records, tax lists, private vital records, cemetery inscriptions, and naturalizations.

Many Pennsylvania counties have fine historical and genealogical societies, which should be checked for their book and manuscript collections. These include Adams, Berks, Blair, Bucks, Chester, Crawford, Cumberland, Lancaster, and York counties. See also Directory Pennsylvania 1990 by the Library Development of the State Library of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, Pa.: 1990).

Bucks County Genealogical Society

P.O. Box 826
Washington Crossing, PA 18977

The BCGS is a newly formed group of genealogists interested in sharing our passion for researching family history and making a difference in the genealogical community. The group meets monthly for meetings and presentations by professional genealogists as well as experienced peers. Their website at has a growing searchable database of Bucks County records, including cemetery information, and members-only section.