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Tracing Your Pennsylvania Ancestors

Tracing Your Pennsylvania Ancestors


Do you have Pennsylvania ancestors but don’t know how to get started tracing them? There are plenty of resources available to you. As one of the original 13 colonies, Pennsylvania has a long history and a lot of records available for tracing your ancestors who lived there. Some sources are online, some are offline, some are free, and some have a membership fee to access. They are all worthwhile in using in your Pennsylvania research. Here are the best sources for beginning your search.

 

1. The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania

This free website has an online database to help you begin your Pennsylvania genealogy research. It has a collection of family resources submitted by users, cemetery databases, naturalization indexes, resources for researching Pennsylvania miners, and county level research resources. It is perfect for the beginning Pennsylvania genealogist.

 

2. FamilySearch.org

FamilySearch.org is a free website run by the Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints (also known as the Mormons). They have one of the largest genealogy collections in the world. In addition to user-submitted family trees, the website also has an entire section devoted to Pennsylvania. Included in this section are things like vital records, obituaries, naturalization records, passenger records, and probate records. All of these things are perfect for taking your Pennsylvania family history research back farther and giving you the information and clues you need to discover those important details on your family.

 

3. The PA GenWeb Project

This free website is part of the US GenWeb Project. It has user-submitted documents that you aren’t likely to find anywhere else. Some of these records come from private family collections and haven’t been published anywhere else. You will find vital records, church records, family Bible records, land records, census records, personal letters and correspondence, wills, probate records, military records, and more. It is the perfect site for finding that one special thing you need to really take your Pennsylvania research to the next level.

 

4. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

This free online website is an extension of the actual physical building you can visit in Pennsylvania. It has an online catalog of things that are only available at the building. These records include census records, county and municipal records, free immigration records, coal miner records, military records, prison and indentured servant records, railroad employee records, and more. The website itself also has land records that are searchable and viewable without having to go to the actual building.

 

5. County Courthouses and Archives

County courthouses and archives are located throughout Pennsylvania, and are excellent resources for finding documents pertaining to your family history. You will find things there that haven’t been published anywhere, and may not have been seen in centuries. Things like wills, probate records, land records, tax records, cemetery records, church records, and old newspaper records on microfilm are all potentially available at these places. If you know the county in which your ancestor lived, it is well worth your time to make a trip there and explore the contents of the local courthouses and archives buildings.

 

6. Ancestry

The undisputed king of online genealogy resources, this site has a membership fee to use it (though there is a 14 day free trial if you just want to briefly explore it). You will find family histories from other users on Pennsylvania families, old photographs of Pennsylvania people from long ago (some of whom may be in your family tree), old newspaper records, census records, scanned pages of published books on Pennsylvania genealogy and family histories, vital records of all kinds, old yearbooks, and so much more. This is a treasure trove of Pennsylvania genealogical research you don’t want to ignore. You’ll find a lot here.

 

7. GenealogyBank.com

If you are looking for old newspaper records from Pennsylvania, this subscription-based genealogy website is an excellent place to go. You will find newspaper records going back 150 to 200 years for various counties. The records are searchable by name and place. Old newspaper records are a terrific source of information, because you will find personal stories about your ancestors here that you won’t find anywhere else. You will also find obituaries and birth and marriage records that can help you discover missing names and dates in your family tree, especially if these vital records were lost in courthouse fires or other natural disasters. You can spend a lot of time searching the newspaper records here and find a lot of valuable family history information.

Searching for your Pennsylvania ancestors is easy when you know where to go to begin the search. All of these places will give you both direct information and clues as to where to look for further documents. Use these resources, and your Pennsylvania family history will soon be opened up to you, and you will finally meet and get to know those ancestors.

 


Free Genealogy Lookups for Pennsylvania


Will Moneymaker

Will founded Ancestral Findings back in 1995. He has been involved in genealogy research for over 20 years. The thrill of the hunt, the adventure, and the excitement begin when he started investigating the meaning of his last name. Why I Love Genealogy (And You Should, Too!)

  • Janice Russo

    Thank you for all of your generous freebies. They are most appreciated by me….