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Pennsylvania Genealogy: Free Family History Resources

by Linnea Crowther

This is a guide to researching free genealogy records in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is one of the original 13 states. It is located in the American Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions and is the sixth most populous state. It was admitted into the U.S. in 1787. Its capital is Harrisburg; its most populous city is Philadelphia. Residents of Pennsylvania have ancestry from a wide variety of heritage groups: German, African, Irish, British, Polish, Italian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, French Canadian, and Dominican, among others.

Family history resources listed here include searchable databases of obituary records, regional library collections, state government records, county government records, local genealogy societies, and more.

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Pennsylvania Obituary Records

Pennsylvania Libraries with Genealogical Resources

Pennsylvania State Genealogical Records

Pennsylvania County Genealogical Records

Pennsylvania Funeral Homes

Pennsylvania Genealogical Societies

Locally-based genealogy groups offer not only information resources, but a community of fellow family history researchers who can often support one another in their endeavors.

  • The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania is a non-profit educational institution located in Philadelphia. GPS preserves and publishes sources for genealogy research. Admission to GSP is free for members and $5.00 for non-members. The institution offers in-person consultations for a small fee. https://genpa.org/
  • The Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society is a non-profit organization of amateur and professional family historians and genealogists devoted to the research and preservation of family history. WPGS has a library located in the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh. The library hold family histories, immigration records, and military history. They also host monthly events. Learn more: https://wpgs.org/
  • The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is the largest in the Mid-Atlantic region. The Society collects genealogical materials from Pennsylvania and every other state east of the Mississippi River. The society collects family histories including diaries and family trees. They also collect wills and deeds. You can search online or visit the library in Philadelphia. They also offer courses and workshops. Learn more: https://hsp.org/
  • The Berks County Genealogical Society allows online research and maintains a library in Reading. The Society features church and cemetery records, along with military and government records. Learn more: http://berksgenes.org/index.html
  • The Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society is located in Hanover Township. The NPGS is only open on Thursdays from 10 AM until 3 PM. They hold family histories, church records, city records, cemetery records and archived newspapers. Learn More: http://nepgs.com/wordpress/
  • The Columbia County Historical & Genealogical Society had a library and museum on the second floor of the Bloomsburg Public Library. You may also search their records online including birth, death, land, marriage, and WWI draft registrations. They also host events. Learn more: http://colcohist-gensoc.org/
  • The Lackawanna Historical Society contains genealogy records about many area families. The files include newspaper clippings, letters, and some family charts. Learn more: http://www.lackawannahistory.org/genealogy.html
  • The Beaver County Genealogy and History Center is an archival site for documents and books. The center contains birth records, death records, cemetery records, and more. They hold classes and a staff that can assist with genealogy research. http://beavercountyhistory.org/#top

Pennsylvania Cultural Heritage Resources

  • The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia collects and preserves Jewish genealogical information, hosts a library with works on Jewish Genealogy, publishes a newsletter and holds monthly meetings that feature presentations. Learn more: http://www.jgsgp.org/index.html
  • The Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society, Pittsburgh Chapter is an affiliate Chapter of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society. The group promotes networking and sharing of genealogical information. They encourage the preservation of important records on African-American history. The society also presents events and holds regular meetings. Learn more: http://www.aahgspgh.org/home
  • Taller Puertorriqueño is known as The Cultural Heart of Latino Philadelphia. Using the arts and cultural events, the organization preserves Puerto Rican and Latino culture. They host art exhibits and offer art education programs. Learn more: http://tallerpr.org/
  • The Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center is an folklife museum and research center dedicated to preserving and promoting Pennsylvania German folk culture. The center is located within Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. Learn more: https://www.kutztown.edu/about-ku/administrative-offices/pennsylvania-german-cultural-heritage-center.htm
  • The Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum is a living history village and farm, that collects, preserves and interprets the history and culture of the Pennsylvania German rural community from 1740 to 1940. The museum collects historical records and offers educational programs. Learn more: http://landisvalleymuseum.org/
  • The Polish Heritage Society of Pennsylvania promotes an interest in Polish culture through book promotions, an annual Chopin concert, and an annual art exhibit among other events. Learn more: http://www.polishcultureacpc.org/orgs/PHSP.html
  • The Polish Cultural Council of Pittsburgh sponsors and produces various Polish cultural events, programs, lectures and exhibitions. The council hosts an annual Polish Day. Learn more: http://www.polishculturalcouncil.org/

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