Pennsylvania Genealogy Online

Databases and Web Sites for PA Family History Research

Pennsylvania is more than just the Keystone State—it was also a key starting point for many immigrants on their way both south and west. Research and explore your Pennsylvania genealogy online with these online Pennsylvania family history databases, indexes and digitized records collections - many of them free!

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Cannon at the site of Picket's Charge, Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania. Getty / Nine OK

Pennsylvania birth and death records become public records 105 years after the date of birth or 50 years after the date of death. These free online Pennsylvania birth indices and death indices provide names, dates, and a Pennsylvania State File number, so that you can request a record copy from the Pennsylvania State Archives. Most indexes are alphabetical, but the 1920-1924 deaths and 1930-1951 deaths are listed based on Soundex codes.

Searchable versions of these indexes with links to digitized copies of the certificates are available on Ancestry.com with subscription (free if you are a Pennsylvania resident).

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A browsable-only collection of digitized probate records from counties across Pennsylvania, including wills, inventories, registers, etc. The available probate records and indexes vary by county. Free online from FamilySearch.

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This free, searchable collection of digitized Pennsylvania civil marriage records created in Pennsylvania counties, includes marriage registers, affidavits and marriage licenses. In some instances, divorce records are also recorded with marriages. Free online from FamilySearch.

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Since September 30, 1885, marriages in Pennsylvania have been recorded by the county Clerk of the Orphans Court or the Marriage License Clerk in each PA county. For the years 1885 through 1891, the state's Department of Internal Affairs also maintained a Record of Marriages, with semi-alphabetically arranged entries for both brides and grooms. Images of these records through the year 1889 are available for free online viewing in PDF format from the Pennsylvania State Archives.

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Digitized images of the pages in the published Pennsylvania Archives series are online for free browsing and searching at Fold3.com (no subscription required for this particular collection). The entire series consists of 138 published volumes (in 10 series) of early Pennsylvania government records transcribed and printed by the Commonwealth, including military, tax, land, naturalization, marriage and baptism records, plus ship passenger lists and other items relevant to both genealogy and history in Pennsylvania.

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Scanned land records, viewable online from the Pennsylvania State Archives include Warrant Registers, Copied Survey Books, Donation Lands, Indexes of Selected Original (Loose) Surveys, Depreciation Land Register and Old Rights (Index) for Philadelphia and Bucks and Chester counties.

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The digital Pennsylvania Genealogy Collection online for free from the State Library of Pennsylvania includes the Pennsylvania Necrology Scrapbook of obituaries clipped from Pennsylvania newspapers between 1891 and 1904 (including many Civil War veterans) and the Harrisburg Newspaper Index with marriages and deaths from four Harrisburg area newspapers 1799 to 1827. Other free online Pennsylvania genealogy databases from the PA State Library include PA Civil War Regimental Histories and a number of digitized PA historical newspapers

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The Pittsburgh Press and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette are just two of the major Pennsylvania newspapers available online for free in digitized format from Google News Archive. The search function for the older Pittsburgh papers is terrible, so don't by any means rely on a surname search to find ancestors. If you can locate a death date from a tombstone or other death record, then directly browse the papers from the prior few days page by page for your ancestors. You can often find an index on the first page of each paper with the issue page number for "obituaries" and/or "death notices."
More: Google News Archive Tips for Genealogists

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Anyone with ancestors living in Western Pennsylvania should explore this free collection of historical books, documents and other resources relating to the history and genealogy of Western PA. Free online records include indexed U.S. census schedules for the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny City (1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880); over 18,000 historic photographs of people and places; historic Pittsburgh and Allegheny County real estate and survey maps; full text copies of over 1200 books about Pittsburgh published in the 19th and early 20th centuries; and digitized copies of 125 historic Pittsburgh city directories dating from 1815 through the 1940s.

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Anyone researching Pennsylvania military ancestors should check out ARIAS (Archives Records Information Access System) which has over 1.5 million card images relating to military service available online for free viewing. Collections include PA National Guard Veteran's Card File (1867-1921), Civil War Veterans' Card File, Revolutionary War Military Abstract Cards, World War I Service Medal Application Cards, Spanish American War Veterans' Card File, Mexican Border Campaign Veterans' Card File and Militia Officer Index Cards.

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The Philadlephia Inquirer (1860-1922) along with a number of other Pennsylvania newspapers from the colonial period are online at GenealogyBank, by subscription. You can also find recent obituaries from many PA newspapers - some go back as far as the 1970s, although most are from 1995 and later.
More: 7 Tips for Searching Historic Newspapers Online

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This free online collection, formerly part of the FamilySearch International Genealogical Index (IGI), includes extracted birth records from a number of Pennsylvania localities, including Philadelphia Birth Registers, 1860-1903. These are abstracted records only (no digital images), but by viewing the batch and source you can use the information from this index to locate the original birth record. Other counties with extracted records in the IGI include (but are not limited to) Allegheny and Lackawanna. Use the "batch search" link to view all records from a particular record group.

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Free online indexes for Pennsylvania estate records and probate files are available for a few Pennsylvania counties and time periods. Most lists are not complete.

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This pay-per-view website offers real-time access to county government records, including deeds, wills, and marriage records, for over two dozen counties in Pennsylvania. Many of the records are only available from the 20th century, but a few counties such as Washington, Franklin, and Armstrong have records online going back to county formation. Two different access options are available -- Landex WebStore for accessing only a few documents, and LandEx Remote for individuals who need increased access. Landex Remote requires a $25 minimum, but sometimes it has records (especially older ones) that are NOT available through WebStore.

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Explore this fully-searchable collection of digitized death records from the City of Pittsburgh from the first city deaths recorded in 1870, to 1905 when death registrations were taken over by the state of Pennsylvania. Free online from FamilySearch.

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Wonderful volunteers with an interest in Allegheny County genealogy have banned together to provide indexes and even full transcriptions (in some cases) of Allegheny County death notices, plus a few marriage annoucements, found in Pennsylvania newspapers. There are even indexes to photos of individuals, plus some divorces. These aren't complete indexes, but the available information is growing rapidly.

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General judgements, debts, and other court records are accessible through these free online indexes from the Allegheny County Department of Court Records. Internet Explorer is a required browser or you won't be able to navigate the clickable PDF files. While the indices are listed as being available from Jan 1, 1973-Dec 31, 1994, the Ejectment & Miscellaneous Index of civil court proceedings (including divorces) actually goes back to county formation (1788).

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Explore a wide variety of free online city directories, vital records, and more. DonsList includes resources from across the United States, but with a special focus on Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

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Beaver County property tax records (including horses, cows, and occupational tax, in addition to real estate) are available online for the period 1840–1925 in digitized format at Ancestry.com. The Beaver County Genealogy and History Center has put these online for free (Ancestry.com subscription not required), and has also indexed a number of them.

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Search indexes to over 1 million records held by the Register of Wills / Clerk of the Orphans' Court offices in Berks County, Pennsylvania, including birth, marriage and death records for Berks County and the City of Reading, plus estate records.

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Since the 1980s, volunteers from the Genealogy Department of the Butler Area Public Library have extracted names and dates of published obituaries and created an index to over 227,000 articles published in Butler County newspapers from 1818 to the present. The primary focus is obituaries, but the database does include some other events of genealogical importance including births, marriages, divorces, etc.

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The Johnstown Area Historical and Genealogical Society hosts a free online index to Cambria County naturalizations from 1835–1991. Also available are obituary indexes for both Cambria County and Somerset County, as well as a surname index for surnames being researched by members of the society.

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This is a great resource for anyone with roots in Chester County, Pennsylvania! Free online indexes cover everything from available births, marriages and deaths (1852-1855 and 1893-1907), to wills, divorces, naturalization records, fugitive slave records, peddler's petitions, Civil War Board of Relief petitions, poor school children records, tax lists, coroner's records, slave manumissions, deeds, World War I Servicemen records, and so much more.

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A wide variety of records and indexes are available online through the Delaware County Archives, including an index to administrations 1790–1935; Admissions, Discharges and Deaths in the County Home 1806–1929; indexes to civil and criminal case files; and birth and death records 1852–1854 and 1893–1906, plus city of Chester births and deaths 1886–1906.

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Search or browse more than 445,000 pages of historical Delaware County newspapers, including the Chester Times (1882-1959), Chester Daily Times (1876-1881), Chester Evening Times (1886), Chester Reporter (1941), Daily Times (1977-2007) and Delaware County Daily Times (1959-1976). Free!

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A wealth of transcriptions by Jim Fordyce of Greene County genealogical records, including birth and death registers (1893-1903 and 1904-1915), a Greene County Obituary Index (1822-1959, 1980-1981), will indexes (1796-2002), Marriage Books 1-20 (1885-1929), and Marriages, Deaths and miscellaneous items from the Waynesbur Messenger, 1850-1919.

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Over 1.5 million Philadelphia death certificates have been indexed and made available online for free by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and thousands of volunteers. Digital images of most certificates are also online for free viewing and download, although you may have to register/login to view them.

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It might be the youngest county in the state of Pennsylvania, but Lackawanna's online historical archives offer access to Death Certificates prior to 1906; Inheritance Tax Dockets & Marriage Index 1885-1995; Orphans’ Court Index 1901-95; and the Registry of Wills Index 1878-1995.

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FamilySearch has over 1.8 million names in its free online collection of Philadelphia marriage indexes. The transcribed information includes the name of the brides and grooms, along with the year of the marriage and the license number. With the license number you can obtain a copy of the original marriage licenses - marriages from 1885-1915 are available on microfilm at the Family History Library and Family History Centers, while marriages from 1916 forward can be obtained from the Philadelphia City Hall.

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Westmoreland County, the first county created west of the Allegheny Mountains, provides free online access to digitized deeds (back to county formation in 1773), although many are not yet indexed (and the Grantor/Grantee indexes have not been digitized). Also available are Coroner Docket Books back to the late 1800s, estates back to 1986, and marriage records from 1885.