This is the second in a two-part series on the Pennsylvania Archives.
(Not to be confused with the Pennsylvania State Archives.)
As we learned in my last post, the Pennsylvania Archives are a rich resource where the researcher can find a wealth of information on Colonial and Revolutionary Era Pennsylvania ancestors. Further, we learned that the Archives are divided into ten series (Colonial Records plus Series 2-10), then divided by volumes internal to each series.
Today, I will breakdown a research method to attack this very large archive. It’s important to know that not all Series have equal value to the genealogist and going front to back would be a huge waste of time and terribly frustrating.
Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer in her article “Lost in Pennsylvania?” (Volume 40 of Pennsylvania Genealogy Magazine) suggests starting where positive results are most probable – in the middle. Series Six is a huge collection of all things Revolutionary War from muster rolls to killed & wounded lists to journals. Further, it is fully indexed in Series Seven. So the first place to go is Series Seven and look for your Revolutionary War soldier. The index is organized alphabetically by surname.
Links to the actual online documents are provided below.
Seventh Series – Every name Surname Index to Sixth Series
- Seventh Series Volume 1 starts with “A”
- Seventh Series Volume 2 starts with “Dennison”
- Seventh Series Volume 3 starts with “Hudson”
- Seventh Series Volume 4 starts with “Mickli”
- Seventh Series Volume 5 starts with “Shafer”
- Sixth Series Volume 1
- Sixth Series Volume 2
- Sixth Series Volume 3
- Sixth Series Volume 3 pt 2
- Sixth Series Volume 4
- Sixth Series Volume 5 – Muster and Pay Rolls of the PA Militia 1790 -1800
- Sixth Series Volume 6
- Sixth Series Volume 7 – Muster Rolls of the PA Volunteers – War of 1812
- Sixth Series Volume 8
- Sixth Series Volume 9
- Sixth Series Volume 10
- Sixth Series Volume 11
- Sixth Series Volume 12 – forfeited Estates, Inventories and Sales
- Sixth Series Volume 13
- Sixth Series Volume 14
Allow me to offer a couple words of advice when diving into this step. Most military service records offer very few genealogical tidbits that help identify your ancestor. You’ll get name, rank, and unit, but no indication of parents or birth date to make a positive identification. Further, you may find 50 “John Smith”s, and be at a loss to determine which is your ancestor. It can be very frustrating. One of the best tricks to making this data work for you is to connect the unit or commanding officer with the town your ancestor lived in. And the key to making this connection is The Pennsylvania line : regimental organization and operations, 1776-1783 by John B. Trussell. This excellent resource is your guide to CONTINENTAL – not militia – military organization structure. Trussell breaks down in easy-to-read fashion, each military unit, who commanded it in what time period, where they fought, what battles they engaged in, how the unit fits into the military organizational chart, and most importantly where they recruited troops! Find the unit(s) that recruited troops in your ancestor’s home town, and you have a terrific clue about the unit to which he belonged. Alternatively, find the commanding officer from your ancestor’s home town and odds are he recruited from the same area. Then follow his unit! With this information in hand you can make great use of the records in Series Six.
Next, move to the Fifth Series. It, too, is all about military records, specifically the Continental Line. Here you’ll find muster rolls, unit histories, and more. Fortunately, for us, an every name index for the Fifth Series is found in Volume 15 of the Sixth Series. The every name index for the Fifth Series is really in two physical volumes divided alphabetically by surname.
Once you’ve found your ancestor in the index, go back to HathiTrust, and search the appropriate volume in the Fifth Series. Each volume is hyper-linked here.
- Fifth Series – Volume 1
- Fifth Series – Volume 2
- Fifth Series – Volume 3
- Fifth Series – Volume 4 (Revolutionary War Rosters)
- Fifth Series – Volume 5
- Fifth Series – Volume 6
The Colonial Records
As may be self-evident in the title, these are the early records of the Colony. As may not be so obvious is that they contain records beyond the legislative acts and governmental documents. They have information on Palatines, naturalization, Indians, French & Indian War, Oaths of Allegiance, Militia, petitions of the inhabitants to the Provincial Council, bounty land and donation land. There is an official Index to the Colonial Records. You can find it here on HathiTrust. But before you start searching the index for your ancestor, you need to know that this is a subject only index and not an every name index. However, don’t despair. Dr. Mary Dunn has compiled an every name index for the Colonial Records entitled Index to Pennsylvania’s Colonial Records Series, published 1992 by Genealogical Publishing Company. Because of the recent publication date it is still within its copyright so you won’t find a full text version online; however, you can check it out from the Midwest Genealogy Center (Dewey Decimal # 974.8 D922). Or you can use the HathiTrust catalog record, limited preview and link to “find a library” here to located it.
Once you’ve determined in which volume your ancestor is referenced, you can again visit HathiTrust to view any of the 16 Volumes online and fully text searchable. A link to the 16 Volumes is here.
Series Three is filled with terrific genealogy information. Here are a few highlights. Tax lists from 1765 to 1788, Land Warrants (the start of the process to purchase land from the Pennsylvania Colonial Government), index to an early land owner map of Philadelphia (!), and 1835 Pensioners List.
- Series Three Volume 1 (complete surname index)
- Volumes 2-10 are indexed at the end of each volume with indexes repeated (not cumulative) in Vol 27. Indexes vary from every name to short subject.
- Series Three Volume 2
- Series Three Volume 3
- Series Three Volume 5
- Series Three Volume 6
- Series Three Volume 7 Warantees of Land 1738 – 1898
- Series Three Volume 8
- Series Three Volume 9
- Series Three Volume 10
- Series Three Volume 11
- Series Three Volume 12
- Series Three Volume 13
- Series Three Volume 14
- Series Three Volume 15 (Supply & State Tax Lists City & County of Philadelphia 1779, 1780, 1781)
- Series Three Volume 16
- Series Three Volume 20
- Series Three Volume 21
- Series Three Volume 23
- Series Three Volume 24
- Series Three Volume 25
- Series Three Volume 26
- Series Three Volume 27 (surname index A-Co for volumes 11-26)
- Series Three Volume 28 (surname index Co-Ju for volumes 11-26)
- Series Three Volume 29 (surname index Ka-Re for volumes 11-26)
- Series Three Volume 30 (surname index Re – Zy for volumes 11-26)
Would you believe there is still more to the Pennsylvania Archives? There are a couple more Series, which I haven’t addressed here. They have less genealogical bang for your buck, but a thorough researcher should still check them out. You can find them online at Hathi Trust, just search “Pennsylvania Archives.”
In the meantime, this should get you started. Indeed, this could keep you going for a while! Bookmark this blog post, and come back often!