This is the first in a two-part series on the Pennsylvania Archives.
“The 138 volumes of the published Pennsylvania Archives are the single most valuable research tool available for Colonial (1681-1774) and Revolutionary (1775-1783) research in Pennsylvania,” according to Jean O. Morris, author of A Guide to Using the Published Archives of Pennsylvania and distinguished genealogist.
Without a doubt, the Pennsylvania Archives, an encyclopedic-sized resource – not a repository – are comprehensive in their reach, stunning in their depth, and a bit overwhelming in their, shall we say, “structure.” All of this leads to the inevitable deer-in-the-headlights reaction by most genealogists – myself included – when faced with this multi-shelf archive of books.
What You’ll Find in This Blog Post
My goal today is to give you a brief overview of what’s contained in the Pennsylvania Archives, a thumbnail brief on how they are organized by way of how they were compiled. In the next post I’ll share with you easy tools to crack this nut including links to indexes and the records online.
So, let’s get started.
All That’s Gold in the Pennsylvania Archives
The Pennsylvania Archives are the early records of Pennsylvania. It’s not the history of Pennsylvania told in narrative form, but it is a collection of the documents that tell the story of Pennsylvania’s history published in a multi-volume set for your research enjoyment. Here’s just a snippet of the records you’ll find.
- Colonial Records – minutes of the Provincial Council, information on early settlers, land disputes, divorces, land grants, militia, border disputes, Indian treaties, Oaths of Allegiance, French & Indian War, etc.
- First Series – Original documents in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth (1684 – 1747) – Indian affairs, deeds, officers’ journals, lists of “killed and wounded,” Hessians, prisoners, Tories, election returns, frontier forts, maps, etc.
- Second Series – (Revolution Era), Pennsylvania Navy, marriage licenses before 1810, oaths of allegiance, select county inhabitants, Whiskey Insurrection, land warrants, Quaker monthly meeting records, muster rolls – Continental Line and militia and Volunteers, etc.
- Third Series – (Land Records), Welch purchasers, land office records (land grants), Donation Land Grants, Virginia’s claim to SW Pennsylvania, Proprietary Manors, Donation of Military Tracts of Land (bounty land), tax lists, etc.
- Fourth Series – (Governors’ Papers) private claims (to settle a dispute) to the Governor, expeditions, land grants to soldiers
- Fifth Series – (Revolutionary War Records) rosters, muster rolls, killed and wounded, enlistments, ships registers, expeditions, Continental Line, militia, etc.
- Sixth Series – (Revolutionary War Records and more) rosters, muster rolls, killed and wounded, enlistments, ships registers, expeditions, Continental Line, militia, election returns, forfeited estates, inventories and maps, baptism and marriage records.
- Seventh Series – Every name index to the sixth series
- Eighth Series – Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives
- Ninth Series – Continuation of the Colonial Records (first in list above)
- Tenth Series – Maps, diaries and journals, county records including the city of Philadelphia (birth, marriage, death, estates, militia, land records, tax lists, land warrantees) and records for what is now the state of Delaware.