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Research in Pennsylvania Church and Bible Records

A Historical Records Survey led to an inventory being taken of Pennsylvania church archives. However, only the portion for the Society of Friends was published. The Pennsylvania State Archives holds that inventory, which is organized according to county. Many church records have been individually published and some have been published in periodical form, such as those in the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society Quarterly and the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine. The Pennsylvania State Library (DAR collection), the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and other libraries have manuscript copies available. Many of the materials that have been published relate to Quaker meetings and German churches.

Many religious groups in the state also have their own collections and libraries, which may include information about their Pennsylvania branches, as well as branches in other states. Some of those include: Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore College, The Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, The Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society of the United Church of Christ.

Each of those places has microfilmed records and other records available for research. In fact, the Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society of the United Church of Christ has records available for numerous churches, including those in the counties of: Adams, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Columbia, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, York.

They also have records on file for a few of their churches in Virginia and Maryland as well.

Several of the records from the German Reformed and Evangelical Church have been published, along with other records from German Churches.

Over 20,000 churches have records located at the Presbyterian Historical Society. Since 1901, the Journal of Presbyterian History has regularly been published. The Reformed Presbyterian Historical Society in Pittsburgh and the Presbyterian Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania each also have newspapers, journals, and other records on file.

Western Pennsylvania is also home to two Methodist repositories, which are the United Methodist Archives of Western Pennsylvania, Allegheny College and the Methodist Archives and History.

A collection of cemetery records and Jewish synagogue records is located on microfilm at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Jewish Archives Center also has Jewish records on file, as does the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, which is located in Pittsburgh.

The Catholic Archives and Records Center, Cardinal Dean Center keeps western Pennsylvania parish records.

The Brethren in Christ Church, the Church of the Brethren, the Schwenkfelders, the Moravians, and the Lutherans also keep valuable genealogical records.


Research in Pennsylvania Cemetery Records

If you have tried to use other types of records aside from Pennsylvania cemetery records for your genealogy chart, you may find it a bit of a challenge. That is because some vital records in some states are not considered public records. So, while you cannot access or use Pennsylvania adoption records, you should be able to find Pennsylvania cemetery records for your project. For Definitions of all Cemetery Terms See Symbols on Gravestones and Their Interpretations

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, and Historical Society of Pennsylvania each have cemetery record collections. So do several other historical societies and local libraries across the state. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) collection of cemetery records can be found at the Pennsylvania State Library. There are also several funeral director records from Philadelphia available at both the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania. The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania is also currently in the process of creating an index to the cemetery records that they have collected from around the commonwealth. Many records can also be found in Mechling Books, Closson Press, and similar publications.

Here are a few things you should know about Pennsylvania cemetery records though:

  • Your best bet may be finding Pennsylvania cemetery records from 1906 on. This is when the state began its statewide record keeping efforts.
  • You can get a good deal of important information from these types of records. For instance from Pennsylvania cemetery records you should be able to get a person’s name, when and where he or she was born and the name of at least his or her spouse, if the person was married.
  • If you can obtain Pennsylvania death records, you may even be able to find out the names of the parents as well.
  • Those who seek Pennsylvania cemetery records in person can usually find out more if they visit the final resting place in person. This is because you will find nearby plots of other family members so you can have additional information and clues to help learn more.

What Else You Should Know – Pennsylvania cemetery records may not be as efficient as things such as death records but can often have the same data. Death records often act as a primary source, which means the details have been documented and sometimes even confirmed by an eyewitness. Pennsylvania cemetery records are still useful because you can expect to find many of the same important details.

The trick is finding out which county in Pennsylvania your records may be in. You still may be able to find your Pennsylvania cemetery records without this information, but it may take a little more work. The idea is to start with as much as you can but also just learn to be patient with it. Eventually your Pennsylvania cemetery records or other vital records will help you complete the family tree puzzle you are working on.


Famous People Buried in Pennsylvania Cemeteries


Pennsylvania Cemeteries