Summer Road Trip: How To Discover Your Ancestors in Philadelphia!
Discover your Philadelphia ancestors and experience history in the virtual summer road trip through FindMyPast’s U.S. record collections!
We are at our last stop 🚗on our Summer Road Trip through the U. S. records at FindMyPast! If you missed our stops in Cincinnati, New York and Baltimore, no problem. You can catch up here:
- Summer Road Trip! How To Discover Your Cincinnati Ancestors in FindMyPast
- Summer Road Trip: Searching for New York Ancestors
- Summer Road Trip: How to Discover Your Ancestors in Baltimore
What’ been your favorite destination so far?
Now on to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania!
Let’s stretch our proverbial legs and learn how to discover your ancestors in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love!
I’ve never been to Philadelphia in person, but it’s on my list of places to go! Actually, I had a trip planned in 2020, but, well…..
Since my in-person trip was canceled, I’ve been exploring it virtually, both from a genealogy researcher and tourist’s point of view. There is so much to do and see (and research, of course!).
Discover Your Ancestors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Founded by William Penn in 1682, Philadelphia was Pennsylvania was the 2nd state to ratify the constitution on 12 December 1787. Today the capital is Harrisburg and the state is subdivided into 67 counties. Philadelphia is located in Philadelphia County.
State registration of vital events:
- Birth: 1906 (state level) – From 1893 – 1906 birth registrations were kept at the local county courthouse. From 1906 – 1915, birth certificates are at the state archives.
- Marriage: 30 Sept 1885 (state level) – Marriage licenses were required and maintained at the county courthouse. Prior to this date, marriage licenses were used sporadically in the absence of banns.
- Death: 1906 (state level) – From 1893 – 1906 death registrations were kept at the local county courthouse.
Tips to Remember:
- With so many historical societies in the Philadelphia area, use their publications heavily.
- Do not overlook your newspaper research. Newspapers around the world would carried news from Philadelphia, especially during the crucial period of the American Revolution – American Civil War (roughly 1775 – 1865).
- The Draper Manuscript Collection is a must-utilize resource for the trans-Allegheny west from 1740-1830.
Philadelphia Records at FindMyPast
Were your Philadelphia ancestors Catholic? If so, you must utilize the Philadelphia parish records at FindMyPast!
- Philadelphia Roman Catholic Parish Marriages
- Philadelphia Roman Catholic Parish Registers Browse
- Philadelphia Roman Catholic Diocesan Newspapers
- Catholic Standard, later renamed to The Catholic Standard & Times1866 – 1951
- The Universe: the Catholic Herald and Visitor 1833-1867
- Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Case Files Of Chinese Immigrants, 1900-1923 Image Browse
- Register of Mine Accidents
- Book Of Deeds Of Manumissions Of Slaves, 1774-1792 (Kent, Pennsylvania) – A fascinating record to be aware of.
Other Repositories for Pennsylvania Genealogy Research
Pennsylvania has some fantastic repositories for genealogy research outside of Philadelphia. Put the following on your list to check out. Don’t forget to check their online collections!
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania – FindMyPast has some of the records from HSP on its site as well.
- National Archives at Philadelphia
- Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society
- Franklin and Marshall College Library – Hessian soldiers of the American Revolution
- Haverford College Library – Collection of Quaker records and family papers
- Lutheran Archives Center at Philadelphia – I often check with local churches first for records before heading to a regional or state religious archives.
- Swarthmore College Friends Historical Library – Quakers records and more
- Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
- Find even more Pennsylvania repositories for your genealogy research!
While You Are There….
While we are in Philadelphia, we do not want to miss chance to get out of the records and explore the city a bit. Both for a research break AND as a way to understand the city and community where the ancestors lived.
Remember – Social history is important to your research! Learn more in Use Social History in Genealogy Research – Telling Your Ancestors’ Stories I know I say this every time, but it’s important! [I’ll hop off my soapbox now.😁]
Here is a sampling of “Don’t Miss” places I want to visit both virtually and in person. 😊
- Independence Hall – Don’t miss this iconic site where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed!
- Old City Historic Walking Tour in Philadelphia – It’s a great introduction to the Old City District of Philadelphia! [I love a good walking tour!]
- Eastern State Penitentiary – Who has a black sheep in the family? Learn what life might have been like for an ancestor living on the wrong side of the law. [Remember that social history I talk about so much?!]
- Reading Terminal Market – Let’s eat! Learn about the culinary heritage of Philadelphia and your ancestors in one of the oldest markets in America.
- Iconic 9th Street Italian Market Experience Tour in Philadelphia – A great way to experience the Italian culinary heritage. [My husband and I love taking local food tours and exploring the foods of different heritages.]
- Museum of the American Revolution – We are genealogists and history buffs – no explanation needed for this site!
- The Liberty Bell – Another “don’t miss” iconic American sight to see.
- Bad*ss Women’s History Tour – Researching female ancestors? Want to learn more about the role of female ancestors in Philadelphia? This tour is for you!
- Free Tours by Foot of Philadelphia – This tour group is a “pay what you like” model. My husband and I have done these regularly over the years and have always had a excellent experience. Tour guides are local to the area. Check out this virtual tour today.
Have Philadelphia ancestors? Share your stories in the comments below!
Most of my family has been in the Philadelphia metro area since the 1700’s, so I have gotten a lot of practice with Philadelphia records. If you don’t have a Find My Past subscription, you can still search the unindexed records at this link. You just have to know the parish where the event occurred.
Marriage license application offer lots of information and have solved several mysteries for me. The marriage license numbers are indexed in Ancestry and FamilySearch. Once you get the license number and year, go to FamilySearch and choose Search > Records and under Collections, type Pennsylvania Civil Marriages, 1677-1950, then Philadelphia. This gives you the licenses from 1885-1915. You will have to manually look through the pages on the appropriate link for your year and number. For marriages 1916-1950, search Pennsylvania, City of Philadelphia, marriages, 1916-1950. Again, manually look through the pages on the appropriate link for your year and number. Note that New Jersey had a younger marriage age, so if you can’t find the couple in Philly records, they could have gone over the bridge to Camden, NJ. Some also went to Delaware or Elkton, Md.
FamilySearch also allows users to view actual death certificates, not just the transcribed records. Do a search records for Philadelphia Death (under Collections).
Finally, other university resources include Penn State’s link for historic newspapers at https://panewsarchive.psu.edu/ and Villanova University’s Falvey Library, which offers plenty of records online.
Thanks so much for your insight!
I actually got to visit Philadelphia on an ancestor hunt trip a few years back. My maternal great-grandfather & great granmother both arrived in Philadelphhia @ 1850’s from Manchester, England and Dublin, Ireland respectively. I was able to visit the Archines and found maps of the area in which they lived. I found the site (now a city park) where John Anderson served as a military hospital nurse, treating the wounded from Gettysburg battle — there is a monument. I found the church where they were married, and where their children were baptized. I found the processing station wher immigrants were received — it is still standing and is under renovation as a conference center ballroom. We visited all the historic sites, and our hotel was 2 blocks from the Reading Terminl Market — great breakfast and lunch stop every day. Did you kknow that the very FIRST ice cream sold commercially in the new USA was . . . . nope NOT vanilla. it was TOMATO!!! And the comany still serves ice cream in the Reading Market! And the HUGE Macy’s store — a full block all to itself has a humonguous pipe organ in the balcony and there is a concert every day at 4pm. What a great sound chamber. It as a trip to rememer and a rewrding genealogy family history find.
Love that you had the opportunity to see where your ancestors were from! I don’t know about that Tomato ice cream, though. 😲