Genealogy Research off the Beaten Path

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Genealogy Research off the Beaten Path

2012-12-11 08:37

If you hit a dead end in your genealogy research at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, try your luck at one of over 100 small archival repositories and historical societies in the Philadelphia area!

HSP's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) has been dedicated to uncovering the important archival resources in the Philadelphia area since September 2011. In that time we have found some very useful genealogical collections! From Civil War veterans' club records to local tax rolls to orphanage registers, many important resources can be found at small archival repositories.

Our project had a broad-based survey approach, so we have not had the opportunity to index those collections for names, nor have we digitized anything. However, we have cataloged the collections with general information about the types and quantity of information you can expect to find. Go to to browse the collections we have cataloged so far, and keep an eye on the site because we'll be adding to it until Fall 2014.

The archival resources most useful to genealogists fall into three broad categories: primary source records, genealogy research papers, and family files. Just about every small repository we surveyed had something for each category, so take the list below as a very selective subset of some exceptional examples.

Primary Source Records, especially membership registers, contain valuable genealogical data.

Genealogy Research Papers, collected by individuals or family associations and then later donated to archival repositories, often reach to the far fringes of the family tree. You are in luck if a branch of your family overlaps!

Family Files are alphabetical files on local individuals or families maintained by archival repositories, usually full of materials donated by prior researchers. They often include copies of newspaper clippings, obituaries, family trees, and narrative family histories. Sometimes there are also primary source documents (such as loose receipts or a few photographs) in the family files.

Hopefully the resources listed above have given you some ideas for how to continue your genealogical research beyond HSP. Don't forget about the small archival repositories! To keep abreast of the HCI-PSAR project's exciting discoveries, read our blog, "Archival Adventures in Small Repositories," like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter

This cartoon, just for fun, is from a scrapbook of genealogy-related clippings in the Charles R. Barker papers at the Historical Society of Montgomery County.

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