Discoveries and Encounters: HSP Launches New Databases and Catalog

Home News Discoveries and Encounters: HSP Launches New Databases and Catalog

Discoveries and Encounters: HSP Launches New Databases and Catalog

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is proud to announce two enhanced tools designed to support online research and exploration of our collections.


Discover, HSP’s online catalog, contains records describing printed materials, archival collections, and digital records associated with our collections. It is a researcher’s first port of call for discovery of HSP’s 21 million items. New functionality, enhancements, and data updates in this version make finding the information you’re looking for easier than ever before.

This new Discover sports a new record source, the Names Database, containing more than 258,000 names extracted from HSP Encounters and other digital collections (please see below for more information about HSP Encounters). The Names Database allows researchers to search more easily for specific individuals. Place and date information (when it is available) is displayed to help distinguish persons in initial search results. This new database is a boon for genealogists and family historians especially, many of whom often begin their research with little more than a family member’s name.

The new version also includes improved book bag and social functions, and encourages a more social researching experience. Searchers may use the public list function to share records with friends, family, and other researchers. They may create private lists to help keep track of their findings. For example:

  • Genealogists investigating their family history can now update their family members on their latest research;
  • Educators may select a group of records relating to a lesson plan or classroom theme;
  • Students can then search for and comment upon these records;

Tagging and commenting enable users to improve HSP’s records and to increase their findability. They may even add new knowledge to the system. For example:

  • Genealogists may tag the records that relate to their family and elaborate on that relationship in a comment;
  • Educators may tag and comment records to help students identify and engage with historical figures and events;
  • Students may voice opinions about the themes and issues raised in a record’s content, or add cataloguing terms of their own choosing.

Discover now features a responsive display that allows researchers to more easily explore our collections on a smartphone or tablet. 

To access Discover, click here or visit To use the social functions of the software, login to Discover (located at the top right of the screen) with your HSP website/PAL username and password.

HSP Encounters

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania also announces HSP Encounters, a new digital resource comprised of an ever-growing number of genealogical and biographical databases. HSP Encounters is an ongoing project in which records and materials deemed of high research value are digitized and made available to HSP members online, in searchable form. Historical essays incorporated in the system describe each database, as well as the historical context for the records it contains.

As of today, there are six databases awaiting researchers, three of them new:

Genealogical Scrapbooks & Research Folders (1607-1958)

  • Contains information found in privately published family histories at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The individuals found in these histories usually are from the colonies and states east of the Mississippi River, and generally span from the 17th through the 19th centuries.

Oliver H. Bair Company Records (1920-1980)

  • Contains information about deceased individuals drawn from funeral home files, which include substantial additional information on the deceased, usually including date of birth, date of death, place of death, age at the time of death, cause of death, the address or institution from whence the body was received, place of burial, occupation, spouse, and the names of parents.

Pennsylvania, Revolutionary War Battalions and Militia Index (1775-1783)

  • Contains an index to the muster rolls of the Pennsylvania militia in the War of the Revolution. The records in this database list names, sometimes rank, and a volume and page reference to the source material, which include further rosters, muster rolls, histories, diaries, and other documents listing Pennsylvanian troops.

These databases join the Home Missionary Society of Philadelphia (1883-1889), Philadelphia Home for Infants (1873-1924), and the Philadelphia Placement Office (1898-1901), bringing HSP Encounter’s total record count to nearly 400,000.

The Historical Society will continue to add new database to HSP Encounters as our digital services staff digitize and index new materials.

HSP Encounters is available to all researchers while inside the Reading Room. Remote access is a benefit for Friends of HSP (click here to learn more).

Friends of HSP: To access HSP Encounters remotely, click here or visit Please login with your HSP website/PAL (Patron Access Link) username and password and select HSP Encounters from the database list.