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Pennsylvania County records vary widely from county to county in both quality and quantity. Some have been carefully preserved while others have been much abused and neglected. Some Pennsylvania records have simply disappeared. For genealogists doing research in Pennsylvania there is no effective replace for an on-site search of county courthouse records.
Each county serves as the local level of government within its borders. The main political unit in each Pennsylvania county is the township. Townships may include cities, boroughs, and incorporated towns. Each of those would then have their own forms of government on the local level.
There are 67 counties that exist in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Each one holds records that may include: Land, Estates, Taxes, Vital Records, Divorces, Naturalizations, Voter Registration, Court Records.
Other records may also be included. However, other resources do need to be consulted. For example, the orphans' court or register's office should be consulted for estate records.
Philadelphia became home to an archives in 1952. It is not only the oldest city archives in the state, but also in the entire United States. In 1982, the first county archives in the state was created in Chester County. All other archives in Pennsylvania were modeled after it. Several other archives are currently being established in the state.
|County||Date Formed||Parent County||County Seat|
|Allegheny||1788||Washington and Westmoreland Counties.||Pittsburgh|
|Armstrong||1800||Allegheny, Lycoming, and Westmoreland Counties||Kittanning|
|Beaver||1800||Allegheny and Washington Counties||Beaver|
|Berks||1752||Chester, Lancaster and Philadelphia Counties||Reading|
|Blair||1846||Huntingdon and Bedford Counties||Hollidaysburg|
|Bradford||1810||Luzerne and Lycoming Counties||Towanda|
|Bucks||1682||One of the original counties at the formation of Pennsylvania||Doylestown|
|Carbon||1804||Somerset and Huntingdon Counties.||Ebensburg|
|Cambria||1860||Clinton, Elk, McKean, and Potter Counties.||Emporium|
|Centre||1843||Monroe and Northampton Counties.||Jim Thorpe|
|Chester||1800||Lycoming, Mifflin, Northumberland, and Huntingdon Counties.||Bellefonte|
|Clarion||1682||One of the original counties at the formation of Pennsylvania.||West Chester|
|Clearfield||1839||Venango and Armstrong Counties||Clarion|
|Clinton||1804||Lycoming and Huntingdon Counties||Clearfield|
|Columbia||1839||Lycoming and Centre Counties.||Lock Haven|
|Crawford||1813||Northumberland and Luzerne Counties.||Bloomsburg|
|Elk||1843||Jefferson, McKean, and Clearfield Counties.||Ridgway|
|Indiana||1803||Lycoming and Westmoreland Counties||Indiana|
|Lawrence||1849||Beaver and Mercer Counties||New Castle|
|Lebanon||1813||Dauphin and Lancaster Counties||Lebanon|
|Mifflin||1789||Cumberland and Northumberland Counties.||Lewistown|
|Monroe||1836||Pike and Northampton Counties.||Stroudsburg|
|Northumberland||1772||Lancaster, Berks, Bedford, Cumberland, and Northampton Counties||Sunbury|
|Perry||1820||Cumberland County||New Bloomfield|
|Philadelphia||1682||One of the original counties at the formation of Pennsylvania.||Philadelphia|
|Schuylkill||1811||Berks and Northampton Counties.||Pottsville|
|Venango||1800||Allegheny and Lycoming Counties||Franklin|
|Warren||1800||Allegheny and Lycoming counties||Warren|
Pennsylvania has counties that no longer exist. They were established by the state, provincial, or territorial government. Most of these counties were created and disbanded in the 19th century; county boundaries have changed little since 1900 in the vast majority of states. These counties need to be looked at when doing genealogy research. Pay close attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was abolished or combined with another county.
The damage to courthouses greatly has a bearing on genealogists in every way. No only are these historic structures torn from our lifetimes, so are the records they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, and others. Once destroyed they're lost forever. Although they have been placed on mircofilm, computers and film burn too. The most heartbreaking side of this is the reason that nearly all of our courthouses are destroyed at the hands of arsonist. Although, not all records were lost. Many Pennsylvania counties have suffered a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.