The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania (GSP) was formed in 1892 and is one of the pioneers in the preservation and indexing of personal and private records of the lives of everyday Americans. If you open the front of almost any Pennsylvania church, cemetery, or orphanage record, you will likely find the GSP name and seal indicating they have transcribed and indexed that record. I find myself saying a prayer of thanks for the uncounted hours of service volunteers gave for over 125 years towards genealogical work. Without their efforts I wouldn’t have found half of what I know about my family.
The majority of GSP’s collection is housed at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP), and HSP has some of that collection online at ancestry.com. However, GSP continues to do it’s work of preservation and indexing, and holds its own collection of cemetery, orphanage and funeral home records on their website. Their onsite collection available for research is highly specialized and not available at HSP, so worth a look on their on-line catalog at genpa.org to see if there is something useful to you.
Check the list of First Families of Pennsylvania on their website genpa.org and see if your ancestor is there. Perhaps you can trace your Pennsylvania ancestors back far enough to apply and show how your family was a part of the commonwealth during its journey!
The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania is currently located at the edges of the city within a modern warehouse. The big advantage of the location is easy access to major highways and free parking. (Previously it was located near the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Center City Philadelphia which has limited, expensive parking and best reached by public transportation.). GSP hosts several regular events free for members: Special Interest Groups on topics such as DNA, Irish Research, and becoming a Professional Genealogist; and ROOTS bring your lunch meetings to socialize and share about your ancestors – always a fun way to make a break through on your research or help someone else make a breakthrough on theirs! Check the ‘Events’ tab of the website for the latest.
To do research on-site or attend a meeting, you will first need to email the contact on the website. GSP receives a large volume of email so provide 2 business days to get response. When you arrive, you will need to be buzzed into the building. Push the doorbell button by the door labeled “GSP” for a full second and wait to hear a voice over the intercom. Give your name and purpose of you visit and then they can unlock the door for you. There is a Wawa less than 1/2 mile down the street for food and coffee.
GSP is worth the membership fee for the community it offers and the access to genealogical materials and deep knowledge of Pennsylvania. You can join online at genpa.org and get immediate access to their collections. They also have an active Facebook page (link at top of genpa.org) which posts updates to collections in the area and local events.
Copyright ©2019, Denys Allen and PA Ancestors. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to link to original article. To otherwise use, please contact me.