While knowing United States history is helpful, our PA ancestors spent most of their lives focused locally, rather than nationally. They lived in diverse communities of different ethnicities and faiths, separated by rivers and mountains. If you learn the history of a community and Pennsylvania in general, you’ll be more successful in your genealogy research.
Here’s a list of some history resources which cover PA as well as specific counties and cities:
Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies
Penn State University has digitized past issues of the journal, Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies. Access is free for 2013 and older editions. To search across all issues for a location or family surname, simply use the search box at the top of screen. The journal is published by The Pennsylvania Historical Association.
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
The PHMC manages over twenty different museums around the state of PA. Many of these places are more living history sites, then traditional museum. They are a great way to understand how your ancestors lived and worth a visit. Check out the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission website for locations near where your ancestors lived.
The Pennsylvania Trails of History sites range from homes to battlefields to former industrial sites. The website for each museum is filled with photos and a summary of the history. Each location has its own archive of materials on the people who lived or worked there. If your ancestors were around or near one of these places, definitely visit. If you can not visit, study the website and contact the staff for research.
The PHMC also runs the Pennsylvania State Archives, home to the records genealogists use in their research. Be sure to check out my podcast episode to learn more about the Archives.
Local Historical Societies
When researching your family in Pennsylvania, the more specific you are the better. Each county in PA has its own historical society or history center. A listing is available here on my website. Even a brief history of the county will give you the context you need for research.
These are some easy-to-access resources. To go more in-depth, contact me.
This entry is part of the PA Ancestors Almanac. Follow the links at the bottom of the post to learn more about how to discover your ancestors in Pennsylvania.
Copyright ©2020, Denys Allen and PA Ancestors. All Rights Reserved.
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