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Getting Started

2 good websites to help you on your genealogy research are Family Search and the National Archives and their section for Genealogists and Family Historians. They have a number of research guides and tutorials to help you.

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Primary Sources

Consist of vital records, church records, court records and passenger lists. Vital records are obtained from the state where a person was born, married or died.

For Pennsylvania records can be obtained from:

Department of Health

Bureau of Health Statistics & Registries

Division of Vital Records

P.O. Box 1528

New Castle, PA  16103

Phone: 724,656-3100 or 844-228-3516


For Pennsylvania it is also important to know that records before 1906 must be obtained from the county where the event occurred. To obtain birth or death certificates for events that occurred before 1906 contact the Register of Wills, Orphans Court in the county where the event occurred. There may be a charge for these documents.

Passenger Lists can be researched at the Federal Archives. If your ancestors passed through Ellis Island you can also obtain this information from the Ellis Island website.

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Secondary Sources

Include obituaries, marriage and birth notices. These can be found in newspapers such as the Daily Local News, Coatesville Record, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Other secondary sources are family histories, indexes or compilations of census records.

Census records are an important area of family research and can confirm information as well as provide other information. The Federal Population census is taken every 10 years. There is a 72 year restriction on access to population census schedules - the 1930 census is the latest year currently available. From 1790-1840 only the head of household is listed, but with the 1850 census individual members of the household are listed.

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Regional Sources

Libraries and information centers that specialize in genealogical records are good places to visit to do research. Several of these resources are listed below.

Chester County Library

Books & Guides 

  • How to do genealogical research - The call number is 929.1


  • Family Tree Magazine (available in the library as well as in Flipster e-magazines)


  • Chester County Decennial Census Records 1790 - 1930 



Historical Societies

  • The Chester County History Center (formerly the Chester County Historical Society) located at 225 North High Street, West Chester, PA (610-692-4800) is a good place to visit for local information.



  • Chester County Archives has birth, marriage, and death records for Chester County.
  • Philadelphia Records Center: Located at 14700 Townsend Road, Philadelphia, PA 19154-1096, 215-305-2044 Contains a wealth of information such as U.S. census records, military records, passenger lists for the Port of Philadelphia and federal court records. Website is 
  • The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania Located at 2100 Byberry Road, Suite 111, Philadelphia, PA 19116, 267-686-2296. The society has a large collection of genealogical materials.

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Other Websites

  • U.S. GenWeb Project consists of a group of volunteers working together to provide Internet websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States.
  • Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet: Another good website with lots of links for both national and international research. One can browse this list alphabetically or by topics.
  • AAHGS Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society is a site devoted to African American genealogy. 
  • The Swenson Swedish Immigration Center at Augustana College provides resources for the study of Swedish immigration to North America as well as assisting people in researching their Swedish American family history by providing help in obtaining parish records either in their Library or from Sweden. The Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center is located at:
    Augustana College
    639 38th Street
    Rock Island, IL 61201-2296
  • FindaGrave World’s largest grave site collection which has over 180 million memorials
  • FreUK Genealogy Find your ancestors from the United Kingdom

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