Access Archives: The Newsletter of the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Winter 2013

Volume 13, Winter 2013

These images, titled, "Ice Boat on frozen Presque Bay," and, "Skating on Presque Isle Bay, Erie, PA,” come from the State Archives Record Group 13, Records of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Pennsylvania Historical Commission. The Pennsylvania Historical Commission (PHC) was founded in 1913 as a separate agency from The State Museum and the Division of Public Records (now the State Archives). The three entities combined in 1945 to form the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). As a promoter of public history, the PHC co-sponsored and assisted with the preparation of the 1940 Federal Writer’s Project publication Pennsylvania, a Guide to the Keystone State, for which the photos were gathered. 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the PHC’s establishment.

A Message from the State Archivist

State Archivist, David Haury
State Archivist, David Haury
A lesser known but vital use of the historical documents in the Pennsylvania State Archives is to tell the stories of the Commonwealth’s past as key components of exhibits.  Primary sources in the State Archives are often the most significant contributors to the research behind these exhibits.  Moreover, the documents themselves are then featured in the exhibits.  This usage includes PHMC’s own State Museum, where every year in March the 1681 William Penn Charter from Charles II is displayed.  Currently one can also view two documents from Manuscript Group 108 related to Peter Rothermel’s “Gettysburg” painting, which is on display in the State Museum.

Loans of State Archives documents for exhibits are not limited to the State Museum.  The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia opened a major new exhibit on October 19, 2012, entitled “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.”  The exhibit features the Ratification Copy of the 18th Amendment from the State Archives’ Record Group 26 and will be open until April 28, 2013.  A year earlier the Constitution Center’s exhibit on slavery featured the March 1, 1780, Act for the Gradual Emancipation of Slavery from the same record group.  In 2012 the University of Pittsburgh Library borrowed two documents for a display on the occasion of the university’s 225th anniversary: the Pittsburgh Academy Charter (Engrossed Law of 1787) and the University of Western Pennsylvania Charter (Engrossed Law of 1819), both also from Record Group 26.

It is also worthy of note that the State Archives occasionally facilitates borrowing documents for exhibits, such as the William Penn Bible, loaned to PHMC by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania for the Inauguration of Governor Tom Corbett and then displayed in the State Museum in early 2011.  These various exhibits of archival documents help to bring history to life for tens, even hundreds, of thousands of individuals who can see the documents which made history.  Digital copies of key Pennsylvania documents have been online for many years at Our Documentary Heritage (Doc Heritage), but seeing the actual physical document once held or signed by such notables as William Penn, Benjamin Franklin, and many others provides an experience far beyond looking at your computer screen.

Navigating the Turnpike Records Project

Top to bottom: Project Archivist Heather Heckman examines Turnpike motion-picture film; first motorist through the Valley Forge Interchange, November 20, 1950; Tuscarora Tunnel night scene; and a magnified example of the motion-picture film.
Top to bottom: Project Archivist Heather Heckman examines Turnpike motion-picture film; first motorist through the Valley Forge Interchange, November 20, 1950; Tuscarora Tunnel night scene; and a magnified example of the motion-picture film.
The State Archives, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation, has received a $59,843 one-year grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to conduct detailed processing of its historical records relating to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Heather Heckman, formerly the Archives’ itinerant archivist, was hired and began in July 2012 to perform this task. The grant provides for the processing of special media within RG-29, specifically: still camera negatives, photographic slides, motion picture films, microfilm, and engineering drawings dating from the Turnpike Commission’s inception in 1937 to about 1990. 

Heather has completed organizing, examining and creating a database for 16 cubic feet of motion picture films and placing them into acid-free containers. She also organized nearly 200 bundles of rolled-up original engineering drawings, flattened them, and put them into acid-free folders and flat-file cabinets purchased as part of cost-sharing for the project. She has now turned her attention to rehousing over 4,200 original still camera negatives into acid-free sleeves and creating a database of them.

For more information on this project contact Linda Ries, Project Director at or 717-787-3023.

Death Certificate Digitization

A typical death certificate, rich with genealogical information, including name and birthplace of parents; place, date, cause, and time of death; as well as other useful tidbits.
A typical death certificate, rich with genealogical information, including name and birthplace of parents; place, date, cause, and time of death; as well as other useful tidbits.
The Pennsylvania State Archives begana new phase of its ongoing partnership with to digitize and index historically valuable documents from its collections. This began in mid-September with the pick-up and transport of several cartons of death certificates to Ancestry’s facility in Silver Spring, Md. It takes Ancestry approximately three weeks to complete work on fifty cartons of death certificates, so when a group of records returns from Silver Spring the next group of cartons is ready for transport. While in their custody, the records are scanned by trained professionals and an every name index for the entire series of records will be created.

The collection consists of over 6.5 million death certificates that were originally maintained by the Department of Health’s Division of Vital Records and contain vital information on deaths that were registered in Pennsylvania from 1906-1962. Data in the certificates includes file number, county, city, address, ward, full name of deceased, sex, color, marital status, date of birth, age, occupation, birthplace, name and birthplace of mother and father, and informant's signature and address. Medical data provided is the date of death, length of attendance and last visit of physician, cause of death, duration of illness, contributory factors, and name and address of physician. Additional data sometimes includes length of residence if in a hospital or institution, where disease was contracted, residence, and where buried. An undertaker's name and address are usually provided.  Death certificates from more recent years add citizenship; social security number; whether death was by suicide, homicide, or accident; place of injury; date of operation and findings; and if decedent served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

A boon for genealogists, it is anticipated that the records and indices will be available for the public and in the Archives Search Room through the Ancestry website by the end of calendar year 2013.  If you have any questions on the progress of the project, you may contact David W. Shoff, Chief of the State Archives Division at 717-783-5796.

An AWOT Success Story

Bethany Children's Home Volunteer Archivist Carl Bloss received the Bethany Alumni Association 2011 Alumni of the Year Award for his efforts and archival work, which were guided by what he learned at AWOT.
Bethany Children's Home Volunteer Archivist Carl Bloss received the Bethany Alumni Association 2011 Alumni of the Year Award for his efforts and archival work, which were guided by what he learned at AWOT.

In October, Archives staff received the following message from Carl Bloss, Volunteer Archivist at the Bethany Children’s home in Womelsdorf, PA. Carl has attended numerous Arichives Without Tears (AWOT) workshops, where staff presenters were fortunate to become acquainted with his work.

I have so much enjoyed the local Archives workshops. You ARE effective in your message…. I recently had an open house on Bethany Children's Home Anniversary Day in August. This video is an end result of that event. I thought you and staff members might enjoy understanding that my actions are a result of your workshops…. Our institution is the last (that I know of) of the PA Soldier's Orphans Schools instituted under Gov. Curtin in the 1860's to assist in the loss of so many soldiers in the Civil War. Many of the institutions collapsed and closed… but Bethany survived. I have been trying to revive a clarity of use of the oldest records in the Retention Policies of such institutions. I am anticipating an interview from the Reading Eagle newspaper staff in the next couple of weeks about our Archives…. Thanks so much for your assistance.

Carl was a resident of Bethany from 1937-1952 and initially returned seeking genealogical clues and answers regarding his paternal family. He found Bethany to have no archival program in place. In 2009, he began volunteering to organize and properly preserve their significant collections, which include photographs, 16mm motion picture film, scrapbooks, documents, and registers. Seeking guidance, Carl was referred to the AWOT workshops. Below he elaborates on how the workshops helped him establish a working archives.

I attended AWOT, eyes and ears open, but I did come with a solid background as a school librarian, an avid historian, and amateur archaeologist (another time), and a genealogist. I came looking for direction as to where to begin and proceed. I found all of that! I began quietly, on my own, at my own expense, as a volunteer. I had to physically show how valuable our historic records actually were, that a solution to the problem was available, where the records were located and set about DOING IT.
From the workshop practice sheets and examples as models, I created my own plan of attack. I approached all of this with the help of my mentor Kim Brown of the Berks County Historical Society (BCHS). I embraced the idea of "DO NO HARM" as I began to preserve what was found as I uncovered it.
With the help of the Bethany Alumni Association, I began to lobby the administrators and the Board of Managers to bring about policy changes to focus on saving our historical records. We presented a series of resolutions, which passed unanimously….

On our Anniversary Day in August 2011, I opened the Archives to the public for the first time. It was packed all day long. Many Alumni helped to identify themselves and others in photos and I worked with specific individuals whose great-grandparents attended Bethany to understand a lifetime different from their own.
We are working on a way to digitize the major works and make them available online as funding becomes available. I continue weekly sorting, labeling, identifying, preserving and having fun.

Carl received the Bethany Alumni Association 2011 Alumni of the Year Award for his efforts and archival work.

The Pennsylvania State Archives, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation, recently received $16,440 through a National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) State and National Archival Partnership (SNAP) grant. The funding will afford the continuation of the successful statewide Archives Without Tears Workshop through 2013 and 2014, as well as provide for numerous other outreach initiatives.
AWOT workshops for the spring of 2013 will tentatively focus on the northeast and central regions of the state. Please check our website for details. Organizations in those regions interested in hosting a 2013 or 2014 workshop should contact Josh Stahlman at or 717-772-3257.

Archives Volunteer

Archives volunteer Rachel Brockman examines a glass-plate negative.
Archives volunteer Rachel Brockman examines a glass-plate negative.

Rachel Brockman, a junior majoring in history at Millersville University, has been volunteering with the Archives since June of 2012. Her interest in art and history led her to volunteer with the Archives and she hopes to pursue a career in the field. Working with Archivist Brett Reigh, Rachel has scanned connected draft maps from Carbon and Juniata Counties for the Archives’ website, prepared them for posting and created a page for them (see Web Updates article below); rehoused Department of Health series 11.1 and 11.78; and scanned and entered metadata for numerous images, including photographs of Harrisburg’s old 8th Ward, and the Lillian Louise Ball family Photographs, MG-467.

The Archives is fortunate to maintain a mutually-beneficial relationship with students and volunteers like Rachel. It is through their dedication and assistance that the Archives is able to persevere in its mission to preserve Pennsylvania's history.

If you are interested in a volunteer or internship opportunity, contact archivist Kurt Bell at or 717-787-5304.  



I'll Take the Stairs, Thanks

In early November 2012, exterior cladding of the State Museum and Archives buildings underwent an assessment that saw workers rappelling down the structures. The condition was determined to be better than anticipated.














Save the Date

 A scene from Charter Day 2012 and a scan of the June 16, 1863, Curtin telegram from RG-19.181.
A scene from Charter Day 2012 and a scan of the June 16, 1863, Curtin telegram from RG-19.181.

PHMC's 14th Annual Charter Day will be held Sunday, March 10th, from 12-4 at The State Museum of Pennsylvania. Admission is free and includes numerous attractions such as: the original 1681 charter that granted the land of Pennsylvania to William Penn; local historical and genealogical organization exhibitions; William Penn, Pennsylvania Jack, the Civil War Dance Ensemble, and others interpreting Pennsylvania history; National History Day winning exhibits; free planetarium shows and admission to Curiosity Connection.

The guest document to be featured with the Charter is Governor Andrew Curtin’s telegram of June 16,1863, ordering defense of Pennsylvania’s border from “the Rebel Invader."  The document dramatizes the hectic days just before the Battle of Gettysburg, as Lee’s Confederate army crossed the Mason-Dixon Line. The Charter and Curtin telegram will be on display from March 8 – March 17.

Admission is free for Charter Day, March 10th only. Individuals who need special assistance should call (717) 787-6778 or, for individuals with hearing-related disabilities, the Pennsylvania TDD relay service at (800) 654-5984. For more information on other exhibitions, events and programs at The State Museum, visit

A Finding Your Civil War Ancestors workshop will be offered by the State Archives and State Museum on Saturday, April 20th. The morning will feature an informative discussion and the afternoon will include a tour of the museum's newly opened Rothermel gallery and an opportunity to research your veteran ancestors at the State Archives. Check the Archives website, or contact Josh Stahlman at for more information.

Spring MARAC will be held in Erie, PA April 25-27. For more information, see the Spring MARAC website.

Archives Without Tears workshops are being planned for this spring/early summer. For more information contact Josh Stahlman at 717-772-3257, or

The NAGARA/COSA joint meeting will be held July 10-13 in Indianapolis, IN. View the website.

The Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) is hosting an ongoing series of valuable workshops. For more information, please go to: Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts Program Calendar.

Web Updates

A Civil War recruitment broadside from the MG-200 Poster Collection, seeking volunteers for the 104th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment. The PHMC's annual theme for 2013 is
A Civil War recruitment broadside from the MG-200 Poster Collection, seeking volunteers for the 104th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment. The PHMC's annual theme for 2013 is "Civil War and Gettysburg."

PDF images of nearly 500 posters, most relating to political issues, the Civil War, World War I, and World War II have been uploaded to the MG-200 Poster Collection page. The PDF files are organized numerically and correspond to the basic index found on the page. 
In addition to its collection of Warrantee Township Maps, the Pennsylvania State Archives holds connected drafts, worksheets for connected drafts, survey outlines, and various other maps that contain differing amounts of warrant, survey, and patent data. Most of the maps focus on a limited area of warrant tracts within a particular locality, unlike the warrantee township maps, which depict all tracts present within a particular township. The connected drafts have been arranged by the current county in which the tracts are located. The most recent additions to the Connected Draft Maps Page include Carbon, Juniata, and Wayne Counties. More counties and maps will be added in the future. Please continue to check back for updates.

New audio and transcripts have been added to the Pete Wambach Audio Interface. Wambach programs are rotated approximately every three months; please check back to both pages for continued updates.

Recent Acquisitions

Selected List of Additions, July—December 2012

MG-7 Military Manuscripts Collection
Muster Rolls and records pertaining to Company A. 6th PA Reserves and Company H. 90th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers
0.15 cubic foot

MG-136 Witmer Family Collection
Business and Family Correspondence of Adam K. Witmer 1817-1868
2 cubic feet

MG-522 Morris Run Coal Mining Company Records
Seventy-four maps, the majority of which deal with either the lands or coal deposits present in southeastern Tioga County, 1909-1979
8 cubic feet

MG-208 William H. Scranton Papers
Files from George D. Wolf, Special Assistant to Governor William Scranton, 1963-1966
0.75 cubic feet

RG-16 Department of Labor and Industry
Dep. Sec. for Workforce Development
Records of the Pennsylvania Conservation Corps, 1990-2011
3 cubic feet

RG-19 Department of Military and Veterans Affairs
Scotland School for Veterans Children Records, 1970-2010
26 cubic feet

RG-22 Department of Education
Office of Dispute Resolution
Final Determinations and Appeals of the Due Processing Hearing Officer, 1978-2006
14 cubic feet

RG-28 Department of the Treasury
State Treasurer’s Reports, 1987-1997
41 cubic feet

RG-47 Records of County Governments
Washington County
Tax Assessment Books, 1799-1899
20 cubic feet

RG-65 Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Historical records of the Department of Forestry, Forests and Waters, and DER, 1909-1990
8 cubic feet

RG-70 Office of the Attorney General
Investigative Case Files (Anti-trust Section), 1987-1997
13 cubic feet

Archivists on the Go

7/17 -18 Linda Ries, Josh Stahlman, and Jerry Ellis conducted Archives Without Tears  training at Penn State Harrisburg (23 attendees).

7/18 Susan Hartman visited with the new Register of Wills at Dauphin County Courthouse to discuss records management for her office.

7/22 Jonathan Stayer gave a talk entitled “Camp Security: A Revolutionary War Prison Camp in York County” at the Preserving York Picnic in Emigsville (50 attendees).

7/26 Jerry Ellis gave a talk on “Military Records” to the Susquehanna Trail Genealogy Club (22).

7/27 Josh Stahlman and Jerry Ellis made a visit to the Middletown Borough Library and Historical Society to consult on a water related disaster.

8/11 Susan Hartman and Jerry Ellis provided training on Essential Records and Electronic Records  Management to the Lehigh County Council Of Governments (25 attendees).

8/6 Susan Hartman and Jerry Ellis  attended the Local Government meeting for Tioga County to brief attendees on the identification and safety of Essential Records (16 attendees).

9/7 Susan Hartman and Linda Avetta visited Lancaster County and made a presentation on electronic records to county officers (15 attendees).

9/10 David Haury and Susan Hartman traveled to Gettysburg to assist county officials attempting to recover alienated county records.

10/8 Aaron McWilliams discussed some State Archives holdings in an episode of the Swedish version of the television show “Who Do You Think You Are?”

10/9  Jonathan Stayer spoke about “Genealogical Resources at the Pennsylvania State Archives” to the Butler County Genealogical Society, in Butler (32 attendees).

10/13 Linda Ries spoke on “The Black Boys on the Pennsylvania Frontier after 1765” at the Conococheague Institute in Mercersburg (25 attendees).

10/20 Jonathan Stayer spoke about “Genealogical Resources at the Pennsylvania State Archives” to the Genealogical Research Society of Northeastern Pennsylvania, in Peckville (15 attendees).

10/ 25 Jerry Ellis gave a presentation to the Susquehanna Trail Genealogy Club on “Researching County Records (19 attendees).

Archives Month Posters

There are a limited number of Archives Month posters left over from October 2012. If you would like one, please contact Josh Stahlman at
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