Pennsylvania's primary political subdivisions consist of counties and municipalities. Types of incorporated municipalities are townships, cities and boroughs, all of which function within a county. Most municipal records are administrative in nature while records of genealogical value usually are found at the county level.
Lists and maps of counties and municipalities may be found in the Pennsylvania Line: A Research Guide to Pennsylvania Genealogy and Local History , 4th ed. (Laughlintown, PA: Southwest Pennsylvania Genealogical Services, 1990). A copy of this out-of-print publication may be viewed at the State Archives or obtained from a public library.
For a look at how the land that comprises the Commonwealth was acquired, as well as how and when the various counties of the state were formed, please consult the Genealogical Map of the Counties (PDF, 5K). This map may be purchased at the Pennsylvania Bookstore.
In 1965, the Department of Internal Affairs (abolished in 1968) produced a publication entitled Incorporation Dates for Pennsylvania Municipalities (PDF, 144 K). While somewhat dated, it can be of use to researchers needing information on the location and creation of Pennsylvania political subdivisions. We are making a copy of this publication (through an interactive map) and some supplemental information, including a map showing the Political Subdivisions (PDF, 5K) for the Commonwealth, available for your use. Please note that these pages are in a PDF format and will require the use of Adobe's Acrobat Reader to be viewed.
The State Archives does NOT have copies of all Pennsylvania county or municipal records, nor can the Archives search or copy all county records . If a local record cannot be located at the Archives, the researcher must visit the county courthouse or municipal office to examine the record.
However, to make records more accessible to researchers, the State Archives has over 11,000 reels of microfilmed county records from all 67 counties that can be viewed at our research facility, as well as numerous reels of microfilmed municipal records.
Original county documents found at the archives are in Manuscript Group 4 (County Records Collection) and Record Group 47 (Records of County Governments). Original municipal documents held by the archives are in Record Group 48 (Records of Municipal Governments).
Visit the US GenWeb site for the State of Pennsylvania.
Types of Local Records Found in Pennsylvania:
Orphans Court Records
Affidavits of Death
Birth Registrations, 1852-54, 1893-1906
Delayed Registrations of Birth, recorded 1941-present
Marriage Licenses, 1852-54, 1885-present
Death Registrations, 1852-54, 1893-1906
Quarter Sessions - criminal court
Common Pleas - civil court