State Archives  > About the Archives > Finding Aids for Collections
Collections of the Pennsylvania State Archives

  • Record Groups : Archival records created by the General Assembly, State Judicial System, Executive Branch departments, boards and commissions, county and municipal governments, and school districts are maintained and described as Record Groups.
  • Manuscript Groups : Personal papers, manuscripts, and non-governmental records are maintained and described as Manuscript Groups.
  • Affiliated Archives : The Pennsylvania State Archives became an affiliated archives of the National Archives and Records Administration in 1995. Records of the National Archives of the United States, which are deposited at the State Archives on permanent loan, are maintained and described in accordance with designations established by the National Archives and Records Administration. The following is a list of affiliated archives records currently available for research at the Pennsylvania State Archives.
  • Historic Site Collections : The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, parent agency of the Pennsylvania State Archives, manages a variety of historic sites across the Commonwealth that hold archival records in their own right. Some collections of archival materials are housed at the sites themselves, while others have been transferred to the State Archives as Manuscript Groups.

Online guides for popular research topics at the Pennsylvania State Archives (such as genealogy, railroads, military service records and land records) are available.

Or you can use our custom Google search of our finding aids . Use the Google search box in the upper right hand corner of this page or visit our Advanced Help for Seaching Finding Aids page.

There are several levels of description used in State Archives Finding Aids:

  • Group Title Lists: All of our government Record Groups and private Manuscript Groups are numbered, and the group title lists provide all the numbers, in sequence, along with the Groups' formal names. Usually these names indicate the source of the records therein. (Links attached to each group name will provide more indepth levels of description when activated.) See a sample of a group title list.

  • Scope and Content Notes: Existing for all but the most recently acquired Manuscript Groups, scope and content notes give a brief summary of the types of materials to be found in each collection, along with biographical information about the individuals or organizations documented. See a sample of a scope and content note.

  • Series Title Lists: Provided for all Record Groups, series title lists show the names, dates and physical extent of all processed series and, increasingly, unprocessed accessions as well. A "series" is a grouping of similar records that were created or used together by the creator. Most Record Groups contains many different series. Some Manuscript Groups have been processed into series as well, and their series title lists can be found at the end of the their scope and content notes. See a sample of a series title list (with an agency history as well).

  • Series Descriptions: Series descriptions exist for most Record Groups and some Manuscript Groups. These narrative paragraphs describe in general terms the types of information that a researcher can expect to find in each series. See a sample of some series descriptions.

  • Container Listings (Holdings): All Record Groups and Manuscript Groups containing processed materials have container listing finding aids. Most of these are available on our website in either html or pdf format. These are the actual shelf listings for each series. Often, the information provided is only at the folder level, such as "Correspondence, A-D" and does not clarify definitively whether a particular item is present or absent. (Item level listings for our 70,000-some cubic ft. of holdings are, unfortunately, rare.) See a sample of a container listing.

If you need further assistance, you may contact an archivist at ra-statearchives@pa.gov