York Town Square

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Peeking into Pennsylvania’s attic

Camp Security, in present-day Springettsbury Township, probably resembled this British prisoner-of-war encampment in Charlottesville, Va. Some prisoners from this camp moved to Camp Security in 1781 when Cornwallis’ redcoats moved northward into Virginia. Jonathan Stayer, who has written extensively on this era, will speak in York on Sunday about the holdings of the Pennsylvania State Archives, where he heads the reference section.
When Jonathan Stayer was a senior at Messiah College, he wrote an honor’s thesis on Camp Security which remains the most authoritative single work written on the Revolutionary War POW camp.
Stayer’s work on the Springettsbury Township camp (search Camp Security at www.ydr.com/history) remains unpublished, but the York County resident’s attention to the topic makes the thesis an oft-referenced manuscript in the York County Heritage Trust archives.
He followed that work with a master’s thesis that, in part, covered Hessians – mercenary soldiers fighting for the British – who remained behind in York County after their detention to become established York County families.
Residents will get a chance to hear Stayer speak Sunday at the South Central Pennsylvania Genealogical Society SCPGS about the holdings of the Pennsylvania State Archives, where he heads the reference section. The meeting begins at 2:15 p.m. at the York County Heritage Trust, 250 E. Market St., York. (For a news story on the meeting, see: records.
This presentation features a number of records relating to York County, and it is directed more to a general audience than a genealogy group, Stayer says.
Stayer not only supervises a deep trove of resources at the archives, he is a living York County treasure.
The following is a tipsheet to give a broad-brush understanding of the State Archives, part of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission PHMC. :

Some Holdings of the Pennsylvania State Archives

Pennsylvania State Archives
350 North Street
Harrisburg, PA 17120-0030
(717) 783-3281
The Archives collects only original records and microfilm copies of original records with an emphasis on those of state and county governments. The holdings are limited to Pennsylvania–information for other states or countries is not available. Published family genealogies, county histories, abstracts of records and reference books may be consulted in the Genealogy/Local History Section of the State Library of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA (www.statelibrary.state.pa.us).
The following records are some of the most-used items in our collections. This is NOT a complete listing of our holdings.
County Records
Almost 16,000 microfilm rolls containing copies of records found at county courthouses — Wills, Orphans Court Records, Deeds, Tax Records, Court Records, Registers of Birth, Marriage & Death, etc.
For a listing of the microfilm holdings, see the “microfilm” section of Record Group 47 on the Archives website: www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/rg47m.htm.
The State Archives also holds some original county records. For an inventory of these materials, consult an archivist or Record Group 47 on the Archives website: www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/rg47.htm.
Most original county records are maintained at the county courthouses. If the State Archives does not have a microfilm copy or an original county record, you must go to the courthouse.
Land Records
· Deeds & Mortgages – transfers of property – see County Records
Grantor Index – index to sellers
Grantee Index – index to buyers
· Records of purchases from the Penns or the Commonwealth (known as State Land Records) — warrants, surveys, patents
Commonly-Used Indexes
¨ Warrant Registers, 1733-1950s (www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/di/r17-
¨ Patent Indexes, 1682-present
¨ Old Rights, pre-1733
¨ Donation & Depreciation Lands (for Revolutionary War service)
**For a more complete discussion of State Land Records,
see Pennsylvania Land Records by Donna Munger
Military Records
· Records of Pennsylvania soldiers in all wars from French and Indian War to the Vietnam Conflict
· Militia and National Guard records, 1776-c.1970’s
· State pensions for Revolutionary War and War of 1812
· See www.digitalarchives.state.pa.us for on-line access to military records
Immigration Records
· Ships’ Lists of German Passengers, 1727-1808 (published and indexed in Pennsylvania German Pioneers, Pennsylvania
German Society, 1934)
· Naturalizations:
¨ Persons Naturalized in the Province of Pennsylvania,
1740-1773 (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1967)
¨ Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1796-1906 (Record
Group 33)
¨ Naturalizations in county and municipal courts – see
County Records
Vital Records
· Births, 1852-54, 1893-1906 (some counties)
· Marriages, 1742-62, 1852-54, 1885-89,1885+ (some counties)
· Deaths, 1852-54, 1893-1906 (some counties)
**For birth and death records, 1906-present, contact: Division
of Vital Records, P.O. Box 1528, New Castle, PA 16103
Census Records
· Federal Censuses, 1790-1930 (1890 was destroyed)
· Special Census of Union Veterans and Widows, 1890
· Soundex (index to census by sound of surname), 1880-1920
· Published Indexes, 1790-1870
See also:
¨ U.S. Direct Tax (Window/Glass Tax), 1798
¨ Septennial Censuses, 1779-1821 (Record Group 7)
¨ Farm Census Returns, 1924, 1927 (Record Group 1)
Other Sources
· State Penitentiary Records
· Occupational Records
· State Court Records
· Maps
· Family Papers
Consult the following for more detailed descriptions of the holdings of the Pennsylvania State Archives:
Ø Dructor, Robert M. Guide to Genealogical Sources at the
Pennsylvania State Archives. 2nd Ed. Harrisburg: PHMC, 1998.
Ø Archives websites: www.phmc.state.pa.us


Many of the records at the Pennsylvania State Archives may be used for genealogical research. All records are free for public examination in the Archives Search Room, Third and Forster Streets, Harrisburg, PA, Tuesday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; Saturday (microfilm only), 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., excluding State holidays. No appointment is required to review manuscript materials; however, advance notice is necessary when restricted records, unprocessed collections, or audio and video media will be consulted.


Staff will search indexed, original records for a nonrefundable fee of $25.00 for non-Pennsylvania residents and $15.00 for Pennsylvania residents per name or item checked in an individual series of records or in a specific Record or Manuscript Group. The research fee includes the cost of copying up to 10 standard, single-sided xerox pages.
To request research, submit a letter or appropriate form to the above address by postal mail along with a check or money order payable to the COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA. Payment is required before staff will begin research. Please allow 8-12 weeks for a response.
Searches are done only for original records among our holdings. Staff cannot search or copy federal censuses, county records, or other materials whose originals are not in our custody. Unindexed original records among our holdings will be searched by the Archives for a nonrefundable fee of $50.00 per hour per series. Also, a list of researchers is available upon request or from the Archives website: www.phmc.state.pa.us.