By Steven L. Ness

As with many historical libraries, the majority of visitors to our reading room are motivated by genealogical interest. Over the years we have developed and collected a number of resources that can assist folks who are doing family history research. Because many persons—both Mennonite and non-Mennonite—have ancestral connections to southeastern Pennsylvania, our collections are useful to researchers across the country.

The starting point here is typically still our genealogical card file, a collection of genealogical data pulled from various sources on approximately three-quarters of a million persons. Some of this data comes from work done by genealogists whose notes and reference materials are now housed in the LMHS Archives. The card file also refers researchers to the “Genealogical Archives” which are family files containing miscellaneous documents of all sorts pertaining to specific surnames. 

While the card file is a valuable tool for genealogical research, it is not intended to be exhaustive and there are many other library resources that are useful. The library catalog is a good starting point no matter what type of research one is conducting. A subject search for “Hershey family” for example, will return many titles that will be of interest to a Hershey family researcher. These, of course, include published genealogies, but may also include Bibles or other books with family records inscribed, biographies, periodical articles, and unpublished papers. The library catalog is also helpful in identifying local histories and biographical works, congregational histories and church records, historical atlases, and much more.

The library holds microfilm copies of Lancaster County wills, Orphans’ Court records (also referred to as the Miscellaneous Books), and tax records. Published abstracts of various legal records are also available for Lancaster County and a number of other Pennsylvania counties. Records for most Lancaster County cemeteries are arranged by township.

Library visitors have access to three unique genealogical databases as well as thousands of indexed obituaries and more. An institutional subscription to provides library visitors with access to records not only from Lancaster County but from around the world. 

For a complete listing of genealogical resources, visit our website. The Society’s resources and knowledgeable staff and volunteers can assist you in your research into family history, local history, material culture, theology, Pennsylvania German dialect (Pennsylvania Dutch) and much more. Someone attends the library reference desk during our open hours (8:30-4:30, Tuesday-Friday, and the first and third Saturdays of each month) and can help you get started on your research. LMHS members may use the library without charge; for most others, a daily fee of $7.00 applies. We look forward to seeing you in the library!