Lancaster County Archives records are the ‘business records of a government” originally kept for short-term record keeping purposes.  Unlike historical societies and museums, documents were not collected but created in a variety of County departments. Deeds, death, birth, marriage, naturalization, and civil records were filed for a function of government and never intended for genealogists to scour over a century later.  Lancaster’s Courthouse became a central hub for residents to record property deeds, wills, and civil cases as well as obtain naturalization papers and marriage licenses.

In 1728, residents living in the backwoods of Chester County complained of the great distance to reach their Courthouse.  Lancaster County was formed May 10, 1729, to address these concerns and bring a new seat of government to this vast wilderness. As the new County prospered, the area now called Penn Square was selected as the spot for the first Courthouse.  It was finally finished in 1738.  This Courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1784, and a new one was built in its place in 1787.  A new Courthouse was again constructed in 1852 this time at the corner of King and Duke Streets.

Courthouse clerks diligently kept indexes and meticulously recorded a variety of records which over time has been significant to genealogists.  German immigrants came to the Courthouse and clerks recorded names the best they could often leaving behind phonetically spelled names in the indexes.  Some of the most hidden gems of genealogy line our shelves and represent nearly 500 diverse collections.  Courthouse records reflect significant milestones in your ancestor’s life.  Original signatures inked in many records are a personal and powerful glimpse into the lives of your ancestor.  Find your ancestors or discover an old house history.  The Lancaster County Archives preserves nearly three centuries of local historical records originally created in the Lancaster County Courthouse.  Explore the collections at: co.lancaster.pa.us/127/Archives-Division.


Lancaster County Archives Field Trip
During the Lancaster Family History Conference
Thursday, March 28, 8:30 am to 12:30 pm

Join archivist John Bennawit, Jr. as he explains this elaborate collection of historical government records and their interpretation for family historians. Researchers will have the option to conduct their own research until noon with staff available for guidance.

$25 small group registration fee; limited to 13 people