Genealogy is the quest to find ones ancestors. Before planning a trip to a research facility, it is best to begin the journey with yourself. Using a pedigree chart or family group sheet, record all vital information about you and your immediate family, i.e. births, marriages and deaths, as well as where the event took place. Include your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Interview family members and family friends, asking not only what they know but suggestions of whom to contact. It is these conversations that may lead to a previously unknown family bible, a photo album or a scrapbook. Family traditions and/or oral histories can be a wonderful source of information, but note that, just as with any source, it is only as accurate as the author.
Next, determine the record keeping criteria of the municipality where your family lived. The recording of vital statistics varies from one municipality to another, whether on the county or state level. Pennsylvania did not record births and deaths until 1906 and York County began recording marriages in 1885. Prior to these dates, one must consult other sources, such as church records, newspaper obituaries and cemetery tombstone abstractions to fill in missing information.
If you have ancestors in York County, the Library & Archives has a wealth of resources to help you with your research. We currently have over 8,700 family files which contain information from church records, estate records, tax records, burial information from a 1930s cemetery survey, and obituaries, wedding and engagement announcements clipped from the local newspapers. The family files also contain materials contributed by researchers and volunteers, which could include research queries, family charts and group sheets, research notes, photocopies of legal documents, and other materials collected by researchers. We also have a large collection of family genealogies that have been donated by the authors. When you visit the Library & Archives, our staff and trained volunteers can help guide you through these materials and the many other resources available in our collection.
For additional information about the York County Heritage Trust's genealogy collection, please see our Genealogy Research Prospectus
, which outlines the major research sources available in the Library & Archives.