GSP Website Tips

Search tips

  • Enter search terms and click search button
  • Click search result of interest
  • Select Continue Reading
  • Most of our collections are large PDF files, which might take some time to load
  • When the page opens, go to your browser’s Edit and Find function to search for a name or word. Another option is to hold down the Ctrl key followed by F (Find) or your browser’s “Edit and Find” or “Search Page” to locate search terms in a file
  • To make pages larger, hold down the Ctrl key followed by the + key.  To make pages smaller, hold down the Ctrl key followed by the – key
  • Some collections take a minute to open. The first page often includes only a title, so you may need to scroll down. Most of these collections are PDF files, and some browsers might produce a message asking you whether you want to open the file.
  • You also can search by the name of a county or other location.
  • If a name is common or can be used in sentences, for example: “black” or “miles”, you may receive many results. Try searching in different ways and compare results.

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About GSP Collections

Most of our collections are typed documents created by generations of GSP volunteers and collection donors. We have scanned these documents as PDF files and run them through OCR (optical character recognition) to make them searchable. Our public collections are at https://genpa.org/public-collections/ and our member collections are at https://genpa.org/member-collections/

Search results lead to links for protected files that are “unlocked” when you are logged in as a member on our website. Search results are not highlighted as they are on larger, commercial websites, which have many more staff and volunteers to enter these names into software for searching.

If you receive no results for your search, it does not mean that GSP has no information about your family. It just means that none of the collections that are full-text searchable on our website have the name or search term in them.  Many of our collections are handwritten records or have older typefaces and the optical character recognition might not recognize all letters. For example, “O” might be read by the optical character recognition (OCR) as the number zero “0” and the letter “l” could be read by the OCR as a number “1.” In these cases, names might not be found by the search engine, so you also should browse the indexes and collections for names of interest.

Most of our records are from the 18th and 19th centuries, with some records into the early decades of the 20th century.  One exception to this is the Mount Moriah Cemetery Database.  While this is only one cemetery, it is quite a large one, and includes deaths well into the mid- and late-20th century. The Mount Moriah database has a separate search. Note: The Mount Moriah database is currently being worked on. Members can email info@genpa.org for a lookup included with membership.

We collect records from throughout the state, but most of our collections are from eastern Pennsylvania, particularly Philadelphia and its surrounding counties, with others from south central and northeastern Pennsylvania. This is partly due to GSP’s historic location in Philadelphia, but also because of the history of Pennsylvania as a state. All counties were formed from other “parent” counties except the original three counties of Pennsylvania of Bucks, Chester, and Philadelphia. Records before the formation of a county will be found in the parent counties.  For information on when your county formed, check the list of Pennsylvania county creation dates and parent counties at FamilySearch.org.

The Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, like other genealogical societies, has programs and services in addition to our online collections. We also have many books and collections in our research library that are not yet online. We can help you with your search for records about your family, particularly in Pennsylvania. Visit our Research page for more information, or contact GSP.

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