Using the GSP Website

Searching GSP Member Collections

GSP collections include searchable indexes and abstracts of records created by GSP volunteers and collection donors since 1892, the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine and Publications of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania (1895-2015), and other GSP publications.

  • Most collections are full-text searchable PDFs that can be searched through the GSP website search.
  • Collections also can be searched as individual files.
  • To find your search term in a page, select and open the file and use Ctrl-F on your keyboard or the “Find in Page” or “Edit and Find” options in your browser to locate names, locations, and other search terms of interest.
  • If you’re not familiar with this, it’s usually found within a menu that looks like three dots at the top right side of your screen. Click on this, then scroll down to select “Find,” “Find in Page,” or “Find on Page.”
  • Enter your search term, and then click the arrow or enter to view each example of your search term.
  • An easier way to do this is to use Ctrl-F. While holding down the Ctrl button *usually at the bottom left of your keyboard), press the letter “F.” A box should open. Enter your search term and click on the arrows to view each example of your search term.
  • Some collections are handwritten and must be browsed as individual files. All files can be browsed as individual collections.

iPad and iPhone

  • Use the Find in Page option. It’s best to use the Safari browser to search PDFs on iPads and iPhones.
  • Tap the Share option (the square with an arrow pointing out), scroll past the Share options to the Action menu and select Find in Page.
  • Enter your search term and tap Search. Us the up/down arrow buttons to jump to each instance of the search term.
  • If you’re using the Chrome browser, you can use the Find in Page feature by clicking on the three dots at upper right, scrolling down to Find in Page, and then entering your search terms.
  • However, you will see that when you search PDFs, the Find in Page option is greyed out. This is a known issue with searching PDFs in the Chrome browser and iPad/iPhone on all websites. It’s better to use Safari for searching PDFs.

Search Tips

  • Enter search terms into the search box and click on the magnifying glass.
  • Select search result of interest.
  • If you are not logged into the site as a member, log in. If you are not a member, learn more about GSP membership.
  • Most collections are PDF files, which can take some time to load. If your computer or device does not have a PDF reader, you will need to download and install one: Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  • When the results page opens, search for the name or word by using Ctrl-F. See Using Ctrl-F to Search Efficiently. More PDF search tips: How to Search for Words or Phrases in a PDF Document.
  • Enlarge pages: Ctrl key followed by the + key. Reduce pages: hold down the Ctrl key followed by the – key.
  • If a name is common or can be used in sentences, for example: “black” or “miles”, you will receive many results. Some options: add a location, add a first name, and/or put quotes around the full name (“John Black” or “Black, John”).

Improving Search Results

  • Search for more than one word. For example, search for a surname and a town name.
  • Search for a first name and last name in quotes: “John Smith.”
  • Search for the name in reverse order in quotes: “Smith, John.”
  • Add a middle initial: “John C. Brown” or “Brown, John C.”


When I click on a link, why do I see a message to login or an image of a lock?

Search results lead to links for protected files that are “unlocked” when you are logged in as a member on our website. If you log in, you may view these collections. Learn more about GSP membership.

Why isn’t the name or word that I searched highlighted?

Search results are currently not highlighted as they are on websites hosted by organizations with more staff and volunteers to enter these names into databases for indexed searches. Our current PDF website search does not provide this feature, but we are considering other options.

Why is my ancestor’s name not on your website?

Your family might not appear in a search for many reasons: They might have lived in an area not well-represented by our collections. They might not have been members of the churches whose records are on our site. They might have been buried in cemeteries other than the ones whose records are on our site. They might have lived in Pennsylvania before or after the time periods covered by most of our records.

Our church records have been historically drawn mostly from Protestant denominations in the eastern part of the state, particularly religions associated with German and English settlers, such as Episcopalian, Lutheran and Reformed, and Society of Friends (Quakers). Early GSP members were descended mostly from these populations, and many of our early volunteers and donors were interested in these records. However, our current membership has a broader representation of ancestry, and we welcome additional collections and indexes or abstracts of records from all denominations.

Your ancestor’s name also might be in our collections, but the search of the full-text searchable records just did not find the search term.  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, you should browse collections from the areas where your family might have lived and look for names of interest.

Do you have birth, death, and marriage records?

Most of our records are from the 18th and 19th centuries, with some records into the early decades of the 20th century. Births, deaths, and marriages appear in these records, but birth and death records from 1893 to 1905 and marriage records from 1885 to the present are held by county archives and courthouses. Read more about accessing these at Vital Records Resources. FamilySearch has digitized many of these records. For links to county records, see FamilySearch Pennsylvania Collections. For information about resources for Pennsylvania counties, see Pennsylvania Resources.

We do have several collections of funeral home records that provide information about people who died in the 20th century. Our Mount Moriah Cemetery Database also includes deaths well into the mid- and late-20th century.  While this is only one cemetery, it is quite a large one. The Mount Moriah database is available in the GSP Library and we are currently working on returning it to the website. Members can email for a lookup included with membership.

Why do you have more records from eastern Pennsylvania?

We collect records from throughout the state, but most of our collections are from eastern Pennsylvania, particularly Philadelphia and its surrounding counties, with many from south central and northeastern Pennsylvania. This is partly due to GSP’s historic location in Philadelphia. Most of our early members and volunteers and our donors throughout the years were from eastern Pennsylvania.

However, this is also partly due to 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

We are always seeking to provide more access to records from throughout the state. If you have a collection of records to donate or are willing to provide indexes or abstracts of records from your areas of interest, please contact

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