The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP; online at hsp.org), one of the largest and most comprehensive genealogical centers in the nation, and FamilySearch (online at FamilySearch.org), a nonprofit premier family history and records preservation organization, announced a joint initiative to digitally preserve select collections of the historical society’s vast holdings, starting with compiled family histories. The project is now underway, and the digitized documents will be accessible for free at FamilySearch.org.
David Rencher, FamilySearch’s chief genealogy officer, said, “The richness of the collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania cannot be overstated. It simply is the best collection of resources for studying the history and people of Pennsylvania—period. The vision to collect and preserve these historical documents for many decades gives HSP and FamilySearch a unique opportunity to increase the knowledge and awareness of this priceless historical gem.”
Founded in 1824 in Philadelphia, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania is one of the oldest historical societies in the United States. It is home to some 600,000 printed items and more than 21 million historical manuscripts and graphical items. Its unparalleled collections encompass more than 350 years of America’s history—from the 17th-century to the contributions of its most recent immigrants.
The initiative will digitally preserve and publish online the society’s many genealogies and local histories, family trees, and related family documents and manuscripts that contribute to the understanding of many family histories. Collections of particular interest might be those of Pennsylvania’s founding families, including William Penn and others.
Some of the society’s holdings date back to before the Revolutionary War. The rare histories include family papers, cataloged photographs, genealogies, African-American collections such as a history of the Dutrieuille family and related families, a cookbook compiled by Ellen Emlen during the Civil War in 1865, Jewish resources, sources about daily lives in the history of the United States, and much more.
Dr. Page Talbott, the President and CEO of the historical society, said that it is a “delight to work with FamilySearch. The primary goal of the project is to broaden the audience of the society’s records and engage in an unprecedented effort to digitize and preserve important data. Users all over the world will have access to these records, and partnership with FamilySearch will continue to benefit interested individuals well into the future.” Dr. Talbott said that digitization of the society’s compiled family histories has already begun.
Volunteer FamilySearch representatives Jerrol and Margaret Syme are operating the onsite scanning center. The Symes are from Mapleton, Utah, a small town about 60 miles south of Salt Lake City, Utah. Jerrol Syme, a retired CEO of a medical institution, and his wife, Margaret, are excited about their assignment. They miss their children and grandchildren but are excited to help others find success in their family history work by being able to conveniently access the society’s rich collections online.