FamilySearch and Historical Society of Pennsylvania to Publish Historical Documents Online

September 29, 2014  - by 

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP; online at, one of the largest and most comprehensive genealogical centers in the nation, and FamilySearch (online at, 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

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 The vision to collect and preserve these historical documents for many decades gives HSP and FamilySearch a unique opportunity to increase the knowledge and awareness of this priceless historical gem.”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.



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  1. Jerrol and Margaret Syme – thank you so much for your service. You are greatly appreciated by those that seek ancestors.

    To the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, you folks are doing such a great service for the people of America by using FamilySearch to get information to those that need it for family research. Thank you so much.

  2. Great thanks to the Symes for their work and to HSP and FamilySearch!

    At what point might they be available online? This is very exciting!

  3. Jerrol and Margaret I too commend you on your dedicated volunteering. If I could be in a position to do such as you are doing I would be banging on the door to let me in. But I do my bit being an Aussie, I correct digital transcriptions on TROVE and index here at LDS and various online OPCs. The world revolves around volunteers and the hrs put in are countless.

  4. would like to add my uncle when I get all the details surname WEINGATE mother name was Blanche father was Joseph his name was (born 1925) Charles alexander weingate

  5. Two years ago at the HSP, I was able to view my ancestor’s documents in Box 1344 entitled “Freas Family Paper 1754-1889.” It had the original parchment will of my 5x great-grandfather who served in the Revolutionary War, his immigrant father’s Oath of Allegiance, and much more. A truly amazing collection. I hope these family papers are among the items that will be scanned so other relatives can see them. Thank you HSP and FamilySearch!

  6. You have no idea what this means to me. I am a native of Philadelphia. My family on both sides goes back some five, perhaps six, generations. All native Philadelphians. I can’t wait to see what I might turn up. Thank you – God bless all of you involved in this endeavor.

  7. This is such great news! Many of my ancestors are from Lycoming County, PA and I have not been able to find their marriage records. The families were Luthern and the marriages most likely took place in the churches. Hopefully sometime in the future we will be able to have access to these important records. I am so grateful for the work the Symes are doing.

  8. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania and
    FamilySearch are now connected in more ways than one can imagine. When you link two great historical systems together
    the results will multiply a 100 plus and that is not the end. The interconnections of personal and family needs are beyond what man can understand and use in a lifetime. It is a gift from above. I only know friends from Allentown and German Town from the Korean War days in the Air Force which makes these records a more wonderful memory source for generations.

  9. Hope the vast collection of the Russian Brotherhood Organization membership and death benefit records will be scanned. There are thousands of files chock full of information and the collection is already indexed! Many thousands of descendants would benefit greatly.

  10. Thanks to HSP, the Symes and FamilySearch for working on material that will have such value to those of us with PA roots!
    Another very valuable resource is housed at the Philadelphia City Archives–the tax records for the City of Philadelphia. I wonder if there are any plans to digitize them? They are a wonderful way to find the location of folks, even those who were not heads of households. They are in great shape so I imagine they could be digitized without too many problems. I don’t believe they are available anywhere but at the Phila. City Archives. Since so many of us have our early beginnings in Philadelphia I think this would make for a very useful project.