Chester County, Pennsylvania Genealogy

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Guide to Chester County, Pennsylvania ancestry, genealogy and family history, birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, and military records.

County Facts
County seat: West Chester
Organized: March 10, 1682
Parent County(s): Colonial Lands
Neighboring Counties
Berks  • Montgomery  • Lancaster  • Delaware  • Cecil (MD)  • New Castle (DE)
See County Maps
Chester County, Pennsylvania Courthouse.jpg
Location Map
Chester County PA Map.png
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County Information[edit | edit source]

Description[edit | edit source]

The county is located in the southeastern area of the state.[1]

County Courthouse[edit | edit source]

Chester County Courthouse
201 W. Market St, Suite 1400
West Chester, PA 19380
Phone: 610-344-6135
Fax: 610-344-4465
Prothonotary Phone: 610-344-6300
Recorder of Deeds Phone: 610-344-6330
Register of Wills/Orphans Court Phone: 610-344-6335
Chester County Website

County Archives has birth and death records 1852-1855 and 1893-1906, marriage records 1852-1855 and 1885-1930, divorce records 1804-1828, probate records 1714-1923, court records 1681-1900, land records 1716-1905, tax records 1715-1939 and poorhouse records 1798-1937[2]

Chester County, Pennsylvania Record Dates[edit | edit source]

Information for this chart was taken from various sources, often containing conflicting dates. This information should be taken as a guide and should be verified by contacting the county and/or the state government agency.

Known Beginning Dates for Major County Records[3]
Birth* Marriage Death* Court Land Probate Census
1852 1852 1852 1681 1716 1714 1790
*Statewide registration for births and deaths began in 1906. General compliance by 1915.

Record Loss[edit | edit source]

There is no known history of courthouse disasters in this county.

Boundary Changes[edit | edit source]

  • Created from Colonial Lands 10 March 1682.[4]
  • County seat: West Chester[5]

14 October 1728: West part set off to form LancasterCounty. [6]

26 September 1789: Southeast part set off to form DelawareCounty. [7]

For animated maps illustrating Pennsylvania county boundary changes, "Rotating Formation Pennsylvania County Boundary Maps" (1673-1878) may be viewed at the website.

Populated Places[edit | edit source]

For a complete list of populated places, including small neighborhoods and suburbs, visit HomeTown Locator. The following are the most historically and genealogically relevant populated places in this county:[8]

Unincorporated communities
Census-designated places
Historic communities


  • Birchrunville
  • Chester Springs
  • Chesterbrook
  • Cheyney
  • Daylesford
  • Devon-Berwyn
  • Embreeville
  • Exton
  • Kemblesville
  • Kenilworth
  • Kimberton
  • Knauertown
  • Lionville-Marchwood
  • Marshallton
  • Nottingham
  • Paoli
  • South Pottstown
  • Southeastern
  • Strafford
  • Sugartown
  • Thorndale
  • Toughkenamon
  • Unionville
  • Valley Forge
  • Wayne
  • West Goshen
  • Willowdale

History Timeline[edit | edit source]

Resources[edit | edit source]

Bible Records[edit | edit source]

Biographies[edit | edit source]

Business, Commerce, and Occupations[edit | edit source]

Slavery and Bondage

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries of Chester County, Pennsylvania online and in print
Tombstone Transcriptions Online
Tombstone Transcriptions in Print (Often more complete)
List of Cemeteries in the County
See Pennsylvania Cemeteries for more information

Census Records[edit | edit source]

Federal Census

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1790 27,829
1800 32,093 15.3%
1810 39,596 23.4%
1820 44,451 12.3%
1830 50,910 14.5%
1840 57,515 13.0%
1850 66,438 15.5%
1860 74,578 12.3%
1870 77,805 4.3%
1880 83,481 7.3%
1890 89,377 7.1%
1900 95,695 7.1%
1910 109,213 14.1%
1920 115,120 5.4%
1930 126,629 10.0%
1940 135,626 7.1%
1950 159,141 17.3%
1960 210,608 32.3%
1970 278,311 32.1%
1980 316,660 13.8%
1990 376,396 18.9%
2000 433,501 15.2%
2010 498,886 15.1%
Source: "".

Chester County Archives:

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Church records and the information they provide vary significantly depending on the denomination and the record keeper. For members, they may contain: age, date of baptism, christening, or birth; marriage date and maiden name; death/burial date. For general information about Pennsylvania denominations, see Pennsylvania Church Records.

Chester County Pennsylvania Churches.png

County-wide Database - Multi-denominational

  • 1682-1800 - Humphrey, John T. Pennsylvania Births, Chester County, 1682-1800 Washington, D.C.: Humphrey Publications, 1994. FHL Book 974.813 K2h.
Contains Quaker monthly meeting records from Kennett, Bradford, Goshen, Nottingham, New Garden, Sadsbury, Uwchlan, Londongrove, Birmingham, and Fallowfield. Includes baptisms from Zion's Lutheran Church in Pikeland Township; East Vincent Reformed Church in Vincent Township; Brownbacks German Reformed Church in Coventry Township; Forks of the Brandywine Presbyterian Church; Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church; and records of Rev. John Casper Stoever.
Contains church records of:
  • Chester Springs: St. Matthew's United Church of Christ; St. Peter's Pikeland United Church of Christ
  • Coatesville: Friendship United Methodist Church; Presbyterian Church; The Presbyterian Church of Coatesville
  • Compass: St. John's Episcopal Church
  • Downingtown: Central Presbyterian Church; Messiah Lutheran Church; St. James Church; St. James Episcopal Church; St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church; United Methodist Church
  • East Coventry: Coventry Mennonite Cemetery
  • Elk Ridge: Elk Ridge Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Kerford: Oak Grove Cemetery
  • Landenberg: United Methodist Church
  • New London: New London Methodist Episcopal Church; Protestant Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist; St. John's Episcopal Church
  • Oxford: Oxford Circuit Methodist Episcopal Church; St. Andrew's Church
  • Paoli: Salem Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Parkesburg: First United Presbyterian Church of Parkesburg
  • Philadelphia: Norris Square Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Phoenixville: St. Peter's Chapel; St. Peter's Episcopal Church; United Church of Christ - Hungarian Reformed
  • Salem: Salem Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Spring City: Vincent Mennonite Cemetery
  • West Bradford: Marshallton United Methodist Church
  • West Chester: Church of the Holy Trinity; Oakland Cemetery; St. Agnes' Roman Catholic Cemetery
  • West Marlborough: St. James Church
  • West Nantmeal: Goodwill United Methodist Church
  • West Vincent: St. Matthew's United Church of Christ
  • West Whiteland: Grove United Methodist Church


The earliest of the Episcopal churches is St. John's Pequra Episcopal church in Compassville.[9]

St. John's Church, New London

Early registers are lost. Surviving records begin in 1824.[10]

Trinity Church, Oxford

Early registers are lost.[10] For a history, see:

  • Fisher, George Harrison. "Trinity Church, Oxford, Philadelphia," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 27 (1903):279-295. For online access, see WeRelate.

Zion's or Old Organ Lutheran Church, East Pikeland Township

Brandywine Manor Presbyterian Church

Faggs Manor Presbyterian Church aka New Londonderry Presbyterian Church

Fairview Presbyterian Church, Glenmoore

Forks of the Brandywine Presbyterian Church

Kennett Square Presbyterian Church

Penningtonville Presbyterian Church, Atglen

Quakers did exist in the Chester County area prior to the arrival of William Penn. William Edmundson, minister of the Society of Friends, met with Robert Wade in about 1675 and held a meeting. The first official meeting did not occur until 1681 at the home of Mr. Wade. This meeting, held at Mr. Wade's house would eventually become the Chester Monthly Meeting. Meetings were first held in members homes but as the congregation grew separate meeting houses were built. The earliest meetings in what is now Chester County were: Goshen, Uwchlan, Caln, Kennett, Birmingham, Nottingham, West Nottingham, New Garden, London Grove Bradford and Valley.[12]

Early Quaker monthly meetings (with years established):

  • Concord Monthly Meeting (1684) also known as Chichester Monthly Meeting. Hinshaw published the early records: FHL Book 974.8 K2w.[13]

Reformed Church, East Vincent

Vincent Reformed Church, East Vincent Township

List of Churches and Church Parishes

Court Records[edit | edit source]

For information about records kept in the Orphan's court, Prothonotary Court, Court of Common Pleas, and other courts in counties of Pennsylvania, visit the Pennsylvania Court Records Wiki page.

Chester County Court Abstracts

Chester County Archive Online Indexes

Directories[edit | edit source]

Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]

For online resources, passenger lists, and specific groups coming to Pennsylvania, see Pennsylvania Emigration and Immigration.

  • Hunting, Morgan. "The Names of the Early Settlers of Darby Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 25 (1900):182-186. Digital version at Internet Archive. Hunting prepared a map and a list of those who settled in Darby Township up through 1760.
  • Immigrant Servants Database hosted by Price Genealogy - Includes indentured/imported servants and transported convicts who served labor terms in Colonial York County, Pennsylvania.

Ethnic, Political, and Religious Groups[edit | edit source]

For groups that came, see People section of the Pennsylvania Emigration page.

African Americans

Funeral Homes[edit | edit source]

Genealogies[edit | edit source]

  • Genealogical manuscripts up to 1968 (Salt Lake City, Utah Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1968) Chester County Historical Society (West Chester, Pennsylvania). FHL Film 563394 Item 2

Guardianship[edit | edit source]

The Orphan's Court ensures the best interests of those not capable of handling their own affairs: minors, incapacitated persons, decedents' estates, and more.[14]

Land and Property Records[edit | edit source]

Land and property records can place an ancestor in a specific location and reveal family relationships. Records include: deeds, abstracts, indexes, mortgages, leases, grants, sheriff sales, land patents, maps and more. For more information, see Pennsylvania Land and Property.

Land records in Chester County began in 1688. These records are filed with the Recorder of Deeds office in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Online Land Indexes and Records

  • 1628 -1920 Mortgage Records, 1774-1852; Mortgage Index, 1628-1920. FHL films 556709–558025 - images only; click on the camera icon to view images
  • 1688 -1922 Deeds 1688-1903; Index, 1688-1922. FHL film 20874 (first of 165 films) - images only; click on the camera icon to view images
  • 1688 -1875 The Chester County Archives offers the following online indexes:

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

Lancaster CountyBerks CountyMontgomery CountyDelaware CountyNew Castle CountyCecil CountyPA CHESTER.PNG
Click a neighboring county
for more resources


Migration[edit | edit source]

Military Records[edit | edit source]

Revolutionary War
Local men served in the Chester County Militia. A guide at the Pennsylvania State Archives website identifies townships where specific companies recruited soldiers, see Revolutionary War Militia Battalions and Companies, Arranged by County.

Chester County men also served in the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment,[15] the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment,[16] and the 9th Pennsylvania Regiment.[17]

War of 1812

Civil War

World War I

World War II

Naturalization and Citizenship[edit | edit source]

Naturalization records can contain information about immigration and nativity. Prior to 1906, it is rare to find the town of origin in naturalization records. For more information, see Pennsylvania Naturalization

Online Naturalization Indexes and Records

Newspapers[edit | edit source]

Newspapers may contain obituaries, births, marriages, deaths, anniversaries, family gatherings, family travel, achievements, business notices, engagement information, and probate court proceedings. Newspapers are often found in local or university libraries, historical or genealogical societies, or state archives in the area where the newspaper was published. See Pennsylvania Newspapers for more information.

Newspapers of Chester County

Online Newspapers

To learn if there are newspapers online for a specific town or city in Pennsylvania, see and search for the town or the name of a newspaper.

Online Newspaper Abstracts

Obituaries[edit | edit source]

Obituaries are generally found in local newspapers where the person died or where family members lived. Local libraries or societies may have indexes or other sources.

Online Obituary Abstracts

Obituary Excerpts and Abstracts

Other Records[edit | edit source]

Poorhouse, Almshouse

Periodicals[edit | edit source]

Probate Records[edit | edit source]

Probate matters in Chester County are handled by the Orphans' Court and start when the county was created.

In addition to wills and administrations, the Orphans' Court also handles: audits of accounts of executors, administrators, trustees, and guardians; distribution of estates; appointments of guardians; adoptions; appeals from the Register of Wills; inheritance tax appeals, and various petitions and motions.

Online Probate Indexes and Images

School Records[edit | edit source]

Social Security Records[edit | edit source]

Tax Records[edit | edit source]

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Vital records are handled by the County Orphans' Court. Between the years 1852-1855 Pennsylvania made a failed attempt to record birth, marriage and death events at the county level. County marriage records were kept in earnest in 1885. Births and deaths, at the county level, were begun in 1893 and kept through 1905. For the most complete set of records, contact the County Orphans' Court.

Birth[edit | edit source]

Early births 1893–1905 are located at the County Orphans' Court. For more information, see Pennsylvania Vital Records.

Marriage[edit | edit source]

Pennsylvania marriages were created by county officials. Contact Chester County Courthouse

Death[edit | edit source]

Early deaths 1893–1905 are located at the County Orphans' Court. For indexes and records, 1906 and later, see Pennsylvania Vital Records.

Divorce[edit | edit source]

Divorce records are available through the office of the Prothonotary, Chester County Courthouse.

Research Facilities[edit | edit source]

Archives[edit | edit source]

Listed below are archives in Greene County. For state-wide archival repositories, see Pennsylvania Archives and Libraries.

National Archives at Philadelphia
14700 Townsend Road
Philadelphia, PA 19154-1096
Phone: 215-305-2044
Fax: 215-305-2052

Chester County Archives
601 Westtown Road, Suite 080
West Chester, PA 19380-0990
Phone: 610-344-6760
The Chester County Archives holds birth and death records (1852-1855, 1893-1906), marriage records (1852-1855, 1885-1930), wills and administrations (1714-1923), deed books (1688-1982), tax records (1715-1939), and more. The Chester County Archives has published online indexes to birth, marriage and death records, civil court records, land records, military records, naturalization records, probate records, tax records, and more. It was established in 1982 and holds almost 3,000 volumes and nearly two thousand cubic feet of original records. The Chester County Archives is run by the Chester County Historical Society and the County of Chester.

Family History Centers[edit | edit source]

Family History Center and Affiliate Library Locator map - search for local Family History Centers or Affiliate Libraries

  • Family History Centers provide one-on-one assistance, free access to center-only databases, and to premium genealogical websites.
  • FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries have access to most center-only databases, but may not always have full services normally provided by a family history center.

Local Centers and Affiliate Libraries

Libraries[edit | edit source]

Listed below are libraries in Chester County. For state-wide library facilities, see Pennsylvania Archives and Libraries.

Chester County Library System
450 Exton Square Parkway
Exton, PA 19341
Phone: 610-344-5600
Multiple locations

Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore College (Quaker)
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081
Phone: 610-328-8000
Located in neighboring Delaware County, but has many resources for the greater area.

The Mennonite Heritage Center
565 Yoder Road
Harleysville, PA 19438-1020
Phone: 215-256-3020
The Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania support the John L. Ruth Historical Library and Museum at the Mennonite Heritage Center. Located in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania the records and resources also cover the counties of Bucks, Chester, Berks, Lehigh, Northampton, and Philadelphia. Access website for comprehensive overview of library resources, online cemetery database, manuscript collections, photo collections, archival collections, and more.

Museums[edit | edit source]

Societies[edit | edit source]

Listed below are societies in Chester County. For state-wide genealogical societies, see Pennsylvania Societies.

  • Chester County Historical Society
    The History Center
    225 N. High Street
    West Chester, PA 19380-2658
    Phone: 610-692-4800
  • Directory of Pennsylvania Genealogical & Historical Societies
  • Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania
    2100 Byberry Road, Suite 111
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19116
    Phone: 267-686-2296
  • Historical Society of Pennsylvania
    1300 Locust Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19107
    Phone: 215-732-6200 Fax: 215-732-2680
  • Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area
    204 Church Street
    Phoenixville, PA 19460
    Phone: 610-935-7646
  • Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society - also for Amish genealogy
    2215 Millstream Road
    Lancaster, PA 17602-1499
    Phone: 717-393-9745 Fax: 717-290-1585
  • Presbyterian Historical Society
    425 Lombard Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19147
    Phone: 215-627-1852
  • United Methodist Church Archives
    P. O. Box 127
    Madison, NJ 07940
    Phone: 973-408-3189

Websites[edit | edit source]

  • Chester County PA Genealogy
  • FamilySearch Catalog – The FamilySearch catalog contains descriptions and access information for all genealogical materials (including books, online materials, microfilm, microfiche, and publications) in their collection.  Use Historical Records to search for specific individuals in genealogical records.

Research Guides[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1.,_Pennsylvania accessed 2/1/2017
  2. The Handybook for Genealogists : United States of America, 10th ed., (Draper, UT: Everton Publishers, 2002) Chester County, Pennsylvania, p.589
  3. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Pennsylvania.At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  4. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Pennsylvania.At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  5. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Pennsylvania.At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  6. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Pennsylvania.At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  7. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Pennsylvania.At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  8. Wikipedia contributors, "Chester County, Pennsylvania," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia,, accessed 16 January 2020.
  9. W.W. Thomson "Chester County and Its People" (Chicago and New York: The Union History Company, 1898), 832. WorldCat 14691246; FHL book 974.813 H2t
  10. 10.0 10.1 Philip Syng Physick Conner,"Registers of the Anglican Church in Pennsylvania prior to 1800," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 12 (1888):341-349. For online access, see WeRelate.
  11. Genealogical Society of Utah, Parish and Vital Records List (July 1998). Microfiche. Digital version at
  12. W.W. Thomson, "Chester County and Its People" (Chicago and New York: The Union History Company, 1898), 740-745, WorldCat 14691246; FHL book 974.813 H2t
  13. William Wade Hinshaw and Phyllis J. Selby, The William Wade Hinshaw Index to Pennsylvania Quaker Meeting Records (Kokomo, Ind.: Selby Publishing and Printing, 1990). Vol. 1. FHL Book 974.8 K2w
  14. The Philadelphia Courts at Common Pleas accessed 10 July 2012
  15. John B.B. Trussell and Charles C. Dallas, The Pennsylvania Line; Regimental Organization and Operations, 1776-1783 (Harrisburg, Pa.: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1977). Digital version at Family History Archive.
  16. Wikipedia contributors, "6th Pennsylvania Regiment,", accessed 31 May 2012.
  17. Wikipedia contributors, "9th Pennsylvania Regiment,", accessed 31 May 2012.
  18. Genealogical Society of Utah, Parish and Vital Records List (July 1998). Microfiche. Digital version at
  19. Genealogical Society of Utah, Parish and Vital Records List (July 1998). Microfiche. Digital version at
  20. Genealogical Society of Utah, Parish and Vital Records List (July 1998). Microfiche. Digital version at