To request editing rights on the Wiki, click here.

Berks County, Pennsylvania Genealogy

From FamilySearch Wiki
(Redirected from Berks County, Pennsylvania)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Guide to Berks County, Pennsylvania ancestry, family history and genealogy courthouse sources including birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, wills, deeds and land records, Civil War records, Revolutionary War records, family histories, cemeteries, churches, tax records, newspapers, and obituaries.


{{{link}}}

Berks County, Pennsylvania
Map
Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County
Location in the state of Pennsylvania
Map of the U.S. highlighting Pennsylvania
Location of Pennsylvania in the U.S.
Facts
Founded March 11, 1752
County Seat Reading
Courthouse
Berks County, Pennsylvania Courthouse.jpg
Address Berks County Courthouse
633 Court Street
Reading, PA 19601
Berks County Website
Adopt-a-wiki page
Pa-rootsbuttonwiki.gif This page adopted by:
PA Roots and its members
who welcome you to contribute.
Adopt a page today


Berks County, Pennsylvania Historical Facts[edit | edit source]

Known Beginning Dates for Major County Records[1]
Birth* Marriage Death* Court Land Probate Census
1894 1885 1894 1752 1752 1752 1790
Statewide registration for births and deaths began in 1906. General compliance by 1915.

Parent Counties: Formed from Chester, Lancaster, and Philadelphia Counties 11 March 1752.[2]

County Seat: Reading

Neighboring Counties:

Description[edit | edit source]

It is located in the South-East section of the state.[3]

Boundary Changes[edit | edit source]

  • 14 October 1728: Future southwestern half of Berks County became part of Lancaster County when it was created; the other half remained in Philadelphia County.
  • 1 March 1811:  Schuylkill County was created, giving Berks its final boundaries. [4]

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

Records Loss[edit | edit source]

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

Berks County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Resources

Bible Records[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Tombstone Transcriptions Online Tombstone Transcriptions in Print List of Cemeteries in the county
Findagrave.com Family History Library Findagrave.com
PA Cemeteries WorldCat BillionGraves
PAGenWeb Archives Linkpendium
BillionGraves(name) PAGravestones
Berks PA-Roots Epodunk
PAGenWeb Interment
See Pennsylvania Cemeteries for more information.

Census[edit | edit source]

For tips on accessing Berks County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Federal (or United States) census records online, see: Pennsylvania Census.

There are no county or state census records available for Pennsylvania. County and city tax records can be used as a substitute when census records are not available. The below listed census records were taken by Schuyler C. Brossman, a local historian, and are not official government records.

Note that the 1810 U.S. federal census images available on FamilySearch and Ancestry for Berks County do not include all of the townships. It appears that Tulpehocken township is missing, but some people seem to be included in the Bern Township section.

Top of Page

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Church records and the information they provide vary significantly depending on the denomination and the record keeper. They may contain information about members of the congregation, such as age, date of baptism, christening, or birth; marriage information and maiden names; and death date. In Pennsylvania, church records are often used as a substitute for birth, marriage, and death information. For general information about Pennsylvania denominations, view the Pennsylvania Church Records wiki page.

Harmony Methodist Church, Joanna, Pennsylvania

Church records and the information they provide vary significantly depending on the denomination and the record keeper. They may contain information about members of the congregation, such as age, date of baptism, christening, or birth; marriage information and maiden names; and death date. In Pennsylvania, church records are often used as a substitute for birth, marriage, and death information. For general information about Pennsylvania denominations, view the Pennsylvania Church Records wiki page.


Many denominations dot the landscape of Berks County. Visiting the church your ancestor attended is recommended; however, many times, due to distance, that is not possible. The Historical Society of Berks County has an on-line index of more then 1.2 millions names, gleaned from the records of more than 300 local churches. It is not a complete index but still worth your time if you are looking for baptism, marriage, and burial records. The index is searchable in numerous ways, but searching by last name or church name is probably most popular. The index lists the name of the record, volume and page number where the individual record can be found. The volume and page number refer to books located at the historical society. To view the actual record, use the printable on-line form that can be mailed to obtain a copy of the record or visit the society. There is a fee for acquiring the record by mail. Check the website for current fees.

The Berks County Genealogical Society has various records for churches throughout the Berks County area. However, the society has not put the records on-line and to view the records one must go to the society.Church records of Berks County are located under the Research tab.

Additional church records can be located at Linkpendium and by searching the FamilySearch Catalog. The FamilySearch Catalog has a plethora of church records for Berks County, many are limited in the time frame they cover. When searching the FamilySearch Catalog, be sure to also search at the town and township level.

Finding Church Records at Other Repositories

Additional church records can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Berks County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Church Records  in online catalogs like:


County-wide Database[edit | edit source]

(Multi-denominational)

Berks county pennsylvania churches.png
Contains church records of:
  • Albany: Jerusalem Allemaengel; Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • Alleghenyville: Allegheny United Church of Christ
  • Alsace: Evangelical Lutheran Church; Zion Spies Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • Amity: St. Paul's United Church of Christ
  • Bally: Beford Mennonite Cemetery Gravestone Inscriptions
  • Bernville: St. Thomas United Church of Christ
  • Birdsboro: St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church; St. Michael's Protestant Episcopal Parish
  • Boyertown: Boyertown Methodist Episcopal Church; Reford and Boyertown Mennonite Records
  • Douglassville: St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church
  • Geigertown: St. James Lutheran Church
  • Gibraltar: St. John's United Church of Christ
  • Gouglersville: Wyomissing United Church of Christ
  • Hamburg: Trinity Lutheran Church
  • Jacksonwald: Schwarzwald United Church of Christ
  • Kempton: Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • Maidencreek: United Church of Christ - St. Peter's Parish
  • Maxatawny: Trinity Lutheran Church; Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • Mohnton: Robeson Evangelical Lutheran Church; Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • Oley: Friedens United Church of Christ
  • Pike: St. Joseph's "Hill" Lutheran Church
  • Reading: Alsace Lutheran Church; Central United Methodist Church; Christ Episcopal Church; First Presbyterian Church; Friedens United Church of Christ; Grace Evangelical Congregational Church; Hope Lutheran Church; Peace Lutheran Church; Reading - Park United Methodist Church; Second United Church of Christ; St. Barnabas Episcopal Church; St. John's Lutheran Church; St. John's United Church of Christ; St. Luke's Episcopal Church; St. Luke's Lutheran Church; St. Mark's Lutheran Church; St. Mark's United Church of Christ; St. Paul's Evangelical Congregational Church; St. Paul's Lutheran Church; St. Paul's Memorial United Church of Christ; St. Stephen's United Church of Christ; St. Thomas United Church of Christ; Trinity Lutheran Church; Trinity United Church of Christ; Zion United Church of Christ
  • Rehrersburg: Trinity United Church of Christ
  • Richmond: United Church of Christ - St. Peter's Parish
  • Robesonia: St. Paul's United Church of Christ
  • Shoemakersville: St. Luke's United Church of Christ
  • Berks County church records at USGenWeb. This site contains a list of churches in Berks and Schuykill counties and baptisms, marriages, and burials from Lutheran, Reformed, and other denominations.
  • 1710 - 1800 Humphrey, John T. Pennsylvania Births, Berks County 1710-1800. 2 vols. Washington, D.C.: Humphrey Publications, 1997-1998. FHL Book 974.816 K2h.
Contains baptisms from the records of the Exeter Monthly Meeting in Exeter Township, St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church in Amity Township, Reed's/Rieth's Church in Marion Township, Host Reformed Church in Tulpehocken Township, Hain's Reformed Church in Lower Heidelberg Township, Oley Reformed Church in Oley Township, Moravian Church in Oley Township, Bern Reformed Church in Bern Township, Allemangel Lutheran Church in Albany Township, Moselem Lutheran Church in Ontelaunee Township, Catholic Mission at Goshenhoppen, Heidelberg Moravian Church in Heidelberg Township, Tulpehocken Lutheran Church in Jefferson Township, Christ Lutheran Church at Stouchsburg, Dunkel's Reformed in Greenwich Township, Blue Mountain Church in Upper Tulpehocken Township, Longswamp Reformed Church in Longswamp Township, Altalaha Lutheran Church in Tulpehocken Towhship, Rockland Lutheran Church in Rockland Township, St. Daniel's Lutheran Church in Heidelberg Township, Trinity Lutheran Church in Reading, First Reformed Church in Reading, St. Paul's Reformed and Lutheran Church in Amity Township, St. Joseph's Lutheran and Reformed Church, in Pike Township, records of Daniel Schumacher, Zion Lutheran and Reformed Church in Perry Township, Delong's Reformed Church in Maxatawny Township, Robeson Lutheran Church in Robeson Township, Zion Lutheran Church in Greenwich Township, Rosenthal or New Bethel Church in Albany Township, Christ Episcopal Church in Reading, St. Peter's Church in Richmond Township, St. Michael's Church in Tilden Township, St. Paul's Church in Windsor Township, Allegheny Church in Brecknock Township, New Allemangel Lutheran Church in Albany Township, Friedens Lutheran Church in Bernville, Spies Lutheran Church in Alsace Township, Robeson Monthy Meeting in Robeson Township, Schwartzwald Reformed Church in Exeter Township, records of Rev. William Boos for Spies Reformed Church, records of birth found in the Wittman pension file, Zion Lutheran and Reformed Church at Womelsdorf.
Amish[edit | edit source]

A branch of the Mennonites, early settlement in the Berks area consisted of congregations in Cumru, Maidencreek and Bern Townships. Bern Township was home to the Northkill Amish. The Northkill settlement was the largest Amish settlement up to the 1780s.[5]

Records for the Amish are not readily available. However, if one does have an Amish background, a good place to start is the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. Records are not available on-line and can only be viewed at the historical society.

Baptists[edit | edit source]

Baptists settled in Berks County about 1738 along the Tulpehocken creek by individuals from the counties of Chester and Philadelphia. Two congregations were formed but by 1774 both had disappeared from the Tulpehocken region.[5]

Brethren[edit | edit source]

Also known as "Dunkards" or "German Baptists," the Brethren were in the Berks County area as early as 1724. However, the first Brethren congregation was settled in 1723 in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Early Berks County congregations were located near Pricetown, Millersburg and Oley with additional groups in the townships of Tulpehocken, Upper Tulpehocken and Bern.[5]

Brethren Historical Library and Archives
1451 Dundee Ave.
Elgin, IL 60120

Episcopalian[edit | edit source]

Bangor Church, Caernarvon

Registers are lost, but some parishioners appear in the registers of St. James's Church, Lancaster. An old trunk was discovered at Bangor Church with "sundry account-books and ancient title-deeds."[6]

Christ Church, Reading

St. Gabriel's Church, Douglassville

Registers begin in 1735.[6]

St. Thomas's Church, Caernarvon

Registers are lost, but some parishioners appear in the registers of St. James's Church, Lancaster.[6]

Lutheran[edit | edit source]

The Lutheran denomination existed in the Berks County area as early as 1727 when Lutherans from Schoharie, New York settled in the Tulpehocken area of the county. The German religions were the most abundant denominations in the Berks County area. The Lutheran and Reformed were united in the building of their church edifices. These structures were called "Union" churches as the Lutheran and Reformed congregations took responsibilty for the maintenance of the building. The two denominations alternated their church services every two Sundays.[5]

Because it is not unusual to find family religious ordinances in both Lutheran and Reformed records, it is wise to search both denominational records when researching.

Lutheran Historical Society of the Mid-Atlantic
61 Seminary Ridge
Gettysburg, PA 17325

Altalaha Evangelical Lutheran Church, Rehrersburg

Belleman's Lutheran Church, Centre Township

Evangelical Lutheran Church, Sinking Spring

Friedens Lutheran and Reformed Church, Albany Township

Huff's Church, Hereford Township

Little Tulpehocken or Christ's Church Evangelical Lutheran, Jefferson Township

Maidencreek Lutheran Church, Brandon

Mertz Lutheran Church, Rockland Township

New Bethel or Stone Lutheran Church, Grimville

Oley Hill or St. Joseph's Church, Pike Township

St. Paul Lutheran and Reformed Church, Amityville

Salem Lutheran Church, Bethel

Trinity Lutheran Church, Reading

Zion's Moselem Lutheran Church, Richmond Township

Mennonite[edit | edit source]

Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society
2215 Millstream Rd
Lancaster, PA 17602-1499
Phone: (717) 393-9745

Presbyterian[edit | edit source]

While never a denomination of prominence in Berks County, their beginnings were early in the county. Organized in 1812 the First Presbyterian Church is currently located at 37 South Fifth Street in Reading, PA. There are currently five Presbyterian churches in the city of Reading and the surrounding area. Currently the Historical of Berks County has only records for First Presbyterian. Additional records may be located at the individual churches.

Presbyterian Historical Society
425 Lombard Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Phone: (215) 627-1852

Quakers[edit | edit source]

Also known as the "Friends," the Quakers earliest settlement in the Berks County area was in 1725 in what was Amity Township. Later meetinghouses were erected in the townships of Maiden Creek and Robeson and eventually in the town of Reading. The Quakers had considerably political control of the county as long as the Penn proprietors controlled the colony of Pennsylvania.[5]

Early Quaker monthly meetings (with years established):

  • Exeter Monthly Meeting, near Stonersville, Pa. (1737). First known as Oley Monthly Meeting. Hinshaw published the early records: FHL Book 974.8 K2w v. 2.[8]

Friends Historical Association
Haverford College
370 Lancaster Avenue
Haverford, PA, 19041-1392
Phone: (610) 896-1161

Reformed[edit | edit source]

Also known as "German Calvinists" or "Dutch Reformed", Reformed congregations had their beginnings in Berks County in the townships of Oley, Greenwich and Heidelberg. The Reformed congregations were heavily associated with the Lutheran congregations. For a list of ministers see the attached reference.[5]

Christ Manatawny or Delong Reformed Church, Bowers

Friedens New Alemangel White Church Lutheran Church, Wesnersville

Host Reformed Church, Tulpehocken Township

Reformed Church, Oley

St. John's Reformed Church, Kutztown

St. John's or St. John's (Hains) Reformed Church, Lower Heidelberg Township

Roman Catholic[edit | edit source]

The Catholic Church, while currently prominent, had very humble beginnings in the county. Part the of Diocese of Allentown, the Catholic population in Berks County began to appear about 1740 and by 1757 had two congregations which amounted to approximately 250 people.[5] It must be remembered that the Catholic Church persecuted the protestant denominations throughout European history. Hence, the protestants of Berks County were leary of the arrival of the Catholic Church arriving in the area.

Currently, the Family History Library has few Catholic records. It is best to contact the church or the diocese where the ancestor lived.

Most Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church, Bally

St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church, Goshenhoppen

Court Records[edit | edit source]

Berks County, Pennsylvania Genealogy court records are housed at the Berks County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Courthouse. For many counties copies of court records may be found at the Pennsylvania State Archives and in the FamilySearch collection. Note that within these collections some films may contain the same records, but have different titles. Other titles are not duplicates. See Finding Court Records at other repositories within this section for links to the online catalogs for these two collections. Films at the Pennsylvania State Archives are not available for inter-library loan. If court records are available FamilySearch films may be available at a local Family History Center. Call ahead for availability.


Court of Common Pleas[edit | edit source]

The Courts of Common Pleas are the trial courts of Pennsylvania. Major civil and criminal cases are heard in these courts. Judges also decide cases involving adoption, divorce, child custody, abuse, juvenile delinquency, estates, guardianships, charitable organizations and many other matters. The Common Pleas courts are organized into 60 judicial districts. Berks County has its own judicial district. A president judge and a court administrator serve in each judicial district.[9]

Clerk of the Court[edit | edit source]

The Clerk of Courts prepares and maintains the records for the Criminal Division of the Court of Common Pleas. The Clerk signs and affixes the Seal of the Courts to all writs and processes, administers oaths and affirmations, and assumes custody of the seal and records of the Courts. The Clerk certifies and distributes orders of the Court. The Clerk also certifies and prepares bills of costs for the defendants and utilizes the computerized financial management system to disburse fines, costs and restitution.[10] For the Berks County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Clerk of Courts address see the Courthouse section on this page.


Prothonotary[edit | edit source]

The office of the Prothonotary is the custodian of all civil matters in the county. This includes naturalization, immigration, equity actions, judgments, federal and local tax leins, city liens, family court, arbitrations, license suspension appeals, appeals to higher court, commercial code filings, applications for passports and divorce proceedings. The prothonotary does have a website with limited indexes for searching. There are no on-line divorce indexes. Some of their records are stored off site and staff makes one trip a month to retrieve off-site files. It is a good idea to contact the prothonotary before visiting so that, if need be, staff can retrieve the off-site record before your visit. Their website does have e-mail contact available. The staff is very helpful.

Orphan's Court (see Vital Records)[edit | edit source]

The Orphans' Court is responsible for a wide range of matters. The name of the Court is derived from the more general definition of "orphan," that being a person or thing that is without protective affiliation or sponsorship. This would include those not capable of handling their own affairs, minors, incapacitated persons, decedents estates, nonprofit corporations and trusts. It is the role of the Court to ensure that the best interests of the person or entity are not compromised.

It is believed the name of this court was borrowed from the Court of Orphans of the city of London, England which had the care and guardianship of children of deceased citizens, in their minority.[11]

Finding Court Records at Other Repositories

Additional court records can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Berks County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Court Records in online catalogs like:


Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]

For information about emigration into Pennsylvania, see the Pennsylvania Emigration and Immigration page.


Berks County is a potpourri of humanity. Early immigrants to the county were from the Netherlands, Germany and the British Isles. Later immigrants were of eastern European and Hispanic extraction. The major ports of arrival for these groups were Philadelphia and New York.

Prior to 1906 many individuals naturalized at the county level and these records are kept by the prothonotary at the county courthouse. Many of the records will not list town or city of origin or birth but it is still wise to check.

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

Germans[edit | edit source]
Indians[edit | edit source]

The Indians of Berks County, Pennsylvania. FHL Book 970.1 B836t

Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

Genealogy[edit | edit source]

History[edit | edit source]

The Historical Society of Berks County presents a monthly program concerning the history of the county and happenings of the society. The program can be viewed at their website for free anytime.

Published Histories[edit | edit source]

Historical and biographical annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania, embracing a concise history of the county and a genealogical and biographical record of representative families, comp. by Morton L. Montgomery. (1909)

Land and Property[edit | edit source]

Land records in Berks County began in 1752. These records are filed with the Recorder of Deeds office in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Land and property records can place an ancestor in a particular location, provide economic information, and reveal family relationships. Land records include: deeds, abstracts, indexes, mortgages, leases, grants, sheriff sales, land patents, and maps. Property records include liens as well as livestock brands and estray records.

The following are examples of available resources:

Online Land Records

  • Deeds are indexed and available online for free viewing at the Recorder of Deeds. Copies of deeds can be made from the website or in person for a small fee.
  • Ancestor Tracks publishes county atlases of the Pennsylvania Township Warrantee Maps on file at the Pennsylvania Archives in Harrisburg and offers links to other early landowner map sources.
  • PAGenWeb has several land abstracts for Berks County.

Land Records on Microfilm

Maps

  • MacInnes, Sharon Cook. Early Landowners of Pennsylvania: Atlas of Township Warrantee Maps of Berks County. Apollo, Pennsylvania : Closson Press, 2006. FHL book 974.816 E7ms
  • Henry, Mathew Schropp and M.K. Boyer. Township Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania. 1985 edition published by Berks County Genealogical Society. Original edition published 1854. FHL book 974.816 E7hb Berks County Genealogical Society added an index of land owners.

Additional Resources

See Pennsylvania Land and Property for more information about using land records, especially about original land warrants, surveys, and patents filed at the state land office.

Additional resources can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Berks County Pennsylvania Land in online catalogs such as:

Maps[edit | edit source]

https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/images/b/b9/Berks_county_pennsylvania_townships.png
Berks County Map

Click the image to view an enlarged version

Berks county

Migration[edit | edit source]

Military[edit | edit source]

Revolutionary War[edit | edit source]

Local men served in the Berks 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. Many Germans from Berks County served in the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment.Wikipedia contributors, "1st Pennsylvania Regiment," in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia,</ref>[12] Berks County men also served in the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment,[12] apparently in the 3rd Pennsylvania Regiment,[12] and the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment.[13]

War of 1812[edit | edit source]

Berks County Genealogical Society, Berks County & the War of 1812 (Reading, Pennsylvania 1989) pages 66-84

World War I[edit | edit source]

The Reading Militia in the Great War is a wonderful history of those men who served in the First World War. Rosters are included.

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. See Pennsylvania Naturalization for more information about the types of records and availability.

Naturalizations granted at the county level were kept by the office of the Prothonotary. Naturalizations could also be granted on the Federal Court level.


Naturalization records available for Berks County, Pennsylvania include the following:

Online Naturalization Records


Original Naturalization Records on Microfilm

Finding Naturalization Indexes at Other Repositories

Additional naturalization indexes can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Berks County, Pennsylvania Genealogy naturalization in online catalogs like:

Newspapers[edit | edit source]

Berks County, Pennsylvania Genealogy newspapers may contain genealogical value including obituaries, births, marriages, deaths, anniversaries, family gatherings, family travel, achievements, business notices, engagement information, and probate court proceedings.

To access newspapers, contact public libraries, historical/genealogical societies, college or university libraries, or state archives in the area where the newspaper was published.

For information on state-wide newspapers see Pennsylvania Newspapers


Newspapers of Berks County

Online Newspapers

To learn if there are newspapers online for a specific town or city in Pennsylvania, see news.google/newspapers 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. However, sometimes an obituary is found in the location from which he or she originated. To find an obituary, see the information under the Newspaper heading


Online Obituary Abstracts

Obituary Excerpts and Abstracts

Occupations[edit | edit source]

Iron Industry[edit | edit source]

The histories and owners of Colebrookdale Furnace, Mount Pleasant Furnace, Hopewell Furnace, Oley Furnace, Berkshire Furnace, Pool Forges, Pine Forge, Hay-Creek Forge, Oley Forge, Spring Forges, Mount Pleasant Forge, Gibraltar Forge, Charming Forge, Union Furnace, District Furnace, Sally-Ann Furnace, Joanna Furnace, Dale Furnace, Mary-Ann Furnace, Reading Furnace, Greenwood Furnace, Brobst's Furnace, Rockland Forges, Burkhart's Forge, Dale Forge, District Forge, and Speed-well Forge and described in:

  • Montgomery, Morton L. "Early Furnaces and Forges of Berks County, Pennsylvania," The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 8 (1884):56-81. For free online access, see WeRelate.
Indentured Servants[edit | edit source]
  • List of imported servants and transported convicts from Europe. Online at: Immigrant Servants Database. Includes list of imported servants and transported convicts who served labor terms in Colonial York County, Pennsylvania.

Periodicals[edit | edit source]

Poorhouse, Almshouse[edit | edit source]

Probate Records[edit | edit source]

Probate matters in Berks 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.

Probate records for Berks County are located on the 2nd floor in the Service Center next to the courthouse. Computers are located in the service center to help you identify the probate file you wish to view. The older probate files are on microfiche and the office staff will retrieve the files for you once you have the probate file number. Fiche copiers are located in the office to make your own copies of the records.

Online Probate Indexes

Online Probate Records

Original probate records for some Pennsylvania counties are available free online as digital images at FamilySearch.org. The dates vary significantly for each county and not all counties are listed. Some counties may only have probate indexes. This Pennsylvania collection of images may be browsed through the links listed below:

Complete Collection:

Berks County Only:

Original Probate Records on Microfilm

Will Abstracts

Additional Probate Indexes and Abstracts

Additional probate indexes or abstracts can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Berks County, Pennsylvania Genealogy probate wills in online catalogs like:


  • 1752 - 1850 Williams, Richard T. and Mildred C. Williams. Index of Berks County, Pennsylvania Wills and Administration Records 1752-1850. Danboro, Pa.: the authors, 1973. Digital version at FamilySearch Books Online - free.

Repositories[edit | edit source]

Archives[edit | edit source]
  • Prothonotary's Office Archive Center
    Berks County Courthouse, 2nd Floor
    633 Court Street
    Reading, PA 19601
    Hours: Tuesday and Thursday - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
    Phone: (610) 478-6970 ext. 3486

    Records in this office consist of the following: Sheriff Deeds Grantor/Grantee Index; Appearance Docket: 1754 - 1950; Judgment Docket: 1770 - 1956; Execution Docket: 1768 - 1960; Mechanics Liens: 1836 - 1937; City Liens: 1861 - 1927; Locality Index; Naturalization Records: 1795 to present; Miscellaneous records which include: divorces, registration of doctors and attorneys, "lunatics and drunkards," and other miscellaneous materials.
  • The Pennsylvania Archives collection contains county archive records that can be searched onsite. Currently the Archives' staff cannot provide research or make copies of these records. Their collections include Almshouse Registers; Tax records; Birth, Death and Marriage Indexes and Records; Midwife records; African American records; Wills; Deeds; Naturalizations; Coroner's inquests; and Orphan's Court dockets. A list of the Archive's county holdings are on Microfilm or Manuscript form.


  • Courthouse

Berks County Courthouse
633 Court Street
Reading, PA 19601
Phone: (610) 478-6136

The office of the Prothonotary is the custodian of all civil matters in the county. This includes naturalization, immigration, equity actions, judgements, federal and local tax leins, city liens, family court, arbitrations, license suspension appeals, appeals to higher court, commercial code filings, applications for passports and divorce proceedings. The prothonotary does have a website with limited indexes for searching. There are no on-line divorce indexes. Some of their records are stored off site and staff makes one trip a month to retrieve off-site files. It is a good idea to contact the prothonotary before visiting so that, if need be, staff can retrieve the off-site record before your visit. Their website does have e-mail contact available. The staff is very helpful.

Berks County Prothonotary
Second Floor
633 Court Street
Reading, PA 19601
Phone: 610-478-6970

Family History Centers[edit | edit source]

Family history centers provide one-on-one assistance and free access to premium genealogical websites. In addition, many centers have free how-to genealogy classes. See family history center for more information. Search the online FHC directory for a nearby family history center.Family History Centers (FHCs) are branches of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and are located all over the world. Their goal is to provide resources for family history research.

The main FHC for Berks County, Pennsylvania Genealogy is the Reading Pennsylvania Family History Center. For additional nearby Family History Centers, search online in the FHC directory.

Libraries[edit | edit source]
  • The Reading Public Library is located at 100 South Fifth Street in Reading. Free parking is available in the rear of the library for library patrons. Microfilm copiers are available and full runs of the Reading Eagle and the Reading Times are open to the public. Located on the second floor of the library is the Pennsylvania Room. It contains local histories and genealogies associated with Berks County. City directories and high school yearbooks are also located in the Pennsylvania Room.
  • The Mennonite Heritage Center
    565 Yoder Road
    Harleysville PA 19438-1020
    Phone:(215) 256-3020
    library@mhep.org
    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 of this treasure also cover the counties of Bucks, Chester, Berks, Lehigh, Northampton, and Philadelphia. The website provides a comprehensive overview of library resources, online cemetery database, manuscript collections, photo collections, archival collections, and more.
Museums[edit | edit source]
Societies[edit | edit source]
  • Berks History Center is located on Centre Street in Reading. The society has an interesting and informative monthly television program. The program can be viewed, for free, at BCTV.ORG. When you access the BCTV website, in the search box type "historical society" to find the latest historical society TV program.

Schools[edit | edit source]

Wyomissing, PA High School 1940 Girls Glee Club

Taxation[edit | edit source]

  • 1767-1768, 1779-1781, 1784-1785 Proprietary and State Tax Lists of the County of Berks: For the Years 1767, 1768, 1779, 1780, 1781, 1784, 1785. (Pennsylvania Archives, Series 3, Vol. 18). Digital versions at Ancestry ($); Google Books - free.
  • 1798 Pennsylvania, U.S. Direct Tax Lists, 1798 at Ancestry ($).

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Vital records in Berks County are handled by the Orphan's Court. Between the years 1852-1855 Pennsylvania made a failed attempt to record birth, marriage and death events at the county level. While the records for that time period are available, there were few events recorded. County marriage records were kept in earnest in 1885. Births and deaths, at the county level, were begun in 1893 and kept through 1905.


See also How to order Pennsylvania Vital Records

Birth[edit | edit source]

Ancestry.com - ($); has Pennsylvania statewide birth certificates from 1906 through 1909.

Indexes for Pennsylvania birth records are available through the Pennsylvania State Archives for 1906 and 1911 only. Once an individual is located in the index a certificate can be obtained by writing to:

Division of Vital Records
ATTN: Public Records
P.O. Box 1528
New Castle, PA 16103

Marriage[edit | edit source]

Marriage records are located on the second floor of the courthouse Service Center and are available to the public. Computers are located in the office to obtain the volume and page number of the certificate for the couple you are seeking. Take the volume and page number to the marriage licence office and a staff member will retrieve the certificate. The marriage records are on microfiche and copiers are available. You can also try:

Divorce[edit | edit source]

Divorce records are available through the office of the Prothonotary. The office of the Prothonotary is located in the courthouse building.

Death[edit | edit source]

Death records, 1893 through 1906, are available at the courthouse Service Center.

Ancestry.com - ($); has Pennsylvania statewide death certificates from 1906 through 1964.

Indexes for Pennsylvania death records are available through the Pennsylvania State Archives for 1906 through 1966. Once an individual is located in the index a certificate can be obtained by writing to:

Division of Vital Records
ATTN: Public Records
P.O. Box 1528
New Castle, PA 16103

Finding Vital Records at Other Repositories

Additional vital records can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Berks County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Vital Records in online catalogs like:


Genealogy Societies and Libraries[edit | edit source]

Berks County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Websites[edit | edit source]

Berks County, Pennsylvania Place[edit | edit source]

Populated Places[edit | edit source]

Berks county pennsylvania townships.png
  • Cities (as of 1990): Reading.
  • Townships (as of 1990): Albany, Alsace, Amity, Bern, Bethel, Brecknock, Caernarvon, Centre, Colebrookdale, Cumru, District, Douglass, Earl, Exeter, Greenwich, Heidelberg, Hereford, Jefferson, Longswamp, Lower Alsace, Lower Heidelberg, Maidencreek, Marion, Maxatawny, Muhlenberg, North Heidelberg, Oley, Ontelaunee, Penn, Perry, Pike, Richmond, Robeson, Rockland, Ruscombmanor, South Heidelberg, Spring, Tilden, Tulpehocken, Union, Upper Bern, Upper Tulpehocken, Washington, Windsor.
  • Boroughs (as of 1990): Adamstown, Bally, Bechtelsville, Bernville, Birdsboro, Boyertown, Centerport, Fleetwood, Hamburg, Kenhorst, Kutztown, Laureldale, Leesport, Lenhartsville, Lyons, Mohnton, Mount Penn, Robesonia, St. Lawrence, Shillington, Shoemakersville, Sinking Spring, Strausstown, Temple, Topton, Wernersville, West Lawn, West Reading, Womelsdorf, Wyomissing, Wyomissing Hills.
  • Census-designated places: Alleghenyville, Alsace Manor, Amity Gardens, Baumstown, Bethel, Blandon, Bowers, Colony Park, Dauberville, Douglassville, Dryville, Edenburg, Flying Hills, Fox Chase, Frystown, Gibraltar, Gouglersville, Greenfields, Grill, Hereford, Hyde Park, Jacksonwald, Kempton, Kutztown University, Lincoln Park, Lorane, Mertztown, Mohrsville, Montrose Manor, Morgantown, Mount Aetna, Muhlenberg Park, New Berlinville, New Jerusalem, New Schaefferstown, Oley, Pennside, Pennwyn, Rehrersburg, Reiffton, Riverview Park, Schubert, Shartlesville, South Temple, Springmont, Spring Ridge, Stony Creek Mills, Stouchsburg, Temple, Virginville, Walnuttown, West Hamburg, West Lawn, West Wyomissing, Whitfield.
  • Unincorporated Communities: Blue Marsh, Brownsville, Cocoosing, Geigertown, Leinbachs, North Heidelberg, Pine Swamp, Plowville, Pricetown, Scarlets Mill, State Hill, Strausstown, Wooltown

Berks County, Pennsylvania Genealogy References[edit | edit source]

  1. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Berks County, Pennsylvania. Page 588-593 At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002; Alice Eichholz, ed. Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources, Third ed. (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004), 579-581.
  2. The Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania from 1682-1809, 18 vols. (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Wm. Stanley Ray, 1898), vol. 5 1744-1759, pages 133-140, 502-503, Chapter CCCXCII, "An Act for Erecting Part of the Counties Of Philadelphia, Chester and Lancaster into a Separate County," 11 March 1752, confirmed by the King in Council, 10 May 1753, creation of Berks County, digital images, Internet Archive (https://archive.org : 26 July 2018).
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berks_County,_Pennsylvania accessed 2/1/2017
  4. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 181. [FHL book 973 D27e 2002].
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Morton L. Montgomery, Historical and Biographical Annals of Berks County Pennsylvania (Chicago: J.H. Beers and Co., 1909), 46-47. WorldCat 4281157; FHL book 974.816 D2m
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 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 free online access, see WeRelate.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 7.18 7.19 7.20 7.21 7.22 7.23 7.24 7.25 7.26 7.27 7.28 7.29 7.30 7.31 7.32 7.33 7.34 7.35 7.36 7.37 Genealogical Society of Utah, Parish and Vital Records List (July 1998). Microfiche. Digital version at https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/images/8/86/Igipennsylvaniabb.pdf.
  8. 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. 2. FHL Book 974.8 K2w v. 2
  9. The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania http://www.pacourts.us/T/CommonPleas/accesssed 10 July 2012.
  10. Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, Clerk of Courts in http://www.pacourts.us/T/CommonPleas/ClerksOfCourts.htm (accessed 25 Aug 2012)
  11. The Philadelphia Courts at http://www.courts.phila.gov/common-pleas/orphans/ accessed 10 July 2012
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 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.
  13. Wikipedia contributors, "6th Pennsylvania Regiment," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/6th_Pennsylvania_Regiment, accessed 31 May 2012.