Franklin County, Pennsylvania Genealogy

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Franklin County

Guide to Franklin County, Pennsylvania ancestry, family history and genealogy in 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.


Franklin County, Pennsylvania
Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Franklin County
Location in the state of Pennsylvania
Map of the U.S. highlighting Pennsylvania
Location of Pennsylvania in the U.S.
Founded September 9, 1784
County Seat Chambersburg
Franklin County, Pennsylvania Courthouse.jpg
Address Franklin County Courthouse
Register Recorders Office
Courthouse Annex
157 Lincoln Way East
Chambersburg, PA 17201
Franklin County Website
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Franklin County Pennsylvania Historical Facts

Known Beginning Dates for Major County Records[1]
Birth* Marriage Death* Court Land Probate Census
1894 1885 1894 1784 1785 1785 1790
Statewide registration for births and deaths began in 1906. General compliance by 1915.

Parent Counties: Formed from Cumberland County 9 September 1784.[2]

County Seat: Chambersburg

Neighboring Counties: Franklin County residents may also have records in: [3]

The Scotch-Irish settled heavily in the Cumberland Valley (which included Franklin County). It is estimated that they made up 90% of the population in the eighteenth century.[4]


The county was named in honor of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. Its county seat is Chambersburg. It was organized September 9, 1784. It is located in the South central tip of the state.[5]

Boundary Changes

  • 27 January 1750: Cumberland County created from Lancaster County, including the future Franklin County.

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

Record Loss

1864 Fire burned the courthouse in 1864.

For suggestions about research in places that suffered historic record losses, see:

Bible Records


Tombstone Transcriptions Online Tombstone Transcriptions in Print List of Cemeteries in the county Family History Library
HomeTownLocator WorldCat BillionGraves
PAGenWeb Archives Linkpendium
Tombstone Photos PAGravestones
PAGenWeb Epodunk
Access Genealogy Pennsylvania Genealogy
BillionGraves (name) Interment
See Pennsylvania Cemeteries for more information.

Additional Cemetery Resources


For tips on accessing Franklin 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.

Church Records

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.

Franklin county, pennsylvania churches.png
Finding Church Records at Other Repositories

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

County-wide Database - Multi-denominational
Contains church records of:
  • Presbyterian Church
  • Chambersburg: Falling Spring Presbyterian Church; First United Methodist Church; Holy Trinity Episcopal Church; St. John's United Church of Christ; St. Paul Methodist Church
  • Concord: United Methodist Church
  • Fayetteville: Calvary United Methodist Church
  • Greencastle: United Brethren in Christ
  • Mercersburg: United Brethren in Christ
  • Middleburg: Emanuel's Evangelical United Brethren Church
  • Middletown: Presbyterian Church
  • Pleasant Hill: Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • Waynesboro: Faith United Methodist Church
  • York: United Brethren in Christ
  • York Springs: United Brethren in Christ

The oldest Roman Catholic congregations are located in the city of Chambersburg.[6]

  • "100 Years of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese 1843–1943," Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 1. FHL Book 974.8 B2wg. Chronology, map, county-by-county information.
Church of the Brethren

Church Genealogy Records, Church of the Brethren Network

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

After the murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Sydney Rigdon attempted to establish his branch of the Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1845 a group from Pittsburgh traveled to Franklin County and purchased property in Antrim Township. The group, for various reasons, never took hold and by 1847 disbanded.

LDS Ward and Branch Records

  • Blue Ridge Dest
  • Fairview (Waynesboro)

Germans settled Franklin County,with one of the earliest settlers being Matthias George. Itinerant ministers performed necessary rites in the area.[7]

Evangelical Lutheran Church, Waynesboro

Mount Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Sylan (Little Cove)

  • 1834-1875 Mount Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Sylan (Little Cove), Baptism Index 1834-1875 in International Genealogical Index at FamilySearch - free. Batch C503991.</ref>
  • 1834-1906 Mount Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, 1834-1906 at Ancestry ($).

Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, Pleasant Hall

Second Evangelical Lutheran Church, Chambersburg


The Presbyterians are very numerous in the county and were the earliest denomination in the county.[9]

Falling Spring Presbyterian Church was organized, at a Scotch-Irish settlement in what is now Franklin County, in 1738.[10]

Robert Kennedy Memorial Presbyterian Church, Welsh Run

Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church, Mercersburg

Welsh Run Presbyterian Church

  • Jim Houpt Indexing Project This site contains indices to Military, Presbyterian Church, Cemetery, and other records in Franklin County.

Salem Reformed Church, Washington Township

Court Records

Franklin County, Pennsylvania Genealogy court records are housed at the Franklin 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.

Register & Recorders Office
Courthouse Annex
157 Lincoln Way East
Chambersburg, PA 17201
Phone: 717-261-3872
Fax: 717-709-7211

Court of Common Pleas

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. Franklin County shares its judicial district with Fulton County. Judges of the Common Pleas courts are elected to 10-year terms. A president judge and a court administrator serve in each judicial district.[12]

Clerk of the Court

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.[13] For the Franklin County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Clerk of Courts address see the Courthouse section on this page.


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 liens, city liens, family court, arbitrations, license suspension appeals, appeals to higher court, commercial code filings, applications for passports and divorce proceedings. See the Courthouse section on this page for the Franklin County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Prothonotary office information.

Orphans' Court

Clerk of Courts
Franklin County Courthouse
157 Lincoln Way East
Chambersburg, PA 17201
Phone: 717-261-3805

Finding Court Records at Other Repositories

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

Emigration and Immigration

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

Ethnic Groups





The county is named for Benjamin Franklin.
  • Franklin County USGenWeb Project This site has several local histories online for Franklin County, including the 1887 History of Franklin County, Pennsylvania by Bates (1110 pgs).
Published Histories

Land and Property

Land records in Franklin County began in 1784. These records are filed with the Register and Recorder office in Chambersburg, 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

  • 1955–present Franklin County offers online access to records. Fees apply.

Online Land Abstracts

Land Records on Microfilm

Additional Resources

Note that the "Maps" section below includes maps related to land ownership.

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 Franklin County Pennsylvania Land in online catalogs such as:


Franklin County



French and Indian War

Reverend John Elder, pastor of Derry and Paxtang churches, recruited Scotch-Irish rangers from his congregation in what is now Franklin County (then Cumberland County). Known as the Paxton Rangers or Paxton Boys, they provided security for white settlements between the Blue Mountains and the Susquehanna River. They are remembered for playing a prominent role in Pontiac's War.[14]

Revolutionary War

Men from what is now Franklin County (then Cumberland County) served in the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment.[15]

Civil War

An interesting study, called the Valley of the Shadow Project, has collected military and private papers detailing the experience of the Civil War in Franklin County, Pennsylvania and Augusta County, Virginia.

Naturalization and Citizenship

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.


Franklin 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 Franklin 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.

The Digital Archives of the Alexander Hamilton Memorial Free Library contains full photos of local newspapers searchable by key words and article titles (try births, obituaries, hospital admissions, discharges, etc.) as well as date.

  • Record Herald, 1918-2009
  • Village Record 1851-1900
  • Waynesboro Record 1901-1921 (now known as the Waynesboro Record Herald)

Online Newspaper Abstracts


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

  • Cell, Robert F. and Franklin Repository (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania), The Franklin Repository; Chambersburg, Pennsyvlania:Newspaper Abstracted and Indexed for Franklin County Names (Edinburg, Texas:R.F. Cell, 1992, 1995; Chambersburg, Pennsylvania:Franklin County Historical Society-Kittochtinny) FHL film 1059479 items 5-7; book 974.844/C1 B38c An index in each volume. Contains draft lists, jurors, military lists, unclaimed letters, death and marriage notices, probate information, etc.
  • Cell, Robert F. and Mercersburg Journal (Mercersburg, Pennsylvania), Mercersburg Journal; Mercersburg, Pennsylvania; 1857-1874 (Edinburg, Texas:R.F. Cell, 1996) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 974.844/M1 B3c


Indentured Servants


Students in the Soldiers' Orphan Schools from Franklin County, Pennsylvania June 1, 1902


Poorhouse, Almshouse

Probate Records

Probate matters in Franklin County, Pennsylvania Genealogy are handled by the Orphans' Court and start when the county was created. To obtain original probate records, contact the Orphan's Court in the County Courthouse.

In addition to wills and administrations, the Orphans' Court also handles: audits of accounts of executors, administrators, trustees, and guardians; distribution of estates of decedents, incompetents, and minors; appointment and control of guardians; adoptions; appeals from the Register of Wills involving probate matters; inheritance tax appeals and various petitions and motions.

Online Probate Indexes

Online Probate Records

Original probate records for some Pennsylvania counties are available free online as digital images at 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:

Franklin County only:

Online Probate Record Abstracts

Original Probate Records on Microfilm

Additional Probate Indexes and Abstracts

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


  • 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.

  • Clerk of Court
    Franklin County Courthouse
    157 Lincoln Way East
    Chambersburg PA 17201
    Phone: 717-261-3805
Family History Centers

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.Chambersburg Pennsylvania 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 Franklin County, Pennsylvania Genealogy is the Chambersburg Pennsylvania Family History Center. For additional nearby Family History Centers, search online in the FHC directory.

You may also visit the Fairview Pennsylvania Family History Center (Waynesboro)


Alexander Hamilton Memorial Free Library
45 E Main St
Waynesboro, PA 17268
Phone: 717-762-3335

  • Franklin County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Group
  • Kittochtinny Historical Society
    175 East King Street
    Chambersburg, PA 17201


  • 1798 Pennsylvania, U.S. Direct Tax Lists, 1798 at Ancestry ($).

Vital Records

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. 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. Abstracts and copies of vital records are available for some counties, but most are incomplete. For the most complete set of records, always contact the County Orphans' Court.

See also How to order Pennsylvania Vital Records

  • 1726-1930 Pennsylvania, Births and Christenings, 1709-1950 - free index. Not complete for all years. This index is an electronic index for the years 1726 to 1930. It is not necessarily intended to index any specific set of records. This index is not complete for any particular place or region. This collection may include information previously published in the International Genealogical Index or Vital Records Index collections.

Early births 1894–1906 are located at the County Orphans' Court. See the heading Court Records on this page for contact information.

Beginning in 1906 Pennsylvania birth records are available through the Department of of Health. Birth records become public after 105 years. A statewide index is available. 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


Franklin County marriages are maintained by the Register of Wills. Franklin County began recording marriages in 1885. To obtain a marriage record you may go to or mail the Register of Wills.


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


Franklin County began recording deaths in 1893 although some were recorded from 1853–1854. Records from 1893 – 1905 are available on the 2nd Floor of the County Courthouse Annex in Chambersburg. You may request a death record from the Clerk of Courts.

Pennsylvania death certificates become public records after 50 years. An annual index is released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Records less than 50 years old are kept by the Division of Vital Records and are not public certificates. Only certain people can request a non-public death certificate. To order a non-public representative you must be:

  • Legal representative of decedent's estate
  • Immediate family member
  • Extended family member who indicates a direct relationship to the decedent
  • Power of Attorney (Please note that a Power of Attorney document is no longer valid upon the death of the individual)

See the Pennsylvania Department of Health website to obtain a copy of a non-public death certificate. Visit website for cost.

Indexes for Pennsylvania public death records are available online through the Department of Health for 1906 through 1961. 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 Franklin County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Vital Records in online catalogs like:

Franklin County Pennsylvania Genealogy Websites

  • Franklin County USGenWeb Project This site has several maps, cemetery records, name indexes, local and family histories and other information for Franklin County online.
  • FamilyHart Online Database This is an online family database of over 843,000 linked records. There are many Franklin County families in this database. The database is updated online quarterly.

Franklin County Pennsylvania Places

Populated Places

Franklin County Pennsylvania Genealogy References

  1. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Franklin 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. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), [FHL book 973 D27e 2002].
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Franklin County, Pennsylvania" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at,_Pennsylvania (accessed 17 July 2012).
  4. Wayland F. Dunaway, The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania (Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 1944), 59-64. Free digital version at PA's Past: Digital Bookshelf at Penn State.
  5.,_Pennsylvania accessed 2/12/2017
  6. "History of Franklin County, Pennsylvania" WorldCat 181018735; FHL film 1000556 item 3
  7. "History of Franklin County, Pennsylvania" WorldCat 181018735; FHL film 1000556 item 3
  8. Genealogical Society of Utah, Parish and Vital Records List (July 1998). Microfiche. Digital version at
  9. "History of Franklin County, Pennsylvania" WorldCat 181018735; FHL film 1000556 item 3
  10. Wayland F. Dunaway, The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania (Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 1944), 59-64. Free digital version at PA's Past: Digital Bookshelf at Penn State.
  11. Genealogical Society of Utah, Parish and Vital Records List (July 1998). Microfiche. Digital version at
  12. The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania accessed 10 July 2012.
  13. Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, Clerk of Courts in (accessed 25 Aug 2012)
  14. Wayland F. Dunaway, The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania (Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 1944), 150-154. Free digital version at PA's Past: Digital Bookshelf at Penn State.
  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.