Centre County, Pennsylvania Genealogy

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United StatesGotoarrow.png Pennsylvania Gotoarrow.png Centre County

Centre County, Pennsylvania
Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Centre County
Location in the state of Pennsylvania
Map of the U.S. highlighting Pennsylvania
Location of Pennsylvania in the U.S.
Founded February 13, 1800
County Seat Bellefonte
Centre County, Pennsylvania Courthouse.jpg
Address Centre County Government and Register of Wills
Willowbank County Office Building
414 Holmes Street Suite 2
Bellefonte, PA 16823
Centre County Website
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Historical Facts

Beginning dates for major county records

Named for being in the middle of the state. There is a story that the legislature could not determine whether to put the State College in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, so they drew an X through the state and put the school where the X crossed.

Boundary Changes [3]

  • 27 January 1750: Centre County was originally part of Cumberland County when the county was created.
  • 9 March 1771: When Bedford County was carved out of Cumberland County, the western 2/3 of what is today's Centre County was part of Bedford County and the eastern 1/3 remained part of Cumberland County. A very small portion of the eastern-most point was in Berks County.
  • 21 March 1772: When Northumberland County was created, the western 1/3 of today's Centre County remained in Bedford County, while the eastern 2/3 of today's Centre County was included in Northumberland County.
  • 19 September 1789: When Mifflin County was formed, much of today's Centre County became part of Mifflin County; the eastern-most point (about 20% of the county) remained in Northumberland County.
  • 13 April 1795: When Lycoming County was created, a small portion of today's eastern Centre County. was absorbed into Lycoming County, the rest of eastern Centre County remained in Northumberland County, a small southeastern portion of  future Centre County was part of Huntingdon County,  and the bulk of the county remained in Mifflin County.
  • 21 January 1839: Clinton County set off.


The county's probate and court records begin with the founding of the county, the land records in 1801. Except for a brief period of time when birth, marriage and death records were kept in the 1850's (approximately 1852-1855), there were no civil vital records kept by the county until marriages began again in 1885 and births and deaths in 1893. The keeping of birth and death records was discontinued after 1905 when the state of Pennsylvania began keeping those records.

Bible Records


Centre County Biographies


The Centre County Genealogical Society has taken on the monumental task of identifying all burial places in Centre County. Their ongoing efforts can be found at:


Cemetery records often reveal birth, marriage, death, relationship, military, and religious information.

Online Grave Transcripts Published Grave Transcripts County Cemetery Directories


Family History Library




Names in Stone


Billion Graves

Pennsylvania Genealogy


Pennsylvania Gravestones

Billion Graves

Names in Stone

Access Genealogy


See Pennsylvania Cemeteries for more information.


For tips on accessing Centre 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.

Center county pennsylvania churches.png

The Centre County Historical Society has some published local area church records in their collection. For collection details, see the "CCHS Collections and Research" page.

Finding Church Records at Other Repositories

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

County-wide Database - Multi-denominational
Contains church records of:
  • Bellefonte: Faith United Methodist Church; St. John's Lutheran Church; Trinity United Methodist Church
  • Boalsburg: St. John's United Church of Christ
  • Houserville: United Methodist Church
  • Madisonburg: Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • Milesburg: United Methodist Church
  • Philipsburg: Trinity United Methodist Church
  • Pleasant Gap: United Methodist Church
  • Rebersburg: Sinking Creek Presbyterian Church; United Methodist Church
  • Runville: United Brethren Church Runville Charge
  • State College: St. Paul Methodist Church
  • Zion: Zion Lutheran Church

Centre County PAGenWeb is finding and making available church records of Centre County. They are beginning with four topics to try to understand the religious inclinations of Centre countians:

  • 1877 History of Religious Affiliation
  • 1906 Census of Religious Adherence
  • 1990 Census of Religious Adherence
  • Current Listing of Religious Organizations

Court Records

Centre County, Pennsylvania Genealogy court records are housed at the Centre 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

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. Centre County, Pennsylvania Genealogy has its own judicial district. Judges of the Common Pleas courts are elected to 10-year terms. A president judge and a court administrator serve in each judicial district.[4]

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.[5] For the Centre 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 Centre County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Prothonotary office information.

Orphans' Court

See Vital Records
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.[6]

For Centre County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Orphans' Court contact information see the Courthouse section on this page.

Finding Court Records at Other Repositories

Additional court records can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Centre 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





Published Histories

Land and Property

Land records in Centre County began in 1843. These records are filed with the Centre County Recorder of Deeds office in Bellefonte, 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:


  • Warrant Map of Centre County. State College, Pennsylvania : Centre County Genealogical Society, 2011. FHL book 2974.853 E7cc

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

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 Centre County Pennsylvania Land in online catalogs such as:




Revolutionary War
Civil War

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.

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

Online Naturalization Indexes and Records

Finding Naturalization Indexes at Other Repositories

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


Centre 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 Centre County

Free Lance (monthly) - April 1887-April 1904
State Collegian (weekly) September 28, 1904-June 10, 1911
Penn State Collegian (weekly) September 28, 1911 to August 2, 1940
The Daily Collegian (daily) September 5, 1940 to present.

Online Newspapers

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

Online Newspaper Abstracts

Archived Historical Newspapers


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

Obituaries and Indexes

Obituary Excerpts and Abstracts

  • Compiled by John H. Wion , Deaths in Central Pennsylvania; an Index to the Obituaries Appearing in the Democratic Watchman, Bellefonte, Pa. (S.I.:s.n., 1969) FHL book 974.8 V4w Volume 2
  • A scrapbook kept by martha M. (Hoy) Vonada; index prepared by R. Fred Houts, Martha Vonada Scrapbook (Minneapolis, Minnesota:R.F. Houts, 1995) FHL book 974.853 V3v Martha Vonada saved funeral cards and obituaries from Centre County, Pennsylvania.
  • Compiled by Nancy Lee Stover, Centre County, Pennsylvania Newspaper Death Notices, 1821-1869 (S.I.:N.L. Stover, 1999) FHL book 974.853 V4s


Indentured Servants


Poorhouse, Almshouse

Probate Records

Probate matters in Centre 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 Index

1800-1853 - Wills of Centre County, Pa., 1800-1853 on Ancestry ($). Taken from Fravel, Ira,. Wills of Centre County, Pa., 1800-1853. Milton, Pa.: unknown, 1967.


  • 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.


Centre County Government:

Centre County Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts
Centre County Courthouse
Bellefonte PA 16823-1488
Phone: 814-355-6796
Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday - Friday
The Office the Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts keeps civil and criminal records, divorces, etc. Copies cost $.50.

Recorder of Deeds
Willowbank County Office Building
414 Holmes St
Bellefonte PA 16823-1488
Phone: 814-355-6801
Hours: 8:30 am - 5 pm M-F
All records relating to real estate in Centre County recorded since 1800.

Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphan's Court
Willowbank County Office Building
414 Homes St.
Suite #2
Bellefonte PA 16823
Phone: 814-355-6724
Hours: 8:30 am - 5 pm M-F
The register of wills maintains records of wills and probate, marriage licenses, and adoptions.

Family History Centers

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 Centre County, Pennsylvania Genealogy is the State College Pennsylvania Family History Center. For additional nearby Family History Centers, search online in the FHC directory.

  • The Pennsylvania State University - Pennsylvania's State University



203 North Allegheny St.
Bellefonte, PA 16823
Phone:814-355-1516, ext. 214
E-mail paroom@centrecountylibrary.org
Hours Monday - Friday: 10:00 - 5 ; Saturday: 10:00 - 4

Specialized genealogy collections, Pennsylvania county histories, church and cemetery records, original Centre County records, newspapers (1821 - present), and abundant historical and genealogical periodicals. The Spangler Collection is an unique indexed collection of 18th- and 19th-century records about many central Pennsylvania families.

Centre County Historical Society
1001 East College Ave
State College, PA 16801

The Centre County Historical Society was founded in 1904 and works to preserve local landmarks including the Furnace Mansion and the Boogerburg School as well as other artifacts, books, manuscripts, maps, and photographs related to the area. Membership costs $35 (individual) and comes with a subscription to the quarterly journal and historical journal

Centre County Genealogical Society
Box 1135
State College, PA 16804-1135

Meetings are held the first Thursday of the month from Sept - June and are open to the Public. Membership costs $18 annually and comes with welcome booklet as well as the quarterly newsletter.

Slavery and Bondage


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.


Early births 1893–1905 are located at the County Orphans' Court. See the heading Court Records on this page for contact information.

Indexes for Pennsylvania birth records are available through the Department of of Health for 1906 and 1907. Once an individual is located in the index a non certified Birth certificate can be obtained by writing and sending $3.00 to:

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

  • 1726-1930 - Pennsylvania, Births and Christenings, 1709-1950 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.
  • 1852-1854 – Pennsylvania Births Ancestry.com – ($) Index with images.

Pennsylvania marriages are located at the county level. Contact the Centre County, Pennsylvania Genealogy clerk's office for these records.

  • 1700-1821 - Pennsylvania Marriage Records Ancestry.com – ($) This database is incomplete for all counties.
  • 1725-1976 - Pennsylvania, Marriages, 1709-1940 - free index. Not complete for all years. This index is not necessarily intended to index any specific set of records. This index is not complete for any particular place or region. This collection may include information previously published in the International Genealogical Index or Vital Records Index collections.
  • Pre-1810 – Pennsylvania Marriages Ancestry.com – ($) This database is incomplete for all counties. Includes 35,000 marriage records from vol. VIII of of the second series of the Pennsylvania Archives.
  • 1852-1854 - Pennsylvania Marriages Ancestry.com – ($) Index with images.

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


Early deaths 1893–1905 are located at the County Orphans' Court. See the heading Court Records on this page for contact information.

Indexes for Pennsylvania death records are available through the Department of Health for 1906 through 1962. Once an individual is located in the index a non certified death certificate can be obtained obtained by writing and sending $3.00 to:

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

  • 1852-1854 – Pennsylvania Deaths Ancestry.com – ($) Index with images.

Finding Vital Records at Other Repositories

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

Web Sites


Populated Places

  • Boroughs: Bellefonte, Millheim, Philipsburg, State College
  • Townships: Benner, Boggs, College, Ferguson, Gregg, Haines, Harris, Halfmoon, Patton, Potter


  1. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), [FHL book 973 D27e 2002].
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Adams County, Pennsylvania" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adams_County,_Pennsylvania (accessed 17 July 2012).
  3. Pennsylvania line : a research guide to Pennsylvania genealogy and local history, 1990 ed. (Laughlintown, Pa.: Southwest Pennsylvania Genealogical Services, 1990), [FHL book 974.8 D27p 1990].
  4. The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania http://www.pacourts.us/T/CommonPleas/ accessed 10 July 2012.
  5. Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, Clerk of Courts in http://www.pacourts.us/T/CommonPleas/ClerksOfCourts.htm (accessed 25 Aug 2012)
  6. The Philadelphia Courts at http://www.courts.phila.gov/common-pleas/orphans/ accessed 10 July 2012