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Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Genealogy

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Guide to Luzerne 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.


Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County
Location in the state of Pennsylvania
Map of the U.S. highlighting Pennsylvania
Location of Pennsylvania in the U.S.
Founded September 25, 1786
County Seat Wilkes-Barre
Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Courthouse.jpg
Address Luzerne County Courthouse
200 N. River St.
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711
Luzerne County Website
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Luzerne County Pennsylvania Historical Facts[edit | edit source]

Known Beginning Dates for Major County Records[1]
Birth* Marriage Death* Court Land Probate Census
1893 1885 1893 1787 1787 1786 1790
Statewide registration for births and deaths began in 1906. General compliance by 1915.

Parent Counties: Formed from Northumberland County 25 September 1786. [2]

County Seat: Wilkes-Barre

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

Named for Anne-Cesar, Chevalier de la Luzerne, a most popular minister from the French court during the American Revolutionary War.

Luzerne County is the only county in the United States where a plurality of residents state their ancestry as Polish (per Census 2000 report).

Description[edit | edit source]

It's county seat is Wilkes-Barre and was founded September 25, 1786. It is located in the East Central area of the state.[4]

Boundary Changes[edit | edit source]

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

Records Loss[edit | edit source]

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

Bible Records[edit | edit source]

Biographies[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

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

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
Pennsylvania Genealogy Access Genealogy
BillionGraves (name) Interment
See Pennsylvania Cemeteries for more information.

Additional Cemetery Resources

Census[edit | edit source]

For tips on accessing Luzerne 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[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.

Finding Church Records at Other Repositories

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

County-wide Database – Multi-denominational[edit | edit source]
Luzerne County Pennsylvania Churches
Contains the church records of:
  • Jonathan Worrall, J.P./Misc. Licenses, 1890-1915
  • Avoca: Langcliffe Presbyterian Church
  • Forty Fort: Presbyterian Church
  • Freeland: Slovak Lutheran Church; St. John's United Church of Christ; St. Luke's Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • Hazleton: Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church; Trinity Lutheran Church
  • Nanticoke: Primitive Methodist Church Nanticoke
  • Pleasant Valley: United Methodist Church
  • Shickshinny: United Methodist Church
  • Sweet Valley: Pleasant Valley Sunday School
  • West Hazleton: Christ United Church of Christ; St. Paul's United Church of Christ; Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • West Pittston: First United Methodist Church; First United Presbyterian Church
  • White Haven: St. Paul's Lutheran Church
  • Wilkes-Barre: Central United Methodist Church; First Presbyterian Church; Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Cathedral; St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
  • Wyoming: Presbyterian Church

African Methodist Episcopal[edit | edit source]

The African Methodist Episcopal and the African Methodist Episcopaln Zion congregations were established in Wilkes-Barre in 1842.

Baptist[edit | edit source]

The first Baptist services were held in Wilkes-Barre in 1842. The Kingston congregation was eventually absorbed in the Wilkes-Barre and Pittston churches. The Centennial Baptist was organized in 1874.

Catholic[edit | edit source]

The Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, Inc. located in Wilkes-Barré, Luzerne County, in partnership with the Diocese of Scranton, has digitized the Sacramental & Burial records of all Catholic churches within the Diocese eleven county area, including Luzerne County. The digitized parish records can be viewed at NEPGS in Wilkes-Barré. The oldest Catholic church in Luzerne County is Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Wilkes-Barre.

Episcopal[edit | edit source]

The first Episcopalian services were held in 1814 in Wilkes-Barre. The church was chartered in 1817, as St. Stephen's Church. In 1869, St. Clement's was established.

Greek Orthodox
[edit | edit source]

The Greek community purchased the Lutheran Church on 32 East Ross Street in Wilkes-Barre on May 29, 1924.

Lutheran[edit | edit source]

Lutheran congregations were primarily German until 1857. St Pauls and St. Johns were the early congregations.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints[edit | edit source]

Ward and Branch Records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

  • Nanticoke
  • Plymouth

Methodist Episcopal[edit | edit source]

Methodism was first preached by Anning Owen in 1788 in Luzerne County. Congregations were in Wilkes-Barre, Hanover, Newport, and the Plains. The Methodists purchased the old building on the square in Wilkes-Barre from the Presbyterians in 1831. This church was called the First Methodist Episcopal. A new building was completed in 1847. The Ross Street Methodist Episcopal was formed and built in 1855. Lists of leading members are found in Munsell's history. [5]

Moravian[edit | edit source]

The Moravians were in the area very early, before 1763. The outbreak of the French War forced the missionaries from the county. [5]

Presbyterian[edit | edit source]

The Presbyterian congregation was first served by Jacob Johnson from Groton, Connecticut in 1773. He helped begin the construction of the First Presbyterian Church in Wilkes Barre. It was finally completed in 1812 and was called "The Old Ship Zion". Other Connecticut ministers who served were Jabez Chadwick and James W. Woodworth. The congregation was partially Congregationalist until about 1829 when it became fully Presbyterian.Other early congregations were found in Nanicoke, Pittston and Ashley.[5] Some lists of members are found in the Munsell history of Luzerne County.

Hazleton Presbyterian Church

Presbyterian Church, Conyngham

Snowden Memorial Presbyterian Church, Larksville

Court Records[edit | edit source]

Court of Common Pleas[edit | edit source]

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

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.[7] For the Luzerne 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, 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 Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Prothonotary office information.

Orphans' Court[edit | edit source]

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.[8]

For Luzerne 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 Luzerne 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.

Ethnic Groups[edit | edit source]

Germans[edit | edit source]

Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

Genealogy[edit | edit source]

History[edit | edit source]

Published Histories[edit | edit source]

Land and Property[edit | edit source]

Land records in Luzerne County began in 1786. These records are filed with the Recorder of Deeds office in Wilkes Barre, 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

  • 1968–present Images are available online using the Landex system. There is a fee to view the images.

Land Records on Microfilm

Additional Resources

Note that the "Maps" section below also 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.

Media:Luzerne county pennsylvania townships.pngLuzerne county pennsylvania townships.png
About this image
Click the image to view an enlarged version

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

Maps[edit | edit source]

Luzerne County

Migration[edit | edit source]

Military[edit | edit source]

World War II[edit | edit source]

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 for Luzerne County, Pennsylvania include the following:

Online Naturalization Indexes and Records

Original Naturalization Records on Microfilm

Finding Naturalization Indexes at Other Repositories

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

Newspapers[edit | edit source]

Luzerne 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 Luzerne 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 Extracts

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 Extracts

Occupations[edit | edit source]

Indentured Servants[edit | edit source]

Periodicals[edit | edit source]

Poorhouse, Almshouse[edit | edit source]

Probate Records[edit | edit source]

Probate matters in Luzerne 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.
Some Luzerne County probate records were destroyed in the flood following Hurricane Agnes in 1972. According to sources in the county offices, of the county's earliest probate records, the estate files were destroyed but bound books generally survived.

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:

Luzerne County Only:

Original Probate Records on Microfilm

Additional Probate Indexes and Abstracts

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

Repositories[edit | edit source]

Archives[edit | edit source]
  • 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[edit | edit source]
  • 1830 – 1906 Naturalization (after 1906, held by U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization)
  • Pre–1950 Military Discharge Records
  • 1893 – 1905 Births
  • 1893 – 1905 Deaths
  • late 1700’s – Present Wills
  • 1885 – Present Marriages
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.

The main FHC for Luzerne County is the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society. The Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society is an affiliate of the Family History Library, located in Salt Lake City, Utah. As an affiliate, patrons of the NEPGS Family History Research Library can rent most microfilms and microfiche that are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog. For additional nearby Family History Centers, search online in the FHC directory.

Libraries[edit | edit source]
The library collection includes local newspapers, city directories, newspapers clippings file, a local history collection, and county census records for Luzerne and some neighboring counties. The library will do limited research for a fee. Online obituary and article request form.
Museums[edit | edit source]
Societies[edit | edit source]

Luzerne County Historical Society
49 South Franklin Street
Wilkes-Barré, PA 18701
Phone: 570–823–6244

The society collection includes:
  • Surname files
  • City directories
  • Wilkes–Barre Record Almanac Newspaper 1886–1962, which includes a death record for anyone over 10 who died in the county during this time period
  • Microfilm of births and deaths (1893–1905), delayed births (1877–1905), index to marriages (1885–1950), Deed indexes, index to Orphans' Courts records
  • Local newspapers on microfilm. List of county newspaper holdings. Scroll to the bottom of the linked page online.
The Historical Society will do research for a fee.

Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, Inc. "NEPGS"
57 North Franklin Street
Wilkes-Barré, PA 18701
Phone (570) 829-1765

Taxation[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. 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

Birth[edit | edit source]
  • 1852-1854 Pennsylvania Births – ($) Index with images.

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

Marriage[edit | edit source]

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

  • 1626-2016 - Pennsylvania, United States Marriages at FindMyPast — index $
  • 1677-1950 Pennsylvania Civil Marriages, 1677-1950 at FamilySearch — index and images
  • 1700-1821 Pennsylvania Marriage Records – ($) This database is incomplete for all counties.
  • 1725-1976 Pennsylvania, Marriages, 1709-1940 - free index. Not complete for all years. This index is an electronic database of information. The entries are primarily from the International Genealogical Index (IGI) along with some entries derived from compiled and original records such as: Family Records, Church Records, Civil Registration. It may also include indexes generated by the internet indexing project sponsored by FamilySearch.
  • Pre-1810 Pennsylvania Marriages – ($) 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 – ($) Index with images.
  • 1885-1950 Pennsylvania County Marriage, 1885-1950 Extracted marriage records – free. Most of the records consist of marriage licenses, certificates, applications, docket books, and affidavits. This database is incomplete for all counties. May also contain marriage records earlier than 1885.
  • 1947-2010 Pennsylvania Obituary and Marriage Collection, 1947-2010 at FamilySearch — index and images
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]

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

Finding Vital Records at Other Repositories

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

Luzerne County Pennsylvania Genealogy Websites[edit | edit source]

Luzerne County Pennsylvania Places[edit | edit source]

Populated Places[edit | edit source]

Luzerne County Pennsylvania Genealogy References[edit | edit source]

  1. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Luzerne 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, "Luzerne County, Pennsylvania" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at,_Pennsylvania.
  4.,_Pennsylvania accessed 2/12/2017
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 W.W. Munsell,History Of Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming Countie, Pa. (New York: Munsell, 1880), 225-230.FamilySearch Books Online Free online digital copy.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Genealogical Society of Utah, Parish and Vital Records List (July 1998). Microfiche. Digital version at
  7. Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, Clerk of Courts in (accessed 25 Aug 2012)
  8. The Philadelphia Courts at accessed 10 July 2012