McKean County, Pennsylvania Genealogy

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
United States
McKean County

Guide to McKean 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.


McKean County, Pennsylvania
Map of Pennsylvania highlighting McKean County
Location in the state of Pennsylvania
Map of the U.S. highlighting Pennsylvania
Location of Pennsylvania in the U.S.
Founded March 26, 1804
County Seat
McKean County, Pennsylvania Courthouse.jpg
Address McKean County Courthouse
500 W. Main Street
Smethport, PA 16749
McKean 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

McKean County Pennsylvania Historical Facts

Known Beginning Dates for Major County Records[1]
Birth* Marriage Death* Court Land Probate Census
bef 1906 1827 bef 1906 1827 1806 1827 1790
Statewide registration for births and deaths began in 1906. General compliance by 1915.

Parent Counties: Formed from Lycoming County 26 March 1804. [2]

County Seat: Smethport

Neighboring Counties: McKean Countyresidents may also have records in:[3]

Named for Thomas McKean, former 3-term Governor of Pennsylvania (1799-1808), and signer of the Declaration of Independence.


The county was named Thomas McKean. It's county seat is Smethport and was founded September 1, 1826. It is located in the North Central tip of the state.[4]

Boundary Changes

  • 18 April 1843: Elk County created. [5]
  • 29 March 1860: Cameron County created. [6]

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

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

Bible Records



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

Additional Cemetery Resources


For tips on accessing McKean 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.

Finding Church Records at Other Repositories

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

Mckean county pennsylvania churches.png
County-wide Database – Multi-denominational

Some lists of early church members may be found in the Beers' history of McKean County[7] When congregations were too far distant for early county settlers, they would sometimes form a Union Church Society or a Union Sunday School. These groups met as Christian congregations, without being officially recognized by any one sect.


Baptists began meeting in McKean County in 1840. The Regular Baptist Church of Bradford was organized in 1852.[7] Additional congregations were in Turtle Point, Annin Township, Smethport, Port Allegany, Norwich (1820-21), and Kane Township. Baptists and Methodists shared the Union Church in Eldred.


St. Bernard's was the first Catholic congregation established in Bradford. This happened in 1877. [7] Additional churches were St. Mary's in Newell Creek, Eldred, St. Elizabeth's in Smethport, St. Gabriel's in Port Allegany, and Kane township.


Many town had Congregational congregations. The ministers came from New England towns. Addition congregations were in Port Allegany, and Duke Centre. Methodist Church was organized in the spring of 1880 in Bradford. [7]


Mount Jewett had a Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church established in 1888. An additional congregation was in Port Allegany. Three Swedish Lutheran congregations were founded in Kane Township between 1876-1885. Methodist Church was organized in the spring of 1880 in Bradford. [7]


Methodist Church of Tunuanguant was organized in 1848. The First Methodist Church of Bradford congregation was established in 1878. An African Methodist Church was organized in the spring of 1880 in Bradford. [7] Kendall township established a Methodist congregation in 1881. Additional congregations were in Annin Creek, Smethport, Port Allegany, Liberty Township, Otto Township, Duke Centre, and Kane Township. Baptists and Methodists shared the Union Church in Eldred.


The First Presbyterian Church of Bradford was organized in June, 1879. [7] A second congregation was established in Kendall township in 1885. Additional congregations were in Mount Jewett, Port Allegany,and Kane Township.

Protestant Espiscopal

The Protestant Episcopal church (St. Luke's) was formed in Smethport as early as 1842. Addition congregations were in Port Allegany and Otto Township.

Court Records

McKean County, Pennsylvania Genealogy court records are housed at the McKean 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. McKean County 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.[8]

Clerk of Courts

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.[9] For the McKean 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 McKean County, Pennsylvania Genealogy Prothonotary office information.

The Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts is located under Departments at the McKean County website.The Court no longer accepts passport applications. Passports must be processed at the local post office.

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.[10]

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

McKean County Courthouse
Register Clerk of Orphans' Court
500 Main Street
Smethport, PA 16749
Phone: 814-887-3263

Finding Court Records at Other Repositories

Additional court records can sometimes be found using search phrases such as McKean 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 McKean County began in 1804. These records are filed with the Recorder of Deeds office in Smethport, 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

  • 1973–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:Mckean county pennsylvania townships.pngMckean county pennsylvania townships.png
About this image
Click the image to see an enlarged version

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


Mckean County


Early migration routes for European settlers to and from McKean County included:[11]


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 for McKean 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 McKean County, Pennsylvania Genealogy naturalization in online catalogs like:


McKean 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 McKean County

Online Newspapers

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

Online Newspaper Abstracts


Obituaries 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

Obituary Abstracts


Indentured Servants


Poorhouse, Almshouse

Probate Records

Probate matters in {{{1}}} County are handled by the Orphans' Court and start when the county was created.

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

Online Probate 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:

McKean 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 McKean 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.

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.

The main FHC for McKean County is the Cameron County Historical Society. The Cameron County Historical Society is an affiliate of the Family History Library, located in Salt Lake City, Utah. As an affiliate, patrons of the Cameron County Historical Society 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.

The library will do limited research for a fee. Their collection includes cemetery listings, city directories, local histories, and civil war volunteers listings.
The Hanley library holds the McKean County Genealogical Society collection. This collection includes local and regional histories, cemetery records, and family genealogies.
  • Eldred WW II Museum & Learning Center
    201 Main Street
    PO Box 273
    Eldred, PA 16731
    Phone: 814-225-2220

Painted Hills Genealogy Society
Mary E. Bryant: Founder and President

Genealogical Resources: This Society covers the Painted Hills Area of Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania, particularly the counties of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Steuben in New York and the Pennsylvania counties of McKean and Potter .

Bradford Landmark Society
45 East Corydon Street
Bradford, PA 16701
Phone: 814–362-3906

Genealogical Resources: This Society covers the city of Bradford, McKean County. Online information includes obituary and cemetery indexes and a Civil War Veterans' index. The society will do reseach within their collection of city birth and death records 1881-1905, city directories, church and school records. Articles concerning historic buildings and people of Bradford City are posted on the society website under the heading "Time Capsule Index".


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


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


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


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

Finding Vital Records at Other Repositories

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

McKean County Pennsylvania Genealogy Websites

McKean County Pennsylvania Places

Populated Places

McKean County Pennsylvania Genealogy References

  1. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), McKean 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, "McKean County, Pennsylvania" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at,_Pennsylvania.
  4.,_Pennsylvania accessed 2/12/2017
  5. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), [FHL book 973 D27e 2002].
  6. referer=brief_results Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), [FHL book 973 D27e 2002].
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 History of the counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter, Pennsylvania, with Biographical Selections. (Chicago, Illinois : J.H. Beers and Co., 1890), 185-186. FamilySearch Books Online Free online digital copy.
  8. The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania accessed 10 July 2012.
  9. Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, Clerk of Courts in (accessed 25 Aug 2012)
  10. The Philadelphia Courts at accessed 10 July 2012
  11. Handybook, 847-61.
  12. Paul A. W. Wallace, Indian Paths of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, Pa.: PA Historical and Museum Commission, 1971), 46-48. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 974.8 H2wp.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Genealogical Society of Utah, Parish and Vital Records List (July 1998). Microfiche. Digital version at