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Genealogy at the State Library of Pennsylvania

A guide to resources available to genealogy and family history researchers through the State Library of Pennsylvania.

Getting Started with Genealogical Research


image of family tree chart

Getting Started: 
  • Gather all of the genealogical documents that you have stored in various locations around your home and gather them into one location. 
  • Create a family tree with yourself at the center. - This will help you identify what information you are  missing. You can draw a family tree with paper and pencil or there are several sites that offer downloadable forms for free.
  • Interview older family relatives. Older family members can provide missing information and provide clues about where to search for missing information. 

Tips to get you organized

  • Keep a notebook for each side of the family - make one tab or section for each generation.
  • Write as much as you can in pencil because you will do a lot of erasing.
  • Think in terms of the century you are searching in.  Different records were kept during differing time periods. The way we think of people is very different than those of the 17th, 18th or 19th century.
  • Check older maps and atlases. State and county borders changed over the years. The county, town or state that you're ancestor lived in may have been different than the way it exists today.
  • Be sure to check different spellings of names or try using the Soundex Indexing system for names. Spelling may not have been standardized during your ancestor's lifetime.  


Paleography is the study of ancient writing systems and handwriting used in historical documents. Below are some resources to help you decipher handwritten documents and records that you may uncover during your research.

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