Getting started with your research
This is a brief and convenient guide for anyone looking to research their family roots in Franklin County. It covers the most requested types of documents from genealogists and local historians, where to find them, and how to request them.
Deeds and Land Records
Deed Index books within archives span from 1784-2019 and are an excellent starting point for verifying that your ancestors were indeed in Franklin County. Archives staff can access Deed Index books and deeds. The most recent deeds are located at the Register and Recorder's Office. Some deeds are available through the Register and Recorder’s LANDEX system, which you can use to search and order deeds. To help navigate land records, the Archives also holds Grantor indexes (1784-1985), Grantee indexes (1786-1898) and Mortgage books and indexes (1785-1994), as well as Land Warrants (1753-1874) and Rough Draft Surveys (1753-1970s) and Survey Dockets (1785-1850). You can browse or search through them in the Archives’ online repository.
Tax Assessment Books
The Archives holds Records of Valuation (1786-1807) and Tax Assessment books dating back to 1848. Tax assessments were done yearly and chronicle the tax base of all of the townships and boroughs. The records list names of all the freeholders (land owners), tenants, and single men in the county for those years. Depending on the assessment criteria in a given year, the records may include the the election district in which the land was located, militia eligibility, occupation, livestock owned, buildings and the materials used to construct them, quality of the land, at what stage of the land purchasing process the taxpayer is (warrant, survey, patent), rank in military, well-being if infirm or poor; if female, whether widow or ward; items of gold and silver; crops, stills, forges, kilns, stores, taverns, carriages or other vehicles, servants and slaves, etc. Most of these records have been scanned and indexed for automated searching and are available in our online repository.
Franklin County began collecting birth records in 1894, and the Archives holds the Birth Register from 1894-1906. Most of these records have been scanned and indexed for automated searching and are available in our online repository. Additionally, the Archives holds the Delayed Birth Registers & Indices for births that occurred between 1864-1905. For births beginning in 1906, contact the Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records. For births prior to 1894, contact or visit the places listed under the “Local Resources” section on the Research Resources page. They have access to family histories, church records, etc. which might contain additional information.
The Archives houses Marriage Docket Indices (1885-1918) Marriage License applications (1885-2011), and Marriage License Returns/Duplicates (1885-2020). The most recent records are kept at the Clerk of Courts’ office. You can contact that office at (717) 261-3805. A number of the earliest Duplicate Marriage Certificates (1885-1890) have been scanned and are available in the Archives' online repository. For marriages prior to 1885, contact or visit the places listed under the “Local Resources” section on the Research Resources page. They have access to family histories, church records, etc. which might contain additional information.
Divorce & Annulment Records
The Archives houses Divorce and Annulment Records from 1886-2018 and can provide copies of Decrees. For Certified copies of decrees, please contact the Office of the Prothonotary.
Franklin County Archives holds Death Registers from 1852-1935. Information given may include name, age, gender, race, occupation, marital status, date and place of birth and death, cause of death, names of parents and place of interment. A large portion of these records have been transcribed and made searchable in the online repository. For deaths beginning in 1906, you will need to contact the Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records.
The Archives houses Indexes to Administrations & Wills and Estate Papers spanning from 1784-Present. These may Include wills, codicils, probates of wills, petitions for letters of testamentary and administration, decrees, issuing letters, affidavits of death, death certificates, oaths, bonds, renunciations, inventories and appraisements, citations, distributions, court orders, accounts, inheritance tax papers and receipts, family agreements, releases, and all other papers and dockets relating to estate matters. Visit our online repository to see a selection of these records that have been automated. Some Estate Papers are available through the Register and Recorder's LANDEX system, which you can use to search and order records. For the most recent estate papers, contact the Register and Recorders Office. Familysearch.org has made available online its collection of microfilmed Wills from 1784-1905.
The Archives houses Veterans’ Grave Registers (1798-2017), Cemetery Maps & Plot Records (circa 1934), Militia eligibility records (1865-1866), digital copies of the 1862 Draft Enrollment List, Local Military Enlistment/Discharge Records (1865-1953) and Military Discharges. Contact Veteran Affairs for burial records. Also, contact the Register and Recorder’s Office for access to old soldier discharge papers. For additional resources, visit our Research Resources page.
Prior to 1906, any county courthouse could grant U.S. citizenship. The process of naturalization consisted of filing at least two papers known as the ‘Declaration of Intention’ and the ‘Petition for Naturalization’. After living in the U.S. for two years an immigrant could file their declaration, which was their formal oath renouncing allegiance to all other foreign governments. After waiting another three years, an immigrant filed their petition for naturalization. Naturalization Dockets, Indices and Papers spanning from 1838-1991 are available at the Archives. They may include Certificates of Arrival, Declarations of Intention, Depositions, Lists of Naturalization Petitions Recommended to be Granted or Denied, Naturalization or Alien Dockets and Indices, Naturalization Notes of Testimony, Naturalization Petitions, Orders of Court Granting or Denying Petitions for Naturalization, Repatriation Dockets, Requests for Certificates of Arrival, and Stubs for Naturalization Certificates.