It has been said that Family History Research, or Genealogy, is the second largest hobby (after stamp and coin collecting). Everyone does have a family, and a curiosity about who has gone before us drives our quest to seek information on our ancestors. You begin by collecting the names, dates and places of your relatives’ births, marriages, deaths, and burials starting with the most recent generations and working your way back, one generation at a time.

Once you have talked with all the relatives, collected the birth, marriage, and death certificates, newspaper obituaries, and census records, you may feel that you need professional help in order to further your research.

Powell Genealogical Services has been performing research in the western Pennsylvania area since 1990, and is quite familiar with the resources specific to this area. We have helped clients with both large and small projects — from finding just one obituary to finding a family who passed through western Pennsylvania to finding the heirs of an estate.

In order for anyone to do research for you, it would be helpful to have a COPY of family group charts, census records and other pertinent information about your ancestors’ families. Details such as occupation, religion, military service, membership in societies and civic offices would help to pinpoint your family. Please tell me what you have already tried, then I will not duplicate that research.

I have an hourly fee with a minimum deposit of half the anticipated total required before work can begin. Copy costs and other actual expenses such as parking and tolls are in addition to this fee. Please state your objective, as well as the maximum number of hours or dollars that you’d like to spend on that objective. You will be billed for the amount over your deposit. Payment must be received before the report can be sent.

Below is information that will help you to determine what resources are available in Pennsylvania, including a list of the unique records in each facility. Please determine if your search objective is possible by using this resource list. Then write to us to make arrangements for your particular project.

When asking for research to be done, please keep in mind the limitations of the records available to us. Allegheny County was formed in 1788 from portions of Washington and Westmoreland counties and so the courthouse has deeds and probate records only from that time. Before 1800 Allegheny county reached to the shores of Lake Erie and was divided into seven townships: Pitt, Plum, Versailles, Elizabeth, Mifflin, St. Clair, and Moon. Fayette township was formed from Moon township in 1790. In 1796 Pine and Deer townships were erected from a portion of Pitt township. In 1800 several western Pennsylvania counties had their birth from at least part of Allegheny: Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Crawford, Erie, Mercer, Venango and Warren.

Marriages have been recorded in Pennsylvania since 1885 and are accessible from that time until the present at the County Register of Wills office. Births and deaths record dates vary depending on the county or city keeping them, but generally run from 1893 to 1905. They were not required to be kept and not all birth and death events were recorded. After 1906 you, as the relative, must write to the the Dept. of Vital Statistics in New Castle, PA for birth and death records. See PA Dept. of Health.

Census research is available for any county in Pennsylvania from 1790 – 1880 and 1900 – 1930. Pittsburgh City directories (beginning in 1813), tax lists, newspaper death notice index (1787 to 1913 and 1969 to present), and newspapers are also on microfilm in Pittsburgh. There are other resources, such as church or cemetery records, which will become apparent after time is spent on your family.

Local Resources and Where Available

Allegheny County City-County Building, 414 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219-2469

  •  Pre-1906 Birth and Death records
  • Marriages – 1885 to present
  •  Probate Records – 1789 to present
  •  Prothonotary – Naturalizations from 1798 – 1906

Allegheny County Office Building, 542 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Deeds – 1789 to present

Pennsylvania Dept., Carnegie Public Library, 4400 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

  • Newspaper Death Notice Index – 1787 to 1913 and 1969 to present
  • Newspapers from 1787 to present
  • Pittsburgh City Directories – 1813 to 1975
  • Biography Index Card File to old County Histories and other unindexed books
  • U.S. Federal Census for Pennsylvania from 1790 to 1930
  • Many books on all Pennsylvania counties

Mercer County Court House, Mercer, PA 16137

  • Birth and Death Records – 1893 to 1905
  • Marriages – 1885 to present
  • Probate Records – 1800 to present
  • Deeds – 1803 to present
  • Tax Book – 1804 – 1813

Mercer County Historical Society, 119 South Pitt St., Mercer, PA 16137

  • City Directories (mostly 20th century)
  • Family Histories and Files, both published and unpublished
  • Newspapers – scattered time periods from 1811 to 1960’s

Washington County Court House, Main St., Washington, PA 15301

  • Birth and Death records – 1893 to 1905
  • Marriages – 1885 to present
  • Probate Records – 1781 to present
  • Deeds – 1781 to present

Citizen’s Public Library, 55 S. College St., Washington, PA 15301

  • Newspapers – scattered time periods from 1808 to present
  • Genealogical Society of SW Penna. pedigree charts and letters of inquiry

Westmoreland County Office Building, Main Street, Greensburg, PA 15601

  • Birth and Death Records – 1893 to 1905
  • Marriages – 1885 to present
  • Probate Records – 1773 to present
  • Deeds – 1773 to present

Please see Pennsylvania County Resources for information and Internet sites by county.

Allegheny County Genealogy Resources

Board for Certification of Genealogists

Association of Professional Genealogists

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Libraries