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Research Aids
Notes from a lecture by Dr. James H. Sterrett, published in the Western PA Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Nov. 1982), pg. 75.  Presented at the "Come Home to Pennsylvania Conference" in Pittsburgh, April 1982.  No copyright infringement intended.

The principal repository for Presbyterian church records in the United States is the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia.  The society was organized by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1852 for the preservation of Presbyterian historical documents and materials, and it is the official depository of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.

Its collections are both extensive and impressive.  The minutes and official documents of all the boards and agencies and all the judicatories of the denomination are housed here.  In addition, non-current records of local congregations of the church are to be deposited in its archives.  Although many congregational registers of baptisms, marriages and deaths have remained in local custody or have been lost or destroyed, the Presbyterian Historical Society holds thousands of volumes of the extant registers.

Much of genealogical value can be found also in the volumes of session minutes.  These often include genealogical information such as letters of transfer in or out of a congregation.  A citation of a letter of admission from a foreign congregation can help pinpoint the exact place of origin of an immigrant ancestor, for example.  There are many other potential sources of genealogical information in the society's library and archives.  Minutes and records of church boards and organizations, manuscript and printed church histories, programs, pamphlets, leaflets and pastoral records and biographies all may contain important research data.

The Presbyterian Historical Society is located at 425 Lombard Street in Philadelphia, PA (zip 19147), not far from Independence Hall.  It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday except on holidays.  There is a free parking area for those doing work at the society at the corner of Fifth Street and Lombard Street, next to the society's building.  The research faciltties are quite comfortable, and the staff is very helpful and accomodating and always courteous.  They do not research but will send a list of persons who have offered to research there.  Photocopy is available by staff members for patrons desiring copies of material that can be copied.

The following is a list of some of the western Pennsylvania church records held by the society.  The society maintains no listing of church records in published form.  Its card files are complete with continual updating.  It is important that the researcher understand that they must know the name of the particular church which they seek - at the time the records were turned over to the depository - in order to find these records.  The listing which follows was not merely copied, but extensive time was taken to find this material - and it is by no means a complete listing of the holdings of these counties.

Partial List of Western Pennsylvania Church records held at the PHS -- Clarion County:

Clarion, First Presbyterian Church

  • Church Registers, 1841-1974 (first volume includes communicant lists, 1841-1931; baptisms and marriages, 1841-1868)
  • Pew Rental Records, 1853-1870
  • Congregational Meeting Minutes, 1855-1873

Clarion, New Rehoboth Presbyterian Church

  • Session Minutes, 1868-1963 (and the first volumes includes a list of communicants, 1822-1922, and baptisms, 1868-1920)

Tylersburg, Presbyterian Church

  • Session Minutes, 1850-1909
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