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Pennsylvania Research: Four Centuries of History and Genealogy

May 10, 17, 24, 31, 2023
Wednesdays in May 2023, 6:00–7:30 p.m. ET
Kyle Hurst
Hallie Kirchner
Ann Lawthers
Kimberly Mannisto
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From colony to statehood, Pennsylvania has always played an important role in the formation and development of our nation: a haven for Quakers, the birthplace of American independence, the site of defining Civil War battles, a leader in industry, a port of entry for many immigrants. Whether your ancestors arrived in Pennsylvania during the colonial period or the twentieth century, this four-week online seminar will provide a century-by-century look at the records, resources, repositories, and research strategies that are essential to exploring your Pennsylvania roots. We will also discuss the historical context of the changes and events that transformed the state and influenced the lives of your ancestors.

This course includes four 90-minute classes; exclusive access to handouts and recordings of each presentation; and in-depth Q&A sessions with the instructors. These recordings and all course materials will be available for the foreseeable future.

May 10

Class 1: 17th-Century Pennsylvania: Colonial Beginnings
Presented by Hallie Kirchner

This first class explores the history, people, and resources for 17th-century Pennsylvania genealogical research. From Pennsylvania’s Native population to the earliest European settlers (the Swedes and Dutch) to William Penn’s settlement of the royal colony as a haven for Quakers, you will learn about published resources, where to find primary record sources, and strategies for overcoming early research challenges.


May 17

Class 2: 18th-Century Pennsylvania: Birthplace of America
Presented by Kim Mannisto

Pennsylvania played a critical role in the formation of America and its principles of government. While the colony was at the center of a nation-making movement in the 18th century, it was also during this period that Pennsylvania saw several localized changes: the start of passenger lists and city directories; boundary shifts; westward expansion; greater record keeping around land, probate, court, military, taxes; and more. In this second class we will look at tracing your ancestors during this pivotal period.


May 24

Class 3: 19th-Century Pennsylvania: Boom Town
Presented by Ann G. Lawthers

Pennsylvania experienced even more transformation in the 19th century. Westward expansion and settlement continued across the Allegany Mountains, aided by growth in transportation systems such as canals and railways. Steel, coal mining, and oil made Pennsylvania an industrial powerhouse, fueled by a labor force of millions of newly arrived immigrants. This class will explore several records that emerge during this period, including federal passenger lists, Civil War pension files, published genealogies and local histories, employment records, and other less commonly used records.


May 31

Class 4: 20th-Century Pennsylvania: Growth and Decline
Presented by Kyle Hurst

Continued urbanization characterized much of 20th-century Pennsylvania. This final session will look at records that emerge in the 20th century—including state-wide vital records—as well as changes in records and record keeping that persisted since the 17th century. We will also discuss the topic of “access” and a review of key research repositories.

Books and Journals
Kyle Hurst
Kyle holds a B.A. in both History and Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a Master’s certificate in Museum Studies from Tufts University.
Research and Library Services
Hallie Kirchner
New York
19th-Century United States
Areas of expertise: 19th-century America, Germany, New York, New York City, Norway, Italy, westward migration, immigration history, and descendancy research.
Education and Programming
Ann Lawthers
Migration Patterns
New England
Mid-Atlantic States
Areas of expertise: New England, New York, Mid-Atlantic states, the southern colonies, Ireland, and migration patterns.
Research and Library Services
Kimberly Mannisto
Midwestern States
Areas of expertise: Early Pennsylvania Settlers, Colonial New Jersey, Quaker records, Midwest (Michigan and Ohio), Finnish, DNA, Descendancy research, Scottish and English hereditary peerage titles, and Scottish genealogy.