City of Philadelphia Department of Records

Philadelphia City Archives

3101 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
215-685-9401 voice
215-685-9409 fax
Hours:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday 8:30am-5:00pm, except holidays

Staff:

Contact Archives staff at the numbers listed above, or send e-mail to archives@phila.gov

The City Archives is the official historical memory of the City of Philadelphia. Within its 20,000 cubic feet of holdings may be found records that appeal to a very wide spectrum of interests.

In addition to providing reference to various City departments, the City Archives has been a resource for graduate and undergraduate students, persons preparing doctoral dissertations and scholarly publications. Its holdings have been of especial interest to social historians. For persons doing research on the City's under classes, records of the Alms House and its successor, Philadelphia General Hospital, 1751-late 1940s; of the County Prisons 1790-1948, and of the City and County criminal courts, 1750s to 1874, are especially fertile fields for research. Records of county taxes, 1773-1851, may be used for determining the economic and class structure of the City and its surrounding districts, townships and boroughs. Tax records and land records are valuable sources for research on capital accumulation. Records of the City surveyors, road records of the Court of Quarter Sessions, and records of the City Council's Watering Committee and of the City's Water Department are invaluable for tracing the development of the City's infrastructure. Minutes and files of the its Board of Health and Health Department record efforts to control disease in an urban setting. The records of the City Planning Commission and of the Department of Licenses and Inspections, its efforts to control urban blight while the Records of the Department of Public Welfare (now Human Services) show the City's efforts to deal with the human consequences of urban blight.

The City Archives is also a magnet for genealogical researchers. In fact, the most frequent users of the City Archives are patrons who are interested in their family history or who are professional genealogists doing research for others. The City Archives holds the earliest and longest continuous run of birth and death records of any political
subdivision in the Commonwealth. Registrations of birth and death records begin on July 1, 1860 and continue to June 30, 1915 However, there are also a cubic foot of late registrations filed under an 1867 supplement to the vital statistics act which include births dating back to 1829; and an earlier form of death record known as a cemetery return which date from 1806 to June 30, 1860. The City Archives holds marriage records from July 1, 1860 to December 31, 1885 for which we issue certificates and copies of marriages from the Orphans Court Division that date from 1886 to 1915. It also holds naturalizations of the City and County Courts for the periods 1794-1904 and 1914-1930. Other records which would be of interest to genealogical researchers include Police roster and roll books for the period 1854-1925, deeds of Philadelphia County, 1683-1952; mortgages of Philadelphia County, 1736-1963; city directories, 1785-1930, 1935-1936; Department of Personnel, roster cards; and records of Blockley Almshouse and the County prisons.

A sampling of the Archives' more than two million photographs may be searched online from the City's award-winning site, http://www.phillyhistory.org.