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Luzerne County, Pennsylvania genealogy and family history research page. Guide to genealogy, history, and courthouse sources including birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, wills, deeds and land records, Civil War records, Revolutionary War records, family histories, cemeteries, churches, tax records, newspapers, and obituaries.

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Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
Map
Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County
Location in the state of Pennsylvania
Map of the U.S. highlighting Pennsylvania
Location of Pennsylvania in the U.S.
Facts
Founded September 25, 1786
County Seat Wilkes-Barre
Courthouse
Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Courthouse.jpg
Address Luzerne County Courthouse
200 N. River St.
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711
Luzerne County Website
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Contents

Luzerne County Pennsylvania Historical Facts

Beginning dates for major county records
Birth
Marriage
Death
Deeds
Probate
1893
1885
1893
1787
1786
Paluzerne.jpg
  • County Seat: Wilkes-Barre
  • Neighboring Counties: Luzerne County, Pennsylvania residents may also have records in [2]


Named for Anne-Cesar, Chevalier de la Luzerne, a most popular minister from the French court during the American Revolutionary War.

Luzerne County is the only county in the United States where a plurality of residents state their ancestry as Polish per Census 2000 report.

Boundary Changes

For animated maps illustrating Pennsylvania county boundary changes, "Rotating Formation Pennsylvania County Boundary Maps" (1673-1878) may be viewed for free at the MapofUS.org website.

Records Loss

For a list of record loss in Pennsylvania counties see: Pennsylvania Counties with Burned Courthouses

Bible Records

Biographies

Cemeteries

Cemetery records often reveal birth, marriage, death, relationship, military, and religious information.

Online Grave Transcripts Published Grave Transcripts County Cemetery Directories

Findagrave.com

Family History Library Findagrave.com

Interment.net

WorldCat Names in Stone

USGenWeb

Billion Graves

Pennsylvania Genealogy

Epodunk

Pennsylvania Gravestones

Billion Graves

Names in Stone

Access Genealogy

Ancestry($)


See Pennsylvania Cemeteries for more information.


Census

For tips on accessing Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Federal (or United States) census records online, see: Pennsylvania Census.

There are no county or state census records available for Pennsylvania. County and city tax records can be used as a substitute when census records are not available.

Church Records

Church records and the information they provide vary significantly depending on the denomination and the record keeper. They may contain information about members of the congregation, such as age, date of baptism, christening, or birth; marriage information and maiden names; and death date. In Pennsylvania, church records are often used as a substitute for birth, marriage, and death information. For general information about Pennsylvania denominations, view the Pennsylvania Church Records wiki page.

Finding Church Records at Other Repositories

Additional church records can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Church Records  in online catalogs like:

County-wide Database – Multi-denominational
Luzerne county pennsylvania churches.png
Contains the church records of:
  • Jonathan Worrall, J.P./Misc. Licenses, 1890-1915
  • Avoca: Langcliffe Presbyterian Church
  • Forty Fort: Presbyterian Church
  • Freeland: Slovak Lutheran Church; St. John's United Church of Christ; St. Luke's Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • Hazleton: Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church; Trinity Lutheran Church
  • Nanticoke: Primitive Methodist Church Nanticoke
  • Pleasant Valley: United Methodist Church
  • Shickshinny: United Methodist Church
  • Sweet Valley: Pleasant Valley Sunday School
  • West Hazleton: Christ United Church of Christ; St. Paul's United Church of Christ; Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • West Pittston: First United Methodist Church; First United Presbyterian Church
  • White Haven: St. Paul's Lutheran Church
  • Wilkes-Barre: Central United Methodist Church; First Presbyterian Church; Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Cathedral; St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
  • Wyoming: Presbyterian Church


African Methodist Episcopal

The African Methodist Episcopal and the African Methodist Episcopaln Zion congregations were established in Wilkes-Barre in 1842.

Baptist

The first Baptist services were held in Wilkes-Barre in 1842. The Kingston congregation was eventually absorbed in the Wilkes-Barre and Pittston churches. The Centennial Baptist was organized in 1874.

Catholic

St. Mary's was established in 1847 and the St. Nicholas German Catholic church was established in 1856.

Episcopal

The first Episcopalian services were held in 1814 in Wilkes-Barre. The church was chartered in 1817, as St. Stephen's Church. In 1869, St. Clement's was established.

Lutheran

Lutheran congregations were primarily German until 1857. St Pauls and St. Johns were the early congregations.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

LDS Ward and Branch Records

  • Nanticoke
  • Plymouth

Methodist Episcopal

Methodism was first preached by Anning Owen in 1788 in Luzerne County. Congregations were in Wilkes-Barre, Hanover, Newport, and the Plains. The Methodists purchased the old building on the square in Wilkes-Barre from the Presbyterians in 1831. This church was called the First Methodist Episcopal. A new building was completed in 1847. The Ross Street Methodist Episcopal was formed and built in 1855. Lists of leading members are found in Munsell's history. [3]

Moravian

The Moravians were in the area very early, before 1763. The outbreak of the French War forced the missionaries from the county. [3]

Presbyterian

The Presbyterian congregation was first served by Jacob Johnson from Groton, Connecticut in 1773. He helped begin the construction of the First Presbyterian Church in Wilkes Barre. It was finally completed in 1812 and was called "The Old Ship Zion". Other Connecticut ministers who served were Jabez Chadwick and James W. Woodworth. The congregation was partially Congregationalist until about 1829 when it became fully Presbyterian.Other early congregations were found in Nanicoke, Pittston and Ashley.[3] Some lists of members are found in the Munsell history of Luzerne County.

Hazleton Presbyterian Church

Presbyterian Church, Conyngham

Snowden Memorial Presbyterian Church, Larksville

Court Records

Court of Common Pleas

Luzerne County, Pennsylvania court records are housed at the Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Courthouse. For many counties copies of court records may be found at the Pennsylvania State Archives and in the FamilySearch collection. Note that within these collections some films may contain the same records, but have different titles. Other titles are not duplicates. See Finding Court Records at other repositories within this section for links to the online catalogs for these two collections. Films at the Pennsylvania State Archives are not available for inter-library loan. If court records are available FamilySearch films may be ordered at a local Family History Center.

Clerk of the Court

The Clerk of Courts prepares and maintains the records for the Criminal Division of the Court of Common Pleas. The Clerk signs and affixes the Seal of the Courts to all writs and processes, administers oaths and affirmations, and assumes custody of the seal and records of the Courts. The Clerk certifies and distributes orders of the Court. The Clerk also certifies and prepares bills of costs for the defendants and utilizes the computerized financial management system to disburse fines, costs and restitution.[5] For the Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Clerk of Courts address see the Courthouse section on this page.

Prothonotary

The office of the Prothontary is the custodian of all civil matters in the county. This includes naturalization, immigration, equity actions, judgements, federal and local tax leins, city liens, family court, arbitrations, license suspension appeals, appeals to higher court, commercial code filings, applications for passports and divorce proceedings. See the Courthouse section on this page for the Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Prothonotary office information.

Orphans' Court

See Vital Records
The Orphans' Court is responsible for a wide range of matters. The name of the Court is derived from the more general definition of "orphan," that being a person or thing that is without protective affiliation or sponsorship. This would include those not capable of handling their own affairs, minors, incapacitated persons, decedents estates, nonprofit corporations and trusts. It is the role of the Court to ensure that the best interests of the person or entity are not compromised.

It is believed the name of this court was borrowed from the Court of Orphans of the city of London, England which had the care and guardianship of children of deceased citizens, in their minority.[6]

For Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Orphans' Court contact information see the Courthouse section on this page.

Finding Court Records at Other Repositories

Additional court records can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Court Records in online catalogs like:

Emigration and Immigration

For information about emigration into Pennsylvania, see the Pennsylvania Emigration and Immigration page.


Ethnic Groups

Germans

Gazetteers

Genealogy

History

Published Histories

Land and Property

Land records in Luzerne County began in 1786. These records are filed with the Recorder of Deeds office in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.

Land and property records can place an ancestor in a particular location, provide economic information, and reveal family relationships. Land records include: deeds, abstracts, indexes, mortgages, leases, grants, sheriff sales, land patents, and maps. Property records include liens as well as livestock brands and estray records.

The following are examples of available resources:

Online Land Records

  • 1968–present Images are available online using the Landex system. There is a fee to view the images.

Land Records on Microfilm

Additional Resources

Note that the "Maps" section below also includes maps related to land ownership.

See Pennsylvania Land and Property for more information about using land records, especially about original land warrants, surveys, and patents filed at the state land office.

Additional resources can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Luzerne County Pennsylvania Land in online catalogs such as:

Maps

https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/images/0/0d/Luzerne_county_pennsylvania_townships.pngLuzerne county pennsylvania townships.png
About this image
Click the image to view an enlarged version


Migration

Military

World War II

Naturalization and Citizenship

Naturalization records can contain information about immigration and nativity. Prior to 1906, it is rare to find the town of origin in naturalization records. See Pennsylvania Naturalization for more information about the types of records and availability.

Naturalizations granted at the county level were kept by the office of the Prothonotary. Naturalizations could also be granted on the Federal Court level.

Naturalization records for Luzerne County, Pennsylvania include the following:

Online Naturalization Indexes and Records

Original Naturalization Records on Microfilm

Finding Naturalization Indexes at Other Repositories

Additional naturalization indexes can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Luzerne County, Pennsylvania naturalization in online catalogs like:

Newspapers

Luzerne County, Pennsylvania newspapers may contain genealogical value including obituaries, births, marriages, deaths, anniversaries, family gatherings, family travel, achievements, business notices, engagement information, and probate court proceedings.

To access newspapers, contact public libraries, historical/genealogical societies, college or university libraries, or state archives in the area where the newspaper was published.

For information on state-wide newspapers see Pennsylvania Newspapers

Newspapers of Luzerne County

Online Newspapers

To learn if there are newspapers online for a specific town or city in Pennsylvania, see news.google.com/newspapers and search for the town or the name of a newspaper.

Online Newspaper Extracts

Obituaries

Obituaries are generally found in local newspapers where the person died. However, sometimes an obituary is found in the location from which he or she originated. To find an obituary, see the information under the Newspaper heading


Online Obituary Extracts

Occupations

Indentured Servants

Periodicals

Poorhouse, Almshouse

Probate Records

Probate matters in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania are handled by the Orphans' Court and start when the county was created. To obtain original probate records, contact the Orphan's Court in the County Courthouse.

In addition to wills and administrations, the Orphans' Court also handles: audits of accounts of executors, administrators, trustees, and guardians; distribution of estates of decedents, incompetents, and minors; appointment and control of guardians; adoptions; appeals from the Register of Wills involving probate matters; inheritance tax appeals and various petitions and motions.

Online Probate Indexes

Online Probate Records

Original probate records for some Pennsylvania counties are available free online as digital images at FamilySearch.org. The dates vary significantly for each county and not all counties are listed. Some counties may only have probate indexes. This Pennsylvania collection of images may be browsed through the links listed below:

Complete Collection:

Luzerne County Only:


Original Probate Records on Microfilm

Additional Probate Indexes and Abstracts

Additional probate indexes or abstracts can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Luzerne County, Pennsylvania probate wills in online catalogs like:

Repositories

Archives
  • The Pennsylvania Archives collection contains county archive records that can be searched onsite. Currently the Archives' staff cannot provide research or make copies of these records. Their collections include Almshouse Registers; Tax records; Birth, Death and Marriage Indexes and Records; Midwife records; African American records; Wills; Deeds; Naturalizations; Coroner's inquests; and Orphan's Court dockets. A list of the Archive's county holdings are on Microfilm or Manuscript form.
Courthouse

Luzerne County Courthouse
200 N. River St.
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711

Clerk of Courts
Phone: 570–825-1585
Office Hours: Monday to Friday 8am – 4:30pm

Prothonotary
Phone: 570–825-1745

  • 1830 – 1906 Naturalization (after 1906, held by U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization)
  • Pre–1950 Military Discharge Records

Orphans' Court/Register of Wills
Penn Place Annex
20 N. Pennsylvania Ave.
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711
Phone: 570-825-1668

Hours: Monday thru Friday – 9:00 am to 12:00 Noon

1:00 pm to 4:30 pm (Closed from 12:00 to 1:00)
  • 1893 – 1905 Births
  • 1893 – 1905 Deaths
  • late 1700’s – Present Wills
  • 1885 – Present Marriages
Family History Centers

Family History Centers (FHCs) are branches of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and are located all over the world. Their goal is to provide resources for family history research.

The main FHC for Luzerne County, Pennsylvania is the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society. The Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society is an affiliate of the Family History Library, located in Salt Lake City, Utah. As an affiliate, patrons of the NEPGS Family History Research Library can rent most microfilms and microfiche that are listed in the Family History Library catalog. For additional nearby Family History Centers, search online in the FHC directory.

Libraries

Osterhout Free Library
71 South Franklin Street
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701
Phone: 570-823-0156
E-mail: tlukashefski@osterhout.lib.pa.us

Hours:
Monday–Thursday 8:30am – 8:30 pm
Friday and Saturday 8:30am – 5:00 pm
Sunday Closed

The library collection includes local newspapers, city directories, newspapers clippings file, a local history collection, and county census records for Luzerne and some neighboring counties. The library will do limited research for a fee. Online obituary and article request form.

Museums
Societies

Luzerne County Historical Society
49 South Franklin Street
Wilkes-Barré, PA 18701
570–823–6244

The society collection includes:

  • Surname files
  • City directories
  • Wilkes–Barre Record Almanac Newspaper 1886–1962, which includes a death record for anyone over 10 who died in the county during this time period
  • Microfilm of births and deaths (1893–1905), delayed births (1877–1905), index to marriages (1885–1950), Deed indexes, index to Orphans' Courts records
  • Local newspapers on microfilm. List of county newspaper holdings. Scroll to the bottom of the linked page online.

The Historical Society will do research for a fee

Genealogical Research Society of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Inc. (GRSNP)
110 Main Street
Peckville, PA 18452
Phone: 570-383-7661
FAX: 570-383-7466
E-mail: info@grsnp.org

Hours: Monday through Thursday 9:00–2:00 and Wednesday night 6:00 pm–900 pm and Saturday by appointment
A simple search of a dated name or event $20 - Detailed searches are at the rate of $40 an hour. Postage and photocopies up to $1 are included.[7]

The GRSNP serves northeastern counties:

  • Lackawanna
  • Luzerne
  • Monroe
  • Pike
  • Susquehanna
  • Wayne
  • Wyoming

There resources include the research center and library, newsletters, and database queries.[8]

Taxation

Vital Records

Vital records are handled by the County Orphans' Court. Between the years 1852-1855 Pennsylvania made a failed attempt to record birth, marriage and death events at the county level. While the records for that time period are available, there were few events recorded. County marriage records were kept in earnest in 1885. Births and deaths, at the county level, were begun in 1893 and kept through 1905. Abstracts and copies of vital records are available for some counties, but most are incomplete. For the most complete set of records, always contact the County Orphans' Court.

See also How to order Pennsylvania Vital Records

Birth
  • 1852-1854 – Pennsylvania Births Ancestry.com – ($) Index with images.

Early births 1893–1905 are located at the County Orphans' Court. See the heading Court Records on this page for contact information.

Indexes for Pennsylvania birth records are available through the Department of of Health for 1906 and 1907. Once an individual is located in the index a non certified Birth certificate can be obtained by writing and sending $3.00 to:

Division of Vital Records
ATTN: Public Records
P.O. Box 1528
New Castle, PA 16103

Marriage

Pennsylvania marriages are located at the county level. Contact the Luzerne County, Pennsylvania clerk's office for these records.

  • 1700-1821 - Pennsylvania Marriage Records Ancestry.com – ($) This database is incomplete for all counties.
  • 1725-1976 - Pennsylvania, Marriages, 1709-1940 - free index. Not complete for all years. This index is an electronic database of information. The entries are primarily from the International Genealogical Index (IGI) along with some entries derived from compiled and original records such as: Family Records, Church Records, Civil Registration. It may also include indexes generated by the internet indexing project sponsored by the LDS Church.
  • Pre-1810 – Pennsylvania Marriages Ancestry.com – ($) This database is incomplete for all counties. Includes 35,000 marriage records from vol. VIII of of the second series of the Pennsylvania Archives.
  • 1852-1854 - Pennsylvania Marriages Ancestry.com – ($) Index with images.
  • 1885-1950 - Pennsylvania County Marriage, 1885-1950 Extracted marriage records – free. Most of the records consist of marriage licenses, certificates, applications, docket books, and affidavits. This database is incomplete for all counties. May also contain marriage records earlier than 1885.
Divorce

Divorce records are available through the office of the Prothonotary. The office of the Prothonotary is located in the courthouse building.

Death

Early deaths 1893–1905 are located at the County Orphans' Court. See the heading Court Records on this page for contact information.

Indexes for Pennsylvania death records are available through the Department of Health for 1906 through 1962. Once an individual is located in the index a non certified death certificate can be obtained obtained by writing and sending $3.00 to:

Division of Vital Records
ATTN: Public Records
P.O. Box 1528
New Castle, PA 16103

Finding Vital Records at Other Repositories

Additional vital records can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Vital Records in online catalogs like:

Luzerne County Pennsylvania Genealogy Websites

Luzerne County Pennsylvania Places

Populated Places

Luzerne County Pennsylvania Genealogy References

  1. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), [FHL book 973 D27e 2002].
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Adams County, Pennsylvania" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adams_County,_Pennsylvania (accessed 17 July 2012).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 W.W. Munsell,History Of Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming Countie, Pa. (New York: Munsell, 1880), 225-230.FamilySearch Books Online Free online digital copy.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Genealogical Society of Utah, Parish and Vital Records List (July 1998). Microfiche. Digital version at https://www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/images/1/10/Igipennsylvaniall.pdf.
  5. Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania, Clerk of Courts in http://www.pacourts.us/T/CommonPleas/ClerksOfCourts.htm (accessed 25 Aug 2012)
  6. The Philadelphia Courts at http://www.courts.phila.gov/common-pleas/orphans/ accessed 10 July 2012
  7. http://www.grsnp.org/Research_Services_and_Center.php
  8. http://www.grsnp.org/Home_Page.php

 

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  • This page was last modified on 19 March 2014, at 00:09.
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