A Guide to Genealogical Research
in the Huntingdon County Pennsylvania Courthouse
by Mimi Reed
Hours 8:30-4:30 M-F
Hours 8:30-4:30 M-F
€ Index to Wills and Letters of Administration
The index is arranged by book (time period) and within the index alphabetically/chronologically by last name. References given are to the will book number and page within the will book. All the early will books are in the basement of the courthouse. Entries in the will books are clerks¹ copies of letters of administration, letters testamentary, and wills.
€ Orphans Court
The Orphans Court is responsible for the administration of the estates of intestates (died without leaving a will) the guardianship of minor children and the resolution of conflicts arising from estate settlements. This is a very important set of records for the researcher.
In Huntingdon County the Clerk of the Orphans Court is combined with the office of Register of Wills and Recorder of Deeds. The index to the Orphans Court Proceedings (Dockets) is in this office. The index is arranged by Docket Letter. Within the docket the names are listed alphabetically by last name, type of proceeding (guardianship, etc.) year of the proceeding, file letters, and the actual page in the docket where the entry can be found.
This is the information you will need to read the entry in the books themselves, which are in the basement records storage room of the Courthouse. Write down all this information. You will be sorry if you don't.
Orphans Court Dockets Large bound books containing the clerks’ copies of the proceedings.
€ Accounts and Reports Dockets
For a brief period from approximately 1856 until 1880 a series of dockets records the accounting and distribution of estates. The index to the dockets can be found at the back of the Orphans Court Index and the Wills and Letters index. The Dockets themselves are in the basement and the staff is quite reluctant to photocopy due to their size and weight. Be prepared to transcribe by hand or photograph digitally.
What Huntingdon does not have.
This county does not have “estate packets” as are found in Bedford and Mifflin and several other counties in PA. Some inventories are extant, primarily for intestates, and are at the Huntingdon County Historical Society. All other estate records are entered in the dockets previously described.
Deeds are the most overlooked resource for genealogical research in early Pennsylvania records. They very often are a mother lode of information. Deeds for Huntingdon exist from December 1787 to the present. Deeds record the transfer of real (houses and land) property from one owner to another.
The indexes are in the vault in the Register and Recorders Office. The Red Books are the grantee (buyer) indexes and the White Books are the grantor (seller) indexes and are alphabetical. Within each letter of the alphabet is an index by vowel for the last name. For example... Gi, Go, Gl. If you are looking for the name Glover, you would go to the page with the Gl last names. On that page would be all the Gls, arranged by first name a-z. The index would give the name of the buyer first in the grantee index, the seller name, the date the deed was written, the date the deed was recorded at the courthouse, and the number and page of the deed book where the copy of the instrument can be found. In the grantor index the seller's name would be first. When copying the index information save yourself a lot of trouble and write down the complete entry. You will be sorry if you don't. Remember also that deeds did not need to be recorded and sometimes were not, or they were recorded many years after the transaction occurred. Be sure to look at all the entries for your surname, even much later than the time period you are researching. The earliest deed books are in the basement records storage room of the courthouse. A-1 through the 3 series. The rest are upstairs. If you have a reference to any deed book in the 3 or 4 series ask the clerks before you go downstairs, if the book is up or down.
€ Miscellaneous Index
The Miscellaneous indexes are shelved on the wall in the vault of the Register and Recorders Office and are indexed grantor and grantee. These indexes include powers of attorney, releases, mortgages, manumissions, some office commissions and other records which can be helpful to the researcher. Some of these instruments are entered in the regular deed books and some of them are recorded in the miscellaneous books (shelved in the vault) but are not indexed in the Grantor and Grantee indexes. Do not overlook these indexes.
Marriage Records exist in Huntingdon and other Pennsylvania counties from October 1885 to the present. The records contain the application, the license and the return. The return was the stub that was to be returned to the courthouse by the person performing the marriage. Legally, if there is no return there is no record that the marriage took place. Early applications asked the full names, ages, residences, occupations and races of the parties to the marriage. In the 1920s more questions were added, including the maiden names of the mothers of the parties, the full names of the fathers and other information. The early marriage records are in the basement of the courthouse. They are in bound books by years shown on the binding. In each book there is a bride index and a groom index. There is no overall index to all the marriage records.
€ Quarter Sessions Records
Quarter Sessions was the criminal court and is under the jurisdiction of the Prothonotary, an ancient English name for Clerk of the Court. The records exist from 1787. The first four books are not indexed and must be searched page by page. These dockets contain the bastardy and fornication cases, theft and destruction of property, assaults, and murders, petitions for roads and office and jury commissions. If you find a case that has relevance be sure to note the case number and ask the Prothonotary to look for any loose papers for that case. The loose papers for the Quarter Sessions are now microfilmed up to the year 1839 and all the dockets have been filmed to 1972.
€ Continuance Dockets
These are records of civil court proceedings, such as divorces and adoptions. Adoptions which took place prior to 1954 are not sealed. The earliest Continuance Dockets Series 1-A to 1-U, from March 1789 until November 1852 and the "loose papers" for them have been microfilmed and can be read at the office of the Prothonotary. The new reader printer is in room in the basement of the CH. You will need to sign in at the Pronthonotary's office . The original earliest Continuance docket books with indexes are at the PA State Archives RG 47.124 The remainder of the continuance dockets are in the basement "old records" room of the Courthouse.. All the individual books are indexed but the master indexes are at the end of the basement hall and are available for searching.
The earliest divorces are indexed in the Continuance Dockets. They are indexed by plantiff and defendant in the master indexes and also in the chronological dockets. Divorces from about 1878 to the mid 1930s are indexed in the "Drunkards and Lunatics Book" in the office of the Prothonotary. They are indexed alphabetically by last name and give the volume and page number of the continuance docket where the record can be found. There are often accompanying "loose papers" for these actions in divorce. Please ask the Pronthontary's staff to search for you.
Naturalization records exist in the county from 1798 until the 1950s and can be found in the Pronthonotary's Office. The earliest records (1798-1873) have been indexed by year in a notebook and this index is available at the courthouse and in the Huntingdon County Historical Society Research Library.
The earlier records themselves generally consist of a one sheet affidavit, completed by the person petitioning for citizenship. Most of the affidavits do not provide much genealogical information, merely that the petitioner came from a stated foreign country and has been a resident long enough to petition for citizenship. There are always exceptions so it is important to look. The papers do include the signature of the petitioner. The indexes mentioned above indicate if there are loose papers. If not the only record of naturalization would be and entry in the continuance dockets.
From 1857 until about 1905 declarations of intention were entered the continuance dockets A, B. C. D. etc.. and are indexed (master index) in the plaintiff index.
The records from the 1906 until the 1960s are far more complete and offer much more genealogical information. They are bound in sixteen large volumes, arranged chronologically from 1906 until ca 1960 and are held in the Prothonotary¹s office. There is no central index. Each book has an index and conceivably, if one does not have an idea about a time frame one might have to look at the indices in all sixteen volumes. The stub books are still in the courthouse, also, as are the records of those aliens who were denied citizenship.
€ Records of Births and Deaths
It was not until 1906 that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania required the certification of births and deaths on a statewide level. Application for these records must be made to the Department of Health in New Castle. The Office of the Register and Recorder at the courthouse has the forms for these requests and these forms can also be downloaded from the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.
Prior to 1906 some vital record keeping was conducted at the county level for the periods 1852-53 and 1894-1905. The Register and Recorder has a transcription of the 1852-1853 Vital Records. It is kept in the office and is available upon request. The HCHS has a copy of this, also. The 1894-1905 birth and death records books are in the Register and Recorders Office and are open for research. They are indexed in a modified alphabetical soundex system. Be aware that both sets of records are woefully incomplete.
€ Delayed Birth Records
Delayed and affidavit birth records for people born in Huntingdon prior to 1906 and who needed to have proof of birth to apply for Social Security are in a series of approximately seventeen books and are in the basement record room of the CH. The index to these records is in the office of the Register and Recorder and are indexed as Birth Records in the Register and Recorders office.
€ Huntingdon connections to other counties
Before 1787 look for records in Bedford of which Huntingdon was a part. Prior to 1846 all the territory that now comprises Blair County, with the exception of North Woodbury and Greenfield townships, which came from Bedford, was a part of Huntingdon. After 1846 records for this area would be in Hollidaysburg. In 1800 a portion of Franklin Township went to Centre County and became a part of Ferguson Township and a small portion of Warriors Mark Township in Huntingdon County went to Half Moon Township Centre County. Look for records in Bellefonte.
Compiled by Mary G. “Mimi” Reed
Copyright © 1996-2013, All Rights Reserved
Copyright © 1996-2004 Ken Boonie & contributors
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Josie Baughman & contributors