Washington County Pennsylvania
and State of Pennsylvania
WHERE ARE RECORDS FOR WASHINGTON COUNTY PA
What do you need to know ?
Washington County Courthouse (Main Address)
The links on this page should help researchers
know which offices have what records,
COURT HOUSE OFFICES
Please visit each "Office" on this Web Site to see what records the Office maintains.
Prior to the 1990s, all Court House documents were stored in the Court House, in every knook and cranny available. From the attic in the CH dome to the basement, in old steel vaults in various offices, and even inside closets (yes, closets), old original documents filled shelves, on-top-of counter space, below-counter racks, above-counter racks, or were stacked haphazardly in broken and crushed cardboard boxes. The smell of dusty, musty-smelling ledger books filled the air, even during summer when employees pushed open the large office windows in an attempt to keep cool, with small and large rotating fans set in each major office.
As our County has continued to grow, the Commissioners realized the Court House was quickly running out of space! The County began microfilming documents and moving the original records to various holding-storage sites, from offices across the street, to an abandoned coal mine at Brady's Bend, PA!
Researchers prior to 1990s could just walk into the offices, get basic instructions for how to read and use the indices (indexes), and go a-hunting. The ease of records access was only limited by the fact that so many records were not stored inside the office which maintained them; Who would think to look under the attic eaves for your ancestors' records,for example. But, once you knew where something was stored--and found the correct person with keys to unlock those pesky locked closet doors, or to let you go to the attic, hey, you had free reign to "rummage" through any book, box, or drawer you wished.
Ease of access, lack of monitoring, and far too much "rummaging" was making our ancestor's records at major risk. Besides deteriorating paper, records became misplaced or misfiled, or even stolen by unscrupulous "researchers", "historians", and "collectors". I use each of those terms loosely, believing no conscientious researcher, historian, or antiques collector would resort to stealing County Documents and History. But, unfortunately, records over the years have disappeared, including some Index Books.
The new system (I hear) is a bear to figure out. Visiting researchers learn they must request records to be brought back to the Court House for review, taking anywhere from a few hours to a couple days. So, if you plan to visit for on-site research, plan ahead and plan to stay in the area a couple extra days so you can request records and have them brought back to the office.
Good things about today's system include that
You can CALL for basic information and up-to-date fee charges.
However, requests must be made IN WRITING to the appropriate office.
Always give several weeks for a reply.
Expect to pay one fee to find the record, and additional money for copying. The office searches for the item, then sends you a form letter indicating how many pages will be copied, and you then send the extra fee. Only then will your request be mailed back to you. *Note: It can never hurt to over-estimate your "total price" and send an inflated check---and with a note that tells the Official to put any extra money into the "petty cash" for the office. Or, you might add a bit extra and tell them to use it to buy the Office Staff some goodies (cookies, donuts)-- you'll give a smile to overworked employees and who knows but you might be remembered when you send another request. ;-)
this PDF (Acrobat Reader) brochure to get an
Added July 2008; updated July 2013
This is the Washington County PAGenWeb Genealogy Project