secthead Resources

Research Guides

Research Guide to Death, Probate, and Cemetery Records

Pennsylvania did not have a systematic registry of deaths before 1906. Records of deaths from 1906 to the present are maintained by the Pennsylvania Department of Health's Division of Vital Records. For deaths before 1906, it is necessary to check church or cemetery records or compiled death records. Knowing the township where your ancestors lived or their religious denomination will help to narrow your search. The library holds copies of church and cemetery records from many congregations across the county, but not all. To locate the specific church or cemetery records, use Churches and Cemeteries of Lancaster County (LC 310.35 R579), or search by church name in our library catalog.

Lancaster County kept a register of deaths (1852-1854 and 1894-1909), as well as death affidavit records (1865-1906, index from 1865-1950), all of which we hold in microfilm copies.

Information concerning an individual's death can also be found in probate records: wills, intestate records, estate inventories, administrator's accounts, and Orphan's Court records. The library holds microfilm of Lancaster County Will Books from 1729-1908 and an index of wills from 1729-1947. We also have an index of intestate records from 1729-1850, but the Bond Books to which this index refers are held at the Lancaster County Office of Records and Archives Services. Search the county records holdings in our Archives for estate inventories and administrators accounts. Our collections also include microfilm copies of Orphan's Court Miscellaneous Books from 1742-1867 and an index from 1742-1891.

We maintain a number of databases and CDROMs of Lancaster City and County cemetery records and death notices from county newspapers.

Researchers might also consult the reading room resources listed below.

18th Century

  • Bach, trans., Death Registers of the Ephrata Cloister (905.748 JHSCV, v. 21)
  • Burial Book of the Moravian Church, Lancaster, 1744-1821 (284.6 L244)
  • Family Bibles at the Landis Valley Museum (microfilm drawer no. 1)
  • Fulton and Mylin, An Index to the Will Books and Intestate Records of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 1729-1850: With an Historical Sketch and Classified Bibliography (LC 352.4 F974)
  • Gerberich Tombstone Collection (microfilm drawer no. 1)
  • Lancaster County Church Records (Miscellaneous) from 1729 (microfilm drawer nos. 2 and 3)
  • Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Will Abstracts (929.3 A164 LANC)
  • Lancaster County Tombstone Inscriptions (microfilm drawer no. 1)
  • Smith and Weiser, trans. and eds., Trinity Lutheran Church Records, Lancaster, Pennsylvania (LC 284.1 T832ds)
  • Spiese, trans., Index to Death Records Taken from Pre-1850 German Language Newspapers (LC 310.5 G373d)
  • Wevodau, comp., Abstracts of Lancaster County, Pa., Orphans Court Records (LC 974.815 W544)
  • Worner Cemetery Collection, 30 volumes (LC 310.35 W919)
  • Wright, Church Records of the 18th Century, Lancaster County (LC 310.3 W949)

19th Century

  • Family Cemetery Records (microfilm drawer no. 1)
  • Newspapers from Lancaster City and County (microfilm)
  • Wevodau, comp. Abstracts of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Wills (1821-1830) (929.3 A164w)

20th Century

  • 20th-Century Obituaries Found in Lancaster County Newspapers (Access database; incomplete)
  • Newspapers from Lancaster City and County (microfilm)

Our Blogs

The History Bucket


Because the world is a bucketful of questions.  And someone's gotta answer them

While working with the object collections of we come across many questions.  Visit here to see some of the more unusual stories that we have uncovered.

[Read My Blog]

Historically Speaking


The staff and volunteers of the Archives Department at never know what they'll find when working on the documents and records in the collections.  Fortunately, when they do discover something noteworthy they are very willing to share!

[Read Our Blog]

Marianne's PhotoBlog


Because pictures are worth a thousand words, but sometimes they need an interpreter.

You know that cliché about a picture being worth a thousand words? Ok, well, imagine the stories going on in my head after cataloging several hundred photos every single day!

[Read My Blog]

Wheatland: A Love Story

Who would have guessed that a young lady would fall in love with an old President and his old house?

One Young Lady, One Old House, Two Hundred Years of History

I’m Jennifer Walton, Museum Associate at President James Buchanan's Wheatland, and I love an old President and his old house! Over the past nine years, I’ve learned quite a lot about both, and I would love to share it with you!

[Read My Blog]

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