Blog Posts

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A Tale of Two Orphans: Children's Lives as Told in County Records


In this month’s blog post from the Chester County Archives, the staff explores the lives of two children by studying public government records. Although the same age and located in the same geographic area, Jane Hoopes and Temperance Howard had vastly different life experiences in Chester County during the nineteenth century. One benefited from her family’s financial success, while the other struggled to leave the County Poorhouse. Read their stories by clicking the image to the left. 

Published July 1, 2019

James Monroe Document in the Chester County Archives


One of the best things about working with government records is their authentic representation of everyday life in American history. The records at the Chester County Archives typically don't highlight big names or important events. Rather, they reflect the unexceptional actions of ordinary life (paying taxes, testifying in court, purchasing property, settling estates, applying for licenses, etc). It's not every day a county archivist discovers something signed by a United States President, so you can imagine the surprise of former archivist Jack McCarthy when he discovered an 1812 record signed by then Secretary of State James Monroe. Read more in this month's blog post. Click the image to the left. 

Published June 1, 2019

A Will of One's Own


The Chester County Archives' collection of Will & Administration files span from 1714 to 1923, but it contains very few wills written by married women prior to 1848. Before Pennsylvania passed the Married Women's Property Act of 1848, a married woman typically could not write a legal will. Read more about this law with some collection highlights in this month's blog.

Published March 26, 2019 

The Story of Henrietta Cummings and Charles Cassidy


In this month's blog post we discuss how the Civil War impacted a young couple from Southeastern PA. Henrietta Cummings of West Chester and Charles Cassidy of Haverford got engaged in January 1863. Less than a year later, Cassidy marched off to war as a Private in Company E of the 25th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops. Unfortunately, no correspondence between the young couple is known to exist, but we can share their story thanks to court records preserved at the Chester County Archives. Click the image to the left. 

Published February 28, 2019 

Spelling Variations in Public Records

Chrisman Example

Genealogists have probably come across various spellings of their family's surname. Common names like Smith, Roberts, and Bernard can be spelled numerous ways, and that can make searching government records difficult. Read this month's blog post about spelling variations in public records. Click the image to the left. 

Published January 29, 2019

Christmas Dinner at the Chester County Poorhouse

PH37 Album 2 -289

Nutritional planning and calorie counting are not new phenomena. With the development of food science in the early twentieth century, the Chester County Poorhouse developed its meals based on people’s varying needs for calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrates. In this month’s blog entry, we look at what was served at the Chester County Home on Christmas Day 1925. Click the image to the left.

Published December 27, 2018

The Chester County War Aid Association


This month marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. Read our November blog post about Chester County soldiers and nurses serving in Europe as well as the contributions of those on the home front. Click the image to the left. 

Published November 29, 2018

The Story of Mary Otley

Otley Ghost

Did you know a Goshen Township woman bewitched innocent children during the 1770s? Well, that’s according to J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope’s 1881 History of Chester County. Read our Halloween-themed post on how the records at the Chester County Archives debunk this local legend.  Click the image to the left. 

Published October 30, 2018

Chester County's First Unofficial Archivist

Joseph Parker petition 1737

Why does Chester County have such well-preserved records dating back to the 17th century? Joseph Parker, the Chester County Clerk of Courts in 1737, deserves some credit. Read about his early advocacy efforts in our inaugural blog post. Click the image to the left. 

Published October 2, 2018