For a thorough explanation of the best way to begin your own research, our Local History & Genealogy Department has created a series of videos to familiarize you with where you may find certain records and also how to navigate our more useful online resources.
Looking to start your own genealogical research and don’t know what resources are available to you? You’re in the right place!
Use this guide for finding vital records, exploring online genealogy databases, and as a compass pointing to other avenues of research as you explore your family’s history. Many of the resources outlined here contain records specific to the Western Pennsylvania region, but you will find others, like Ancestry and FamilySearch, that can help you to expand your search.
If you are looking for birth, death, marriage or naturalization records, this guide will help to explain which records are held by the Library, which are accessible through the Library’s online resources, and which records might have to be accessed elsewhere, through a government agency, for example.
Explore the genealogy databases offered through the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
Finally, if you need the assistance of a librarian, fill out one of Research Request Forms to have a library staff member assist you with a research question. Please note that all requests are answered in the order in which they have been received and may take 4-8 weeks to be completed.
In addition to our online resources, CLP-Main houses a wealth of physical materials in the Local History Department. Visitors may access the Third Floor by using the Public Elevator. The Local History Department’s collections include the following:
Business & Biographical Index: This card file lists references to Pittsburgh businesses and individuals mentioned in city and county histories published in the early 20th century.
Clippings Files: This collection of newspaper clippings from Pennsylvania newspapers dates from the early 1900s to the present. The files are organized by topic. Major subjects include Pittsburgh neighborhoods, biographies of prominent Pittsburghers, and trends such as development, crime, and the economy.
Genealogy Reference Collection: The Local History Department collects genealogy how-to books, books about researching specific ethnic and religious groups, and transcriptions of primary source materials from Pennsylvania and surrounding states. Examples include cemetery records, naturalization indexes, and birth and death records. Please search the library’s catalog to find these materials.
Local History Reference Collection: This collection covers general Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania historical topics. The materials include county histories, biographies, government publications, neighborhood and church histories, and more. Circulating copies of some popular titles are available. Please search the Library’s catalog to find these materials.
Microfilm Collection: This collection includes census records, city directories from Pittsburgh and other areas, and surrogate copies of some of the library’s archival collections.
Microfilm Newspaper Collection: The Pennsylvania Department houses microfilm copies of major Pittsburgh newspapers, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sun-Telegraph, and Pittsburgh Press. Numerous smaller Western Pennsylvania newspapers are also in this collection. Find a list of these newspapers here.
Orphanage Database: This is a list of orphanages active in Allegheny County over time. The library does not hold records from orphanages, but this list provides guidance on contacting organizations that may hold historical records.
Pennsylvania Maps: This collection includes maps showing the development of the city of Pittsburgh and other areas in Western Pennsylvania. The collection also includes warrantee atlases documenting early landowners, which are helpful in genealogical research. The maps can be searched in the Library’s catalog.
Portrait Index: This card file lists references to portraits of individuals profiled in various city and county histories published in the early 20th century.
Vital Records: The Pennsylvania Department has microfilm copies of birth and death registers for Pittsburgh, Allegheny City, Allegheny County, Sewickley and McKeesport. The records cover roughly 1870 to 1905, though the dates vary by specific municipality. Some of these records are not available in online databases such as Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org.