Holdings of the Bishop Memorial Library

(For records available at the Luzerne County Courthouse, some of which we do not have, please see the end of the list)

Family Surname Files
A collection of papers including correspondence, research, newspaper articles and family trees that have been gathered by the Society. They encompass eight full filing cabinets and the index contains over 13,000 surnames. Transcribed copies of wills for the years 1787-1896 are also included.

Manuscript Collection
Contains various items, including personal papers and correspondence, receipts, drawings, event programs, maps, records, booklets, etc. Most of the items in our collection have been donated by individuals, families, or businesses.

Photograph Collection
Indexed by subject, our photo collection consists of nearly 10,000 photographs, slides, stereographs, and postcards showing many aspects of life in Luzerne County over the years.

Our library contains general histories of Luzerne County, as well as local histories specific to the various towns, boroughs and townships in the county. Other topics in our collection cover family histories and biographies, Native Americans, anniversary books published by local churches, general Pennsylvania history, general history of various wars, different local ethnic groups, as well as many how-to books on performing genealogy.

Here are a few examples of books in our collection that are heavily used by researchers:

History of Wilkes-Barre and Luzerne County – Edward Phillips – Mr. Phillips spent over 30 years indexing newspapers and local histories. This work is arranged in eight volumes. There is a surname index as well as a subject index. Each tabbed area is for a particular volume and part. When conducting any type of search each tabbed area must be checked.

Families of the Wyoming Valley (1885-1890) – George Kulp – Each of these three volumes contains their own index of biographical sketches. Volume three contains a complete name index to all three.

Genealogical & Family History of the Wyoming and Lackawanna Valleys (1906)Hayden, Hand – Two volumes containing biographical sketches of local families. Each volume has its own index.

A History of Wilkes-Barre and the Wyoming Valley (1909-1930) – Harvey and Smith – Volumes I-IV contain histories of the area and events. Volume IV contains a general index for these volumes. Volumes V and VI contain biographies. Volume VI contains a subject index as well a name index.

History of Luzerne County (1893) – H. C. Bradsby – Part I the history of the area. There is a subject index on page ( v ) of the contents. A Township and Borough index is located on page ( viii ). Part II contains biographical sketches. There is a name-by-name index for this volume in a separate book.

City Directories 1871 – 2001
Contain information such as the head of household, spouse, occupation, address of occupation, and home address. May also note if a woman was widowed. Most of our directories are for Wilkes-Barre and surrounding towns, but we do have a few years for Pittston and Hazleton as well.

Indexed by place name, a few our collection contains are: 1873 Luzerne County Atlas; 1882, 1894, and 1904 Wilkes-Barre Ward maps; 1933 Sturdevant Atlas (a fire insurance map); Sanborn Atlases of Luzerne County communities for the early to mid 1900s

Wilkes-Barre Record Almanac 1886 – 1962
The Wilkes-Barre Record was one of the local newspapers for the area. The Almanac contained information on Luzerne County for each particular year. The dates mentioned were the year the Almanac was published, however the information contained in them was for the previous year. The following is a sample of the information you will find in a typical year:

Capital Crimes (1896-1958) – Murders that were committed in Luzerne County along with notes concerning the crime.

Fatal Accidents (1897-1932) – Residents who met with accidental death other than those in the mines or on the railroads.

Marriages (1897-1906) – Luzerne County residents who were joined in wedlock and reported the event to the paper.

Mining Affairs (1899-1962) – A brief synopsis of the different aspects of mining in Luzerne County, often including disasters, records of those killed at various collieries in the county, strikes, anthracite mining statistics and a list of mine inspectors and candidates.

Railroad Fatalities (1896-1931) – Persons who met with death on the railroads of Luzerne County.

Death Record (1886-1962) – Any death of a resident of Luzerne County, exclusive of the Hazleton region, 10 years of age and over, that was reported to the paper, can be found.
1886 through 1893, deaths were listed in the local summary section, which was divided into the months of the year.
1894 through 1917, the entries were made for the entire year and alphabetized by the first initial of the individual’s surname.
1918 through 1962, when a listing was provided, it was done so in paragraph form for each month.

Microfilm Collection
Luzerne County census records, select records from the Luzerne County Court House, and newspaper holdings. Read on for more details.

Newspapers – early 1800s to 1949*
We have a large collection of local newspapers that can be searched for obituaries or articles, but the newspapers are not indexed so a date is needed. Our holdings include the Wilkes-Barre Record, Times-Leader, Pittston Gazette, and Luzerne Union, to name a few.

*We can search newspapers later than 1949 at the Osterhout Free Library – please see the Obituary Order Form for details.

Federal Census 1790 – 1930
Luzerne County 1800 through 1930 on microfilm (1790 in book form).

The census documents the people living in a particular household in each township of the county and includes names, ages, occupations, and place of birth. We also have census indexes, 1800 – 1870, which list alphabetically, the names of the individuals found in the original census record, the county, the city or township and the page on which the name is listed.

  • A fire at the Department of Commerce, Washington, D. C., destroyed the 1890 census.
  • The Federal Census is taken every 10 years and cannot be released to the public for 72 years.

** We do not yet have the 1940 census on microfilm, but it is available online for free through the National Archives.

Births 1893 through 1905
The county held birth records until 1905. Birth Registration Returns are arranged by year and may contain some or all of the following: name, sex, color, date of birth, place of birth, the number of children the woman had at the time of birth, of them the number of children surviving, father’s name, father’s age, mothers name, mother’s age, where the parents resided, occupation of the father, birthplaces of the parents and the date the birth was recorded. Records after 1905 are maintained by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics.

Delayed Births 1877 through 1905
Act of July 16, 1941 provided an opportunity to register births that had not been previously registered. They are arranged in somewhat of an alphabetical order.

Deaths 1893 through 1905
The county held death records until 1905. The register of deaths are arranged by year and may contain some or all of the following information: name, color, sex, age, marital status, place of birth, place of death, cause of death, if due to an illness then the length of the illness, place of interment, date of interment, occupation, name of parents and the date the death was recorded.  Records after 1905 are maintained by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics.

  • Birth / Death Records – It was not mandatory to record births or deaths in Luzerne County prior to the state taking over in 1906, therefore a large number of births and deaths were never officially recorded. Utilizing church and cemetery records may be the only documentation you will find prior to 1906.
  • Marriage dockets 1885 through 1950
    Each volume is indexed alphabetically by the man’s surname as well as the woman’s maiden name. Volumes are arranged by year.

    ** Wilkes-Barre Record  –  March 9, 1926 – An article stating the Register of Wills office discovered that 800 of the 3,600 marriage licenses issued in 1925 were never returned. Letters were sent to the applicants directing them to notify the priests, ministers or justices who married them to return the license at once. The marriage is not considered legal until returned to the Register of Wills office.

    Grantor/Grantee  Index to Deeds  1787-1907
    These indexes are arranged alphabetically.  If you knew of the present owner and wanted to know from whom they purchased the property, you would use the Grantee Index. If you knew the name of a property owner and wanted to know to whom the land was passed, you would use the Grantor’s Index. The following is a list of the information included in each entry: grantor/grantee’s name, volume number, page number, date of deed, date of record, and location of property.

    Index to Orphans Court  1787-1866
    This index includes the following: intestate (without a will) and testators’ (with a will) names, the type of proceedings (ex. Petition for sale, order for sale, return of sale, sale continued, account confirmed, guardian appointed, guardian discharged, citation awarded, proof of contract, sheriff’s return, order to mortgage, petition to mortgage, bond approved and division of personal estate), the year, court docket number and page number.

    *Location of Early Records before Luzerne County was formed*

    1752 – 1772 The territory of Luzerne was included in Northampton County. Records can be found in the Court House at Easton, PA;  (610)559-3000

    1772 – 1786 The territory of Luzerne was included in Northumberland County. Records can be found in the Court House at Sunbury, PA;  (


    Records available at the Luzerne County Court House

    -for more details, visit their website at

    Register of Wills Office 570-825-1668

    Births  1893 – 1905
    Deaths  1893 – 1905
    Wills   late 1700s – Present
    Marriages   1885 – Present

    Prothonotary’s Office 570-825-1745

    Naturalization   1830 – 1906

    Recorder of Deeds Office 570-825-1641

    Deeds   1787 – Present
    Mortgages   1787 – Present

    Orphan’s Court 570-825-1668

    *If you are looking for Military Discharge Records, they are now held at the Veteran Affairs Office at 77 Water Street in Wilkes-Barre; (570)706-3960.