Our predecessors at Old First were very good at documenting the work of the congregation. More than that, they faithfully moved the records as the church moved from location to location. The most recent move was in 1996 when Old First donated 42 linear feet of records from 1741 to the early 1970’s to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The Official Board (the congregation’s then governing body) took this action for numerous reasons:
- to conserve the documents/keep them from deteriorating,
- to preserve the documents in a fire-resistant, climate-controlled environment,
- to keep the documents safe from misuse,
- to keep the documents safe from theft,
- to make the documents readily available to anyone interested in reading them—from the public at large to academics and to individuals looking for their ancestors.
If you are interested in seeing for yourself Old First’s records at the Historical Society type in either–
- http://www2.hsp.org/collections/manuscripts/o/ofrc3010.htm or
What comes up is the Finding Aid for Old First’s records. Scroll through it. The Background Note gives a history of Old First. Scope and Content describes the kinds of information in the collection. The Collection Overview helps you determine where/what you the researcher need to search. Detailed Inventory provides the information you need to use to request a specific item/range of items. If you scroll down to Series II Pastoral and Membership and read under Marriages and Marriage record you will see that there is a very large gap in those records. Why those records are missing, I do not know. Oral history attributed the gap to water or fire damage.
The longer way to Old First’s Finding Aid:
Go to https://hsp.org/
- Click on Collections.
- Click on Catalogs and Research Tools
- Click on Finding Aids
- Click on L-R
- Scroll down to Old First Reformed Church Records
- Click on html version or xml version
You are welcome to go to HSP at 13th & Locust to delve into the records. Check the website https://hsp.org// for and also read Plan Your Visit. Admission is free to members and $8 for non-members. Lock your coat, briefcase, lunch, etc. in a free locker. Take only a laptop or Ipad or paper and pencil, and a cell phone or digital camera with you as well as the pages of the Finding Aid which cover the area/s you want to research. Non-flash photography of documents is permitted. Photocopying is available at $.50/page.
Despite the 42 linear foot donation to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Old First still has a lot of material in its vault in the basement of the Christian Ed building. Most of the items have been cataloged and entered into the archives database. Want to know more about our archives? Ask Bob Schneider or me.
Might you be interested in seeing the Old First documents at HSP some Wednesday evening? Let me know. If there are enough of us, we can arrange a private tour and maybe have supper together either before or after.
Nancy Donohue, Old First Archivist