Fascinating facts, court records and estate documents preserved at Records Center
People used to voting for Republicans or Democrats in today’s elections might be surprised to learn that in the late 1800s, Delaware County’s political elections were fought between five major parties including the Prohibition, Liberty and Socialist Labor parties.
Ice cream vendors might be amused to learn that in September 1909 a Delaware County man was arrested and charged with selling ice cream without a license.
And the eighth person to secure a Pennsylvania license to practice medicine in the state studied at the University of Naples in Italy and migrated to practice in Chester City back in 1895.
Those are just a few of the facts that people can uncover on a visit to the Delaware County Archives, where the history of Delaware County is open to the public. The Archives, located on the campus of Fair Acres in Middletown, preserves and houses historical documents from Delaware County dating back to its founding in 1789 and running up to 2010.
The Archives are run by Dr. Robert J. Plowman of Haverford, who for 30 years served as the director of the National Archives Branch in Philadelphia and now oversees the Delaware County Archives. Along with Dr. Plowman, volunteers from around the county help catalog the large amount of files waiting to be added to the Archives.
There are a total of 300,316 names on file in the archives and that number is ever growing. Names are gathered from files ranging from birth, marriage and death records, to liquor license applications and court files. It’s a great resource for Delaware County residents who want to trace their family history.
Files can be obtained one of two ways. People can either visit the Archives, which is open to the public 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursday, in Building 19 at Fair Acres, 340 North Middletown Road, Lima. Or people can go online to the Archives website and search through a vast percentage of the Archives and request, via e-mail, files be mailed. Copy fees are $1 per page, whether you visit the Archives or have them mailed.
Since the Archives opened in 2006, a group of volunteers has work to expand the county’s collection. New additions include admissions and discharges to the “County Home,” liquor license petitions made to the Court of Quarter Sessions, and “recognizances” that were issued by a Justice of the Peace to ensure the person would appear in Court.
The newest catalog in the Archives is the veteran’s grave registration. Grave sites can be found for veterans who were born in the Delaware County. More than 63,000 veterans and their grave sites are now recorded at the Archives.
Volunteers are working to catalog all information and post it on the website (www.co.delaware.pa.us and visit Archives under Departments), but not everything has made it online. If you are searching for information and are unable to find it online, visit the Archives in person.
To maintain the integrity of these valuable documents, there are procedures for viewing items. All documents at the Archives are kept in a climate-controlled room. All materials and copies are gathered by the staff or volunteers on request. People must register when they visit the Archives.
Dr. Plowman also has a display of documents on view in a glass case outside the public County Council meeting room on the first floor of the Government Center. He changes the display on a regular basis.
The current display features the General Certificate of Results from county elections in 1878, 1895 and 1897. Written in elaborate script, the results show that in 1897, a total of 6,137 Delaware County votes were cast for the Republican candidate for state Auditor General, 1,640 for the Democrat, and 627 for the Prohibition candidate.
For information about the Delaware County Archives, call 610-891-5620, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.