Welcome to the Chester County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project


Courthouse pre 1885


A Little History

Chester County, as one of the original PA counties, is a fascinating place where many of the events that shaped our nation took place. William Penn arrived aboard 'The Welcome' in 1682, from when we may date the beginnings of Chester County. And while many other faiths eventually were part of Chester County, its origins are firmly based in the Quaker faith.

William Penn established the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with a land grant from the King of England, given in lieu of a large amount of money Penn's father had loaned to the King. After Penn Sr's death, William Penn chose land in the New World over money as a way of creating a haven for followers of the Quaker faith, of which Penn was one. Because the Quaker faith forbad violence in any form, the Friends were prevented from paying tax to a ruling body that kept a standing army . . . and because of this they were often persecuted by both government and neighbors alike. Many Quakers had moved from England to Ireland in an attempt to find somewhere safe to live and somewhere they could practice their religion in peace, but they found the same persecution present in Ireland as there had been in England and Wales. So Penn used his large land grant to create a colony where the tenets of the Quaker faith were followed and, at the request of the King, named it for his father - 'Pennsylvania'.

Before the arrival of the Quakers and the inception of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, there had been few Europeans in the area, and those were individuals rather than any concerted effort at settlement. In 1637 a group of settlers had arrived on the Delaware River and established the colony of New Sweden. New Sweden had periodic problems with the Dutch in New Amsterdam, but despite all obstacles, the colony managed to prosper along the banks of the Delaware River, which they used as their highway. They were a hearty people who very much impressed William Penn, and after the arrival of the Quakers in 1683, the Swedes were extremely helpful to the new settlers, most of whom had never experienced the harsh winters they found in the New World. The Swedes also had very good relations with the local Native Americans, and served as interpreters between them and the English speaking Quakers. The Swedish population was gradually assimilated into the Quaker commonwealth, seemingly with little problem, and today these early Swedish settlers account for millions of American descendents.

I don't pretend this to be a history of Chester County - for that books would be required. I only hope it gives you a small idea of a few of the interesting aspects of Chester County history and to encourage you to 'read up' on the geographic area and her peoples.

There are many, many other avenues to explore . . . the immigration of the Scots Irish and their importance in the American Revolutionary War, the large numbers of Welsh that had such an impact on the place naming in the county, the Revolutionary War battles that took place there, so instrumental in the formation of America . . . and so much more.

If you have thoughts or suggestions on something you'd like to see on the site, or information you'd like to share, you may reach me, Jane, janielou13@yahoo.com, I will add the caveat that we are unable to warehouse your personal research, but if you have any questions about what sorts of things we can add to the site, just contact me.

My own research in Chester County has been completely fascinating to me, who knew nothing about my Chester roots until I became interested in tracing my ancestors. It was a whole new world, and one that I hope you, too, will experience. I am always interested in hearing your thoughts and, while I am unable to do personal research for individuals, OR PERSONALLY ANSWER QUERIES, I have included, elsewhere on the site, a lookup list that contains many different resources that we volunteers will be happy to help you with . . . however I do ask that you first carefully read the instructions before placing your queries.

Jane Unger

For those researching the Chester area, the first internet 'stop' you make should be The Chester County Records and Archives site. It has a large amount of accessible records online, and it tells you exactly what is available at the county level...click on Genealogical, in the left hand column of options. Get there by clicking HERE

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This site updated on June 1, 2021