Free Library of Philadelphia
1.  How can I obtain information from a City Directory or Telephone Directory?

The Free Library of Philadelphia has City Directories and Telephone Directories available in microform. We will search for up to three years per request.  We will search one name per year. 

Send your request to:

U.S. Mail:
Free Library of Philadelphia
Newspapers & Microfilm Center
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103 
 
Email:
erefNEWS@freelibrary.org

Payments:
A $10 fee will be charged  whether or not staff can locate the listing. This fee covers three emailed scans.  If you prefer a paper copy a $5.00 shipping/handling fee will be added.  An invoice and search results will be sent upon completion of the research
 
Service Limitations:
Please be advised that staffing limitations prevent us from undertaking ongoing or in-depth research for patrons. Please refrain from sending additional requests until payment is completed for previous requests.

 

2.  How can I find newspaper articles and obituaries if there is no index?

If you want articles, you may search indexes for other publications for which we do have indexes and then use the dates you find to check the newspapers in which you are interested. Also, it may be helpful for you to know that Temple University's Paley Library (215-204-8257) has a card index for the Philadelphia Bulletin. You may also try to find the date of an occurrence in a book. If no other indexed publication has an article on the subject in which you are interested and you cannot find the date you want in a book, then you will have to select the dates of microfilm you want to search and page through the film. If you are looking for an obituary or death notice, you may check the microfilm for the week following a death or the week preceding a burial. If you do not know the death or burial date, you may try to find the date of death using the Social Security Death Index website or by obtaining a death certificate.

3.  How can I get a copy of the front page of a newspaper?

If we have the newspaper on microfilm, you may make a photocopy from the microfilm. To see a list of the newspapers we have on microfilm, go to question 13 on this list.  We have some other newspapers online.  You may ask a librarian about getting a copy of the front page of one of these newspapers.  If you cannot come into the library, we can send you a pdf file of the front page.  You can take the pdf to a printer to enlarge the image to suit your specifications.  See question 12 about our fee.

4.  Can I get a sharp copy of a photograph from a newspaper using your microfilm?
Images copied from microfilm are not of the best photographic quality. The quality of the copy depends on the shadings of the original newspaper photograph as well as the quality of the microfilm image of the newspaper page. There are always impediments when making a copy of a copy.
5.  What is the best way to get past weather information?
You can search our newspaper microfilm holdings for weather information but the best way is to visit our Government Publications Department. They have the official U.S. Weather Service reports.
6.  Do you have indexes to newspapers?

The Philadelphia Inquirer is indexed from 1860 to 1922 in the Free Library's Early American Newspapers and Pennsylvania's Historical Newspapers databases. The Inquirer is also indexed in its own database from 1981 to the present. Beginning around September 2001, many of the death notices from the paper are included in the index. The Daily News is indexed in its own database from 1981 to the present but death notices are not included. The Free Library's America's Obituaries database covers the Inquirer beginning January 16, 1981 and the Daily News beginning July 21, 1982 but this database is not comprehensive. We also have online indexes to some other newspapers and print indexes (published in annual volumes) to some newspapers including the New York Times. Please note that we do not have indexes, print or online, for other significant newspapers published in Philadelphia during the 20th century.

7.  Do online indexes cover everything that was covered in a past newspaper edition?
Online indexes may not cover everything that was printed in the original newspaper. For example, advertisements may not be included. Other parts that may not be included are death notices, editorials, and material with copyright restrictions.
8.  What is the Philadelphia City Directory?

It's an alphabetical listing of Philadelphia's inhabitants and businesses published in most of the years between 1785 and 1936. We have these on microfilm or microfiche.

9.  Do you have old telephone books?

We have all of the Philadelphia ones on microfilm or microfiche.  You may ask the librarian for a list of the ones we have for the Philadelphia suburbs.

 

10.  How can I look up something if I have only the address?

We have Philadelphia directories arranged by address from 1927 to the present.  You may also want to  check with the Free Library's Maps Department for additional information.

11.  How can I research the history of the house I live in?

See our handout entitled "How to Research the History of a House."

12.  How do I get a birth/death/marriage certificate from the State of Pennsylvania?

You may contact one or more of the following agencies about these certificates:

BIRTH 1860-1915 Philadelphia City Archives (PHA)
  1906-present Pennsylvania Department of Vital Records (DVR)
DEATH 1803-June 1915 Philadelphia City Archives (PHA)
  1906-present Pennsylvania Department of Vital Records (DVR)
MARRIAGE 1860-June 1915 PHA (records only, not official certificates)
  1885-present Orphan's Court (CHO)

PHILADELPHIA CITY ARCHIVES (PHA), 3101 Market Street, Suite 150, Phila. PA, 19104, 215-685-9401, call for hours. The holdings of this archive are described in Descriptive Inventory of the Archives of the City and County of Philadelphia (016.9748 P53d - SSH) and Subject Index to the Photographic Collection of the Philadelphia City Archives (016.9748 P53de - SSH).

DEPARTMENT OF VITAL RECORDS, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA (DVR), 1400 Spring Garden St., Room 1009, Philadelphia, PA, 19130, 215-560-3054 for recorded message.

ORPHAN'S COURT (CHO), City Hall, Broad and Market Sts., Room 415, Phila., PA, 19107, 215-686-2234, call for hours. Use this office for marriages after 1885.

13.  How can I get a copy of an article that was published or may have been published in a newspaper?

Send a written request with as much information as you have about the article, the date it would have been published, and the newspaper in which it would have been published.

U.S. Mail:
Free Library of Philadelphia
Newspapers & Microfilm Center
1901 Vine Street Philadelphia, PA 19103

Email:
erefNEWS@freelibrary.org

Payments:
A $10 fee will be charged for the search even if staff cannot locate the article. If we do find the article, we will send you up to three scans of portions of newspaper pages. If you prefer a paper copy a $5.00 shipping/handling fee will be added. An invoice and search results will be sent upon completion of the research.

Service Limitations:
Please be advised that staffing limitations prevent us from undertaking ongoing or in-depth research for patrons. Please refrain from sending additional requests until payment is completed for previous requests.
 

14.  Do you have copies of old Philadelphia newspapers?

The Newspapers and Microfilm Center does not have the actual newspapers but does have an extensive microfilm collection of over 400 Philadelphia newspapers dating back to 1720.

You may ask one of our staff members about getting a copy of the front page of any of these newspapers.

15.  How can I get a copy of an obituary or a death notice?

Send a written request with the person's name, exact date of death (month, day, year) or burial date. We will check two newspapers for each name submitted.

U.S. Mail:
Free Library of Philadelphia
Newspapers & Microfilm Center
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Email:
erefNEWS@freelibrary.org

Payments:
A $10 fee will be charged for up to three obituary name "lookups" whether or not staff can locate the obituaries. This fee covers three emailed scans. If you prefer a paper copy a $5.00 shipping/handling fee will be added. An invoice and search results will be sent upon completion of the research.

Service Limitations:
Please be advised that staffing limitations prevent us from undertaking ongoing or in-depth research for patrons. Please refrain from sending additional requests until payment is completed for previous requests.