Historic Pittsburgh
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Historic Pittsburgh Web site

The Digital Research Library staff maintains the Historic Pittsburgh Web site and manages all questions and comments about the site. Over the years, we have received numerous inquires and comments about Historic Pittsburgh, ranging from questions about genealogical research to feedback about technical problems in navigating our Web pages. The most frequently asked questions are listed and answered below. Before you Contact Us with your questions, take a few minutes to browse our FAQ to see if your inquires have already been answered.

Historic Pittsburgh Census Schedules

Historic Pittsburgh Full Text Collection

Historic Pittsburgh Maps Collection

Ordering Reprints and Acquiring Permissions

Genealogical Research

House History

Business History

Spelling of Pittsburg(h)

Book or Antique Appraisal

Other Pittsburgh Institutions and Web Resources


Historic Pittsburgh Census Schedules

Will more census schedules be added to the Historic Pittsburgh Web site?

There are no current plans to add more census information to the Historic Pittsburgh Web site. Online access to census data is limited to Pittsburgh 1850-1880 and Allegheny City 1850-1870. The Digital Research Library was the recipient of these specific schedules, which were transcribed into electronic format in the late 1980s as part of a project within the History Department at the University of Pittsburgh. No other years were transcribed for this project.


Where can I find census data from years not included on the Historic Pittsburgh Web site?

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Department holds most existing census schedules on microfilm for the Pittsburgh region. Contact information can be found on the Pennsylvania Department Web page.

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the ultimate resource for the nation's census. Visit the NARA Web site for extensive information about researching census and the types of data contained in each decade of census schedules.


I can't find a name in the Historic Pittsburgh Census Schedules that should be there.

Mistakes and misspellings in the database could have occurred because the original census taker recorded the wrong information, the data was transcribed into electronic format incorrectly, or the original data were so illegible that the transcriber had difficulty making sense of the information.

There is still a chance that the person for whom you are searching is documented in the census database but under an alternative spelling. In this case, please use our wildcard character (%). The % stands in for an unknown letter or group of letters in a name. For instance, if you think that some version of Jenson, Jensan, or Jensen may be in the database, search jens%n in order to include all spellings.


Can you correct a spelling of a name, marital status, or other information in the Historic Pittsburgh Census Schedules?

Mistakes in the database can occur because the original census taker recorded the wrong information, the data was transcribed into electronic format incorrectly, or the original data were so illegible that the transcriber had difficulty making sense of the information. The Digital Research Library, creator of the Historic Pittsburgh Web site, was not directly responsible for transcribing from the original data and does not know the techniques and methods with which it was originally gathered. Therefore, we cannot ensure the accuracy of the data.

We cannot easily verify suggestions for corrected information, and it is counterproductive for us to change data on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, it has been our policy to NOT change or edit census information that we present on the Historic Pittsburgh Web site. Even with occasional mistakes, the online census data is still a valuable resource for academic and genealogical research. Visit our Census Description page for more information.

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Historic Pittsburgh Full-Text Collection

How do I print pages from the Historic Pittsburgh Full-Text Collection?

We recommend that you convert page images into the PDF format for printing. When viewing a page from one of our online books, select "pdf" from the "view page as" menu to convert the page image into the PDF format. When the page is converted to PDF, select the printer icon in the upper left hand corner of the page to commence with printing. Images can only be printed one page at a time.

Note: this feature requires the free Adobe Reader.

If you would like to purchase the entire book instead, please visit our Ordering Reproductions page.

The text on the pages of the online book is too small… too big.

When you are viewing a page of a book online, there are options available to change the size of the text. At the top of your viewable page there is a drop down menu called "scale." Here you can make the page image smaller or larger.

The text of some books is so small that it cannot be remedied by using the "scale" options. In these cases, you will need to convert the pages to PDF format. This can be done by selecting "pdf" from the drop down menu called "view page as." When the page is converted to PDF, you can easily change size by using the + and – icons at the top of the page.

Note: this feature requires the free Adobe Reader.

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Historic Pittsburgh Maps Collection

Where do I find plat maps or atlases that are not included on the Historic Pittsburgh Web site?

Original volumes of real estate plat maps and atlases exist throughout the city. Contact the following institutions to inquire about the volumes in their holdings and their policies for access and use of these maps:

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Ordering Reprints and Acquiring Permissions

How can I purchase a book, map, or photograph that I see on the Historic Pittsburgh Web site?

To purchase a book or map, please visit our Ordering Reproductions page.

To purchase a photograph, please visit our Ordering Image Reproductions page.

How can I acquire a digital file of a Historic Pittsburgh map, image or book that I would like to use for teaching purposes, publication, or commercial use?

To inquire about using a digital file and the copyright implications, please vist our Copyright Information page for maps and books or our Copyright Information page for images.

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Genealogical Research

Please give me all available information on my ancestor from Pittsburgh.

The Digital Research Library staff maintains the Historic Pittsburgh Web site and manages questions and feedback about the site. We do not have the resources to research genealogical inquiries. We are happy to answer questions about technical problems that may arise, and we are happy to help you refine search strategies when using the components of the Historic Pittsburgh Web site. However, the following institutions are very experienced in assisting genealogists, and we ask that you contact these institutions first for help in researching family or local history.

I cannot travel to Pittsburgh to do genealogical research. Are there services that I can employ to find documentation of my Pittsburgh ancestors?

The following institutions are very experienced in assisting genealogists. Contact them for information about their research services and fees.

How do I obtain copies of vital records (birth, death, marriage, naturalization, etc) for ancestors who lived in Pittsburgh, Allegheny City, or within Allegheny County?

County offices hold most legal and public records. Otherwise, archival institutions may maintain older records. The Allegheny County Register of Wills Web site lists locations and contact information for repositories holding vital records.

How do I obtain copies of vital records for ancestors who lived in other Pennsylvania counties?

Please visit Vitalrec.com for information on obtaining vital records from other Pennsylvania counties.

How do I locate records of a Pittsburgh church or synagogue?

Various archives and libraries in Pittsburgh maintain records of some religious institutions. Search the online catalog at the History Center or visit the Archives Service Center's online research guide to see if these institutions hold relevant religious records. (Archives Service Center contact information and location can be found on their home page.)

Also, contact the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh Archives and Record Center for information about Pittsburgh's Catholic parishes.

Records may also still be held by the church, synagogue, etc. In that case, you will want to contact the institution directly.

How do I locate the grave/cemetery where my ancestor is buried?

Some online resources are available or are in the works for gravesite and cemetery research. Many of these have been produced independently for genealogical research. They can be found on the local Rootsweb site.

Obituaries are one resource where you may be able to find information or clues about the final resting place of the deceased. Contact the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Department and inquire about their Death Notice/Obituary Index (1786-1913; 1963-2000). The Carnegie Library will also be able to inform you about relevant publications that can help you with cemetery research.

The Historic Pittsburgh Maps Collection may also provide clues. Exploring the deceased's neighborhood on the maps will indicate a house of worship that may have records of your ancestor or indicate a local cemetery where he or she was laid to rest.

How can I learn more about the mine explosion, factory fire, arsenal disaster or mysterious circumstances of an ancestor's death in Pittsburgh?

To supplement information that may be found in the Historic Pittsburgh Full-Text Collection, you may want to research newspaper accounts of these events. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Department maintains an extensive clipping file of articles from local newspapers. You can research the newspapers yourself. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette is a major newspaper with a long history in Pittsburgh. Also, contact Pittsburgh libraries or archives for microfilm of other historic Pittsburgh area papers.

University of Pittsburgh's Archives Service Center also holds the Coroner Case Files from 1887-1973.

How do I find the street location and ward information of an ancestor who lived in Pittsburgh or Allegheny City?

City directories are invaluable genealogical resources in which you can trace the address and occupations of residents of the Cities of Pittsburgh and Allegheny. The Historic Pittsburgh Full-Text Collection contains all the city directories published between 1837 and 1930 with a few gaps in between.

Local libraries and archives have more additional city directories beyond 1930 that have not been digitized. Reference staff at the Library & Archives at the History Center and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Department can assist with city directory searches.

Historic Ward information is documented on map plates in the Historic Pittsburgh Maps Collection. Ward numbers are usually indicated with a special font throughout the volumes. You can see these ward numbers on the index pages (the first page of the digital volume) as well as individual plates.

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House History

How can I trace the history of a Pittsburgh house or building?

Owners and dates of purchase can be traced through the Allegheny County Registrar of Deeds. Deeds are traced backwards from present owner's name. Information on current owners of many existing houses and buildings can be found at the Allegheny County Real Estate Web site.

Ownership of property in Pittsburgh can also be traced in real estate plat maps, many of which are available in the Historic Pittsburgh Maps Collection.

Also, visit the online house history guide created by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

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Business History

How can I find information on a business that once existed in Pittsburgh?

You can search for the name of the business in the Historic Pittsburgh Full-Text Collection.

You can also see if the records of that business are maintained in a local archive. Search the Library & Archives at the History Center catalog, read about the holdings at the University of Pittsburgh's Archives Service Center, or search our Historic Pittsburgh Finding Aids Collection for inventories and information about relevant archival collections.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Room maintains an extensive clippings file of articles from local newspapers. Or you can research the newspapers yourself. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette is a major newspaper with a long history in Pittsburgh. Also, contact Pittsburgh libraries or archives for microfilm of other historic Pittsburgh area papers.

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Spelling of Pittsburg(h)

Why is Pittsburgh spelled with an "h"?

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh provides a well-documented explanation of the Pittsburgh spelling online. Please visit their How to Spell Pittsburgh page to learn more about why we spell Pittsburgh the way we do.

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Book or Antique Appraisal

I have an old book about Pittsburgh or an antique object made in Pittsburgh... how much is it worth?

The Digital Research Library cannot appraise books or antiques. You will need to speak with a reputable antique appraiser, a rare book dealer, or book conservator.

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Other Pittsburgh Institutions and Web Resources

Besides the Historic Pittsburgh Web site, what are some other resources and institutions that can assist me in my research?

There are many cultural heritage institutions or Web sites that specialize in preserving, documenting, or teaching about Pittsburgh's history, industrial past, and genealogy. Many of the following Web sites also provide contact information for research inquiries.

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Contact Us with feedback and questions.
Historic Pittsburgh is hosted by the University of Pittsburgh's Digital Research Library.