A “Real” Trove – A Pennsylvania Archive of Legal Documents

An excellent study group, this sizable archive of manuscripts and documents is focused on the real estate and tangible property of men and women in Pennsylvania from 1765 to 1932.

The collection spans over 160 years and contains approx. 1,050 items—thousands of pages. The majority of the archive’s contents are from the 19th century and are focused on Philadelphia and its environs. The collection presents specific, raw data useful for the study of land transactions, personal wealth, income, and estate administration.


The documents and papers can be divided into two broad categories for study and investigation. First, land surveys, deeds, and land conveyances (Series I–III) and second, last wills and testaments, estate inventories, and estate administration (Series IV–V). Types of documents found in these series include surveys and plat drawings, deeds, indentures, mortgages, briefs of (land) title, articles of agreement, leases, wills, estate inventories, valuations and accounts, bonds, letters, receipts, legal pleadings, etc.

These series are supplemented by a series which contains larger groups of related manuscripts and documents of various types (Series VI). Individual folders in this series contain papers focused on a particular person, estate, or place. The final series (Series VII) is a miscellany of papers and receipts relating to real estate, construction, and land development.


Series I. Surveys and Plats, 1785–1929
Approx. 60 items. Series includes approx. 55 manuscript land surveys or plat drawings, some hand colored, accompanied by a few manuscripts relating to land surveys.


Series II. Deeds and Conveyances of Properties, 1765–1911
Approx. 150 items. Series includes 30 deeds, 6 land grants, and other manuscripts and documents concerning the sale of real estate including 12 mortgages, bonds, or promissory notes. Additionally, there are numerous findings of unsatisfied judgments and approx. 65 legal briefs of title.


Series III. Articles of Agreement, 1788–1913
22 items. Articles of agreement concern the sale or lease of real estate, building construction or contracting, a loan, etc.


Series IV. Wills and Testaments, 1792–1921
25 items. Manuscript last wills and testaments include some copied later or drafts; notable here is a 19th century copy of a 1692 will. Series includes 5 printed wills.


Series V. Estate Administration and Inventories, 1795–1916
Approx. 140 items. Series includes inventories of households and estates, valuations and accounts of real and tangible property, wills or extracts thereof, deeds, bonds, letters, briefs of title, printed legal pleadings, and estate administration documents from orphan’s courts or courts of common pleas.


Series VI. Grouped Folders, 1814–1926
Approx. 525 Items. Grouped folders contain manuscripts, documents, printed broadsides, etc. focused on a particular person, estate, or place. Significant groupings include documents and papers on land or property development by the South Renovo Land Company and the Drocton Land Company, both of Renovo, Pennsylvania, and Alfred Gratz, Philadelphia Register of Wills.


Series VII. Miscellaneous, 1772–1932
Approx. 130 items. Series contains various legal manuscripts and documents, construction contracts, papers concerning loans, legal issues, bonds, and mortgages, an indenture of apprenticeship to a plane maker, and subscriptions to build a schoolhouse and an apartment building. Miscellaneous receipts found here include those for taxes, gas and water utilities, and building and construction work.



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