National Archives at Philadelphia

NRB Participates in the 28th Annual PA Black History Conference

New National Archives Microfilm Publication Highlights Early Pittsburgh History

The National Archives Mid Atlantic Region is pleased to announce the release of a new microfilm publication entitled "Minutes of the Pittsburgh Division of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, 1818-1823, 1864-1865" (M 2122; 1 roll, 35 mm). These records are part of Records of District Courts of the United States, Record Group (RG) 21 for the Western District of Pennsylvania which are held by the National Archives at Philadelphia, 14700 Townsend Road, Philadelphia, PA 19107-4292 (phone 215-305-2044; e-mail:

The federal court for the Western District of Pennsylvania was established by an act of April 20, 1818 (3 Stat. 462), which divided the state of Pennsylvania into two judicial districts. The Western District consisted of the counties of Fayette, Greene, Washington, Allegheny, Westmoreland, Somerset, Bedford, Huntingdon, Centre, Mifflin, Clearfield, McKean, Potter, Jefferson, Cambria, Indiana, Armstrong, Butler, Beaver, Mercer, Crawford, Venango, Erie, and Warren. The act provided that the rest of the state should constitute the Eastern District.

The two volumes of minutes for the Pittsburgh division of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania cover two distinct periods: Vol. 1: December 7, 1818 - December 1, 1823; and Vol. 2: January 5, 1864 - August 11, 1865. (There are no minute books for the Pittsburgh division for the period 1824-63). The entries are arranged chronologically and record dates of sessions, names of presiding judges, and judgments and orders of the court arising out of litigation of cases in every area of jurisdiction. The minutes also record the admission of attorneys to practice before the court, names of persons summoned to serve as grand and petit jurors, findings and verdicts of juries, sentences imposed, agreements for the settlement of cases, forfeitures by defendants for failures to appear, appointments of clerks, approval of admin-istrative accounts submitted by various officers of the court, and adoption of procedural rules.

These records may be used as an index to dockets and case files for admiralty, criminal, law, and equity cases in the federal district court in the Western District of PA.

The minutes have substantial interest for family history researchers because they contain lists of names of prospective jurors throughout the years covered.

The microfilming project has been undertaken by the National Archives Mid Atlantic Region in cooperation with the U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania Historical Committee, a group of judges, attorneys, librarians, and others interested in preserving the history and memory of the court. A descriptive guide to the minutes compiled by NARA Mid Atlantic staff Gail E. Farr and Jefferson Moak is included in the microfilm.

Copies of NARA Microfilm Publication M2122 may be purchased at $65 per roll (including shipping) for U.S. orders ($68 for foreign orders) through the National Archives' Order Online program at: To order by phone, please call toll-free 800-234-8861