The BCGS features a knowledgeable all-volunteer staff, who like yourself, is interested in the family history of our hometown residents. Berks County, erected in 1752, features a rich history and diverse culture. It is the ancestral home of Abraham Lincoln and the birthplace of Daniel Boone, the famous Kentucky pioneer. The county seat, Reading, was founded in 1748 by sons of William Penn, Richard and Thomas, along with Conrad Weiser.
Many people express a natural curiosity about their ancestors. They listen to stories told by parents, grandparents, or other older folks. The stories may be about the good old days, serving our country, or arriving as immigrants.
The science of genealogy allows researchers to act as detectives as they piece together bits of information about their ancestors. They may want to find out when their ancestors first arrived in the United States, if any fought in the Revolutionary War or Civil War, or if anyone famous is a member of their tree. The pathway to the past however, is not paved with gold, though some may be discovered along the way. It’s often a rough and rocky journey through twists and turns and sometimes road blocks.
Regardless of the initial purpose for the research, discovering one's family history yields many enlightening and enriching rewards.
A wealth of documentation exists about Berks County families including census records (1790-1930), back issues of the local daily newspaper, church records, cemetery records, naturalization records, minister journals, family indexes, deeds, wills, warrantee maps, and more.
The BCGS Library, open 7 days a week, offers a multitude of organized material to assist researchers in piecing together family histories.
Where To Start
If you’re new to genealogy or overwhelmed by all the information, check out our Helpful Tips page. It includes research strategies, interpretations of the census forms, reviews of the top genealogy software packages, and a list of common genealogical terms and abbreviations. It also explains the value of information found in obituaries and cemeteries.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.
Our membership year runs from July 1st to June 30th. We offer several types of membership plans. Annual dues for membership are:
|Outside USA (in U.S. funds)
Interested in joining? We have several options available for new and existing members. Choose Join Now to start or renew your membership online. If you choose to pay by check or money order, print and fill out the membership application (PDF). The printable form may be submited in person or by mail. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
- Subscription to the quarterly Journal.
- Subscription to the quarterly newsletter Branches of Berks.
- Publication of questions and queries at no charge in the newsletter.
- Family Group Sheet Registry.
- Unlimited use of the BCGS Library.
- 10 meetings per year. (View calendar.)
- Courtesy advertising for member published works.
- Periodic workshops, seminars, and trips.
- Data exchange and networking among members and historians.
- Opportunities to volunteer and help direct the BCGS.
The BCGS Library is located on the 4th floor of the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts building. Plenty of Free Parking is available in a secure lot behind the building, with entrances from North 2nd Street, North 3rd Street, and Walnut Street.
Use of the library is free for members. Non-members must pay $5.00 per day. All copies made cost 25¢ each and digital camera photos cost 20¢ each. We request that only #2 pencils be used for handwritten notes. Bottled water is the only beverage allowed in the library. Feel free to bring your laptop. Our library offers Free secured WiFi access.
Outside the entrance, visitors get a taste of what resources are available. The library is staffed entirely by volunteers. Our librarian, Ann Balderrama, has coodinated the effort to neatly and effectively organize and index the thousands of resouces available. New resources are donated on a regular basis.
A sample of the materials for sale are on display including maps, booklets, CDs, T-Shirts, and BCGS past publications. We accept cash, check, Master Card, Visa, Discover, and American Express. For a more complete list, visit the BCGS Store.
The BCGS maintains an large collection of microfilm and printed source materials. They focus primarily on Berks County but also cover surrounding counties and states.
Rich research resources available in our Library include:
- Church Records (Baptismal, Marriage, and Death Records, Histories)
- Pastoral Records
- Census and Cemetery Records
- Newspapers and Family Histories
- Military Records
- Public and Civil Records
- Indexes and Abstracts of Wills
- North American Vital Records Index
- The Vital Records Index of the British Isles
- Genealogical Reference Books
- Back issues of the Journal of the Berks County Genealogical Society and Branches of Berks
- Family Group Sheets
- Ships and Immigration Records
- Maps and Much, Much More...
Some of our resources are on microfilm including issues of the Reading Eagle, the area daily newspaper, from 1868 - 1972 and Berks County Federal Census Records from 1790 - 1930. We have ample equipment so no time is wasted waiting for access. Feel free to use our 3 well-kept Canon PC Printer 80 Microfilm Readers or our *NEW* e-ImageData Corporation ScanPro 2000 with the PowerScan 2000™ software (pictured below). Two computers are available to view resources located on the hard drive or on CD-ROMs.
If you have any questions about the library collection or services, feel free to contact Ann.
The Berks County Genealogical Society (BCGS), located in southeastern Pennsylvania, is a non-profit corporation established in 1980. Our purpose is to collect, preserve, and disseminate data of interest to professional and amateur genelogists and historians. Our resources focus on Berks and surrounding counties with specific empasis on the 18th and 19th centuries. Membership is available to anyone with an interest in history or genealogy
The BCGS Library, located on the 4th Floor of the handicapped accessible GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, contains an extensive collection of books and documents related to your family community, or church heritage. It is staffed by an all-volunteer society who have knowledgeable hand-on experience. The Library is open year round. Plenty of FREE Parking is available behind the building in a lot secured with camera surveillance, with entrances from North 2nd Street, North 3rd Street, and Walnut Street.
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