About the Project
“Mapping West Philadelphia: Landowners in October 1777” is a web-based, geographic data application open to the public. It was developed by the University of Pennsylvania's University Archives and Records Center from research provided by J.M. Duffin. The website is designed to assist scholarly research and the general public in efforts to analyze, interpret and understand the history of the growth of West Philadelphia and the greater Philadelphia area at the time of the American Revolution. It is a work-in-progress which will be updated on a periodic basis as research for different parts of Philadelphia area is completed.
Mapping West Philadelphia directly supports broad and detailed analysis of the growth of the Philadelphia area in the eighteenth century. The online mapping tools can be used to focus on a specific lot or name and browse all lots by name, location, area, or year of acquisition. Users are able to create queries and layer maps to current street conditions.
Mapping West Philadelphia was created from original research in Philadelphia area land and road opening records as well as historic maps and atlases. The data from these sources was used to create GIS shapefiles positioned or georeferenced to current locations in ArcGIS. In most instances the data came from metes and bounds descriptions in deed records or survey courses and distances from road opening records.
Users have the ability to access, analyze and map data. Currently, Mapping West Philadelphia incorporates nine data elements found in two layers:
- 1777 Parcel Data
- Owner Name: name of landowner in 1777. The form of these names follows that commonly found in the eighteenth deed or probate records. In some cases the spelling has been standardized to the form mostly commonly used at that time.
- Township: name of jurisdiction in which the property was located in 1777. All properties were located in what was then Philadelphia County.
- 1791 Address: where applicable and known, the street address under the numbering system established in 1791.
- Modern Address: where applicable and known, the current address of the property or last known address under the post-1858 address numbering scheme.
- Year Acquired: the year in which the parcel was purchased or inherited by the owner. In the cases of inheritance, this is the year of probate or death of the previous owner.
- Deeded Land Area: the area of the parcel as it was described in the deed records. There can be some variance between the real world area due to errors or imprecise surveys contained in the historical deed records.
- Source: the primary source for the Owner Name, Year Acquired and parcel boundary data. Unless otherwise stated all sources that include alpha-numeric combinations (eg. AM 54.522) are Philadelphia Deed Book references. Pure numeric combinations (ed. 20.467) are Montgomery County Deed Book references. The following list of abbreviations are used for other sources:
- CP Common Pleas Court Sheriff Deed Book. Used for references to Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas sheriff sales.
- DC District Court Sheriff Deed Book. Used for references to Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas sheriff sales.
- OC Orphans' Court. Used for references to Philadelphia County Orphans' Court dockets.
- r. recited. Used when a later deed to the property refers back to the date of acquisition.
- SC Supreme Court Sheriff Deed Book. Used for references to Pennsylvania Supreme Court sheriff sales.
- Will or WB Will book. Used for references to Philadelphia will books.
- Phila. Contrib. Survey: Survey number and link to fire insurance survey of buildings on the property found in the Philadelphia Contribution Digital Archives. These are primarily for surveys prior to ca. 1810 and only for buildings that stood on the same site of the property as configured in 1777.
- Notes: additional information regarding the ownership or sources.
- 1777 Roads Data
- Name: name of road as it was generally referred to in the eighteenth century. In some cases later nineteenth century names were used when there was no distinct name found in the eighteenth century records
- Width (in ft.): width of road as determined from road docket records or nineteenth century property atlases.
- Year Opened: year in which the road was opened or confirmed by the County Court of Quarter Sessions or the Pennsylvania Provincial Council.
A variety of primary sources were used to create the layers.
The 1777 Parcel layer was compiled from the deed books maintained by Philadelphia County Recorder of Deeds now at the City Archives of Philadelphia as well as the deed books of the Montgomery County Recorder of Deeds. This was supplemented with wills and estate records from the Philadelphia Register of Wills and the clerk of Orphans' Court. Additional material was consulted in the Land Office Records at the Pennsylvania State Archives. In some cases original unrecorded deeds and briefs of title were used from the collections from a number of local archives, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Germantown Historical Society and the Historical Society of Montgomery County being chief among them.
The 1777 Rivers and Creeks layer was created primarily from tracing the courses of creek and river edges from georeferenced scans of maps and atlases from the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Since there are no detailed maps of all the streams and water courses in the Philadelphia in 1777, the locations are approximate for that date. The courses and lines are based upon later maps which begin in the 1780s.
The 1777 Roads layer was created primarily from the road petition files and road docket records of Philadelphia County Court of Quarter Session records at the City Archives of Philadelphia. Later maps and atlases of Philadelphia as well as Philadelphia Deed Registry plans at the City Archives and on-line at ParcelExplorer were consulted to help place the roads, or portions of roads, at their modern location. In some cases the placement is approximate.
The 1777 Jurisdiction Boundary layer was created from John E. Daly's Genealogy of Philadelphia County Subdivisions (Philadelphia, 1966).
Information regarding street addresses was compiled from a variety of sources. Most of the modern addresses came from the Philadelphia Deed Registry Records at the City Archives of Philadelphia as well as property atlases, many of which are on the Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network. The 1791 numbering addresses were derived primarily from the 1798 Federal Direct Tax for the City of Philadelphia as well as Edmond Hogans 1795 city directory in addition to references in the later deeds to the properties.
Walter Rice, Jr., of R&R Computer Solutions, provided invaluable design work for the creation of this site.
Leon Levine and The Lower Merion Historical Society were very helpful in providing access to GIS data and historical maps that were invaluable in helping to plot the historical property lines in Lower Merion Township.
The Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire for permission to link to their on-line digital archives.
About the University Archives and Records Center
The University Archives and Records Center is the official repository of all inactive and historical records of the University's administrative offices, academic departments, committees, and student groups. It is responsible to the academic community and to the public for the orderly retention and disposition of all University records, both active and inactive, and for the timeless preservation of historically significant documents and other materials which reflect the University's origins and development and the activities and achievements of its officers, faculty, students, alumni, and benefactors.
The University Archives and Records Center
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Tel 215.898.7024 Fax 215.573.2036
The maps and data displayed on this site have been prepared from historical land records and maps for the Philadelphia area. Users of this site are hereby notified that the public primary information sources should be consulted for verification of the information contained on the maps and in the databases presented on this web site. Neither the University of Pennsylvania, the University Archives and Records Center nor their collaborators assume any legal responsibility for the information displayed on maps or associated data presented on this web site. In no event shall the University, the University's agencies, or the officers, employees, agents, or representatives of any of the foregoing be liable for any direct, indirect, special, punitive, incidental, exemplary or consequential damages arising your accessing or using the site or any information displayed on the site, or otherwise arising from the site or from anything contained in or displayed on the site. The University of Pennsylvania makes no warranty or representation whatsoever, express or implied, with respect to the quality, content, accuracy, completeness, currency, freedom from computer virus, suitability for any particular purpose, or non-infringement of proprietary rights, of any of the information published on this site, or any of the design, text, graphics, images, pages, interfaces, links, software, or other materials, documents, and items contained in or displayed or published on this site.
University Archives and Records Center, University of Pennsylvania.