Restoring Northumberland County Records Preserving Centuries of History

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Northumberland County Courthouse


The Northumberland County Courthouse in Sunbury, Pennsylvania is home to a treasure trove of history. Nestled in its basement are some of the oldest records in the county, dating back to the 1700s. These documents, including deeds, mortgages, orphans court records, and marriage licenses, have to be preserved indefinitely for historical and legal purposes. However, the deteriorating conditions in the basement pose a significant threat to these invaluable records, with the potential to destroy centuries of Northumberland County history. In an effort to safeguard these records, a restoration project is currently underway. This article delves into the details of this important endeavor and highlights the significance of preserving these records for future generations.

The Urgent Need for Restoration

The deteriorating basement of the Northumberland County Courthouse has been a cause for concern. Without immediate intervention, a single pipe burst or flood could irreversibly damage thousands of historic records. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the courthouse authorities embarked on a mission to restore and organize the records.

Sorting and Scanning

To begin the restoration process, the first set of documents were transported from the courthouse to Hazelton. There, a team will meticulously scan each page to create digital copies. This digitization is an essential step in ensuring the long-term preservation of the records. Once the scanning is complete, the documents will be returned to the courthouse. This process of transportation, scanning, and return will continue for approximately 15 to 16 weeks.

The Financial Challenge

While the restoration project is crucial, it comes with a hefty price tag. Estimates suggest that it could cost upwards of $700,000 to complete. To fund this endeavor, the courthouse authorities have allocated a portion of their budget for 2015. However, additional funding is needed to ensure the project’s success. At present, the restoration efforts are funded through user fees rather than taxpayer dollars. Visitors who utilize the respective courthouse services contribute to an improvement fund, which supports the restoration project. The initial $100,000 budget allocated for the restoration project does not rely on tax dollars. Nevertheless, discussions have taken place with the county commissioners to secure general fund dollars for this important endeavor.

The Value of Preservation

Preserving the Northumberland County records holds both legal and historical significance. Legally, these documents must be safeguarded to ensure their authenticity and accessibility for future legal matters. However, the historical value of these records cannot be understated. Each document provides a glimpse into the past, allowing current and future generations to explore the history of Northumberland County. The basement holds an extensive collection that encompasses the county’s entire history. Preserving these records is like preserving the collective memory of the community, providing insights into the people, events, and milestones that shaped the county over the centuries.


The restoration and preservation of the Northumberland County records are essential for the county’s history and legal system. Without urgent action, these records, which date back to the 1700s, could be lost forever due to the deteriorating conditions in the courthouse basement. Through a meticulous process of sorting, scanning, and preservation, the courthouse authorities are diligently working to ensure the long-term survival of these documents. With the support of the community and additional funding, this restoration project will secure a lasting legacy for future generations, allowing them to delve into the rich history of Northumberland County.

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