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Vital Statistics Records at the Pennsylvania State Archives

BIRTH AND DEATH RECORDS:

On January 1, 1906, the newly established Pennsylvania Department of Health officially began to issue birth and death certificates. Prior to 1906, Pennsylvania births and deaths were recorded only sporadically by the counties and some cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Genealogists must rely on county records or nongovernmental sources such as church registers, gravestone inscriptions and newspapers to obtain data for this earlier period. The State Archives holds the following birth and death records:

Birth Certificates, 1906-1909
Death Certificates, 1906-1964

Original birth certificates for 1906-1909 and death certificates for 1906-1964 are available at the State Archives. Digital copies of the 1906-1963 death certificates may be found on www.ancestry.com. Pennsylvania residents can access these records free of charge through Ancestry.com Pennsylvania.


1893-1906 - births and deaths were recorded by the Clerk of Orphans Court at each county courthouse. While the State Archives holds microfilm copies of these records for some counties for use by on-site researchers, mail inquiries should be directed to the courthouse of the county in which the birth or death occurred. Staff of the State Archives does not search microfilmed county records. For a complete list of county (Record Group 47) and municipal (Record Group 48) vital records found on microfilm at the Archives, consult the Archives website.

1852-1854 - grouped by county and record type, then arranged by certificate number, these records of birth, marriage and death were kept by the Register of Wills for each county with returns (Record Group 26) sent to the Department of State. These returns are available for 49 of the 64 counties existing at that time; however, they are not complete for each county. Digital images of the records along with a search capability are available at www.ancestry.com.


MARRIAGE RECORDS:

Since September 30, 1885, marriage licenses have been issued by the Clerk of Orphans Court at each county courthouse. While the State Archives holds microfilm copies of these marriage records for some counties for use by on-site researchers, mail inquiries should be directed to the courthouse of the county in which the marriage took place. Staff of the State Archives does not search microfilmed county records. For a complete list of county marriage records found on microfilm at the Archives, consult the county records microfilm (Record Group 47) listing on the Archives website. The State Archives also holds the following marriage-related records:

Governor's Accounts, 1742-1763 (Record Group 21) - includes lists of marriages for the periods 1742-1752 and 1759-1762.

General Motion and Divorce Docket, 1750-1837 (Record Group 33) - references to divorces for the period 1800-1805.

Marriage Bonds for Philadelphia County, 1784-1786 (Record Group 27)

Divorce Papers, 1786-1815 (Record Group 33)

Record and Indexes of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, 1852-1854 (Record Group 26) - grouped by county and record type, then arranged by certificate number, these records of birth, marriage and death were kept by the Register of Wills for each county with returns sent to the Department of State. Returns are available for 49 of the 64 counties existing at that time; however, they are not complete for each county. Digital images of the records along with a search capability are available at www.ancestry.com.

Record of Marriages, 1885-1891 (Record Group 14) - grouped alphabetically by the surnames of the bride and the groom, then arranged chronologically, these registers contain an incomplete listing of marriages from various Pennsylvania counties. Digital images of the entries for 1885-1889 are available for viewing on the Archives website and at www.ancestry.com.

If you need further assistance, you may contact an archivist at ra-statearchives@pa.gov