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, 1906-1907
Death Certificates, 1906-1962
Original birth certificates for 1906-1907 and death certificates for 1906-1962 are available at the State Archives. These records may be reviewed in person during public research hours, Wednesday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Certificates will not be pulled from 12:00-1:00pm, and call slips for records to be retrieved before noon must be turned in by 11:45am. An index is available on the website of the Division of Vital Records as well as in the Archives research room. Researchers are limited to ten certificates per day, and records will be pulled in the order that they are requested. The researcher must be in the Archives research room to place a records retrieval request; no telephone or e-mail requests in advance of one's visit to the Archives will be accepted. Researchers should plan to allow a minimum of 30-60 minutes for retrieval of these records.
**The State Archives is scanning the original 1906-1907 birth certificates and 1906-1962 death certificates in its custody. During the scanning process, selected certificates will not be available for immediate, on-site access. Researchers visiting the Archives should be aware of this situation and consult with an archivist on duty in the research room if desired certificates are being scanned. Click here for a list of records currently unavailable.
Uncertified copies of birth certificates, 1906-1907, and death certificates, 1906-1962, may be requested from the State Archives by mail using the Vital Records Request Form (PDF) if the full name of the person, the date of birth or death, and the certificate number are known. This information may be obtained from the indexes on the website of the Division of Vital Records. To have Archives staff search for the certificate number, please use the Mail Reference Order Form and circle item #17 on that form as your area of interest.
For certified copies of birth and death certificates, 1906-present, and for birth and death records that have not been transferred to the State Archives (birth certificates, 1908-present; death certificates, 1963-present), contact the Division of Vital Records, P.O. Box 1528, 101 South Mercer Street, New Castle, PA; telephone: (724) 656-3100.
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.
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.