For the first time ever, Pennsylvania Death Records are not only open to the public (which happened two years ago) but are digitized, indexed, and accessible online! It has been a long haul down a windy road of legislation led by Tim Gruber and others. Below is Tim’s announcement about how to access the 1906-1924 record set with the schedule for the online release of others. We all owe a debt of gratitude for the perseverance of the movement to gain public access to these vital records.
The first record I looked at was for my grandfather’s one-day-old son who died in 1921. I was about in tears thinking that I now know the name of the child I had only heard family stories about. His memory now won’t be lost in the mists of time. This is why we do genealogy… so that all family members can be remembered.
The following is from Tim Gruber, Pahr-Access spokesperson:
The initial batch of Pennsylvania state death certificates as of April 18th is now online through Ancestry.com. Remember only birth and death certificates that are open records will be online (50 years for death certificates and 105 years for birth certificates). The overall schedule is:
1906-24 death certificates – April 2014
1925-44 death certificates – June 2014
1945-63 death certificates – November 2014
1906 birth certificates – March 2015
Pennsylvania residents (and only Pennsylvania residents) have free access to this particular database as they do with other Pennsylvania State Archives records already scanned and made available online by Ancestry. Free access for Pennsylvania residents is accomplished by registering online at no cost through this link (please be sure to read the instructions carefully): http://www.portal.state.pa.us/. Pennsylvania residents that already have a subscription to Ancestry do not need to do anything as long as they continue to have a subscription to Ancestry.
Out of state residents do need a subscription to Ancestry to access these records. However, many libraries and research centers everywhere provide free access to Ancestry. After three years the records will be moved to the Pennsylvania State Archives website and be free to all.
Thank you for your help in getting the PA state law changed that made this possible. Without your help we would still be stuck with the old extremely restricted access to Pennsylvania state birth and death certificates and wishing it were different. For more information please visit www.pahr-access.org. Good luck in your searches and keep in mind mistakes in indexing (most especially on Ancestry) and the original certificates are to be expected.