How to Find Pennsylvania Death RecordsEdit This Page

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How to Find United States Deaths Gotoarrow.png Pennsylvania Deaths

Statewide registration for Pennsylvania deaths began in 1906. Prior to the state keeping death records counties kept death records beginning in 1893.

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Death Records
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Learn more about U.S. Death Records

Deaths before 1852

Pennsylvania did not record deaths on a state level until 1906. Prior to 1906 some attempts were made to record deaths but these were usually done on the county level and not until about 1893. To determine a date of death for an individual church and cemetery records are the primary records to search. There are also substitute records which can be searched when there is an absence of death records.

  Records that give death information:
Bible Records
Cemetery Records
Church Records
Newspapers
Probate (wills, etc)
Tax Records
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Deaths 1852-1854

1852-1854 - grouped by county and record type, then arranged by certificate number, these records of death were kept by the Register of Wills for each county with returns 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. Film copies of the birth records can also be found at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

If you cannot locate your ancestor in the databases below try searching for death information in other records.

For deaths that exist during the time period, try the following databases.

Includes Index and Digital Images
Try:
1852-1854, Pennsylvania, Deaths at Ancestry.com $, To obtain a subscription to Ancestry; Ancestry is often available through your local public library for free
1683-1994, Pennsylvania, Probate Records at FamilySearch.org
Free at FamilySearch Centers and Libraries; Find your local FamilySearch Center This is an incomplete database which includes county records as well as church records. Below are the counties included in the collection.
Can't find your ancestor in the index? Tips for searching indexes
No death record for your ancestor? Other records with death information
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Deaths 1855-1892

Prior to 1852 the state of Pennsylvania did not record statewide deaths. Search church, cemetery and probate records in the area where the individual died to determine the death date for an individual. You must search substitute records to locate your ancestor’s death date and place.

  Records that give death information:
Bible Records
Cemetery Records
Church Records
Newspapers
Probate (wills, etc)
Tax Records
Return to top: Choose another death year


Deaths 1893-1905

1893-1905 - 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, inquiries should be directed to the courthouse of the county in which the death occurred. These records are not complete. Microfilm copies of some records can also be found at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

For addresses and phone numbers for Pennsylvania courthouses websites use this link.


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Deaths 1906-1962

1906 began the period of state wide registration for deaths. Currently death certificates 1906-1962 are available at the State Archives. The certificates 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 will be available on the website of the Division of Vital Records as well as in the Archives research room. Researchers will be limited to ten certificates per day for records with known file numbers; otherwise, only one carton of files will be pulled at a time for on-site research. Requests for certificates or cartons will be pulled in the order that they are received. 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 20-40 minutes for retrieval of these records.

    • Beginning Monday, August 27, 2012, the State Archives will be scanning the original 1906-1907 birth certificates and 1906-1962 death certificates in its custody. This process will continue for approximately 18 months. During this period, 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 in the scanning process.

Copies of these birth and death certificates may be requested by mail using the Mail Reference Order Form. If the name of the person and the date of birth or death are known, the fee is $15.00 per name for requests from Pennsylvania residents, $25.00 per name for requests from outside Pennsylvania. The birth or death certificate number also will be useful in research. The research charge is $50.00 per name per hour if only the name is provided.

Uncertified copies of birth and death certificates, 1906-present, also may be obtained from the Division of Vital Records for a fee of $3.00 per record.

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, contact the Division of Vital Records, P.O. Box 1528, 101 South Mercer Street, New Castle, PA; telephone: (724) 656-3100.


PART B: You don't know the exact date of death

If you do not know the exact date or place of death:
For a fee, the West Virginia Department of Health office will do a 3 year search (click on the death certificates tab).

See list of restrictions for ordering death records

If you do not want to order the death record, you can search other records with death information.

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Deaths 1963-Present

West Virginia did not exist at this time and was known as the state of Virginia.Before 1853, no deaths were recorded by the county or state. You must search substitute records to locate your ancestor’s death date and place.

  Records that give death information:
Bible Records
Cemetery Records
Church Records
Land
Newspapers
Probate (wills, etc)
Tax Records
Return to top: Choose another death year


Who May Request a Death Certificate?

Only certain people can request a death certificate. You must be:

  • Legal representative of decedent's estate
  • Immediate family member
  • Extended family member who indicates a direct relationship to the decedent
  • Power of Attorney (Please note that a Power of Attorney document is no longer valid upon the death of the individual)

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