Are Pennsylvania Vital Records Public?
Yes. Following the establishment of the Right to Know law, most Pennsylvania vital records are open to the public after a specific period has elapsed. While interested persons can access selected records without restriction, state-operated agencies reserve the right to exempt some records from accessing non-eligible persons as indicated in the state statutes. Interested parties may access restricted records by obtaining the required legal authority from a Pennsylvania-licensed judge.
What are Vital Records in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania vital records are documents that feature vital information about an individual’s milestones. They are typically generated and maintained by government agencies for persons who are resident within their respective jurisdictions. These records include birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, adoption records, and related documents. Vital records are critical for identification, genealogy, and legal purposes; hence, their distribution is heavily regulated in keeping with Pennsylvania statutes.
The Bureau of Health Statistics and Registries is the official repository of state vital records in Pennsylvania. However, they are also retained by county health departments and the administrative offices of local courts.
How Do I Search for Pennsylvania Vital Records Online?
Pennsylvania provides a variety of online options for accessing publicly available vital records. This includes state-operated case information repositories or their locally-managed alternatives. While these options can be used remotely or accessed on any of the public-access terminals in the state’s courthouses, the public cannot use them to access restricted, sealed, or closed vital records. Requesters who wish to search the available vital records online must provide information to facilitate the search. This information includes:
- The full name of the subject of the record
- The place and date of the event
- The case file number of any court records (if applicable)
- The name of the subject's parents or legal guardians
- The name of the presiding judge
Publicly available vital records are managed and disseminated by some third-party aggregate sites. These sites are generally not limited by geographical record availability and may serve as a convenient jump-off point when researching specific or multiple records. However, third-party sites are not government-sponsored. As such, record availability may differ from official channels. To find a record using the search engines on third-party sites, the requesting party will be required to provide:
- The location of the record in question including the city, county, or state where the case was filed.
- The name of someone involved providing it is not a juvenile.
Requesters must provide relevant information associated with the record to conduct an online search for vital records. Some of these include:
- The registrants' name
- Date of the event
- Place of the event
- City or county where the life event occurred
- First and last name of parents
- Presiding judge (for marriage or divorce records)
How Do I Obtain Pennsylvania Vital Records?
The requirements for obtaining Pennsylvania vital records are determined by the legal authority of the requestor as well as the type of record, and the purpose for which the record is being requested. Typically, persons requesting informational copies of a vital record require no additional documentation or permission to access a public record. However, requestors requiring certified records or requesting access to restricted records are required to present documents proving their eligibility to access the document. This may include a government-issued photo ID, a court order issued by a Pennsylvania-licensed judge, and documents proving the relationship between the subject of the record and the requesting party.
What’s the Difference Between a Certified Record and an Informational Copy?
Informational copies are typically used for unofficial, genealogical, or research purposes and can be provided to interested public members upon request (without documentation). On the other hand, certified copies are notarized and often bear a raised seal, making them valid documents with the legal authority to establish the bearer’s identity. Certified copies are strictly issued to persons to fulfill specific eligibility requirements and sufficiently show tangible interest in the record.
Are Pennsylvania Marriage Records Public Information?
Yes. According to the provisions of state law, records of marriages in Pennsylvania licensed within the state’s jurisdiction are public records. However, certified copies of Pennsylvania marriage records are not available to the public except to the persons named on the record and those authorized by court order.
How Do I Obtain Marriage Records in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania marriage records are managed and disseminated by the Marriage Records Division of the courts in various jurisdictions. Interested persons may request public marriage records in person or via mail to the courthouse clerk in the county where the license was issued. Additionally, interested persons may request PA marriage records by submitting a marriage certificate order form at the appropriate Orphans’ Court Clerk office. Typically, requestors are required to provide the information necessary to facilitate the record search. These details include:
- The full names of both spouses (before any name changes)
- The approximate date of the event
- The marriage license number and the approximate date it was issued
- The location of the marriage
How to Get a Pennsylvania Marriage Certificate.
Pennsylvania marriage certificates can also be obtained from the marriage records division of the courts where the marriage license is issued. However, in addition to providing the information mentioned above, requesters must provide a government-issued ID to prove their eligibility to access the record and cover all copy and certification costs (if applicable). This is because access to certified vital records, including Pennsylvania marriage certificates, are restricted per state statute.
Are Pennsylvania Divorce Records Public Information?
Yes. Pennsylvania divorce records are public information in Pennsylvania unless otherwise ruled by court order. However, certified or exemplified copies are strictly issued to either the divorce parties involved or persons who have the required legal authority to access the record.
How Do I Obtain Divorce Records in Pennsylvania?
Interested or eligible persons can obtain Pennsylvania divorce records from the clerk's office in the county courthouse where the document was issued. Requesters that wish to receive a divorce record must contact the Orphans Court Clerk of the appropriate judicial district and get a divorce record request application. On the form, the requestor must provide information relevant to the record search. This includes the full name of the parties involved and the place of the divorce, the approximate date the divorce was granted, and the court file number of the record (if known).
Identification documents and any applicable fees usually accompany applications to cover copy and certification costs.
How to Get a Certified Divorce Certificate in Pennsylvania
While certified divorce records can be obtained from the office of the County Clerk as specified above, access to these records is limited. Hence, If the requesting party is not on the record, the applicant must also enclose the request form with a court order authorizing access to the interest record.
Are Pennsylvania Birth Records Public Information?
Yes. Pennsylvania birth records are available, and requestors must fulfill the state's eligibility requirements to access a birth document. Persons who are eligible to access these records include:
- Registrants who are 18 years or older
- The parents or legal guardian of the registrant (if named on the record)
- The subjects spouse and descendants
- The registrant’s siblings and other immediate family members
- The court-approved power of attorney
- A legal representative of persons named on the record
- Family members who are capable of providing a death certificate of the registrant.
- Persons authorized by a court to access the record
How Do I Obtain Pennsylvania Birth Records?
Pennsylvania birth records are usually generated and disseminated by the local clerk's office in the county where the event occurred. However, Pennsylvania’s Department of Health maintains a central database of statewide birth information and processes requests for these records. Interested and eligible persons must download and complete the birth certificate search application to order birth certificate replacements from the Department of Health. The requestor must sign the completed form, enclose a legible photocopy of a government issued photo ID and a payment of $20, and deliver the package in person or via mail to:
Division of Vital Records
Birth Certificate Processing Unit
P.O. Box 1528
New Castle, PA 16103
Are Pennsylvania Birth Certificates Public?
No. birth certificates are not public records in Pennsylvania. Per Pennsylvania statutes, disclosure of certified birth records or birth certificates is restricted to persons who can prove a direct, tangible interest in the document.
Are Pennsylvania Death Records Open to the Public?
Yes. As per public record laws, certified Pennsylvania death records are not available to public requesters. However, researchers may access informational copies of death records for genealogical research. The persons eligible to access certified death records in Pennsylvania include:
- The parents/legal guardian or the deceased
- The former or current spouse of the deceased
- An immediate family member (with proof of relationship and a direct, tangible interest)
- Legal representatives of any of the mentioned eligible persons
- Persons who can demonstrate a financial interest
- Persons legally authorized by a Pennsylvania court or a government office.
How Do I Obtain Death Records in Pennsylvania?
Eligible parties that wish to perform a death record search by name must query the state Vital Records Division of the state Department of Health. Requestors must download and complete a death certificate search application that details the deceased’s personal information and the place and date of the death. The applicant must sign the completed form, attach documents and fees, and submit the package in person or via mail to:
Division of Vital Records
Death Certificate Processing Unit
P.O. Box 1528
New Castle, PA 16103
How Do I Obtain Sealed Vital Records in Pennsylvania?
While sealed vital records in Pennsylvania are restricted from public access, these restrictions may be waived where the requester has the required legal authority to access the document. To access a sealed record, interested persons who can sufficiently demonstrate a direct and tangible interest in the record may petition a Pennsylvania-licensed judge for a court order or subpoena authorizing record access. Haven received the summons; the requestor may proceed to query the office of the record custodian for the record of interest. In addition to presenting the court order, requestors must also provide the information required to facilitate the record search and a government-issued photo ID for identity confirmation.
What are Vital Statistics in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania vital statistics are collated and managed by the State Department of Health, and refers to all data pertaining to significant life events of state residents. This includes birth, death, marriage and divorce statistics, as well as all occurrences relating to these events. Vital statistics play a significant role in public health and community development as they are often considered during policy implementation.