Pennsylvania Vital Records
Pennsylvania Vital Records
The Office of Vital Records is responsible for maintaining all state-level vital records created, administered and maintained by the state of Pennsylvania regarding a person’s most important life events. These records include such documents as birth certificates, marriage licenses and death certificates and are compiled and stored in a permanent central registry that state entities use to develop statistical analysis of its population.
A birth certificate is a vital record that documents the birth of a child. The term "birth certificate" can refer to either the original document certifying the birth or to a certified copy or representation of the original document. The state of Pennsylvania enacted a statewide registration only in 1906 and was generally complied with by the year of 1915. Before that time, birth records were not required to be recorded or register, but some registration catalogs still occurred in county and clerks offices from1851 to 1855. Currently, birth records from 1906 through 1910 are available at the Pennsylvania State Archives. Pennsylvania legislation allows to get copies to statewide birth records of people who are 105 years and older to the public, a copy of earlier records can be obtained by relatives, otherwise the public can only view and access the records.
A death record is most likely a copy of the information contained in a person’s death certificate. The state of Pennsylvania organized and signed into law the statewide registration of death records in 1906. Prior to that that, all death records were recorded in town, city and county offices by the relatives but was not a state requirement. From 1851 to 1855, the state required registration of the event in the county where it occurred. After enactment of the statewide registration law in 1906,all death records are recorded in the county office in an obligatory way. Currently, death records dating from 1906 through 1965 are available at the Pennsylvania State Archives. Pennsylvania legislation allows to get a copies to statewide death records of people who are 50 years and older, otherwise copies of the records can be obtained only by relatives.
A marriage/divorce record is issued by a government official only after civil registration of the marriage/divorce occurs. Pennsylvania counties recorded few civil marriage records before 1885. As a general rule, to obtain a copy of the marriage record the person needs to apply to the Marriage License Clerk at the County Courthouse in the county where the license was issued. However, many marriages before 1885 will be found in church records. Individual counties or cities such as Philadelphia have recorded marriages. Some cities began keeping records in the early 1800s. Some counties kept birth and death records from 1852 to 1854 and usually kept marriage records for the same time period. Most counties began cataloguing marriage records in October 1885.
Why Vital Records are Available to the Public
In 1957, a law was established by the Pennsylvania State Legislature and signed into action called the Pennsylvania Right to Know law. This law aims to ensure disclosure of public records to the public: Pennsylvania Right to Know Law.
Every person throughout the state can request access to all public records through the assigned specialized offices within its determined terms.
What Vital Records Access Mean to You
The Pennsylvania Right to Know law is also known as the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, which states that people have the right to access information concerning the conduct of people’s business. It is a series of laws designed to guarantee the public is provided access to public records.