In December 2011 PA SB 361 was signed into law allowing birth records to be available 105 years from date of birth and death records 50 years from date of death. Another provision was to transfer the certificates to the Pennsylvania State Archives once they become open records--all deaths certificates from 1906 to 1961 and birth certificates from 1906. As each year goes by another year's worth of birth and death certificates would become open records. The State Archives signed a contract with Ancestry.com to have the records scanned and made available online.
As of April 18th the initial batch of Pennsylvania state death certificates is now online through Ancestry.com. The records are being phased in and the schedule as currently noted by the Pennsylvania Historical Records Access (PaHR) is:
1906-24 death certificates – April 2014
1925-44 death certificates – June 2014
1945-63 death certificates – November 2014
1906 birth certificates – March 2015
As part of the agreement, 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.
As the dates are into the future for most of the records mentioned above, it is best to check as it is always possible that the dates may change.
More information may be found at: http://users.rcn.com/pahraccess/PaHR-Access.htm
Marriage records are not included by this law and are not housed at the Pennsylvania State Archives. Pennsylvania marriage records are maintained at the County courthouse of the county issuing the license. More information on marriage records may be found at: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/vital_records/8736/pennsylvania_marriage_and_divorce_records
IAJGS worked with PAHR over several years to get the legislation enacted which authorized the opening of these records.
Thank you to Tim Gruber, PaHR for informing IAJGS on the new dates of availability for birth and death records.
Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee