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Pennsylvania Public Records

Pennsylvania Public Records

How the Pennsylvania Government Handles Pennsylvania Public Records

Since the freedom of information act, many states have been required to release information that may be of public interest. Background checks, criminal histories, marriage licenses and more are all available, since each one can be used for a publically relevant purpose.

Pennsylvania public records have taken this a step further. The state has passed what is known as the "Right-to-Know" law. This law has changed the way that Pennsylvania public records can be accessed, and the openness of the government in providing that information.

What the Law Involves

In the past, records were chosen on the basis of what is considered publically relevant. For example, it was considered relevant for the public to know about criminal histories, so that information was public in Pennsylvania public records.

The Right-to-Know law changes how that process works. Rather than only release information that has already become a matter of public record, the law states that any and all information is assumed to be public record, and it is the burden of the state to prove it is not if they choose to withhold any piece of information.

This has made it possible to access far more information from Pennsylvania public records, and has also made it much easier to find the information you need on people, businesses, or government agencies.

Pennsylvania Birth Records

There are many different reasons why one might need a birth record and if you were born in Pennsylvania, then you will need to get your birth record from the Division of Vital Records. If you are doing genealogy research on your Pennsylvania ancestors, then you will need to contact the individual County where the birth took place.Counties began registering births and deaths by 1893. Some counties (Chester, Cumberland, Fulton) and the City of Philadelphia began about 1873 or before. Birth and death registration continued until the state took over the responsibility in 1906.If you are looking for a Pennsylvania Birth Record from 1906 to present, then the State’s Vital Records office will be able to assist you.

Pennsylvania Death Records

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is responsible for taking care of all vital records. Vital records include those of the birth and death. They have control over the records that date from 1906 forward. Death records can be important when you’re trying to take care of a loved one’s estate. Insurance companies will insist upon having a death certificate before anything else will be able to be settled. Other matters to be dealt with may also require this information.

The request for a death certificate is however limited to only certain people. Any legal representative of the estate of a person who has passed away may request a death certificate, as well as direct family, the only other acceptable person to request a certificate of death is someone with power of attorney, however it must be kept in mind that, the power of attorney is no longer valid upon the persons passing. The forms required to request a certified copy of the death certificate can be obtained online through the Pennsylvania department of health.

If the death you are trying to get information on occurred prior to the year 1906 you will have to contact the local agency involved, such as a county court house, as records were not previously to that date kept on the state level.

Unlike some other States, Pennsylvania does not consider the death certificates they maintain to be public information, their Right-to-Know-Law, does not allow for people who do not meet the aforementioned requirements to request a certificate of death. They also cannot be searched online. Those these records are not a matter of public interest there are records that are obtainable, such as deeds, mortgages and divorce records. To obtain death records in the state of Pennsylvania you must be involved in the estate through either relation or legal means.

Additional Pennsylvania Resources

The links listed below lead to government agencies that provide free online access to public record information. 

For the MOST COMPREHENSIVE RESOURCE  describing all access methods, restrictions, fees, and search procedures on over 28,000 government and private agencies visit the Public Record Research System (PRRS-Web).  We provide the extensive details and in-depth data you will not find doing a Google search!


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