Monthly Archives: March 2010

Pennsylvania – Throwing Up More Roadblocks to Genealogists!

I really hate to be negative, but Pennsylvania has done it again – and I don’t mean that in a good way! Here’s what has happened now. A while back I wrote about the Family Search Pilot site and two of their databases: the PA, Philadelphia City Death Certificates 1803-1915 and the PA, Philadelphia City Marriage License Index 1885-1951. Well, I haven ‘t had the need to search either in a while – until today. And as it turns out there are been some changes. One good and one not so much.

First, the good news is that the Marriage License Indices have been indexed and are now fully searchable! Previously we could only browse through the images. So this is a great enhancement and a big time saver! Kudos to Family Search and their team of volunteer indexers!!

Now the bad part — the death certificate images have been removed from the other database. Why? Well this is what Family Search has on their website:

“On February 4, 2010, the images associated with the index to the Philadelphia City Death Certificates were removed from Record Search because of a contractual agreement that states that the images are only available to registered users.”

It goes on to say that records post 1906 can be ordered from the state and pre-1906 from the county court house.

You may be wondering why this is such a big deal – after all, the essential data as transcribed by the Family Search indexers is still available. Well, that’s true, but it is always more desirable to see the actual record whenever possible. As wonderful as the indexers are, I have occasionally found that they have misinterpreted names and other of the hand written information. Also, not all the information on the death certificate is always recorded on the transcription form. That’s why it was so nice to be able to immediately check the actual record online.

And as far as ordering records from the state, Pennsylvania has some pretty arcane ideas about ordering death records – regardless of how long ago the person died. Generally, they want you to be a relative and to essentially provide the information you are most likely looking for (i.e. parents names)! And of course, there was the time I went to the Montgomery County PA Archives and Records Building and was told I could not look at the estate papers for a deceased relative due to a judge recently ruling that looking at estate papers violate privacy rules. The thing is that I wanted to look at estate papers from 1813!! So whose privacy was in jeopardy!! Ugh!!

Here’s hoping Family Search won’t have to remove the marriage index images! Well enough ranting.

That’s it for now.


UPDATE: Just an update for anyone running across this posting. The Philadelphia Death Certificate images are once again available online at You will, however, need to register with familysearch and be logged in to view them.