Tag Archives: Death Records

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 familysearch.org. You will, however, need to register with familysearch and be logged in to view them.


Chester County PA Archives and Records

I added another website to my Free Genealogy Resources page. This is for the Chester County PA Archives and Records site. Chester County is one of those counties who have moved their historic records out of the courthouse and into an off-site government building. This one is located on Westtown Road (see the exact address on their website). It is outside of the downtown area and there is free parking available in the on-site lot.

If you are planning a visit, you can make the most of your time there by first checking the online indexes on their website. If you have never visited the website, you will probably be surprised by how much information they have online. If you are planning a visit, going to the website in advance will allow to check through most of their collections for records of interest. Just record the appropriate call-numbers so you can request them when you get there.

The building on Westtown Road houses more than just the archives, so you will have to go through a security check point when you enter. The archives are in basement level, but everything is very clean and well organized. There are several microreaders available, as many records have been filmed and are self-serve. The staff has always been very helpful the times I have been there.

New website for obit/death Info

I recently received an email from a fellow researcher. He has put up a website with information about deaths, burials, and obituaries of people who lived in the area of Pottstown, Pennsylvania in the late 1800’s and into the 1900’s.

Pottstown is often confused with Pottsville, but they are two separate places. Pottstown is located in western Montgomery county, PA. It lies along the Schuylkill River which is the boundary with northern Chester county. A little to the northwest is southeastern Berks county. If you are researching ancestors in any of  these areas, chances are that his site may contain information you can use. Check it out here.

Resource – Family Search Pilot Site

A great (relatively new) resource for genealogy data is the new LDS site, which can be found at http://pilot.familysearch.org/recordsearch/start.html. It contains records that volunteers have been indexing the last year or so. Two of my favorite databases on that site are the Philadelphia Death Records and the Philadelphia Marriage Index.

The Philadelphia Death Record database is indexed by the decedent as well as other names that may appear on the certificate – usually parents. I have found a few cases where I believe the indexer may have mis-read the name, but generally the index is very good. One thing that is particularly nice about this database is that with one click you can copy the transcribed information to your computer’s clipboard. I like to do this and paste it into the source text field of my genealogy program. There are also images for most of the records. You can view them online and also download them to you computer if you choose.

The database includes records from the years 1803-1915. This, of course, pre-dates the time when the state of Pennsylvania officially required death certificates. Some of the early records are actually cemetery records, physician returns and other types of records. Occaisonally there are records of people who died elsewhere and are having the body moved to Philadelphia for burial.

This database is a great resource. You should definitely check it out if you are researching families that lived in the Philadelphia area during the stated time period. (I’ll have more on the Philadelphia Marriage Index database in another post.)