Tag Archives: Philadelphia 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.

Resource – Family Search Pilot Site (Revisited)

For quite a while I’ve been meaning to write a follow-on post to my earlier one on the Family Search Pilot Site. This one is going to focus on using the Philadelphia (PA) Marriage Index. As the name suggests, this collection is images of the Marriage Index Books, not the marriage licenses or applications themselves. There is no search feature, as this collection has not been indexed. The process here is much more like flipping through the book electronically – or possibly going through microfilm a frame at a time. Warning: This process requires downloading the images that correspond to the pages in the index book. I have a high-speed, fiber-optic broadband connection and it can still be a little slow. I really can’t imagine using this collection extensively on dial-up or even the slower variety of DSL connections.

To use this resource, you start by picking a year range, then the letter of the alphabet corresponding with the surname you are researching. Note that you can look-up the surname of either the bride or the groom since both are in the index book you will be viewing. Continue reading

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.)