Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Check for Pennsylvania Birth & Death Indices

For those of us with Pennsylvania ancestors, it was exciting when Ancestry provided access to two vital record collections: Pennsylvania Birth Records, 1906-1908, and Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1963. I spent many hours searching those databases and finding great information, including learning about previously unknown cousins who had been born and then died young between the 1900 and 1910 censuses. And I continue to access these collections today.

However, since it's unclear when additional years may be added by Ancestry, keep in mind that the PDFs of the indices may be helpful too. These listings provide the birth name, maiden name of mother (father isn't in the index), the birth town or city, and date of birth.

Sample from Pennsylvania Birth Index, 1909

The Pennsylvania birth and death indices are maintained by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, and legislation allows the release of a new year annually. Birth records are made public 105 years after a person was born, and death records are released 50 years after death. So currently they have lists of births from 1906 to 1909 and deaths from 1906 to 1964. I expect a PDF of 1910 births and 1965 deaths will be added in 2016.

I recently browsed the birth index for 1909 and found some great information:

  • Specific dates of birth, which can then lead to additional information such as military records that match the birth date, or perhaps death certificates - I located the 1909 birth listing for a Zewe cousin which, after entering the date into Ancestry, led me to a death certificate match with her spouse's surname and a new branch of my tree containing their Kyle children;
  • Correct places of birth - the death certificate for one of my husband's Cowden cousins says he was born in Hickory, Washington County, Pennsylvania, while the birth index shows he was actually born in neighboring Cross Creek Township;
  • Missing maiden names of mothers - I found the birth date of the husband of a great-aunt (previously only known to be "abt 1909"), as well as the maiden name of his mother; this then led to the certificate for her death due to breast cancer at the age of 35, which provided his father's name;
  • Original given names - my grandmother's 1909 birth listing in the index shows her given name as Marian H. instead of the Helen Marian she used later in life; this doesn't seem to be unusual (at least for my family!) since my grandfather John Baptist was recorded as John Harold at his birth in 1908 and his brother Roy was actually named Jacob Ray in 1906.

Don't forget to check back annually to see when the next index has been added, and request a copy of any certificates that may advance your research. These Pennsylvania indices may provide the clue that leads you to additional information about one or more of your relatives.

UPDATE: The indices of 1910 births and 1965 deaths have been posted.


  1. I continue to appreciate all the wonderful Pennsylvania-specific info you provide! All of your posts are interesting, actually; I'm always glad that I found your blog!

    1. It's so good to hear from you again! I'm glad you're still reading my blog, and it means a lot that you took the time to comment. Thank you!!


Do you have a genealogy problem or need guidance on where to search next? Send me a message if you'd like me to help!