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​​Vital Records

Birth and Death Records

On January 1, 1906, birth and death records began to be recorded at the state level in Pennsylvania. These records are maintained at the Division of Vital Records , P.O. Box 1528, New Castle, Pennsylvania, 16103-1528, and telephone (724) 656-3100. This site will give you information and forms necessary to obtain the records.

By statute, birth and death records were to be recorded and maintained at the various county courthouses from 1893 to 1906. Birth and death registers were to be kept by the Register of Wills in the various county courthouses from 1852 to 1855. Before January 1, 1906, only scattered records exist in the various county courthouses.

Original birth certificates for 1906-1915 and death certificates for 1906-1970 are available at the State Archives. Digital copies of the 1906-1911 birth certificates and the 1906-1968 death certificates may be found on Pennsylvania residents may access these records free of charge through Find out more from the Pennsylvania Historical Museum & Commission.

Marriage Records

Since September 30, 1885, marriage licenses have been required in Pennsylvania and are maintained by the Marriage License Clerk in the county courthouse of the county issuing the license.  Before September 30, 1885 the issuing of licenses was not obligatory, but was intended for those cases where the banns were not published or the marriage in church was dispensed with. For these earlier marriages, church records and newspapers may provide information.

Divorce Records

Since 1804, divorce records have been kept in the Prothonotary's Office in the county where the divorce was granted. In addition, local newspapers frequently published notices of divorce actions.

From 1682 to 1773, divorce could be granted by the Legislature or the Governor subject to royal veto by Royal Council. In 1773, British Parliament forbade royal governors in America to grant divorces and the Legislature was the governing body to which pleas for divorce were submitted. From 1785 through 1804, either the Supreme Court or the Legislature could act on divorce matters. From 1804 through 1874, the Legislature, the Supreme Court, Circuit Courts and Courts of Common Pleas handled divorces. In 1874, Courts of Common Pleas alone began to govern divorce action. Since 1804, these records have been kept in the Prothonotary's Office in the county where the divorce was granted.

Divorces were rare in colonial Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War and early statehood. Some Pennsylvania divorces granted by the Legislative Assembly and the Supreme Court are in the Statutes At Large of Pennsylvania; Publications of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, Vol. 1, No. 4, December 1898; and Record Group 33 at the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This Record Group contains Supreme Court Divorce Papers, Eastern District, 1786-1815, arranged alphabetically; Supreme Court General Motions, 1750-1837, and Divorce Docket, 1800-1805, arranged by date.

​County Courthouses in ​​Pennsylvania

Courthouses are important places to look for birth, marriage and death records. These are usually found in the Register of Wills office in each county. Records in the Recorder of Deeds offices can also be useful. Naturalization records are usually held by the Prothono​tary's Office in each county.

Visit the Pennsylvania Courts of Common Pleas website for a map of all county courthouses in Pennsylvania, as well as information on county prothonotaries and registers of wills. Access a list​ing of recorders of deeds i​n Pennsylvania.