Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was one of the main ports of entry into our nation. Many families in the United States have some ancestors who are connected to Pennsylvania, even if they moved out soon after immigrating. This is why the availability of vital records in eastern states like Pennsylvania is important to the genealogy of the nation.
The process of obtaining Pennsylvania state vital records is changing. Vital records are the records of birth and death that are recorded at the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Chances are that you have your own birth certificate, and perhaps a death certificate of a recently deaceased close relative. These records list date and location of the recorded event, parents names, and several other useful facts of genealogical interest. Imagine if you could have these certificates for all your Pennsylvania ancestors. You may unlock relationships, find out where an ancestor was buried, the causes of death (for family health history), or simply fill in those missing dates on your pedigree. Soon you will be able to do all this more easily.
State vital records (births and deaths) for Pennsylvania begin in 1906. Until recently, the only way to search these records was to ask the staff of the Pennsylvania Department of Health to search the records for you. In early 2012, the state legislature passed a law directing that all deaths filed 50 years ago, and births filed 105 years ago, are now open to the public. For those public years, the health department quickly posted images of the typed indexes online. The first benefit was that you could now search the index yourself. That was an immediate genealogical benefit. For example, you could look for spelling variants, or look for everyone with the last name you are interested in.
Starting this year (2014), Ancestry.com will put digital images and a searchable index of these records online. The first batch of records is anticipated to come next month (April). These records may include deaths from 1906 through 1924. Details of when specific batches of these records will be released online is subject to change, but they will be coming online soon.
When these records come online they will start to appear in the "Hints" of Ancestry.com member trees, and will also be searchable with various data entry fields like current collections on the Ancestry.com website. This will allow you to find vital records in seconds that you may not have even known existed before. If any of your relatives died in Pennsylvania between 1906 and 1963, this collection is for you. It also will include births from 1906 through 1908, although those may not be uploaded for almost another year. The deaths records will be release in batches first.
If you do not have an Ancestry.com account, please do not despair. There will be several free options to access the Pennsylvania records. You may use the database at the archives, at a Family History Center, or select libraries. You may also have free access from home if you are a Pennsylvania resident. You can already access other Pennsylvania collections for free. Get started today to set up your free account at http://phmc.info/ancestrypa.
If you can't wait, check out the typed indices today at the public records page of the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.