Updated: Jan 30, 2019
The State of Pennsylvania's Department of Health did not officially begin to issue birth and death certificates until January 1, 1906. Records of births prior to 1906 may have been recorded by the county or city the individual was born or died in.
According to Pennsylvania's Vital Statistics Law of 1953 (P.L. 304, No. 66), birth and death records become public records 105 years after the birth date or 50 years after the death date. Pennsylvania State Archives holds birth records dated from 1906.
Therefore, as of 2017, copies of death records of people who died in Pennsylvania can be obtained for individuals who died between 1906 and 1966.
You must be 18 years of age or older and an immediate family member of the person in order for your request to be processed.
The individual whose death certificate you are ordering must be your child, parent, spouse, sibling, grandchild, grandparent, great-grandparent (specifying "maternal" or "paternal" on the application) - or you must be Power of Attorney for the person named on the certificate.
Note: You may only submit one spelling in the "Name at Death" field on the application, so be sure to use the name and spelling most likely to have been used. If there are other spelling variations, you may note it in the space marked "Other", however, the search will be for the spelling you specified. Other names given will be used to help positively identify any matches found. If the name is a common one, it may not be possible to produce the correct death record. If enough information isn't provided, your request may be unable to be processed.
How to order death records
ONLINE: Visit VitalCheck.com for expedited service. Their current fee is currently $30 and payable by credit/debit card from their site. VitalCheck is the only State approved website for purchasing vital records online. (Prices are subject to change).
In Pennsylvania, visit a Division of Vital Records office in Erie, Harrisburg, New Castle, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or Scranton to place your order. You can download and fill out the form beforehand or acquire one at their office. The fee is currently $20.00, Note: Cash is not accepted.
Uncertified copies of deaths that occurred between 1906 and 1966 can be ordered by downloading the Vital Records Request Form. The current charge for each record is $5.00, as of November, 2017. (For more details, click here).
Certified copies of death certificates can be ordered from the State of Pennsylvania. The current charge for these is $20.00 each. Submit your request by mail following the simple steps below.
Download the Application for a Certified Copy of a Death Record if you know the exact year the individual died, or download the Application for Multi-Year Search of Death Record if you do not know the year but can narrow it down to a 10-year time frame.
Search the Pennsylvania death indices to obtain the state file number to be specified on the application as instructed.
Fill out the form giving as much information as you know. If you do not know the exact town the individual died in, you must at least provide the name of the county in order for your request to be processed. Give the indice number found in the previous step.
Sign the form at the top of the application.
Include a copy of your valid government-issued ID. Expired ID is not accepted. The ID must match/confirm your address. Copies of photo IDs will be shredded upon examination. If you don't have acceptable ID, click here for alternative ordering methods.
Address an envelope to: Division of Vital Records Attn: Death Unit PO Box 1528 New Castle, PA 16103
Enclose a money order or check for $20 (the current fee) payable to "Vital Records".
Write out a self-addressed stamped envelope and fold it so it fits in your envelope.
Enclose the completed, signed application, the copy of your ID, the check or money order, and self-address stamped envelope into the envelope and mail. Allow approx. 20-30 days for processing. Recent deaths may take longer.
*This information is up-to-date as of Nov. 20, 2017, however, Pennsylvania's policies and prices are subject to change. For more details, visit the State's web site.
Click here for information about ordering birth certificates.