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Historica Research and Records

Formerly DigitalCambria.com

The Historica Research and Records PA Death Index

UPDATE: 27,000+ Names added 11/15/16

Click HERE to search the index


County Codes
Place Names
Hospital Codes

A Brief History of Pennsylvania Death Records

Pennsylvania has three different groups of death records. The first collection of records was maintained by the Register of Wills of each county from 1852 to 1854. Records exist only for 49 of the counties in existence at the time. The information included in the records is fairly extensive and can include the dates and places of birth and death, names of the deceased’s parents, children and spouse, place of burial and other facts pertinent to genealogical and historical researchers.  The indexes and certificates for this time period are available from the Pennsylvania State Archives. Ancestry.com also provides access to images of this collection.

In 1893 the Orphans’ Courts of each county began keeping death registers that included name, date and place of death, age, cause of death, burial location, and, in the case of children, the names of the parents. These registers do not contain a complete list of deaths in each county and the accuracy of each record varies. The deaths in Cambria County, for example, were collected by the local tax collectors and reported to the clerk throughout the year. Historica Research offers indexes to several of these county registers and provides digital images for a fee. The registers were kept through 1905/1906 (some as late as 1907).

The Commonwealth required mandatory reporting of deaths beginning in1906 assigning the Department of Health to maintain the official records. Pennsylvania death certificates are closed until 50 years after the date of death.  The State Archives has provided indexes to the available records.

 

About the Historica Research and Records PA Death Index

Not too long ago, DigitalCambria began a searchable index to the publicly available death records. The project was conceived to provide researchers with easier access to these records. The project takes the entries from the printed indexes offered by Pennsylvania and transforms them into a searchable database.

The State Archives has provided printed indexes to the death certificates from 1906 through 1965. The indexes are presented in hundreds of pdf files. Some of the indexes are presented in alphabetical order according the decedent’s surname while certain years are sorted by soundex code. The two systems are discussed separately.

Alphabetical Indexes
The files from 1906 through 1919 are copies of what appear to be typewritten lists. The indexes for these years contain the name of the deceased, state file number, place of death (either the county or a municipality name), and the date of death. The indexes for 1925 to 1929 are in the same format. Many of the pages are difficult to read. The lists provided for 1920 through 1924 and 1930 to 1951 are arranged by soundex code.

The easier alphabetically sorted lists return in 1952. From ’52 through 1955 the pdfs contain simple computer printouts that contain the deceased’s name, place of death, county code, date, and certificate number (file number). The format is the same from 1956 through 1958 though the printout is a little more modern. The county codes were renumbered in 1957. The modern layout continues through the 1965 indexes. In 1959, hospital codes were added to the indexes when an institution was included on the death certificate.

Soundex Indexes
The indexes from 1920 to 1924 and 1930 to 1951 are sorted by soundex code. The books from 1920 to 1923 and 1935 and 1936 are made more difficult to read as they are strips of microfilm taped to sheets of paper. The images are negative – black background and white type.  The indexes provide the essential info: name, soundex code, file number, and place of death –again, either the county or municipality name.
The first computer printout is for the year 1924. The index contains the given, middle, and surnames of the deceased as well as the soundex code, municipality, county code, date in three columns (month, day, year), and the file number. This is the first year that both the city/town and county are listed in the indexes. The books for 1930 to 1934 and 1937 through 1951 are presented in the same manner.

Historica’s Index

Historica Research and Records is taking the index to the next level. We are converting abbreviated place names to readable boroughs, townships, and cities. County codes are being replaced by the actual county name. The biggest improvement we are making is providing the hospital name in addition to the code number. We are continuing the commitment to a searchable digital index to Pennsylvania death records because it fits with our mission to make research easier and more efficient.  Transforming the original pdf index files into a digital format will take some time. Historica will be adding thousands of names every month. While we expand the digital index, we are providing tools to researchers in order to enable them to extract as much data of the paper indexes as possible.

We have added a list of the county codes and corresponding county names for the original period (1924, 1930-34, 1937-56) and the renumbered codes that began in 1957. Tables of hospital codes and matching names, as well as place abbreviations and full names, have been added to the site as well.

We welcome comments and suggestions and encourage researchers to email us at info@researchandrecords.com.

Search the Index

About the Database

We have retained the same columns as the original pdf files. We have, however, broken them down into separate fields and added additional information.
Our database is broken down as follows:

FIELD

DESCRIPTION

Surname

Last name of the deceased (divided from original file “Name” field into 2 separate columns)

Given Name

Family name of the deceased (divided from original file “Name” field into 2 separate columns)

Age

Age at death (same as original file)

Date of Death

Reported date of death (same as original file)

Place of Death

Municipality of event/residence of deceased (PA files list abbreviations…we are working to convert this field to the full name of the location)

County

County where death was reported (PA files list a 2 digit code number. We have converted the codes to the actual county name.)

State File#

The file number needed to order a copy of certificate from the State of Pennsylvania. (same as original file) AKA certificate number

Hospital#

2 digit code for hospital in which the deceased may have passed away. (same as original file)

Hospital Name

Name of hospital converted from the code number. This data has been gathered from death certificates recorded in 1962 and 1963. We are verifying if the data is the same for previous years. The hospital number was not included in the printed indexes until 1959.

Notes 1

Column after “Age” column in original file that lists a different date or name (same as original file but separated into 2 fields and moved to end of the record)

Notes 2

Column after “Age” column in original file that lists a different date or name (same as original file but separated into 2 fields and moved to end of the record)

PA Index File Name

The name of the Pennsylvania pdf index file from which the information was obtained

Index File Page#

Page number listed at the bottom of the page from which the information was obtained – not necessarily the page number of the pdf file. PA divided the files up by name but the page numbers are continuous for the entire year of the index file. eg. pdf file page number may be 96 but the page number at the bottom of the actual page may read 564.

 

Ordering Death Certificates
Death certificates can be ordered from the Pennsylvania Department of Health or the Pennsylvania State Archives. More information can be found on the Dept of Health website.

WE MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO INSURE THAT THE DATA IN OUR INDEX EXACTLY MATCHES THE DATA IN THE PDF FILES. BEFORE YOU ORDER A CERTIFICATE FROM PENNSYLVANIA YOU MAY WANT TO DOUBLE CHECK THE INFORMATION.