Not many Pennsylvania birth certificates are publicly accessible, but those that are, help genealogists greatly.
Pennsylvania began issuing birth certificates at the state-level in January 1906. A doctor or mid-wife initiate a birth certificate when a child is born. A medical professional is required to certify the gender, birth place, date, and time on the state form. The mother and/or father provide the remaining birth certificate information, such as the child’s name and their names and birth places. A local registrar receives the certificate and files it with the state.
Publicly accessible copies of birth certificates are available in January of the year 105 years after date of issue. In January 2022, anyone from the public can request any PA birth certificate dated prior to December 1916. Ancestry has digitized the original paper birth certificates prior to 1911 in full color. They are available to PA residents for free, or with a subscription to Ancestry for others. Birth certificates issued less than 105 years years ago, are available through the PA Department of Health by application to direct family members.
Stillbirth and Infant Death Certificates
Less typical birth vital records created include stillbirth and fetal death certificates. When an infant died during delivery, a physician typically issued a birth certificate noting “stillbirth.” If the child lived past a few days, there would generally be a birth certificate and death certificate for that child. Infant and young child deaths happened to many couples, and it’s worth searching for these birth and death certificates. For each child, the couple provided their information such as age and birth place. This can help correlate information on the parents.
Delayed Birth Certificates
It’s also possible to create birth certificates months to years after the actual birth. When Social Security began in 1937, many adults registering for the program did not have birth certificates. In this case, the state of PA and each county in PA issued Delayed Birth Certificates. These are a genealogical treasure trove and worth the effort in obtaining.
To learn more about birth certificates and how to use them in family history, be sure to check out my podcast episodes on vital records.