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Genealogy: Birth Records

This guide provides an overview of library resources that can help with genealogy and family history searching. Please reach out to the library if you have questions or would like additional information.

Introduction to Birth Records

Birth and death records, also known as vital records, are a great place to begin your genealogy journey! These records can provide important information such as parents’ names, date of birth, location of birth, and home addresses. These details can help provide a lead to finding more documents to really bring your ancestor’s life to light.  

On January 1, 1906, the newly established Pennsylvania Department of Health began to issue birth and death certificates. Prior to 1906, Pennsylvania birth and death records were only sporadically recorded by the counties and some cities, such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  

The state of Pennsylvania considers birth records private for 105 years after the individual’s birth, meaning only immediate family and descendants may request the information. Records older than 105 years are public records and available to anyone. 

To figure out where to search for birth and death records, you need to consider the person’s date of birth and likely place of birth. If you need additional support, feel free to fill out a Research Request Form

Closer Look at Birth Certificates

Dual Citizenship

Dual Citizenship Applications: Please note that you will need an official copy of birth and death records for dual citizenship applications. Online copies will not be accepted. The library may be able to provide certified/notarized copies of records from this region from approximately 1870-1907. You may also request official copies from the Pennsylvania Department of Health [for records after 1906]. 

Birth records dated 1906 and later

​​​​​​Birth Certificates 1906-1913 may be researched on Ancestry Library Edition, accessible in-library, or through the PHMC Ancestry. If you need certified copies for legal purposes, you will need to order them from the Department of Health

Indexes to public records of births and deaths are available from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). Birth indices are available in January following the 105th year since the birth occurred.  Non-certified copies of public records can be obtained from the Pennsylvania State Archives

Birth records from approximately 1870-1905

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh holds copies of the following birth registers. Researchers can search for records  upon request. Please email or contact us via the Library's chat service. You may also fill out a research request form. 

Birth Registers:

  • City of Pittsburgh (1870-1905)
  • Allegheny City (1885-October, 1907)
  • Allegheny County (1893-1905)
  • McKeesport (1892-1905)
  • Sewickley (1896-1905)
  • Wilkinsburg (1899-1905)

Birth records prior to 1870

Records from religious congregations are the best substitute for a birth record prior to official civil recordkeeping.

You may be able to request religious congregation records to document your earlier ancestors if you know their religion and where they lived.  

To navigate these early records, check out this helpful FamilySearch generated resource page about finding Allegheny County genealogy records. 

Outside of Allegheny County

Most genealogical birth and death records are housed at the Orphans’ Court in their respective county. Here is a list of the Orphans’ Court Clerks to contact for genealogical vital records: