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Genealogy: Death 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 Death 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 death records private for 50 years after the individual’s death, meaning only immediate family and descendants may request the information. Records older than 50 years are public records and available to anyone. 

Closer Look at Death 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]. 

Death records dated 1906 and later

Death Certificates 1906-1968 may be researched on Ancestry Library Edition, accessible in-library, or through the PHMC Ancestry. If you need certified copies for legal purposes, you may order those copies from the Department of Health

Indexes to public records of deaths are available from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). Non-certified copies of public records can be obtained from the Pennsylvania State Archives

Death records from approximately 1870-1905

City of Pittsburgh Death Registers from 1870-1905 are available online through FamilySearch.  

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh holds copies of the following death 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. 

Death Registers:

  • City of Pittsburgh (1870-1905) 
  • Allegheny City (1875-May, 1907) 
  • Allegheny County probated deaths only (1874-1903) 
  • Allegheny County Deaths (1893-1905) *These records require a different request form (see below) 
  • McKeesport (1887-1905) 
  • Sewickley (1894-1905)

* Allegheny County Deaths (1893-1905) are maintained by the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society (WPGS). $5/name fee is payable to WPGS for these requests. Please use the following form to submit your request for these records. 

Death records prior to 1870

Records from religious congregations are the best substitute for a death 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 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: