Ancestry hosts millions of digital images of original Pennsylvania records. These genealogy records collections are the ones I use most often on Ancestry.com.
Pennsylvania Marriages, 1852-1968
While not every ancestor marries, most did, and this database of marriages from county courthouses is a helpful place to start. Unfortunately not every marriage has the original document attached to the index. You’ll want to contact the county courthouse for a copy of the marriage license. You’ll find out not only the minister or official who married the couple, but also the parents’ names, residence, birth places, and of course place and date of marriage.
Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1967
What unique about this collection at Ancestry is the death certificates are full-color digital images, not the usual digitized microfilm. You’ll be able to see every ink color, stray mark, and even notes in the margins and on the back. (Don’t forget to go to the next image!) Pennsylvania’s Death Certificates are public record up until 1970 as of January 1, 2021, so if you need an ancestor’s record between what Ancestry has indexed on the site and December 31, 1970, but sure to contact the PA State Archive for a copy of the original.
Pennsylvania Birth Certificates, 1906-1911
Like the death certificates, Pennsylvania’s early birth certificates are also publicly available in full-color digital images. To protect living people’s identities, publicly available records are available until 1915. Be sure to look for all the children of a couple because those birth certificates for children who died young might have the information you’ve been seeking. Infant mortality prior to 1920 was about 225 deaths per 1,000 births, compared to 7 deaths per 1,000 births in 2020. Pennsylvania’s Birth Certificates are public record up until 1915 as of January 1, 2021, so if you need an ancestor’s record between what Ancestry has on the site and December 31, 1915, but sure to contact the PA State Archive for a copy of the original.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church and Town Records, 1669-2013
This collection of church records comes from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania‘s microfilms of book which were collected by the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania many decades ago. It is a very small sample of the available church records created over Pennsylvania’s history. For a more thorough search, contact the county historical or genealogical society your ancestor lived in for their collected church records.
Ancestry is a great starting place for Pennsylvania records. To search each of these collections individually, do what the pro’s do and start with the Catalog view.
Go to Search –> Card Catalog then type in “Pennsylvania” along with the type of record you want to get a short list of Pennsylvania specific records.
Searching inside just one record collection at a time gives you much better results than searching all of Ancestry at once.
If you know your ancestor died, birthed, or married in PA, these are the collections for you. Check them out first when doing genealogy research in Pennsylvania.
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