Harvesting Pennsylvania Death Records on Ancestry.com

by , under Ancestry.com, Death Records, Vital Records

I have a large number of ancestors who passed away in Pennsylvania. For years, it was necessary to visit one of five Pennsylvania repositories around the state to obtain a death certificate for a deceased ancestor. This effectively stopped me from obtaining these valuable records.

A few months ago, the Pennsylvania State Archives announced that it had entered a partnership with Ancestry.com to digitize family history records in the State Archives and to make them available online. The provision was made that Pennsylvania residents would have free access to Ancestry.com Pennsylvania for searching the databases of death records. The arrangement even provides a separate website for access by Pennsylvanians at http://phmc.info/ancestrypa

Here is more information as it appears on the website of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/genealogy/3183/vital_statistics/387291):


On January 1, 1906, the newly established Pennsylvania Department of Health officially began to issue birth and death certificates. Prior to 1906, Pennsylvania births and deaths were recorded only sporadically by the counties and some cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Genealogists must rely on county records or nongovernmental sources such as church registers, gravestone inscriptions and newspapers to obtain data for this earlier period. The State Archives holds the following birth and death records:

Birth Certificates, 1906-1908

Death Certificates, 1906-1963

Original birth certificates for 1906-1908 and death certificates for 1906-1963 are available at the State Archives. An index is available on the website of the Division of Vital Records as well as in the Archives research room. Pennsylvania Death Certificates from 1906-1963 are now available for research online at Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania residents may access these records through Ancestry.com Pennsylvania (go to http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/research_topics/3162/ancestry_com_pennsylvania/1575348 and follow the instructions).

In the recent past, I have dabbled in looking up individual death records using the fruits of this partnership with my Ancestry.com subscription. If I didn’t have a subscription, I could use Ancestry Library Edition at Western Reserve Historical Society or a public library.

Now, I have decided to make a concerted effort to “harvest” all the available death certificates for ancestors with the surnames Dingman and Betts/Bates for the counties of Crawford, Erie, Mercer, and Venango. It is remarkably easy to do.

Here is the Ancestry search window (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=5164):


Death Certificate Search Window for Pennsylvania death certificates on Ancestry_edited-1

To perform a search for deceased Dingmans, I simply insert the surname and the county of interest. Here is part of the extensive list of Dingmans who died between 1906 and 1963. Most of these are related to me in one way or another:

Death Certificate Search Results for Pennsylvania on Ancestry

When you click on a particular record, you can look at the scanned death certificate image and print it out or save it. If you have a subscription to Ancestry.com, and you have created a tree for your family, you can save a certificate to the subject person on that family tree.

I have created one-name trees for the Dingman and Betts/Bates surnames for people in the counties mentioned above. I have found it to be easy to save the certificates into the appropriate one-name tree, creating a “new person” if the subject is not already in the tree. If the person is new, you often can learn who the father and mother were from the certificate and add them to the tree as well.

I have been able to populate these two one-name trees with many new people quickly and easily. Then I can review their information to confirm relationships and check for duplication.



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