2011-12-15 / Local & State

Bill Opening Vital Statistics Info Goes To Governor

Robbins measure would provide access to birth, death records

Legislation that would make it easier for the public to research birth and death records maintained by the commonwealth, after a suitable waiting period, is headed to the governor for enactment into law, according to Sen. Bob Robbins (R-50), the prime sponsor of the bill.

Senate Bill 361 would open birth records to the public 105 years after the date of birth and death records 50 years after the date of death. Currently, those records are considered by the state to be closed and only immediate family members are eligible to obtain a certified birth and/or death record.

The House unanimously passed the bill last week following the Senate’s unanimous approval of the measure on September 27. The bill now goes to Governor Corbett for his signature and enactment into law.

“One of the commonwealth’s greatest assets is our rich history and – in particular – the lives and legacies of the many Pennsylvanians who have contributed much to our state and our nation,” Senator Robbins said. “Currently, historians, researchers and even average citizens who simply want to track their family trees are cut off from these valuable and essential records.”

Beginning in 1906 all births and deaths in Pennsylvania were recorded by the commonwealth, with the exception of Philadelphia, which compiled the records until 1915. From 1893 through 1905 births and deaths were recorded at the county level. These records have always been open to the public for research.

In addition those individuals who were born prior to 1906 and their birth was not recorded were able to file an application at the county level for a “delayed birth certificate,” a necessity for anyone applying for Social Security. These records have also been open for public research.

“Every state neighboring Pennsylvania currently opens birth and death records to public review after a designated waiting period,” Robbins said. “Under my bill, the commonwealth would open birth records to the public 105 years after the date of birth and death records 50 years after the date of death. I believe that is an acceptable waiting period which would provide confidentiality to individuals.”

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