Pennsylvania Public Records

Pennsylvania has two open records laws; the Sunshine Law and the Right to Know Law. The Sunshine Law refers open meetings. The Right to Know Law refers to public records. Under the law, all records are presumed to be public records unless they are exempted by an exception in the law or other state or federal law or regulation, subject to a judicial order, or covered under privilege. There is a presumption of openness, so the burden is on the government to establish why a record is unavailable. The agencies covered by the Right to Know Law include all commonwealth agencies, local agencies, legislative agencies, and judicial agencies in the state.

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Public & Vital Records for Counties in Pennsylvania

More About Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is the fifth-most populous state in the United States, though it is actually a commonwealth. It is located in the northeastern part of the United States. Pennsylvania is the sixth-most-populated state, with a population that was estimated to be 12,784,227 in 2016. Pennsylvania has a number of large cities, including Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and plays a historically important role in the United States. Pennsylvania has a strong economy; it is the sixth largest in the United States, and, if Pennsylvania were a country, it would have the 18th largest economy in the world. Pennsylvania is known as a center for banking and industry, though it used to be known for manufacturing. Its location means that parts of Pennsylvania have a relatively transient population, so that if you are searching for public records in Pennsylvania you need to be aware that public records are only available for people during the time that they lived in-state.

Public Records in PA

Pennsylvania maintains several different public records databases, many of which are searchable online, such as the Pennsylvania Unified Judicial System’s Public Access to Court Records System, which maintains online court records.

Property Records

As with other states, there are three types of property records in Pennsylvania: land, deed, and property records.

Land Records

Pennsylvania maintains historical land records in a database at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. These land record indices describe grants of land from the state to the original grantee.

Property Tax Records

In Pennsylvania, counties maintain their own property tax records. In some counties, the property tax records are available through the tax assessor’s office, while in others they are available through the general county office.

Deed Records

Each county in Pennsylvania has a recorder of deeds, which is responsible for filing deeds and other articles relating to real property. Encumbrances can include mortgages, liens, and easements. Many, but not all, Pennsylvania counties allow you to search deeds in an online database.

PA Vital Records

The Pennsylvania Department of Health maintains vital statistics, including: birth certificates, death certificates, marriage, and divorce certificates.

Birth Records

In Pennsylvania, the division of vital records maintains birth certificates from 1906 to the present. They can be ordered online, in person, or by the phone. Birth certificates can only be ordered by the person listed on the birth certificate or by certain family members.

Death Records

Death certificates are handled by the division of vital records and can be ordered online, over the phone, or in-person. Death certificates can only ordered by immediate family members, attorneys or other representatives of a decedent’s estate, some extended family members, and people with power of attorney.

Marriage Records

In Pennsylvania, marriage records are not available through division of vital records. To find marriage records, contact the county courthouse in the county where a marriage license was issued.

Divorce Records

Divorce records are not available through division of vital records. To obtain divorce records, contact the county courthouse in the county where a divorce decree was granted.

Learn About Criminal Records in Other States

Learn about Pennsylvania criminal records, PA Property Records, or read about public records in another state from the list below: