Thursday, November 1, 2007

YES for better access to PA archives !

Note: This is a new and updated copy of the announcement that I previously made. For those of you here for the first time, this is a campaign to obtain an online database for PA death records. Something which is currently unavailable in the State.

Special Thanks to Tim Gruber. He contacted me and sent me a rewritten version.
I'am in, folks... I just finished my letter to the Governor this morning. It just needs to be proof read and off it goes to Harrisburg.... Au revoir !


In an effort to bring Pennsylvania into the current century; this grass roots effort may help :

Requesting Genealogists/Researchers/Historians Lobbying Participation

People For Better Access To Pennsylvania Historical Records (PBAPHR)

We are asking for your help in a grassroots lobbying campaign to make older Pennsylvania state death certificates available on-line. As you may already know, all death certificates recorded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania since 1906 have restricted access and require the knowledge of when and where the person died, the expenditure of $9 and a wait of 5 weeks or longer for each and every death certificate, regardless of how long ago the person died. We’re sure many of you have experienced the frustration of either being told they couldn’t find
the death certificate or being sent the wrong death certificate.

Several other states have already made their older death certificates available on-line including
Arizona, Kentucky, Missouri, Utah and West Virginia. But Pennsylvania continues its outdated and costly process of issuing these older death certificates one at a time.

We understand the concerns about privacy, identity theft and terrorism. However, there is no reason to keep all of these records restricted indefinitely.
Therefore, our basic proposal is that the death certificates that would be accessible on-line would have to be at least 50 years old . Currently that would mean only persons who died before 1957 (and if necessary were born before 1907) would be made accessible on-line. As each year passes the next year in line would be added to this on-line to the public.

The Social Security Death Master File (with names, dates, places and numbers), which is updated quarterly, is an identity verification database used to thwart identity theft and fraud. Expanding our proposed database to include all death records (but with the same limited public access as outlined above) could be used in a similar manner by law enforcement and government agencies including the Division of Vital Records.

We are asking you to contact certain Pennsylvania state officials, preferably in writing or in person since it will have the most impact, but at least by phone or email. As we understand it only the Pennsylvania State Legislature can change the law. The governor would have to approve this change and the Pennsylvania Department of Health would have to implement any change. If you live in Pennsylvania please contact your representatives in the state legislature in person, by letter, by phone or at the very least by email. Everyone, including out of state
residents, should write, phone or at the very least email to the governor and even the Division of Vital Records. Naturally the more letters and other forms of contact that are made and the more people involved the better.

Here is an example of what our goal is. This one is for the State of West Virginia: or

( (Archives and History) (Births,
Deaths, and Marriages) (Deaths)

Contact information for Pennsylvania State
Representatives can be found at:

( (Find Members By)

Contact information for Governor Ed Rendell :

Governor Edward G. Rendell's Office
225 Main Capitol Building Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120

Telephone 717) 787-2500
Facsimile: 717-772-8284
E-mail link :

Contact information for Pennsylvania Vital Records Division can be found at:

Talking points:

1. In the long run, having death certificates on the Internet in a publically accessible database would be a cost savings to the state and the state gets away from the antiquated system of manually processing each request one at a time. If the database was expanded to include all death records, the Division of Vital Records would be able to use this database to process requests electronically. Law enforcement and government agencies would be able to use this same database for identity verification to thwart identity theft of deceased persons.

2. The public would be much better served and easier access would allow far greater utilization of these historic records by the many people who would be interested in such a database. As indicated above, government itself would also be able to better utilize these records.

3. There is no practical reason all of these records should be kept confidential indefinitely especially after a fairly long lapse of time. The year of death guideline addresses privacy concerns.

Other states have already made death certificates available on-line. Why not, Pennsylvania?

If you have any questions or would like to see some sample letters please contact the spokesperson for PaHR-Access: Tim Gruber 610-791-9294 or

Thank you for your help and support, and remember the slogan : Just do it .

No comments: