Pennsyvania Death Records and Death Index

It may surprise you to learn how often genealogists face this particular set of circumstances. They are aware of when their ancestor was born, when they may have married, when their children were born but they just can’t find out when they died.

There are a fair few instances where the only information missing is the death date which can be very frustrating. This is why knowing what death records may be available to you can be vital in your research.

It is important to note that one of the biggest issues in finding a death record can be looking in the wrong place. You may be surprised how often people miss records because they are looking in the wrong county and sometimes even the wrong state.

In this post we will be looking at Pennsylvania state death records and indexes to try and help you find those elusive ancestors. So if you are confident that your ancestor likely died in the state of Pennsylvania then read on and hopefully we can help you out.

About Pennsylvania

Founded by William Penn in 1682 as a haven for those of the Quaker faith, Pennsylvania was one of the original 13 colonies. Its importance to U.S. politics was established early as the first two Continental Congresses took place there in 1774 and 1775.

It was the second state to ratify the Constitution after the Revolutionary War achieving statehood just five days after Delaware on December 12th 1787.

Social Security Death Index 1935 – 2014

All American citizens, naturalized immigrants and resident aliens require a Social Security number for proof of identification and authorization to work. This number follows us throughout our life and when we die this nine digit code is very important.

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a database of death records that was compiled from the United States Social Security Administration Death Master File. This was until 2014 when the rules changed and public access to the Death Master File had to take place through a certification program.

Those researching the deaths of ancestors in this state will likely find that most people who have died between 1936 and 2014 can be found on the Social Security Death Index. This does however only hold true if the person had a Social Security number when they died.

It is estimated that since 1973 the SSDI recorded 93% to 96% of the deaths of individuals aged 65 or over. The index was updated frequently and by June of 2011 there were 89,835,920 records available.

The index can be found on websites such as FamilySearch and Ancestry.com and offers details such as:

  • Given name and surname (middle initial since the 1990s)
  • Date of birth
  • Month and year of death (Full date of death for accounts active after 2000)
  • Social Security number
  • State or territory Social Security number was issued
  • Last place of residence when alive including ZIP code

Click here to search Social Security Death Index 1935 – 2014

U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

This is more or less an extension of the information you can find from the Social Security Death Index. It has been extracted from the SSDI records but features more details. It does not include all of the names found in the SSDI however but there are at least 49 million names included.

In this record you may find additional information such as:

  • Date and place of birth
  • Parents' names who, if deceased, would have been over 75 when you are viewing the records (may be redacted if under 75)
  • Citizenship status
  • Gender
  • Sometimes race or ethnic group

Click here to search U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1968

This is an indexed collection on Ancestry.com so it will require a paid membership to view and use. In the state of Pennsylvania mandatory vital record reporting started in 1906. In this collection are all the death certificates issued since this system began up until 1968.

The information you can find in this collection includes:

  • Name and residence of the decedent
  • City and county of death
  • Gender and race
  • Marital status
  • Age and date of birth
  • Occupation
  • Place of birth
  • Parents' names and birthplaces
  • Date of death
  • Dates attended by physician
  • Cause of death
  • Attending physician and address
  • Length of stay in hospital or institution or length of residency for transients or recent arrivals
  • Place of burial or removal
  • Date of burial
  • Undertaker name and address
  • Name and address of informant

Click here to search Pennsylvania Death Certificates, 1906-1968

Pennsylvania Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993

Another collection from Ancestry.com this one contains over 300 years of wills and probates that have been recorded and enacted in Pennsylvania. It is a great source of information regarding when a person may have died, who their family were and what they left behind for their heirs.

Click here to search Pennsylvania Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993

Death Records Indexes, Obituaries and Cemeteries by County

When it comes to older death records or alternate sources of death information you often have to look at the county level within a state. This is where collections have been created from local records by local historians and societies.

County Death Records Indexes, Obituaries and Cemeteries by County
Adams
Alleghany
Allentown
  • See Lehigh County
Altoona
  • See Blair County
Beaver
Bedford
Berks
Bethlehem
  • See Northampton County
Blair
Bucks
Butler
Cambria
Carbon
Center
Chester
Clarion
Clearfield
Columbia
Cumberland
Dauphin
Delaware
Elk
Erie
Fayette
Franklin
Fulton
Greene
Harrisburg
  • See Dauphin County
Huntingdon
Indiana
Jefferson
Lackawanna
Lancaster
Lawrence
Lebanon
Lehigh
Lycoming
McKean
Montgomery
Northampton
Northumberland
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
  • See Alleghany County
Potter
Reading
  • See Berks County
Schuylkill
Scranton
  • See Lackawanna County
Somerset
Sullivan
Warren
Washington
Wayne
Westmoreland
York

Conclusion

Pennsylvania is a very historically important state and it has a great deal of recorded history when it comes to its population. There are sources for the researcher both at the state level and the county with a wealth of information found online as well.

Link To or Reference This Page

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  • " Pennsyvania Death Records and Death Index". NameCensus.com. Accessed on October 1, 2022. https://namecensus.com/blog/pennsyvania-death-records-and-death-index/.

  • " Pennsyvania Death Records and Death Index". NameCensus.com, https://namecensus.com/blog/pennsyvania-death-records-and-death-index/. Accessed 1 October, 2022

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