Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates - FamilySearch Historical Records

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Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915
This article describes a collection of records at
Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 
United States
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Flag of Pennsylvania
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Location of Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania
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Location of Pennsylvania
Record Description
Record Type Death
Collection years 1803-1915
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites
Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

What is in This Collection?[edit | edit source]

The format of the records varies:

  • Registration of deaths, Board of Health, 1803–1915, exist in four formats: 1) Cemetery returns, 1803–1860, filed alphabetically by cemetery for each year (1803–1824), for each quarter (1825–1847), and for each week (1848–1860); 2) Death returns, 1860–June 30, 1890, filed alphabetically by cemetery name for each week; 3) Death certificates, July 1890–1903, filed by certificate number; 4) Death certificates, arranged by year and then by certificate number within each year
  • Death registers, Board of Health, 1860–1903, are bound volumes with preprinted pages. The entries are filed chronologically
  • Death records, Department of Public Health, 1834–1860, are bound volumes. The entries are filed by year and then by month
  • Burial records, Department of Public Health, 1807–1840, are loose papers filed by death date
  • Death records, General Hospital, 1866–1902, are bound volumes of preprinted forms and bound volumes of certificates, four to a page. The entries are filed chronologically
  • Death registers, City Hospital, 1840-1896, are bound volumes with entries filed chronologically
  • Death registers, Inspectors of the Jail and Penitentiary House, 1819–1914, are bound volumes

Be aware that not every name in this collection is the name of someone who died. Some of the hospital registers provide date of discharge of living patients and those names are mingled in with the names of those who died.

By Act of April 1, 1803, Philadelphia established its Board of Health, which began to record deaths and burials. In 1860 the city passed a law requiring that all births, marriages, and deaths within the city be recorded in a systematic way. The board became the Bureau of Health in 1899 and was placed under the Department of Public Health in 1903. In accordance with a new state law, the bureau began sending copies of death records to the state in 1906. The various collections cover those buried in the city of Philadelphia, including some out-of-city deaths. The same individual may be found in more than one collection.

Original images for the Philadelphia City Death Certificates are available on Historical Records (free) and also through the Philadelphia City Archives (fee).

Photocopies of Philadelphia death records 1803-1915, are available by writing to:

  • Philadelphia City Archives, 3101 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19104
  • Enclose $10.00 payment, check or money order, payable to CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, for each death record photocopy requested.

With your request include this information, found on the web pages for “Philadelphia City Civil Death and Burial Records.”

If the death occurred:

  • 1803-June 1860 - Name of Deceased and date of death
  • July 1860-June 30, 1890 - Name of Deceased, date of death and cemetery name, if known
  • July 1890–1915 – Name of deceased, date of death, and certificate number (cn number)

You can access Pennsylvania death records, if available, prior to 1906 through the courthouse in the county where the person died. A list of courthouses is available on the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Vital Records Web site. Cemetery and church records are more likely sources to be available for 18th and 19th century deaths and burials.

Deaths were recorded to better serve public health needs. They were also used in connection with the probate of wills and the administration of estates.

Philadelphia has recorded deaths since 1803.

Image Visibility[edit | edit source]

Whenever possible FamilySearch makes images and indexes available for all users. However, rights to view these data are limited by contract and subject to change. Because of this there may be limitations on where and how images and indexes are available or who can see them. Please be aware some collections consist only of partial information indexed from the records and do not contain any images. For additional information about image restrictions see Restrictions for Viewing Images in FamilySearch Historical Record Collections.

To Browse This Collection[edit | edit source]

You can browse through images in this collection using the waypoints on the Collection Browse Page for Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915.

What Can These Records Tell Me?[edit | edit source]

The information varies by record.

An Undertaker's Certificate included:

  • Occupation of deceased
  • Place of birth
  • Birthplace of father
  • Birthplace of mother
  • Place of death
  • Date and place of burial
  • Name and address of undertaker

Death certificates, Bureau of Health, 1904–1915

  • Date and place of burial
  • Name, age and gender of deceased
  • Occupation of deceased
  • Place of birth
  • Place of death
  • Parents' place of birth
  • Attending physician, and undertaker
  • Ethnic group
  • Former residence of the deceased

Death registers, Board of Health, 1860–1903

  • Death and burial dates
  • Place of death
  • Place of burial
  • Name and age of deceased
  • Name of parents if the deceased was a minor
  • Former residence
  • Race
  • Cause of death

Death records, Dept of Public Health, 1834–1860

  • Death date
  • Death place
  • Name and age of deceased and attending physician


Registration of deaths, Board of Health, 1803–1903

  • Death and burial dates
  • Name and age of deceased and attending physician
  • Age, gender and race of deceased
  • Names of parents if deceased was a minor
  • Place of death and burial
  • Place of birth
  • Residence of deceased
  • Cause of death

Burial Records, Dept of Public Health, 1807–1840

  • Death date
  • Burial place
  • Name and age of deceased

Death records, general hospital, 1866–1902, death registers

  • Name and age of deceased
  • Death date
  • Color (W for White and B for Black)
  • Country of birth
  • Cause of death

Death records, general hospital, 1866–1902, death certificates

  • Name of deceased
  • Age, gender and marital status of deceased
  • Color (White or Black)
  • Death date
  • Cause of death


Death registers, prison, 1819–1914

  • Name and age of deceased
  • Death date
  • Prison where died
  • Cause of death

Collection Content[edit | edit source]

Sample Image[edit | edit source]

Digital Folder Number List[edit | edit source]

This collection was published as a DGS browse collection. The list does not contain any description of the DGS folder's content. A table listing each DGS number and its contents can be found at Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates Digital Folder Number List.

How Do I Search This Collection?[edit | edit source]

Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • The name of your ancestor
  • The approximate date of death

Search the Index[edit | edit source]

Search by name on the Collection Details Page.
  1. Fill in the search boxes in the Search Collection section with the information you know
  2. Click Search to show possible matches

View the Images[edit | edit source]

To view images in this collection:
  1. Look at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates Digital Folder Number List article to determine the folder/film number for the images you want to see
  2. Go to the Browse Page
  3. Select the Film number to view the images

How Do I Analyze the Results?[edit | edit source]

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images. Keep track of your research in a research log.

What Do I Do Next?[edit | edit source]

Whenever possible, view the original records to verify the information and to find additional information that might not be reported. These pieces of information can lead you to additional records and family members.

I Found the Person I Was Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • Add any new information to your records
  • Use the information to locate funeral home, obituary or cemetery record
  • Use the information to find other vital records such as birth and marriage
  • Use the information to find additional family members in census records
  • Search for an obituary in a local newspaper
  • Search church records for additional information
  • Search for land and probate records

I Can’t Find the Person I’m Looking For, What Now?[edit | edit source]

  • Collect entries for every person who has the same surname. This list can help you identify possible relatives
  • If you cannot locate your ancestor in the locality in which you believe they lived, then try searching records of a nearby locality
  • Standard spelling of names typically did not exist. Try variations of your ancestor’s name
  • Remember that sometimes individuals went by nicknames or alternated between using first and middle names, or even initials

Research Helps[edit | edit source]

The following articles will help you in your research for your family in the state of Pennsylvania.

Known Issues[edit | edit source]

Click here for a list of known issues with this collection.

Citing This Collection[edit | edit source]

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation:
The citation for this collection can be found on the Collection Details Page in the section Citing this Collection.
Record Citation:
When looking at a record, the citation can be viewed by clicking the drop-down arrow next to Document Information.
Image Citation:
When looking at an image, the citation is found on the Information tab at the bottom left of the screen.