Birth Certificates


  Records of births and baptisms were, in the 18th Century, compiled primarily by preachers. Therefore, if you want to locate a record of a birth from the 1700s, you should look in the records of a church in the vicinity of which the family resided. In some cases, itinerant preachers traveled through the region ministering to groups of families who had no church edifice to congregate in. The records of some of the churches within Old~Bedford have been transcribed and are available to researchers at various of the local historical and genealogical societies. They will be discussed under the heading of Church Records below.

  As the 19th Century unfolded, more regions, even on the frontier, began to be served by doctors. Those doctors began to maintain their own records of the births they delivered. The birth certificates which the doctors maintained for their files included information about the mother’s health and about any siblings the newborn might have had. In a very few instances, in which there were neither preachers or doctors, a midwife who delivered the child would keep her own records of the births she delivered.

  Between 1852 and 1855 laws were passed in various states that required doctors, preachers and midwives to inform the Register of Wills at the local court house of any deliveries they performed. The compliance with those laws was not very good; as a result you will probably not have much luck in finding any such records at the court houses of Old~Bedford.

  New laws were enacted in the late-1800s to require that births be recorded in the court houses. This time around, there was better compliance with the law. As a result, for the years between 1893 and 1905, you’ll find dockets in the court houses (usually maintained in the Prothonotary’s Office in which the child’s name, the names of its parents and the occupation of the father are recorded. From 1905 until the present time, birth records have been accumulated and maintained at the Bureau of Vital Statistics at New Castle, Pennsylvania.

  Applications for certified copies of birth certificates for people born after 1905 are available at most court house Prothonotary’s Offices. The fee for one birth certificate copy is $4. The mailing address for the Bureau of Vital Statistics is PO Box 1528, New Castle, PA 16103. Their telephone number is (724) 656-3100.

  You will receive a reply more quickly and easily from the Bureau of Vital Statistics if you note on the application form that you intend to use the information for genealogical purposes. For example, you might state that it is required for application you plan to submit to the DAR or SAR.

Births, Marriages, And Deaths Of Bedford And Somerset Counties, PA, 1852-1854
by Kenneth T.H. McFarland, 1999 (available from Closson Press)