Rep. Julie Harhart (R-Lehigh/Northampton) today announced that under a new law citizens will have greater access to birth and death records of Pennsylvania citizens after a specified period of time has elapsed.

"Pennsylvania has a rich and diverse history, and many genealogists, historians and average citizens have asked for improved access to birth and death records of individuals who have passed away," said Harhart. "This new law, which took effect Feb. 15, will make it easier to people to gain information on those individuals they are researching."

Specifically, the new law makes vital records open to the public when 105 years have elapsed after the date of birth or 50 years have elapsed after the date of death of a person.

To access the records online, go to www.health.state.pa.us [1] and click on "Birth and Death Certificates" then "Public Records." The records will be searchable by the name of the individual and/or year of event.

Once a record is identified, the state file number will be needed for the application to request a noncertified copy of the certificate from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Those wishing to access files in person may visit the State Archives at 350 North St. in Harrisburg.

Access is free; however a $3 processing fee will continue to be charged for noncertified copies ordered online.

Copying fees may apply at the State Archives, as well as research fees for search requests received via mail or email.

Harhart noted that the state archives are required to maintain the original birth and death records to ensure proper safe keeping.

For more information, visit www.phmc.state.pa.us [2] or www.health.state.pa.us [1].