HARRISBURG, Feb. 15, 2012 — Starting today, the public may now access birth and death records online and in person for free at the Pennsylvania State Archives thanks to a new law, according to state Sen. Judy Schwank.

“This is good news for families who are seeking information about their loved ones and for researchers who are looking to learn more about their communities,” Schwank said. “The new law will make it more convenient to search the state’s archives for this important information.”

Under the new law, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Department of Health are expanding public access to birth and death certificates. Birth certificates are now available to the public 105 years after issuance and death certificates are available 50 years after issuance. This means that births from 1906 and deaths from 1906 to 1961 are available, and one year of births and deaths will be added each year from now on. Records prior to 1906 are held at the county level.

To access the records, visit www.health.state.pa.us and click on the “Birth and Death Certificates” link, or visit the State Archives at 350 North St. in Harrisburg. Researchers would need t know the year of the event, the correct spelling of the name they are searching for, and/or the county of the birth or death.

Access to the records is free. The Department of Health will continue to charge a $3 processing fee to order non-certified copies online. Copying fees may also apply at the State Archives, as well as research fees for search requests.

The legislation received unanimous support in the Senate and was signed into law as Act 110 of 2011.