It was a big deal for Pennsylvania researchers when Pennsylvania made its death certificate indices available in early 2012. I wrote about the steps required to obtain PA death certificates here when I blogged about my great grandfather Percy Hunter. During 2012, I obtained over 20 death certificates for members of my maternal grandmother's extended family at $3 each.
Benefits of having the death certificates indexed at Ancestry.com include the ability to look for a name without knowing the specific death date AND the quality of the scan. Below is an example of the death certificate of my second great grandmother's twin, Christine Agnes Alston. (See a photo of the twins here.) The first image was scanned, printed and mailed to me, then I scanned it to save to my computer. I downloaded the second image from Ancestry.com.
|Pennsylvania, Department of Health & Vital Records, Death Certificate,|
1913: Death Certificate No. 049287 / 54. Christine Agnes Alston, died 5/6/1913.
|Ancestry.com, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1944 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014), Ancestry.com, Death Certificate No. 049287 / 54. Record for Christine Agnes Alston, died 5/6/1913.|
The second image is much easier to read (and in color!), and in another case, I was able to correct an incorrectly transcribed fact when I downloaded the much improved image from Ancestry.com.
Christine Agnes Alston never married and died just before her 63rd birthday, on May 6, 1913 of "Myocardial Insufficiency with Vascular Heart Disease for years."
The death certificate is a primary record for her death, but not for her birth, noted here as June 15, 1851. (I think the age may be correct, but the birth date calculated incorrectly.) According to the 1850 U.S. Federal Census, she (and her twin, Marion Helen Alston) were born in May 1850. (Their ages are listed as 4/12, and the census was taken at the end of September 1850.)
|Detail from 1850 U.S. Federal Census for John Alston family|
(Allegheny Ward 3, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_744; Page: 105B)
Her parents were John Alston and Lilias Johnston of Scotland. The informant (person who provided the family information) was Miss Mable Stevenson of Oakmont (a niece). Aunt Christine is buried in Uniondale Cemetery, where many of my maternal grandmother's extended family are buried. (I blogged about that fact here.) Her FindAGrave memorial is here.
I would suggest to other researchers who obtained scans of these certificates from Pennsylvania in 2012 and 2013 to visit Ancestry.com (if you have a subscription) and download their scan. And if you live in Pennsylvania, you should be able to access these records at no cost. Visit the PHMC website for more information.