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Celebrate Family History Month – Explore Vital Records

Vital records are a great starting point for your family history journey! Birth records for your ancestors are one of the first steps, but where they are located may vary based on the year, county, and state in which your ancestor was born. Best-case scenario, you’ll want to have your ancestor’s full name, birth day/year, and where they were born. It is even helpful to include parents’ names, if you know them! Some of these early records may have some spelling variations in names, but that is not uncommon with older records. At Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main, we house birth records for:

  • City of Pittsburgh (1870-1905)
  • Allegheny City (1885-October 1907)
  • Allegheny County (1893-1905)
  • McKeesport (1892-1905)
  • Sewickley (1896-1905)
  • Wilkinsburg (1899-1905)

Prior to 1906, local governments were tasked with recording births within their borders. As of 1906, that responsibility was passed to the statewide Department of Health. Due to privacy laws, all birth records less than 105 years old are private, and only specific family members of the person named on the record can request a copy. Records more than 105 years old are public record, and anyone can access them.

To research births that happened prior to official civil recordkeeping in your ancestor’s town, we recommend church records – but that’s another tricky topic, and one to talk about directly with our staff!

You can request a pre-1906 birth record from CLP-Main using our request forms. These records are on microfilm in the local history & genealogy department. Once your request is assigned to a researcher, we’ll confirm we have it and let you know our best guess on how long it will take to finish it. Our researchers are very meticulous, so it may take several weeks before you hear back about your request.

As you explore genealogy, you will notice how one record or ancestor may lead to another outside of Allegheny County. For other Pennsylvania county birth records, check out the list of County Clerks who handle vital record requests for their county. Birth records from 1906-1913 can be found through on, which you can access through the Pennsylvania State Archives or any library in Allegheny County.

Do you need a certified birth record? Some genealogy enthusiasts join genealogical associations or apply for dual citizenship in their ancestor’s native country. These applications usually require certified records. All certified vital records after 1906 must be requested through the Division of Vital Records.

Want to explore your roots while you wait for your birth record request? Try accessing for free using your CLP library card. The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission has also partnered with to provide Pennsylvania residents with access to Pennsylvania-specific records for FREE by simply entering your zip code. Check it out on the PHMC’s webpage Ancestry Pennsylvania.

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