Amendments Would Defeat Pennsylvania Open Records Bill’s Purpose

Pennsylvania Genealogists – take note… My friend, Jim Beidler, wrote the following information about the potential watering down of the open records legislation now underway in Pennsylania. The following is just an excerpt of his article in the November 27, 2011 edition of the Lebanon Daily News.

Just when advocates for the reform of vital records laws in Pennsylvania think it’s safe to think that the long-sought-after changes are a done deal, another bump in the road.

Less than two weeks ago, the Health Committee of the House of Representatives, which is chaired by Rep. Matthew Baker of Tioga County, approved Senate Bill 361 by a vote of 24-0. That came on the heels of a unanimous state Senate vote a couple of months ago.

Then Rep. Ronald G. Waters of Philadelphia, the only member of the Health Committee who missed that meeting, filed several amendments to the bill that will need to be voted upon on the House floor.

To recap, Senate Bill 361 makes open records of Pennsylvania death certificates more than 50 years old and birth certificates more than 105 years old. It also transfers the certificates once they become open records to the Pennsylvania State Archives.

The most substantial of Waters’ amendments would say that the birth and death records are “open for public inspection” rather than becoming “public records.” Another of his amendments redundantly reasserts the state Department of Health’s power to charge fees for certified copies of the certificates.

Read the full article.

Author: Leland Meitzler

Leland K. Meitzler founded Heritage Quest in 1985, and has worked as Managing Editor of both Heritage Quest Magazine and The Genealogical Helper. He currently operates Family Roots Publishing Company (, writes daily at, writes the weekly Genealogy Newsline, conducts the annual Salt Lake Christmas Tour to the Family History Library, and speaks nationally, having given over 2000 lectures since 1983.

2 thoughts on “Amendments Would Defeat Pennsylvania Open Records Bill’s Purpose”

  1. My family has lived in Pennsylvania and/or the Delaware area for 200-300 years. I believe I should have access to their records, as should all Americans to their own family histories. Yhis is the best way I know to learn more about our fascinating country and its many and diverse residents.
    Please help us obtain this access.

  2. Maybe Rep. Ronald G. Waters of Philadelphia doesn’t care about his family history, but millions of people searching theirs care very much about finding out this information.

    Please give us the means to do this search.

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