9 Million Historic Philadelphia Records Now Searchable Online

In conjunction with the Federation of Genealogical Societies' 2008 Annual Conference in Philadelphia this week, FamilySearch International announced the availability of two historic Philadelphia City record sets online—Death Certificates for 1803 to 1915 and Marriage Indexes for 1885 to 1951. The collections provide access to nearly nine million deaths and marriage records. The free databases are available at FamilySearch.org (go to "Search Records" and then "Record Search pilot").

Before now, researchers interested in searching the Philadelphia Death Certificates for 1803 to 1915 and Philadelphia Marriage Indexes for 1885 to 1951 had to mull over 2,000 reels of microfilm in a local family history center or write to the archive and wait for a response. The new databases and images published online by FamilySearch now place the historic collection at the fingertips of researchers from any computer with Internet access.

The projects are the result of FamilySearch's goal to increase access to historic records of genealogical significance. It will be providing demonstrations of the new Philadelphia deaths and marriages collections and numerous others at its booth during the 2008 Federation of Genealogical Societies' Annual Conference this week located at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The Exhibit Hall is free to the public.

FamilySearch digitized the collection and is using an online army of volunteers to help create searchable indexes to the names and relevant genealogical information found on the original documents. Volunteers use their home computers to download images of the historic documents and use FamilySearch's proprietary indexing software to transcribe select information highlighted on the digital images of the originals. The results are published as free, fully searchable indexes online at FamilySearch.org. No specific skills are required to volunteer, and a typical indexing batch takes about 30 minutes to complete. Individuals wanting to volunteer can do so online at FamilySearch.org (go to "Index Records").

Philadelphia Deaths 1803 to 1915 (Index and images)

The Philadelphia Deaths Collection is actually derived from death certificates, registrations of death, and various city and hospital death records, including some prison deaths. In all online volunteers transcribed 1,612,000 images located on 1791 reels of microfilm to create the free online index linked to the original images.

The collection consists of Philadelphia Death Certificates, 1904-1915, (657,000 names), Registration of Deaths, 1803-1903, arranged by year and cemetery (912,600 names) and various city and hospital death records, 1860-1903, (818,900 names). There are some gaps in the years of the hospital death records.

Philadelphia Marriage Indexes 1885 to 1951

This project has two phases—the digital conversion of the original documents and a searchable index linked to the images of the originals. Digital images to the Philadelphia Marriage License Index, 1885-1951, are the first piece of the project published by FamilySearch this week. Next will be to digital publish images of the actual marriage certificates, and then to create a searchable index of the 5,418,000 names online linked to images of the original documents.

The 31,500 digital images of the Philadelphia Marriage License Index are easy to navigate using FamilySearch's online image viewer because they are organized by year and then alphabetically by last name. The index gives the names of the bride and groom with the date of the marriage; so it is useful even without the link to the digital images of the original certificates—which are coming.

Until the certificate images are made available online by FamilySearch, patrons can save time from the usual order process by providing the Register of Wills with the exact names of the married parties they are seeking and the associated marriage certificate number.

FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization that maintains the world's largest repository of genealogical resources. Patrons may access resources online at FamilySearch.org or through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries. FamilySearch is a trademark of Intellectual Reserve, Inc. and is registered in the United States of America and other countries.

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