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Pennsylvania Public Records

The Pennsylvania Sunshine Act was signed in 1998 and the Right-to-Know Law was signed in 2008. The Law established the Office of Open Records to enforce the sunshine laws and serve as a resource for obtaining public records. These include documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, film or sound recordings, information stored or maintained electronically, and data-processed or image-processed documents.

Examples of records that are exempt from public access include those that would violate personal privacy rights, endanger citizens or government entities, or are confidential by law.

The more popular and available Pennsylvania statewide resources are organized below on this page for you.  If you don’t see the type of database you need here, check to see if it is maintained at the city or county level.  Those menus are on this page in the margin.

  • Court System - At the first level in the Pennsylvania Unified Judicial Systems are the minor courts, which are the magisterial courts in every county except Philadelphia. These handle small claims and minor criminal cases. Philadelphia has a county Municipal Court and a Traffic Court. The next level is the Common Pleas Court. There are 103 Courts of Common Pleas and these are the general trial courts, with civil, criminal, family law, juvenile delinquency, and probate jurisdiction. Above that is the Commonwealth Court and the Superior Court which are the two intermediate appellate courts. At the top is the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Pennsylvania also has a Register of Wills for probate matters. The Prothonotary is the civil records clerk of the Court of Common Pleas.  Pennsylvania Court Records
  • Criminal Records - The Magisterial Courts, Philadelphia Municipal Court and Pittsburgh Municipal Court handle minor criminal matters and traffic cases. There are 60 Common Pleas Courts and they handle felony, misdemeanor, DWI/DUI, and Preliminary Hearings. The Pittsburgh City Magistrates Court handles some Misdemeanor, DWI/DUI, and Preliminary Hearings, as do the Magisterial District Courts. Philadelphia Municipal Court covers all misdemeanor cases and preliminary felony hearings.  To access criminal records and find more information about official searches, go to our Pennsylvania Criminal Records page.
  • Vital Records - Birth and death certificates are provided to next of kin only and are available from: Vital Records, State Department of Health, P.O. Box 1528, 101 South Mercer Street, New Castle, PA 16101, 724-656-3100, fax 724-652-8951.  Our Vital Records page has various historical county birth indexes; the Social Security Death Index for Pennsylvania; county death, obituary, wills, burial, and genealogy databases; statewide pay marriage databases; free county marriage databases; and county court and Prothonotary databases containing divorce records.

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