printer friendly text version
TO PROVIDE FOR A REGISTRATION OF MARRIAGES, BIRTHS, AND DEATHS
WHEREAS, From the death of witnesses, and from
other causes, it has often been found difficult to prove the marriage, birth
or death of persons, whereby the rights of many have been sacrificed, and
great wrongs have been done:
And whereas, important truths, deeply affecting the
physical welfare of mankind, are to be drawn from the number of marriages,
births, or deaths that during a term of years may be contracted or may occur
within the limits of an extensive Commonwealth; therefore,
SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of
Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in General Assembly met,
and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, that from and after
the first day of July next, each register of wills in the several counties
of the State shall be supplied with separate books, in which he shall
register, in the manner hereinafter directed, the marriages which may have
been contracted, and the births and deaths which may have occurred within
SECTION 2. That it shall be the duty of every
clergyman, alderman, justice of the peace, clerk, or keeper of the records
of the religious society of Friends, and of every other person or society by
or before whom any marriage may hereafter be solemnized or contracted, to
make at once a record of the same in a book to be kept for the purpose, and
within the space of thirty days after such marriage, to return the same, in
the form of a certificate, duly signed by the person so certifying, to the
register of the county in which such marriage shall have been so solemnized or
contracted, which said record and certificate shall set forth, as far as the
same can be ascertained, the
full name of the husband, his occupation, and the name of his place of birth
and residence; the full name of the wife previously to the said marriage;
the names of the parents of said husband, and the parents of said wife;
also, the color of the parties, and the time and place, and ceremony; where,
and by whom such marriage was contracted, and if pronounced by any
clergyman, or other person as aforesaid, the place of residence of such
SECTION 3. That it such be the duty of every physician,
under whose care a birth shall hereafter take place, to make at once a
record of such birth in a book to be kept
for that purpose, and to return the same, duly signed by him or her, in the
form of a certificate, to the register of the county in which such birth
shall have taken place, in the manner and within the period directed by the
second section or this act; which said record and certificate shall set
forth, as far as the same can be ascertained, the full name of such child,
if any name should have been conferred, its sex, color, the full name, as
well as occupation, of its parent or parents, names of any other child or
children living, and for better identification, the full name, previously to
marriage, of the mother of such child; the day, hour, and place, on and at
which such birth occurred, and any circumstances connected with such birth
that may be deemed of interest, in case such birth shall have occurred
without the superintendence of any person; and should no physician or other
person be in attendance upon the parent immediately thereafter, is shall
then become the duty of the parent or parents of such child to return the
same to the register in the manner, form, and within the period above
SECTION 4. That every physician or surgeon who shall
hereafter be in attendance at the period of the death of any individual,
dying within this State, shall make at one a record of such death in a book
to he kept by him for that purpose, and shall return the same, duly signed,
in the form of a certificate, to the register of the county in which such
individual may have resided at the time of death, in the manner and within
the period directed in the second section of this act; which record and
certificate shall set forth, as far as the same can be ascertained, the full
name, sex, and color of the person deceased, and his or her age; also, the
name of his or her parents; the occupation, place of birth; the period,
place, and disease, or cause of death, and, if within his knowledge, the
name of the burial ground in which interred; and if married at the time of
death, the name of the husband or wife, as the case may be; and no person
having the charge as sexton of any vault or burial ground within the city or
county of Philadelphia, shall inter, or permit, or cause to he interred, the
dead body of any person in such vault or burial ground, without first
procuring a copy of such record, duly certified as aforesaid by the person
who made it; which certificate as aforesaid, when obtained, he shall sign,
and before the expiration of thirty days from the time at which he may have
received it, shall return the same to the register aforesaid ; and every
physician, coroner, or other person, who shall neglect or refuse to furnish
such sexton or other person, previous to such interment within the said city
and county, the certificate required by this section, and every sexton, or
other person, having the care or superintendence of any vault or burial
ground, who shall neglect to procure such certificate as aforesaid, or
having procured, shall neglect or refuse to return it as aforesaid, shall
each, for every such neglect or refusal, forfeit and pay the sum of five
dollars, which sum shall be recoverable by any person who may sue for the
same; all certificates or returns required by this act shall be signed by
the parties so certifying.
SECTION 5. That this act shall not be construed to
prevent the registry of any marriage contracted, or birth or death
happening, previously to its passage, within the limits of this State; nor
of the marriage, birth, or death of any person or persons who may have been
married, been born, or may have died elsewhere, but who were the child or
children of citizens of this State; nor of any marriage contracted
previously or subsequently to the passage of this act, in any other part of
these United States or their territories, or beyond the limits of the same:
Provide, Either of the parties married were permanently residing in this
state at the time, or at some time previously or subsequently to such
marriage; such registrations shall be in the form already prescribed, and
shall be kept apart from the current registrations, and in separate books,
as is already required in the case of other registrations, but shall be
embraced in the general index; the proof of every such marriage shall be as
follows, to wit: in the case of a marriage, by the person who pronounced it,
or if such proof cannot be made, or the marriage shall have been contracted
according to the manner of the religious society of Friends, then it shall
be made by some one who was present thereat; in the case of a birth, by some
one who has actual knowledge of the period at which such person was born, or
of his or her parentage; and in the case of a death, by some one who
actually saw such person dead, or who has actual knowledge of the fact; such
proof shall be under oath or affirmation, and shall be in its character
satisfactory to the register; Provided further, That should any person feel
aggrieved at the decision of the register aforesaid, he or she, or as the
case may be, the next friend or the representative of the person, on whose
behalf such application is made, shall have the representative of the
person, on whose behalf such application is made, shall have the right of an
appeal to the Orphan's Court of the proper county, in which case the
testimony so taken shall be sent up with the appeal to the said court, by
the said register, accompanied by a written statement of his reasons for
rejecting it as insufficient.
SECTION 6. That no letters of administration or letters
testamentary shall be granted by any register upon the estate or effects of
any person hereafter dying within this State, or if granted, shall be valid,
until the death of such person shall be duly certified to the said register,
in order that the same may be duly registered according to the forms and
provisions of this act, or as strictly in compliance therewith as it may be
in the power of the party so to do.
SECTION 7. That no appointment of any guardian to the
person or estate of any minor hereafter born, by any Orphans' Court within
this State, shall be valid, until the date of the birth of such minor, and
the date of the death, as well as the name of his or her parent or parents,
shall be duly registered according to the provisions of this act, as
strictly as the same can be complied with, unless from the death of any
witness, or from some other cause deemed sufficient upon strict
investigation by the said court, such proof cannot at the time be
conveniently made, in which latter case it shall be made as soon as it may
SECTION 8. That the said books or registers, or a
certificate duly certified by the register, and authenticated by his seal of
office, as containing a full copy of the record of any marriage, birth, or
death, shall hereafter be admitted in any court of this State as prima facie
proof of any marriage, birth, or death: Provided however, That should no
such registration exist, the proof of any marriage, birth, or death shall be
sufficient, if made in the manner now or hereafter required under the
decisions of the Supreme Court of this Commonwealth.
SECTION 9. That if any register shall not, within
fourteen days after an application made to him to register any marriage,
birth, or death, as aforesaid, register in the proper form and book, any
such marriage, birth, or death, as the same shall be certified to him,
unless he has sufficient cause, he shall forfeit and pay the sum of ten
dollars, to be recovered us debts of the same amount are recoverable, by any
person who may sue for the same; the person aggrieved shall 'have the right
of appeal provided by the sixth section of this act; and all certificates of
marriages, births, or deaths, duly returned, shall be preserved and flied by
SECTION 10. That if any person shall willfully,
knowingly, and falsely swear or affirm to, or return any such certificate of
marriage, birth, or death, or if any register shall willfully and knowingly
make, or cause to be made in the said books, a false entry of such marriage,
birth, or death, the said person or register so °offending shall be punished
by a fine or imprisonment, or both, at the discretion of the court having
the cognizance of such offences, the fine not to exceed eight hundred
dollars, and the imprisonment not to exceed seven years.
SECTION 11. That the registry of marriages, births,
unit deaths, shall he kept in separate books; there shall be general indexes
to the records of all marriages, births, and deaths, which indexes of
marriages, births, and deaths, respectively, shall be kept in separate
books; opposite to each name in the said index shall be affixed not only the
reference to the record, but the day of the month and year in which any
marriage may have been contracted, or birth or death may have occurred, as
the case may be.
SECTION 12. That in order to secure uniformity,
precision, and greater despatch in the aforesaid registration, the said
books shall contain (upon each page of the same, and along the margin at the
side of the said page) printed titles, duly numbered, opposite to which
shall be left blanks or spaces, in which entries shall be made,
corresponding to the particular subject to each of the said titles; the said
titles in the books for registering marriages shall be printed and arranged
in the following words and order, to wit:
First. Full name of the husband.
Second Name of the father of said husband.
Third. Name of the mother of said husband.
Fourth. Occupation of husband.
Fifth. Residence of husband.
Sixth. Birth-place of husband.
Seventh. Full name of the wife previously to marriage.
Eighth. Name of the father of said wife.
Ninth. Name of the mother of said wife.
Tenth. The time when the marriage was contracted.
Eleventh. The place, town or township, and county, where the marriage
Twelfth. The color.
Thirteenth. By what ceremony contracted.
Fourteenth Name of person pronouncing marriage.
Fifteenth. Residence of person last named.
Sixteenth. Name of person signing certificate.
Seventeenth. Date of certificate.
Eighteenth. Date of registration.
Nineteenth. Signature of the register or his deputy.
The title in the books for registering births, in the following words and
order, to wit:
First. Full name of child.
Fourth. Full name of father
Fifth. Occupation of father.. .
Sixth. Names of other issue living.
Seventh. Name of the mother previously to marriage
Eight. Hour, day of week, of month, and year of birth
Ninth. Place, town or township, and county in which born.
Tenth. Name of physician or other person signing the certificate, or on
whose application the registry is made.
Eleventh. Residence of such person.
Twelfth. Date of certificate
Thirteenth. Date of registration
Fourteenth. Signature of the register or his deputy
Fifteenth. Any additional circumstances.
The titles in the books for registering death, in the following word and
order, to wit:
First. Full name of deceased
Fifth. Name of father of deceased
Sixth. Name of mother of deceased
Eighth. Place of birth
Ninth. Name of wife of deceased
Tenth. Name of husband of deceased
Eleventh. Name of issue living
Twelfth. Date of birth, and date of death
Thirteenth. Cause of death
Fourteenth. Name of the place, town or township, and county in which the
Fifteenth. Name and location of burial ground in which interred
Sixteenth. Name of person returning certificate
Seventeenth. Residence of such person
Eighteenth. Date of Certificate
Nineteenth. Date of registration
Twentieth. Signature of register or his deputy.
At the bottom of each page in each of said books
there shall be left a blank for the registry of any fact which any act or
acts of Assembly hereafter enacted may require shall be registered, and all
interlineations or erasures shall at the time be noted by the register.
SECTION 13. That the said register, with the exceptions
hereinafter named, shall receive, provided he comply with the provisions of
this act, for registering any marriage, birth, or death, the sum of ten
cents, which shall be paid to him, on his demand, by the treasurer of the
proper county, except for registering any marriage contracted, or any birth
or death happening previously to the year one thousand eight hundred and
fifty-one, in which case he shall receive twenty-five cents, to be paid by
the party; for examining every witness, in which the testimony is reduced to
writing and length twenty-five cents; for sending up the record upon an
appeal, fifty cents; for granting a certified copy of the full record of any
marriage, birth, or death fifty cents, which shall also be paid by the
party; he shall make no charge for administering an oath or affirmation, nor
demand a fee from any person so registering; the register for the city and
county of Philadelphia shall receive but six cents for making any registry
as aforesaid, which shall be paid by the county treasurer as aforesaid; all
emoluments arising from the registration, except the amount paid by the
several counties, which
exceed the sum of one thousand dollars, shall be paid into the State
treasury; in order the more effectually to guard against injury from the
loss by fire, or otherwise, of the records of any county, and for other
purposes, it shall be the duty of each register, under the penalty of twenty
dollars for every neglect, recoverable as aforesaid, in each of the counties
semi-annually, between the fifteenth and twentieth day of January and July
in each year to transmit a copy of the record of marriages, births, and
deaths. before specified, with a copy of the index, duly certified by him,
to the. Secretary of the Commonwealth, who shall file the same in his office
and annually transmit to the Legislature an abstract of the number of
marriages, births, and deaths, which have occurred in each county in the
State during each year next preceding the first day of January, and for
which purpose the said Secretary shall furnish, at the cost of the
Commonwealth, each of the said registers with proper blanks prepared in the
form required by the thirteenth section of this act, and shall also furnish
to each of the said registers, at the cost of the Commonwealth, the blank
books and indexes required by the first or any other section of this act,
and also, at the same time, transmit a printed copy of this act, which shall
be bound with said blank book, and such instructions on the subject of the
law as he may see fit to prepare, and generally to do whatever may be
required to carry into effect the provisions of this act.
SECTION 14. That every clergyman, justice of the peace,
physician, sexton, or undertaker, whose duty it is to make any return under
this act, shall, on or before the first day of October next, return his name
and residence to the register of the county in which he may reside, who
shall record the said return in a book to be kept for the purpose, to be
provided at the expense of the county, and such person shall notify the
register of his removal to any other place in or out of said county, within
thirty days after such removal, except where he may cease to act in a
professional or official capacity.
SECTION 15. That all acts or parts of acts inconsistent
herewith, or supplied as aforesaid, are hereby repealed.
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Speaker of the Senate
We do certify that the bill entitled "An Act to provide
for a registration of marriages, births, and deaths," was presented to the
Governor on the fourteenth day of April, one thousand eight hundred and
fifty-one, being within ten days of the close of the last session of the
Legislature, and not having been "sent back within three days" of the
meeting of the present General Assembly, wherefore it has, agreeably to the
Constitution of this Commonwealth, become law in like manner as if he had
Clerk of the House of Representatives
John M. Sullivan
Clerk of the Senate
Harrisburg, January 12, 1852