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Chester County, PA Death Records, 1852-1906
Chester County, Pennsylvania

Published: March 21, 2020
Total records: 21,950

Compiled by: Chester County Department of Archives & Records

chester county pennsylvania death records


Chester County kept death records for the years 1852-1855 and 1893-1906. In 1906 the State of Pennsylvania began keeping the records. Other than the listed years the county did not record deaths and alternative sources should be consulted. The original death register index (1893-1906) is courtesy of Dr. Jim Jones and students at West Chester University.

1852-1855 Death Records

 On January 12, 1852, the Pennsylvania Legislature enacted its first statewide law requiring the registration of vital records.  The law, however well intentioned, was short lived.  The Registration Act of 1852 was repealed on January 31, 1855, only 3 years after its inception.  During those three years, only a few births, deaths and marriages were recorded within the county. This dearth of records may be an indication of a lack of compliance with the law, which may have lead to its eventual repeal.

The records in this index begin on July 1, 1852 and end in January 1855.  These records do not represent all the deaths that took place in Chester County during this time period.  There are several townships that never submitted any returns to the Register of Wills Office and a large majority only submitted a few.  The closer the event took place to West Chester, the higher probability it was recorded.

The 1852-1855 death records contain detailed information, including date and place of birth, names of parents, and name of spouse. The records are incomplete; many deaths were not recorded...

1875-1893 Proof of Death Registers

An act of legislature passed on May 15, 1874 required that "all persons applying for letters testamentary or letters of administration shall, before the issue of said letters, file with the register of wills an affidavit, setting forth as nearly as can be ascertained the day and hour of the decedent's death to which said letters respectively relate."  This information was recorded in volumes until 1893.  After that date the affidavits are filed within the decedent's estate file.

Entries provide full name of decedent; residence, date, time and place of death; name of attorney; name and signature of individual filing for letters; date of recording and signature of register of wills.

Notes: Dates in [ ] indicate the year of recording.  The full date of death was not provided.

1893-1906 Death Registers

Between 1893 and 1906, information on deaths was compiled by local tax assessors and then turned in to the county. Often a death was recorded six months to a year after the actual event. The records do not include the names of parents unless the deceased was a minor. Records are incomplete; not every death was recorded. The only record that exists is the register itself; there are no certificates on file.

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