If you're looking for vital records or important documents, Pennsylvania is literally full of them. As the former capital of the union as well as the home of the Liberty Bell, Pennsylvania offers a piece of American History that cannot be bested by many other places.
Pennsylvania is also the home of a rich cultural history as well as a population that works out to be a conglomeration of people from all over the world. The Pennsylvania Archives (accessed through the state government website, PA.gov) keeps more than two centuries worth of information on procedures, legislature, vital records and more. All of this information is important to some historical purpose, and there may be documents hiding in there that are important to your personal purposes.
Finding genealogical data can be important for many different reasons up to and including family histories and legal proceedings. One of the easiest ways to gather significant information on a family connection is to look at the obituary data for a person in the genealogical line. This data can be used to fill in gaps because obituaries often list survivors as well as family members who preceded the person in death. One small article may yield a substantial amount of information about the extended family of the deceased and help fill in many of the blanks in your search.
Unfortunately, obituaries can be more difficult to locate than just a simple Internet search or phone call. There is no one place that holds all of the obituary data for the state because obituaries are compulsory and not required by a governmental body. Unlike death certificates, there is no requirement for publishing an obituary. If you know the name of the deceased as well a close estimation of when they passed away, you should be able to hunt down information for the obituary through local indexes as well as library resources.
Libraries throughout the state have different procedures on hunting down obituaries. They are organized by county and operate as independent units. Though they are able to share microfilms and other archive through interlibrary loans, it is not an entirely cohesive system. The procedures vary, and that can make it difficult for someone who is still trying to fill in blanks about the person for which they're searching.
For instance, more than 260,000 obituary records are available through the Eerie County Public Library System. Data referencing the information can be accessed through the library website. It features a comprehensive index of what obituaries are contained within the library system and where they can be easily located. The search will match up the name of the deceased with the date of death that was recorded in the obituary. Then, you can contact the library with the information and find out the best way to request the actual obituary. There may be a charge for the printed copy. The information can be searched by name, year or both. This way, you can get the most accurate results depending on what information you have available to you at the time.
The Blair County Library system offers a similar service for any and all obituaries that were published in the Altoona Mirror. They are confident enough in their service that if it isn't indexed on the website, it isn't available through the Altoona Mirror at all. The only exception to this rule is if the obituary was published prior to 1929.
New Castle Public library also offers a searchable index of obituaries and death notices. While copies of the actual text are still not available, the index allows people to pinpoint the newspaper that the information was published in as well as the page on which it was printed. Information is also available about the publication date. From there, users can locate the obituary whether it's printed on original newsprint or on a microfilm and pay for copies if they would like to take the information with them. For the most part, there is no charge for simply viewing the reference copy of the information.
Libraries throughout the state also offer access to genealogy websites that contain huge amounts of data that often includes obituary records. These websites are accessible by library card holders only, but many library systems throughout the country offer access. With a library card number, sites like AncestryLibrary, MyHeritage and Accessible Archives can be accessed from within the library as well as from your home computer with your library card information.
Entire copies of the newspapers for the last 30 or so years that cover Lebanon County can be accessed online with your library card. The Lebanon County Library website offers completes issues as digitized, and if the obituary was published in that area and in that time frame, you may luck out and not only be able to find out where it is, but also physically see a copy of it.
One of the things that you have to keep in mind while researching obituaries is that, unlike death certificates, they are not required documentation. When someone dies, the death certificate must be filed with the state by the doctor who pronounces the death or the funeral home who buries the deceased.
Obituaries, on the other hand, are social conventions and not governmental requirements. This means that documentation that you're looking for may not be available because it never existed in the first place. In some cases, families are unable to afford the cost to publish in a newspaper. In others, there was no family of note at the time to publish the information. There are also people who ask that an obituary not be published when they pass away. All of these issues play into the problem of finding obituaries and further complicate the process. At very least, however, if a death certificate was published in the last 100 years, odds are that it is not only documented but available in certified copy.