Finding & Filing Records with City Departments

When it comes to major life events like birth, death, marriage, divorce, purchasing or inheriting property, and so on, there’s often official paperwork - such as licenses, certificates, decrees, or records - involved. Where might Philadelphians obtain, file, and/or record such documents? There are a few City departments that are helpful to know about, including the Philadelphia Department of Records, Register of Wills, and Office of Judicial Records. 

The Philadelphia Department of Records “manages City records and provides access to the public”. More specifically, the department records real estate documents, maintains records for City agencies, manages the City Archives, provides access to land records and public safety reports, and more. Here are some examples of actions you can take through this department: 


The Philadelphia Register of Wills is an elected position that also serves as the Clerk of Orphan’s Court. This office provides marriage licenses and probates estates. More specifically, the office provides marriage licenses to Philadelphians who are getting married, keeps records of previous marriages starting in 1915, probates wills, issues letters of administration when a Philadelphia resident dies without a will, maintains the dockets and records of the Orphan’s Court, and more. Here are some examples of actions you can take through this office:

The Philadelphia County Office of Judicial Records - Civil manages records related to civil cases within the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania. This office serves the civil courts of Philadelphia Municipal Court and the Court of Common Pleas (including the Domestic Relations branch of Family Court). This office was formerly called Office of the Prothonotary. Here are some examples of actions you can take through this office:

Similarly, the Philadelphia County Office of Judicial Records- Criminal manages criminal court records within the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania. Specifically, it “serves the Criminal Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court as well as the Juvenile Division of Family Court.” This office was formerly called the Clerk of Courts.

Finally, if you need to order a birth certificate or a death certificate, take a look at these state (not city) web pages from the PA Department of Health. 

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