MISDIRECTED RIGHT-TO-KNOW REQUESTS
The Office of Open Records ("OOR") is a quasi-judicial tribunal that decides appeals of denied requests for records. The OOR is not a warehouse of records for the Commonwealth. As a result, the OOR does not have many of the most commonly requested records. The majority of the Right to Know Law requests received by the OOR are misdirected - this means that the records sought are in the possession of another agency. To try and obtain those records, a requester should file a request with the agency that has the records.
Filing a RTK request with the wrong agency can cause an extended delay in getting access to the records you seek - potentially up to thirty-five (35) days. The OOR has created the chart below listing the most common types of misdirected requests and the agencies actually possessing these records. Please consult this list before filing your request, as the record(s) you seek may be readily available without even filing a RTK request.
Request for an OOR Record: - (Download PDF) Updated December 2013
2014 Right-to-Know Requests of the Office of Open Records: - (Download PDF) Updated July 2014
Type of Record
Birth and death certificates can be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. More information can be found here.
Copies of marriage licenses can be obtained from the Register of Wills in the County where the marriage took place. A list of the Registers of Wills in Pennsylvania can be found here.
Records related to divorce proceedings can be obtained from the Prothonotary in the County where the divorce took place. A list of County prothonotaries can be found here.
There is no agency tasked with compiling this type of information. You need to file a separate request with the appropriate agency for each type of record you seek, i.e. birth certificate, death certificate marriage license, etc.
Records from a criminal proceeding
Records related to a criminal proceeding can be obtained from the Clerk of Courts in the County where the proceeding took place. A list of Clerks of Courts in Pennsylvania can be found here.
Records from a civil proceeding
Records related to a civil proceeding can be obtained from the Prothonotary in the County where the civil proceeding took place. A list of County prothonotaries can be found here.
The cause and manner of death are available from the Coroner's Office in the County where the death occurred.
Certain records, such as deeds, can be obtained from the Recorder of Deeds in the County where the property is located. Other records, such as zoning records, permits, etc., can be obtained from the Municipality or Township where the property is located.
Criminal background checks
Criminal background checks are conducted by the Pennsylvania State Police. More information can be found here.
Salaries of Commonwealth employees
The salaries of Commonwealth employees are available via PENNWATCH.
Commonwealth budget and spending information
This information is also available on PENNWATCH.
Environmental assessment records
These records can often be obtained from the Township or Municipality where the property is located. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection may also possess certain records.
The Pennsylvania Department of State is responsible for licensing various entities, including nurses, cosmetologists, funeral home directors, etc. The Department's Right-to-Know policy can be found here.
Criminal and appellate docket sheets can be accessed through Pennsylvania's Unified Judicial System webportal.
Contracts for Commonwealth agencies
Contracts involving Commonwealth agencies can be accessed at Pennsylvania's E-Contracts Library. Meanwhile, bidding and award information can be found on Pennsylvania's eMarketplace portal.
The Treasury Department maintains custody of unclaimed property until it is claimed by the rightful owner. Additional information regarding the types of unclaimed property maintained by the Treasury Department and to search a database of unclaimed property, you may visit the Unclaimed Property website.
The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare maintains the Pennsylvania Adoption Information Registry (“PAIR”). PAIR is a medical and social database for adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth relatives who would like to share or obtain medical or social history about themselves or their birth relatives. Additional information regarding this program is available on the PAIR website.
General Education Development (GED) transcripts
GED transcripts can be requested from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Information on how to request a GED transcript is available here.
High School and College transcripts
Former students may request a copy of their academic transcript by contacting the educational institution they attended. Additional information about requesting academic transcripts of schools no longer in operation is available from the Department of Education.
For all other records: if you know the agency that would possess the records you seek, you can find its Registered Open Records Officer on the OOR's website.