How to Find a Death Certificate of a Past Family Member

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Obtaining a death certificate for a deceased family member is not difficult, provided you know the place of death and have sufficient details regarding the person in question. The federal government does not distribute vital records, so you will need to write or visit the particular state, or perhaps county, office of vital records in the jurisdiction where the death occurred. If you don't know where the person died, you will have to do some research.

Gather your information on the personal details of the deceased. In order to obtain a person's death certificate you will need to provide the full name, sex, parents' names, the date and place of death, the purpose of your request and your relationship to the deceased.

Search for information about your family member on the Internet, if you cannot find the details of the deceased from your relatives. There are a variety of public records searches available on the Internet, some free and some that charge, but you must find this information before you can obtain a copy of the death certificate. Public records searches include, and

Visit the Centers for Disease Control's directory of vital records offices, listed under resources, and locate the vital records office for the state or area in which the person died. Fees and protocol may vary from state to state.

Go to the vital records office if possible. You will fill out an application containing your information and pay a fee, usually about $15.

Write to the vital records office if you are unable to go in person. Include the information concerning the deceased, the purpose of your request, your relationship and also include your contact information. Pay by check made payable as the the office indicates.


  • State offices will generally have vital records dating back about 100 years. If the person you are searching for is older than that, you should inquire with the county office.
  • Be clear in writing and patient in awaiting a response, as genealogical work does not fall under the jurisdiction of county records offices.
  • Gather your information before making an inquiry.
  • A phone number is included in the vital records office's information. Call to verify costs or with any questions.



About the Author

Andrew Hoffman is a writer and blogger originally from Boston. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from McGill University, where he studied history, languages, philosophy and religion. Hoffman has also worked as an editor, creative consultant and English tutor.

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  • confederate tombstone image by Linda McPherson from