Death records are documents regarding deceased individuals and the circumstances surrounding their death. Of all vital records on life events that occur in a jurisdiction, death records are most useful for accessing the information on a person of interest. Death records are available at the office of the county clerk or the local department of health where the death occurred or where the individual was buried.
Information contained in a death record includes, but not limited to, the following:
- Date of birth
- Date & place of death
- Age or approximate age
- Social security numbers
- Cause and time of death
- Name of hospital
- Information on the attending physician
- Funeral & burial information
- Name of the informant
- Marital status
- Information on surviving relatives
- Employment information
- Residential information
Note that where the deceased does not have an informant, i.e., some who knows them well enough to provide the above information, the information on a death record may be inaccurate.
To obtain a death record, you must visit the designated custodian. In some counties, this is the county clerk or the local department of health. State Departments of Health typically maintain a central database of death records and disseminate these records to eligible individuals.
Some states regard death records as confidential until a statutory period of confidentiality has passed. Where a death record is confidential, only members of the deceased’s immediate family and legal designees can obtain access to these records. You can use the CDC directory to find the protocol and requirements for obtaining copies of death records in various states. Several government agencies and private service providers also maintain free databases on publicly available death records. Some of these include the Social Security Administration, Ancestry, and Family Search.