Are Death Certificate Public Record

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Are Death Records Made Public

Searching for Death Records | Ancestry

The question is whether death certificates are public records is a complicated one. First, it depends on the state and local ordinances. Many states do consider death records to be public records, and anyone can search to find them. However, some states only allow close family members or legal representatives to obtain copies. The wording they use is that only someone with a “direct and tangible interest” can access death records. That may also include someone who is not related to the decedent who has a court order or affidavit.

After a certain number of years, most state vital records offices open up confidential death records to the general public. These are most often found in archive buildings or websites. They can help find information about the deaths of old war vets or other ancestors.

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Obtaining A Death Record Online

Depending on the state in which the death certificate was issued, it may be possible to obtain a death certificate online. State agencies sometimes maintain their death records online and there are also various websites such as which aggregate death records online. While these websites are convenient, the death records are not official. If you need an official death certificate then it is best to contact the county in which the death took place and/or the place in which the person who died had lived. If you are unsure of the county of death or residence then websites like can be very helpful in trying to locate a death certificate.

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Of All Vital Records Death Certificates Have The Highest Chance Of Existing

Unlike many other states, New York birth, marriage, and death records can be challenging to find.

Towns and cities didnt always comply with record keeping laws until the early 1900s, and New York City vital records are kept entirely separate from those that belong to people from other areas of New York State.

The opening section of our Guide to Finding New York Birth, Marriage, and Death Records has more detail on this interesting subject.

The good news is that of the types of vital recordsbirth certificates, marriage records, and death certificatesNew York death certificates are often the easiest to find.

As a general rule, vital record keeping across the state gradually improved over time. Therefore, no matter when your ancestor lived, record keeping was far better when they died than when they were born, in almost all cases.

Thats certainly no guarantee an official New York death certificate exists, but its usually safe to assume its the more likely to exist than a birth or marriage record .

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In addition to finding a death record, there are many websites that aggregate obituaries, including newspaper archives and genealogy websites. Obituaries should not be treated as official death records because it is possible to submit an obituary that contains information that is not factual. A death certificate is considered a much more official record of an individuals death.

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What Types Of Death Certifications Are Issued

The following death certificates are issued to those legally entitled to receive them:

  • Death Long Certificate which contains all information, including the cause of death.
  • Death Short Certificate contains limited information excluding the cause of death. However, it does contain the manner of death.

A Death Statement contains the decedent’s name, county, and date of death.

Death Records Are Public Record

People often ask, Are Death Records Available To The Public In The United States? Death records are included with birth records under the category of vital records. These records are created by local authorities throughout the United States and may also be created overseas by the military. There are many reasons why you may need a death record. For example, you may be an executor of an estate. You may be a surviving spouse who needs a death record to gain access to your spouses real estate assets. Regardless of the reason, there are many ways to gain access to a death record online.

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Vital Records Explained Are Death Certificates Public Record

It depends on state law . For example, in Alaska, death certificates become public records 50 years after the date of death. Also, death certificates are exempt from FOIA .

The question is how do you find out the cause of death of someone?

Quick take: are death certificates public records?

  • It depends on state law .
  • Death certificates become public record after a set period in some states.
  • You may request a death certificate from your states vital records website.
  • A death certificate contains personal information, cause of death, and the time of death.
  • If you are not a close relative, you may need a court order to view someone elses death certificate in some states.

Some Death Certificate Extracts Exist Online

Requesting Birth & Death Records

Fortunately for researchers, New York death certificates are mostly possible to find online. For individuals outside of New York City, researchers should first consult that New York State Death Index .

After finding your ancestor in this index, you can order a copy from the State Archives in Albany, though the wait time for the full certificate can be extensive. It may also be possible to find a copy of the certificate from a more local municipality. For more guidance on this, see our Guide to Finding New York Birth, Marriage, and Death Records.

Those researching ancestors who died in New York City can hope to find more immediate success. Several online indexes are available, and the most robust can be found on

This index comes with a significant amount of extracted information from each certificate, including many of the pieces of information that make a death certificate so worthy of finding in the first place. You can read more about the exact coverage in our article about these new collections when they debuted, New NYC Birth, Marriage, and Death Indexes Now Available.

And of course, our Guide to Finding New York Birth, Marriage, and Death Records has links to all other New York City Death Indexes. Full certificates can also be ordered from New York City, and wait times are not as long as those ordered from the State Archives in Albany.

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How To Obtain A Certified Copy Of A Death Certificate

Not everyone is eligible to get a copy of a death certificate in the United States. Generally, each state determines who obtains a copy of a death certificate and the type of certificate they can get. Eligible persons can acquire either certified or informational copies of a birth certificate. Informational copies of a death record contain personal records and are often available to anyone who needs them. In most states, certified copies of a death certificate are available only to immediate relatives of a decedent and administrator of the decedent’s estate. Anyone who can demonstrate a direct financial interest in a decedent’s estate also qualifies to obtain certified copies of a death certificate. Certified copies carry an official stamp and are usually needed for varying reasons. They are required for transferring a decedent’s assets to beneficiaries and obtaining a permit for a decedent’s cremation or burial.

In a typical situation, however, the following persons and entities can get a United States death record:

  • Funeral director

Restrictions For Obtaining Death Records

To obtain a certified copy of the death certificate for those who died within the last 50 years, you must be:

  • The spouse, parent, child, or sibling of the
  • Other persons who have a documented lawful right or claim, a documented medical need, or a New York State Court Order

An uncertified copy of a birth certificate issued within the last seventy-five years is available to a direct-line descendant who provides

  • Proof of their relationship to the person whose birth certificate they are requesting

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Record Confidentiality & Restrictions

The release of death certificates is governed by New York State Public Health Law §4174, which protects their confidential nature. New York State is a closed state and death records are not subject to FOIL and available to individuals who are:

  • The spouse of the deceased and you were married at the time of death
  • The biological sibling of the deceased
  • Biological child of the deceased
  • Someone with a NY State court order
  • The administrator or executor of the estate
  • Someone with a documented legal right or claim
  • Someone with a documented medical claim

All requests are subject to review of identification and documentation presented at time of service. If you have specific questions, please contact our office.

Free Public Death Records

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People access to Public Death Records for various reasons. Perhaps you are thinking of replacing a lost or damaged certificate. Or perhaps, you want to find out some information about long lost relatives or to confirm if a missing person is still alive or not.

Death records also play an important role in genealogy research, because they can often provide details on family members. It includes date and place of death, age at time of death, sex, race, marital status, name of spouse, place of birth, Social Security number, occupation, residence, parents name, cause of death and place of burial. Some records even provides birthplace of the deceaseds parents. When the Social Security number is included, it can lead you to many other valuable vital records.

Whatever your intentions may be, you may obtain copies of public death records in several ways. You may visit, write, or call your local government office. Local government offices keep and maintain these records on their files for archiving purposes.

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Do Death Certificates Show Cause Of Death

An official death record will contain the person’s cause of death. However, in many cases, states that consider death records private will only release a version with the cause of death on it to close family members, the deceased’s attorney, or a court. They may omit the cause of death on records provided to the general public. You can check with the center for health statistics for more information.

What Are Death Records

Death records are vital records, and they are official documents containing important information about deceased persons. A death record is considered the legal proof of the time and date a death event occurs. It is also the only tenable proof that someone has died. Generally, death records in the United States are public records and are accessible to eligible persons. Before the official recording of death records started in the United States, most religious institutions recorded them and were valuable sources of extracting family histories. Some regions in the United States began recording death events as early as 1632. However, this responsibility was later shouldered by the state and local vital record offices in 1900. By the mid-1930s, all states within the nation had started collecting mortality data. Death records are usually held in the state where such events occurred and not the deceased persons’ burial locations. The United States has 57 independent jurisdictions responsible for collecting information on death events. These include the 50 states, New York City , District of Columbia, and Northern Marianas Islands. Others are the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Guam.

  • Claiming life insurance
  • Getting married
  • Settling estates

A typical death record in the United States contains the following information:

Others include:

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How To Find A Death Record

There are a few ways to find someone’s death record. Each state and local jurisdiction has record repositories of vital records like birth records, birth certificates, death, marriage certificates, marriage records, divorce records and divorce certificates, apostille records, and fetal death certificates. Many of these government entities keep their records online in a searchable database. Qualified individuals can pay a fee to find someone’s death record and even order copies.

Some local offices keep their records in paper form, and you would have to visit an archive building or records library to find what you needed. The CDC also has resources for finding each state’s death records and other vital records. Many states offer public health records and vital health statistics via the Department of Health. You can locate the mailing address of the proper department on the government website. The vital statistics offices may also help you make amendments to incorrect vital records.

You can also use a website like InfoTracer with millions of records in an easy-to-use quick search tool on death records to determine whether or not someone has died. Within seconds you can find out a lot of information about a person.

You Might Need A Death Certificate To Obtain Permission To Access Other Records

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Aside from the genealogical information, a death certificate is often a very handy tool to have in your arsenal, because it could quite literally be the key to unlocking more recordsin your research, you may need to submit proof that an individual has died in order to obtain records about their life.

For instance, researchers seeking birth certificates and marriage records for ancestors who lived in New York State will need to submit proof of death in order to obtain these records.

For New York State birth certificates, researchers need to prove the individual is deceased. For marriage records, researchers need to prove that both spouses are deceased.

A similar example applies to those researching New York Cityyou will need to submit proof that both spouses have died if seeking a marriage record less than 50 years old.

This reason alone should be enough to motivate you to find that death certificatetheres nothing more frustrating than finding the exact birth or marriage certificate youre seeking, only to realize that you need to hunt down a whole other record in order to be allowed to access it.

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The Searchquarrycom Death Records Database

In the members area you will find our Vital Records section, and our death records search is in that section. Death records in this database resource will include the time of death, location of death, birth records, maiden names, relatives, birth place, mothers name and more. Other vital records searches include birth records, marriage records, and divorce records. Other searches available in the members area include criminal records, court records, lien records, driving records, vehicle records, people search, background checks, and phone number lookups.

How Can You Find Out If Someone Has Died

One way to find out if someone has died is to check with local papers and ask the obituary department. The media keeps records and often lists death information in weekly or monthly periodicals. In addition, many news outlets keep their obituaries online for easy searching. You could also contact local health care organizations where the person may have died to find out details.

Another way to find out if someone has died is to check social media. After a person passes away, their family will often note their social media account but leave it online so that others can post memorial remarks. You can also reach out to the person’s family or mutual friends to see if the person is still living.

Courthouses also hold birth and death records and can often help a researcher find out if someone is alive or dead. The place to start is with the Clerk of the Court.

Also, check with the health department or state government website for more information. Sometimes they offer certified copies by walk-in, or you can order certificates online using VitalChek and other third-party services. They typically take checks, money orders, or credit cards to cover the processing fee. You usually have to show a copy of your photo ID when ordering and submit a completed application form. If you order online, the processing time is usually only a few business days for a certified copy of a death certificate.

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How To Find Death Records Online

The National Death Index is an online repository of all death events in the United States. It currently contains over 100 million death records from 1979 through the years. Death records are added to the NDI list every year, usually 12 months after the end of a particular calendar year. The National Center for Health Statistics established the NDI to help health and medical investigators in mortality determination pursuits. It is, however, unavailable to the general public for administrative, genealogy, or legal purposes. The database is exclusively accessible by persons or entities requiring such records for statistical purposes in medical and health research. The NDI assists investigators in determining whether the persons under their research have died. If such is the case, the database provides the dates of death, the state in which the death events occurred, and the death certificate numbers. Each record filed in the NDI has its unique certificate number. Once this information is obtained, investigators can establish contact with the state’s vital record offices to request copies of such death certificates. They can also ask for specific information from the death records, such as the cause of death.

  • The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
  • The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.

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