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# Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Tips for Finding Your Ancestor's Death Record
Posted by Diane

When my husband and I were house-hunting awhile back, we looked at a house adjoining a small pioneer cemetery nearly concealed by trees. Which I thought was cool—you could see the area's history in the names on the worn stones. My husband said, "Quiet neighbors."

But a few friends looked stricken and said they might have to think twice about coming over.

So it goes for many of us genealogists. We're fascinated by cemeteries and death records; other people think that's creepy. But in the spirit of genealogy and Halloween, here are some tips on finding your ancestors' death records:
  • Death records are generally available after the state passed a law that counties or towns had to keep records and forward them to the state health department or vital records office. To find out when that was for your ancestor's state, download our free US Vital Records Chart (PDF document) from here. Compliance with the law wasn't always 100 percent, so keep that in mind.
You can get websites and contact information for state vital records offices from the Centers for Disease Control Where to Wrote for Vital Records listing.
  • Restrictions on public access to death records are generally shorter than those for birth records—depending on the state, it's usually 25 to 50 years if you're not immediate family. Check the state vital records office website for this information.

The town or county health department or a local genealogical society where your ancestor lived can tell you when death recording began there. Remember that these early records often aren't complete.

  • No official death record to be found? Look to other sources, such as newspaper obituaries and death notices, cemeteries, church records, US census mortality schedules and probate records. 

Learn more about tracking down death information for your ancestors from these Family Tree Magazine expert resources:


Research Tips | Vital Records
Tuesday, October 30, 2012 12:24:01 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]