Whether you are conducting genealogy research or in the process of settling the estate of a loved one, securing the proper death records is essential to the task. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to find and obtain copies of records of this type, with many of the resources being local in nature. Here are a few possibilities that may lead you to the death record or records you need.
If the goal is to prepare a family history or research the family tree, one of the first places to look is at cemeteries. If the deceased belonged to a religious organization that maintained a cemetery on its property, there is a good chance that the historical documents of the congregation include details of who was buried there, along with the death dates of each person interred in the cemetery. Even if the records do not include the exact date of death, they usually will include the lot and space number assigned to the grave, making it an easy task to visit the gravesite and read the data off the marker.
Another approach to obtaining death records involves consulting with government agencies. Depending on the country involved, there may be local agencies that can aid in the search directly. It is not unusual for county and parish records to include information about all the deaths and burials that take place within the jurisdiction. The data usually includes copies of the death certificate issued by a coroner once both a doctor and the government agent have certified the death.
In the event that local records have been lost or damaged, there is always the possibility of searching through death records logged with the national government. For example, in the United States it is possible to secure information on the deaths of individuals reaching as far back as the early 19th century. While the oldest of these records may contain only spotty amounts of information, the records from circa 1900 to the present tend to be very detailed. Copies of death certificates can often be obtained from a national government agency when they are no longer available from any other source.
One final avenue to explore is with the free death records maintained by genealogical associations. In many cases, societies of this type have copies of county death records on microfilm and microfiche dating back many years. More recently, computer technology has made it possible to scan original documents for storage, making the process of retrieval even easier. The free records that can be located at various genealogical societies also often include other public death records such as church cemetery logs, birth and death listings kept by towns and villages, and a wide range of other public death records.
You can also search death records by logging into online sites operated by various organizations. While not always providing direct access to formal records like a death certificate, these sites can often provide enough detail to make it possible to connect with an entity or organization that can supply a copy of the original. In some cases, there will be no cost at all, although there is sometimes a small fee to cover printing and postage charges.