Death certificates are issued whenever a person dies. The certificates are filed with the county and state in which the person died, and are also provided when requested to family members and lawyers who need them for reasons of probate, finances and other matters.
Death certificates generally contain the following information of the deceased: name, address, location of death, sex, age, date of death and cause of death. If the death required an autopsy, such as in cases of homicide, suicide or unexplained medical death, the autopsy report is often included with the death certificate.
Obtaining a Death Certificate
State and county offices make it easy to obtain death certificates for relatives and researchers. You can write to the vital statistics office of any county or parish and request a copy of a death certificate. Provide as much information as possible about the person whose certificate you are requesting, including full name, age, date of death, location of death and address.
Death certificates are used to provide proof of death in court and in legal proceedings, including the reading and execution of wills. Family members of persons presumed dead might file for death certificates of those persons to expedite legal matters.
Writing Death Certificates
Medical examiners, and many other physicians and professional care givers are trained in writing death certificates to be as clear and informative as possible. The National Association of Medical Examiners provides online training on writing cause of death information.
Use in Genealogy Research
Genealogists, or people who research family history, often collect death certificates as part of their research. Not only do death certificates give the official date and location of death, they also provide clues as to family medical history or family events. Death certificates for several generations showing death from a particular kind of cancer might indicate those individuals shared a job or lived in an environment conducive to the disease, or a descendant is at risk for that disease. Death certificates showing multiple people in a family died on the same day might indicate an accident or, in the past, rapidly spreading disease.