Washington, Death Certificates (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.

Contents

Record Description

This Collection includes records from 1907 to 1960.

Each death is reported on a one-page printed form. Early certificates from 1907-1947 are filed by year within each county or large city. Counties are arranged alphabetically. Large cities are arranged alphabetically following the county lists. Certificates are arranged by number within the county or city. Each county or city numbered their own certificates beginning with number one. In 1948, a revised statewide numbering system was instituted.

The legislature in 1891 made it the responsibility of all coroners, physicians, and midwives or any other person assisting in the birth of a child to report to the county auditor all deaths which came under their supervision. Death registrations prior to 1907 were filed in the counties. From 1907 to 1960 the records were filed in the health department offices of the counties or the cities. From time to time county names and county boundaries changed, and several changes took place within the range of this records series. For example, Chehalis County became Grays Harbor County. The list of cities that maintained their own separate health departments also increased. In 1907, the cities were Bellingham, Everett, Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma. By 1948, there were 21 cities. These changes should always be considered when researching in the records series.

Initially, registration was very incomplete. The law was generally complied with by 1917. A licensed funeral director is now required to complete the death certificate before a burial or transit permit can be issued.

The state of Washington began registration of deaths July 1, 1907. This collection covers from then until 1960.

Deaths were recorded to serve public health needs. They are also used to probate wills and administer the deceased person’s estate.

Death certificates are reliable for the death date and place of the deceased. Burial information is generally very reliable unless the burial took place out of the state. Other information provided will only be as reliable as the informant’s knowledge or memory.

Record Content

Information found in death certificates includes:

  • Dates of death and burial
  • Place of death
  • Name of cemetery where buried or other disposition of remains, such as cremation or removal from place of death
  • Frequently, the birth date and/or age, written as years, months, and days, of the deceased
  • Frequently, the names of parents, including the maiden name of mother and the married name of spouse
  • Frequently, the country or state and sometimes the town and county of birth for the deceased and the parents
  • Name of the informant, who is often a child or other family member
  • The sex and marital status of the deceased
  • Residence or address of the deceased, often including length of residence at that place
  • Occupation of the deceased
  • Cause of death of the deceased, as certified by a medical practitioner or county coroner

How to Use the Record

To begin your search it is helpful to know the following:

  • The name of the person at the time of death
  • The place where the death occurred
  • The approximate death date

Search the Collection

To search the collection fill in the requested information in the boxes on the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the individuals in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to look at the information on several individuals comparing the information about them to your ancestors to make this determination. Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names, or variations of their name, throughout their life.
  • If your ancestor used an alias or a nickname, be sure to check for those alternate names.
  • Even though these indexes are very accurate they may still contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.

For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line article [FamilySearch Tips and Tricks].

Using the Information

When you have located your ancestor’s death record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family. For example:

  • Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find or verify their birth records and parents' names.
  • Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find the family in census records.
  • Use the residence and names of the parents (if the deceased is a child) to locate church and land records.
  • Use the parents' birth places to find former residences and to establish a migration pattern for the family.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Occupations listed can lead you to other types of records such as employment or military records.
  • The name of the officiator is a clue to their religion or area of residence in the county.
  • The name of the undertaker or mortuary could lead you to funeral and cemetery records which often include the names and residences of other family members.
  • Compile the entries for every person who has the same surname; this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual.
  • Continue to search the records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives of the deceased who may have died or been buried in the same county or nearby. This can help you identify other generations of your family or even the second marriage of a parent. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify.
  • When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
  • The information in these records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the informant.
  • Earlier records may not contain as much information as the records created after the late 1800s.
  • There is also some variation in the information given from one record to another record.

Unable to Find Your Ancestor?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for alias names, nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Check for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor.

For a summary of this information see the wiki article: United States, How to Use the Records Summary (FamilySearch Historical Records).

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Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. Guidelines are available to help you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide. If you would like to get more involved join the WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Citation for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in FamilySearch.org Historical Record collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher and archive for the original records.

"Washington Death Certificates, 1907-1960." Index. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2013. Citing Bureau of Vital Statistics, Olympia.

 

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  • This page was last modified on 22 September 2014, at 20:42.
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