Washington, Death Certificates (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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Washington Death Certificates, 1907-1960 .
This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
Washington, United States
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Flag of Washington
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Location of Washington
Record Description
Record Type Death
Collection years 1907-1960
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites

What is in the Collection?

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.

Collection 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 Do I Search the Collection?

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 by name:
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 Search Tips and Tricks.

What do I do Next?

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.

How You Can Contribute

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citing this Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation:c

"Washington Death Certificates, 1907-1960." Database. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. Citing Bureau of Vital Statistics, Olympia.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for Washington Death Certificates, 1907-1960.