Washington, Death Certificates (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.
Access the records: Washington Death Certificates, 1907-1960 .

Collection Time Period

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

Record History

The legislature in 1891 made it 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 are filed in the counties. A licensed funeral director is now required to complete the death certificate before a burial permit can be issued. Initially, registration was very incomplete. The law was generally complied with by 1917. 

Why This Record Was Created

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

Record Reliability

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 Description

Each death is reported on a one page pre-printed form. Certificates 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. 

Record Content

Key genealogical facts found in death certificates are:

  • Dates of death and burial
  • Place of death
  • Name of cemetery where buried
  • 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

How To Use The Record

Use death certificates to obtain death information. You may also find burial information. The certificates normally provide clues for further research: names of parents, birth date, birthplace, place of residence, and name of spouse. The informant may be a spouse or child. 

Related Websites

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Related Wiki Articles

Washington Vital Records

Sources of This Collection

"Washington Death Certificates, 1907-1960," database, FamilySearch; from Washington State Bureau of Vital Statistics. "Death Certificates, Washington State, 1907-1960," Bound certificates. 1907-1960. Bureau of Vital Statistics, Olympia. FHL microfilm, 960 rolls. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

A full bibliographic record is available in the Family History Library Catalog.

How to Cite Your Sources

Instructions for citing this source can be found at: Cite Your Sources (Source Footnotes)