How to get the birth certificates of dead relatives

Written by heather inks
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How to get the birth certificates of dead relatives
Getting the birth certificate of a dead relative is a two-part process (Cross Headstone Rows © Joy Prescott |

Getting the birth certificate of a dead relative is a two-part process. The person requesting the birth certificate must prove a qualifying relationship and their own identity before the document can be released. For a relative born after 1900, most states will have their record on file, and will be able to search and issue a copy of a birth certificate to those who can offer the appropriate documentation and processing fees. Not all states have records for deceased relatives born prior to 1900.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Research the dead relative's information by consulting your living family members or personal family records. Write down possible birthdates or birth years, the deceased's full name or potential aliases, and potential birth states.

  2. 2

    Contact the department of vital statistics in the potential birth states by phone, e-mail, website or mail. Ask what documentation the department requires to complete a search for a deceased relative's birth certificate. This information varies by state, and will include documents to prove your identity and documents to prove a qualified relationship (the meaning of "qualified" is determined by the state's rules).

  3. 3

    Make clear and legible copies of all required documentation to prove your identity. This usually includes one or two items that provide photo identification. If you don't have photo identification, provide the alternative identification options listed on the birth state's website. Acceptable alternative identification varies by the issuing state.

  4. 4

    Make clear and legible copies of all documents proving a qualified relationship to the deceased relative. For instance, both your birth certificate and your parents' birth certificate will be required for you to obtain a grandparent's birth certificate. These are called "chain" documents--they must show a chain proving your relationship to the deceased.

  5. 5

    Fill out the entire application. Follow all directions regarding the specific order and attachment of the forms and qualifying documents. If the information packet is not organised according to the directions, or information designated as required is left incomplete, you will lose your nonrefundable application or researching fee.

Tips and warnings

  • Make sure the state has birth certificates available for the year of your deceased relative's birth before you submit the application and research fees.
  • Use the appropriate writing utensil to fill out the forms: Some specify blue or black ink, while others specify No. 2 pencils.
  • Don't omit required documentation. The birth certificate search will not be completed, and you will lose the nonrefundable application or researching fees.
  • Don't send original identification or qualified-relationship documents; they will not be returned.

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