Washington, Death Certificates (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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


What Is in the Collection?

This collection includes death certificates 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.


What Can These Records Tell Me?

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?

You can search the index or view the images or both. Before searching this collection, it is helpful to know:

  • Name of the person
  • The location or date of the event

Search the Index

Search by name by visiting the Collection Page.
  1. Fill in the search boxes on the Collection Page with the information you have
  2. Click Search to show possible matches

How Do I Analyze the Results?

Compare each result from your search with what you know to determine if there is a match. This may require viewing multiple records or images.

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

What Do I Do Next?

If these are indexes, the original records may contain additional information than was not indexed, or the information might have been indexed incorrectly. You may want to search for the original record at the National Archives.


I Found Who I Was Looking For, What Now?

  • Copy the citation below, in case you need to find this record again later.
  • Use the age or estimated birth date to find other county or Washington Vital Records such as birth, baptism, marriage, and death records.
  • Search for death or burial information in Washington Cemeteries.
  • Use the information found in the record to find Washington Land and Property records.
  • Use the information found in the record to find Washington Probate Records.
  • Use the information found in the record to find Washington Emigration and Immigration records.
  • Use the information found in the record to find additional family members in the Washington Census records. Witnesses were usually family members.
  • Repeat this process with additional family members found, to find more generations of the family.


I Can’t Find Who I’m Looking For, What Now?

  • If your ancestor does not have a common name, collect entries for every person who has the same surname. This list can help you find possible relatives.
  • If you cannot locate your ancestor in the locality in which you believe they lived, then try searching a nearby locality Oregon Vital Records.
  • Try different spellings of your ancestor’s name.
  • Remember that sometimes individuals went by nicknames or alternated between using first and middle names. Try searching for these names as well.
  • Check the info box above for additional FamilySearch websites and related websites that may assist you in finding similar records.


{{Tip|More images are available in the FamilySearch Catalog at Washington Death Certificates, 1907-1960. Some catalog records link to multiple references. In this case, click on a reference to find a camera icon to see images.}

Citing This Collection

Citations help you keep track of places you have searched and sources you have found. Identifying your sources helps others find the records you used.

Collection Citation
"Washington Death Certificates, 1907-1960." Database. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 14 June 2016. Citing Bureau of Vital Statistics, Olympia.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

When looking at a record, the citation is found below the record. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for Washington Death Certificates, 1907-1960.


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