How to Get the Birth Certificates of Dead Relatives

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 her own identity before the document can be released. For a relative born after 1900, most states will have his 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.

Verify Personal Information

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.

Check with the Department of Vital Statistics

Contact the department of vital statistics in the potential birth states by phone, email, 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).

Provide Proof of Your Identity

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.

Establish Your Relationship

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.

Provide All Required Documentation

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 organized according to the directions, or information designated as required is left incomplete, you will lose your nonrefundable application or researching fee.