Very much understanding the privacy concerns of possibly living individuals in the last 100 years I was wondering if there is alternative repositories for obtaining the details for genealogical purposes on a death certificate without obtaining a copy. In particular I am looking for pre-1950 and in most cases pre-1935 but after 1915 some of which may not be made public in my lifetime.

I really have no need in most cases for an image of one and like many online records just looking for a 'non-certified' summary with a source just to obtain things like mother and father, place of birth listed on the certificate, and a bonus would be cause of death. The parents in some states, you also need in some states to request a birth certificate even that extended beyond the 100 years so in some places it can be a catch 22.

For those who have not yet attempted this yet I included two examples below and I have discussed over the phone with usually very friendly and helpful Vital Records staff. None of these individuals to date so far knew off the top of their head how to get the information other than 'waiting it out', finding a child (which in some cases they are also deceased and their grandchild is not eligible), or finding an obituary in a newspaper or genealogical record to obtain the information. The couple that I have spoken to on the phone also do not provide 'unofficial copies', but only official ones with a single procedure.

Idaho: "Birth records are legally confidential in Idaho for 100 years. Marriage, death and divorce records are legally confidential for 50 years. Only immediate family members or their legal representatives may receive copies of these records."

Illinois: "Original, photographic or microphotographic reproductions of original records of births 100 years old and older and deaths 50 years old and older, and marriage records 75 years old and older on file in the State Office of Vital Records and in the custody of the county clerks may be made available for inspection in the Illinois State Archives reference area"

Note: I have seen 100/100, 100/75/50, and 100/50 year periods.

I am aware that some information gets scanned and inputted into repositories like the Social Security Death Index, Newspapers.com, and eventually National Archives and some repositories on Ancestry.com.

My question: Has anyone identified alternative means (without executing legal action) to obtain information directly off of the certificates in another repository for those in particular that are pre-WWII, even if just death certificates summary information that have not quite reached the 100 year mark?

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    If the certificates are supposed to be held in confidence, then there should be no way to obtain information 'directly off the certificates', as that would be violating the law. Furthermore, if the certificates have not reached the point where local authorities turn them over to state or local archives, they won't be in another repository. Your best bet for knowing other paths to equivalent information would be to hire a professional who specializes in the area you are researching in. They should be up to date on the current statutes for record access and know what records are available.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Dec 20, 2014 at 20:10

1 Answer 1


If you're a non-relative then you need to conspire with the close relatives or rely on other records - church, cemetery, probate, newspapers.

If you are truly looking for pre-WWII death certificates, the newest ones are already over 70 years old. They should all be public now, except a few states - Rhode Island, Maryland, Maine, Colorado make you wait 100 years. Many for Idaho (pre-1937) and Illinois (pre-1947) are available free online.




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