Arkansas Death Records and Death Index
You might be surprised how often genealogists face this set of circumstances. They know when their ancestor was born, when they married, when their children were born but they just can’t confirm when they died.
I have found a fair few instances where the only information missing is a death date and this can be very frustrating. This is why knowing what death records may be available to you can be vital in your research.
It is important to note that one of the biggest issues in finding a death record can be looking in the wrong place. You may be surprised how often people miss records because they are looking in the wrong county and sometimes even the wrong state.
In this post we will be looking at Arkansas State death records and indexes to try and help you find those elusive ancestors. So if you are confident that your ancestor likely died in the state of Arkansas then read on and hopefully we can help you out.
The land now referred to as Arkansas came to the United States as part of the 1819 Louisiana Purchase. It became its own territory for several years before becoming the 22nd official State in the Union on June 15th 1836.
It is one of the smaller states with a land area of just 53,178 square miles and a population of almost 3 million as of 2010. Its early economy was agriculture based and depended upon slave labor. Arkansas was the ninth state to secede from the United States to become a Confederate State during the Civil War.
The name Arkansas comes from the term early French explorers used to refer to the local Quapaw peoples of the region. Other local tribes referred to the Quapaw as Akansea.
Social Security Death Index 1935 – 2014
All American citizens, naturalized immigrants and resident aliens require a Social Security number for proof of identification and authorization to work. This number follows us throughout our life and when we die this nine digit code is very important.
The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a database of death records that was compiled from the United States Social Security Administration Death Master File. This was until 2014 when the rules changed and public access to the Death Master File had to take place through a certification program.
Those researching the deaths of ancestors in Arkansas will likely find that most people who have died between 1936 and 2014 can be found on the Social Security Death Index. This does however only hold true if the person had a Social Security number when they died.
It is estimated that since 1973 the SSDI recorded 93% to 96% of the deaths of individuals aged 65 or over. The index was updated frequently and by June of 2011 there were 89,835,920 records available.
The index can be found on websites such as FamilySearch and Ancestry.com and offers details such as:
- Given name and surname (middle initial since the 1990s)
- Date of birth
- Month and year of death (Full date of death for accounts active after 2000)
- Social Security number
- State or territory Social Security number was issued
- Last place of residence when alive including ZIP code
U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007
This is more or less an extension of the information you can find from the Social Security Death Index. It has been extracted from the SSDI records but features more details. It does not include all of the names found in the SSDI however but there are at least 49 million names included.
In this record you may find additional information such as:
- Date and place of birth
- Parents names if deceased would be over 75 when you are viewing the records (may be redacted if under 75)
- Citizenship status
- Sometimes race or ethnic group
Arkansas Death Certificates, 1914-1969
This is an Ancestry database and as such is behind a paywall so it is not free. You will need a relevant subscription to the site to view any images although you can search the index. The details you can find on these death certificate images include:
- Full name including maiden name is applicable
- Date and place of birth
- Date and place of death
- Names and places of birth for parents
- Cause of death
- Informant of death (often a family member such as a child or surviving spouse)
This database lists the recorded deaths in Arkansas between 1914 – 1969. It should be noted these are scans of the original documents and some may not be fully legible. Transcriptions may also be in error at times so make sure to read the document yourself in case of obvious mistakes.
Arkansas Death Certificate Search, 1935-1961
The Arkansas Department of Health has a searchable database for death certificates between 1935 – 1961. You can search the database if you have the name of your ancestor and an approximate range of when they may have died.
You may have a list of several possible entries that match your search which will also have further biographical data. There are no digital images but you can order a record from the database for a fee. This is great if you need to prove a relationship to the deceased.
As these would be a copy of the death certificate they will show the same information as the above database from Ancestry.
Arkansas Death Index, 1914-1950
This is another index that is available through Ancestry so if you are in the United States you will need at least a basic membership for the site. Those outside of the U.S. may need a world traveler or equivalent membership.
It is an index of roughly 594,000 deaths that occurred in Arkansas between 1914 – 1950. The details are not as comprehensive as death certificates but they do mention names, age, race, gender and importantly the person's death certificate number. This of course may come in handy in finding the death certificate.
It should be noted that death registration didn’t start until 1914 in the state and for the first few decades there was less than complete compliance with the system. Therefore it is entirely possible that if your ancestor died in the state between 1914 – 1944 then they may not have a death certificate on file.
Located at Arkansasgravestones.org this database boasts over 1.3 million photographs of grave markers around the state. Their mission is to preserve the fading inscriptions on gravestones by capturing them digitally.
The pictures preserve this information before it is lost to the elements and make up an searchable archive which you may be able to locate the final resting place of your ancestor. They use volunteers to help visit more cemeteries and capture images in an effort to catalogue the entire state.
County Specific Databases
Those who know what county their ancestor may have died in might be wise to look at some county specific databases. The table below will show some of these.
|County||Obituary & Cemetery Indexes by County|
Arkansas death records are somewhat spotty up until the mid 1940s as the early decades of vital records in the state were marred with apathy. Births and deaths were not always recorded even after they became a state requirement.
That said it is not hard to locate death records when they exist and there are plenty of resources. All of the counties have local cemetery databases which can be very helpful so in general it is a genealogy friendly state.
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" Arkansas Death Records and Death Index". NameCensus.com. Accessed on October 4, 2023. https://namecensus.com/blog/arkansas-death-records-and-death-index/.
" Arkansas Death Records and Death Index". NameCensus.com, https://namecensus.com/blog/arkansas-death-records-and-death-index/. Accessed 4 October, 2023
Arkansas Death Records and Death Index. NameCensus.com. Retrieved from https://namecensus.com/blog/arkansas-death-records-and-death-index/.