Kentucky Death Records and Death Index

It may surprise you to learn how often genealogists face this particular set of circumstances. They are aware of when their ancestor was born, when they may have married, when their children were born but they just can’t find out when they died.

There are a fair few instances where the only information missing is the death date which 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 Kentucky 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 Kentucky then read on and hopefully we can help you out.

About Kentucky

When Kentucky was admitted to the Union on June 1st 1792 it was the 15th to join but the first that was west of the Appalachian Mountains. Settlers followed the example of frontiersman Daniel Boone making their way through the Cumberland Gap and making a home in Kentucky.

Famed as the home of Fort Knox and the Kentucky Derby it is also known as being the setting for the infamous Hatfields vs McCoys feud. It also has the very poignant motto of “United we stand divided we fall.”

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 Kentucky 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 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

Click here to search Ancestrydeathindex

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
  • Gender
  • Sometimes race or ethnic group

Click here to search AncestryDeathindex

Kentucky Death Certificates and Records, 1852-1965

This collection is part of and as such will require a paid membership to access and use. It is a combination of death certificates, mortuary records, death registers and returns of death. Covering the years 1852 – 1965 and pre 1911 records will be at a county level and may be sporadic in terms of availability.

Depending on the records there is a lot of potential information you can discover from this index such as:

  • Name of deceased
  • Race
  • Age at time of death
  • Gender
  • Death date
  • Death place
  • Birthplace
  • Birth date
  • Residence
  • Parents’ names
  • Parents’ birthplaces

Click here to search the Kentucky Death Certificates and Records, 1852-1965

Kentucky Death Records, 1911-1967

This collection is from the major genealogy website FamilySearch and as such is free to use as long as you have a registered account with them. It features images of death certificates filed with the state between 1911 – 1967. The details you can find out will be the same as the above Ancestry index.

Click here to search Kentucky Death Records, 1911-1967

Kentucky Death Index, 1911 – 2000

If you are having issues locating a death certificate in either of the above collections you may first want to check out this index. This is an index of all the death certificates that should be on file with the state between 1911 – 2000.

So if for example you need a death certificate from 1970 then it will not be in either of the above collections but you can find the certificate number in this index. You would then need to request a copy from the state.

Click here to search Kentucky Death Index, 1911 – 2000

Death Records Indexes, Obituaries and Cemeteries by County

Kentucky is a good state for finding online copies of death records before a certain time. It also has a great collection of pre-vital record county registered death indexes as well. Local newspapers and cemeteries also offer county specific databases to help us with our research.

County Death Records Indexes, Obituaries and Cemeteries by County
  • See Fayette County
  • See Jefferson County


Only around 30 of Kentucky’s 120 counties have online genealogy resources for county death records. This means that in some often more rural counties you may struggle to locate early death records.

Deaths occurring after 1911 however should be recorded with official certificates at the state level and copies of these are easier to find in general.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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