South Dakota 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 South Dakota 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 South Dakota then read on and hopefully we can help you out.

About South Dakota

Purchased as part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, the land we know as South Dakota was originally part of the Minnesota and Nebraska territories. This is until in 1861 the area was organized into the Dakota Territory along with North Dakota.

There is some question as to South Dakota being the 39th or 40th state admitted to the Union. The thing is that North and South Dakota were both made states on November 2nd 1889 but they both wanted to be first to be signed in.

President Benjamin Harrison selected the bill he signed at random and took the secret as to which state was signed first to his grave. Generally speaking North Dakota is listed first but this is alphabetical no one really knows which statehood bill Harrison signed first.

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 this state 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 Social Security Death Index 1935 – 2014

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 who, if deceased, would have been 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 U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

South Dakota Death Index, 1879-1955

This index is a collection of recorded deaths between 1879 – 1955 some of which would be recorded by county clerks while later deaths would be collected by the state. Since 1905 vital records such as birth, death and marriage have been recorded by the state's department of health.

The website is the holder of this index so you will need to have a paid membership to make use of it. You will likely find out information such as basic biographical data, death details and potentially some family information.

Click here to search South Dakota Death Index, 1879-1955

South Dakota State Historical Society - WPA Cemeteries Search

This searchable index is from the South Dakota State Historical Society website and allows you to search for burials before 1940. It will not include all cemeteries in the state but it is an ongoing process so the collection will grow.

This index was originally collected by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and initiative of the New Deal programs of the late 1930s and '40s.

Click here to search South Dakota State Archives - WPA Cemeteries Search

WPA Grave Registration Records from FamilySearch

The free to use FamilySearch website also has a couple of indexes from the WPA that may help you trace burial records.

South Dakota, Grave Registration Records, Gathered by the WPA in 1940 and 1941

South Dakota, Veteran Graves Registration Records, Gathered by the WPA in 1940 and 1941

South Dakota Death Records Indexes, Obituaries and Cemeteries by County

South Dakota has 66 counties but most of them are largely rural in nature which means they do not have local historical societies. Only around 8 of the counties in the state have online options for local death records.


Death indexes are in short supply in South Dakota but as with all states after the early 1900s vital record reporting became mandatory. If your Ancestor died in the state since the early 1900s they are likely listed in one of the indexes or collections connected to death certificates.

Earlier deaths in the state were recorded at the county level and although some of these records have made their way to websites like and FamilySearch not all of them have. These records may still exist at the county level but may need to be sought in person.

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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