Washington 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 Washington 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 Washington then read on and hopefully we can help you out.

About Washington State

The 42nd state of the United States, Washington was admitted on November 11th 1889. It holds the distinction of being the only state named for a former president. Thanks to it’s vast coastline Washington state has developed an impressive industry in trade with Alaska, Canada and the Pacific Rim.

With vast areas of natural beauty the state also has a booming tourism industry as well as a solid agricultural economy. Washington state was also home to the most deadly and economically destructive volcanic event in U.S. history when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980.

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 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

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

Washington State Department of Health, Death Certificates, July 1, 1907-1997

This searchable collection is located on the Washington Secretary of State website and features records taken from the State Department of Health. Since 1907 the State Department of Health has been collecting reported deaths and issuing death certificates.

In this collection there are digital images of these death certificates which have been collected since July 1st 1907 until 1997. More recent records are still with the Department of Health and will likely be released at a later time into this index.

Click here to search Washington State Department of Health, Death Certificates, July 1, 1907-1997

Washington Death Indexes for Some Counties, 1891 – 1907

Before 1907 deaths as well as other vital record events were not reported to the state. They were instead reported to the county in which the event took place. Because it was not officially mandatory to do so, individuals often fell through the cracks.

In this collection which is again from the Washington Secretary of State you can search for earlier deaths between 1891 – 1907. The availability depends on the county as some may not have as full a list of records still available.

Click here to search Washington Death Indexes for Some Counties, c.1891-c.1907

Washington Death Certificates, 1907-1952

As handy as the Secretary of State collections are they are not the most user friendly which is why we will mention this index. Taken from the same sources this collection is on the more user friendly FamilySearch website.

This is a free to use collection as long as you have a FamilySearch account. You can view digital images of death certificates between 1907 – 1952. Obviously this is less than is available at the Secretary of State but if the answers you are researching died during this time frame then the FamilySearch collection might be the better place to search.

Click here to search Washington Death Certificates, 1907-1952

Death Records Indexes, Obituaries and Cemeteries by County

As mentioned already, older death records would have been reported at the county level rather than the state. Obituaries and burial records also likely exist at the county level as well which is why it's always wise to see what online options you have more locally.

The databases are often smaller and can be easier to search as you eliminate people with the same who may have died in completely different states.

County Death Records Indexes, Obituaries and Cemeteries by County
Adams
Benton
Clallam
Clark
Cowlitz
Ferry
Garfield
Grays
Island
  • See Snohomish County
Jefferson
King
Kitsap
Lincoln
Mason
Pend Oreille
Pierce
Seattle
  • See King County
Skagit
Snohomish
Spokane
Stevens
Tacoma
  • See Pierce County
Thurston
Walla Walla
Wenatchee
Whatcom
Whitman

Conclusion

The State of Washington offers plenty of online records relating to deaths in the region. You can find them on major genealogy sites such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch or on local county run websites with more focused research.

Accessing death certificates for free is not difficult in the state as long as the original event occurred long enough ago. If you need more recent records you may need to locate the certificate numbers and apply for a copy of the original document which will likely incur a fee.

Link To or Reference This Page

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  • " Washington Death Records and Death Index". NameCensus.com. Accessed on September 24, 2022. https://namecensus.com/blog/washington-death-records-and-death-index/.

  • " Washington Death Records and Death Index". NameCensus.com, https://namecensus.com/blog/washington-death-records-and-death-index/. Accessed 24 September, 2022

  • Washington Death Records and Death Index. NameCensus.com. Retrieved from https://namecensus.com/blog/washington-death-records-and-death-index/.