What Are Death Records in Alabama?
An Alabama death record is an official document containing a compilation of vital information regarding a person’s death, such as the place of death and cause of death. A death record is deemed part of an individual's Alabama vital record, along with birth information, marriage as well as marriage and divorce records. These records are generated and disseminated by the state vital records office. An Alabama death record typically contains the deceased’s personal data, and death records in Alabama are created to provide information about deceased persons in the state. The significant details contained in a typical Alabama death record include:
- The full name of the deceased
- The deceased’s personal and statistical information, including sex, color or race, etc.
- The death date, including age at death
- The place of death
- Date and place of birth
- Usual residence before death
- The medical certification of the cause of death
The Alabama Center for Health Statistics (ACHS) started filing death records for persons that died in Alabama in 1908. Generally, the state uses the information provided in death records to track death trends, set public health goals, and assess health status at local and state levels. Death records are also used to process pension claims, stocks, bonds, and life insurance benefits or to transfer real and personal property titles and close bank accounts.
How are Death Records Created in Alabama?
In Alabama, the funeral director is tasked with compiling, filing, and registering a death certificate per the Alabama Vital Statistics Laws § 22-9A-14. The funeral director may be any individual or organization (i.e. mortuary) who first assumes custody of the decedent. Death certificates for each deceased person in Alabama are to be filed within five days with the Office of Vital Statistics.
An Alabama death certificate contains two significant sections: the personal/statistical data of decedents and the medical certification. The deceased’s personal/statistical data is usually gotten from the next of kin or any relative of the deceased. Upon completion of the first section by the funeral director, the deceased's physician or health care provider will complete the medical certification aspect of the death certificate. In the absence of the physician, the health facility's chief medical officer where the death occurred may complete and sign the death certificate. The medical certification section must be completed within 48 hours and sent to the Vital Statistics Office in Alabama.
If a death occurs in Alabama in the absence of a physician, an autopsy may be required to determine the cause of death. The autopsy may be performed by a physician, county medical officer, state medical examiner, or coroner. Sometimes, it may be impossible to determine the cause of death within 48 hours. In such instances, the person in charge of the autopsy may sign the death certificate and state “pending” before sending it to the Vital Statistics Office.
According to the Alabama Code on Vital Statistics § 22-9A-14, a death certificate must also be filed and registered for each dead body found in Alabama. For a dead body where the actual death place is unknown, the death place will be registered as the county where the dead body was found, while the death date will be the date the body was found. The State Registrar may also prepare and file death certificates for deceased persons whose bodies are not found but are presumed to have died in Alabama.
Are Death Certificates Public in Alabama?
Yes, Alabama death certificates are public. However, there are some restrictions. Alabama death certificates are state vital records with 25 years of restricted access from the date of death. However, requesters can obtain certificates after 25 years upon payment of processing fees.
To carry out a restricted Alabama death certificate search, requesters must submit their legal identification and information to confirm their relationship with the deceased.
The fee for processing a public death search and obtaining a death certificate is $15.00. This covers a certified copy of the death certificate or a ‘failure to find certificate’. All additional death record searches and issuance of certificates will attract an additional fee of $6.00, which are all payable to the Alabama state board of health.
The following information will be required for a proper death record search:
- The full name of deceased
- Country or city of death
- Date of death
- Decedent’s social security number
- Age at death or date of birth
- Their race or ethnicity
- Decedent’s spouse (If any)
- Birth parents (If any)
- Name of requester
- Signature of requester
- Requester’s relationship to the deceased
- Address for receipt of the certificate
- Phone number
Alabama death certificates can be received by mail or through the state county health department.
How to Find Death Records Online in Alabama
The Alabama Public Health Department does not maintain an online database of death records where individuals may look up death records online. Hence, the state does not provide online access to death records.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through both traditional government sources and third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are a good place to start when looking for a specific or multiple records. To gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government-sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites compared to government sources.
Death Record Search by Name in Alabama
An Alabama death record search by name is the most frequently used option for searching online resources or databases for death record information. The requesting party will be required to input the name of the decedent and date of death into the database, and it will generate possible results.
Death Record Search by Address
To conduct a death record search by address in Alabama, input the decedent's last location or registered address into the database. A death record search by address may also be conducted using the decedent's last known city or county if specifics of their address are unclear.
What is the Difference Between a Death Certificate and Other Death Records?
In Alabama, the difference between death certificates and other death records is that a death certificate is legal proof of death issued to a deceased’s spouse or close relative. The medical personnel in charge issues this document containing:
- The cause of death
- The time of death
The medical personnel may also include other crucial details about the decedent's death.
While a death record is a document containing information about a person's death. This record is used by the government for health statistics, public health records, and even to stop the decedent's pension. One can find public death records easily by conducting a death record search on the appropriate platform.
How to Find Death Records for Free in Alabama
The Alabama Public Health Department does not provide death certificates for free. However, interested parties can look up related information like Alabama obituaries, dates of death, and death indexes from third-party sources. This free information is often for old death certificates already open to the public. Other sources like newspapers, census, or church records may also provide related information on death records.
Where Can I Get Death Records in Alabama?
Death certificates in Alabama are obtainable at the Vital Records Office of the Alabama Public Health Department. Alternatively, death records are available at the local health department in each county or city in Alabama. Generally, a requester must provide the deceased’s personal information to facilitate the search for the deceased’s death record. A requester must also provide a valid means of identification before the record custodian can process the request. The two methods for obtaining Alabama death certificates are:
You can obtain a death record via mail by sending a completed mail-in application form together with the appropriate fee and valid state-issued ID to:
Alabama Vital Records
P.O. Box 5625
Montgomery, AL 36103-5625
In addition to the deceased person's personal information, including your daytime phone number and mailing address, where you will receive the death record.
In Alabama, County Health Departments across the state provide in-person request services for Alabama death records. You can locate the county in Alabama where the death occurred to request a copy of the death certificate. However, these agencies do not maintain other United States death records.
Note that any qualified applicants can request Apostille and Exemplified copies of death records. These death certificates mainly required for foreign use, contain the State Registrar's signature and a signed certification from the Alabama Secretary of State. Apostille copies of death records are required for countries that are part of the Hague Convention. In contrast, exemplified copies are necessary for counties not part of the Hague Convention.
Keep in mind that qualified applicants must be relatives of the deceased persons. Also, County Health Departments in Alabama do not provide copies of apostille and exemplified death certificates. Requesters can obtain copies by visiting:
Alabama Center for Health Statistics
RSA Tower Building
201 Monroe Street
Montgomery, AL 36104
A mail request can be sent to the Alabama Vital Records department, using the mail-in application form. While filling out the application form, indicate the type (apostille or exemplified) of the death certificate requested and the country where it is needed. This should be done under the “Reason for Request” section on the form. Interested persons wishing to make phone requests can do so by calling (334) 206-5418 to order copies of the apostille or exemplified records.
Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Death Certificate in Alabama?
Death certificates in Alabama are not open to the public until 25 years from the death date. The Alabama Vital Records Office only accepts requests for death certificates less than 25 years from the decedent's direct relatives and persons with immediate and tangible interests, including:
- The decadent’s birth parents
- Husband or wife
- Son or daughter
- Sister or brother
- Legal representative
How Much Does a Death Certificate Cost in Alabama?
The search fee for an Alabama death certificate is $15, while an extra copy requested at the same time costs $6. Since the payment is non-refundable, the Vital Records Office will either send a certified copy of the requested death certificate or a “Certificate of Failure to Find”. Expedited requests will attract additional costs.
The fee for an exemplified or apostille death certificate is $25. Each extra copy of the death certificate, which does not include a certification from the Secretary of State, is $6. Requesters can make payments to the State Board of Health with checks or money orders. Credit card payments are accepted for phone requests.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Death Certificate in Alabama?
Generally, requests for Alabama death certificates made via mail are processed between seven to ten days. Requesters can make expedited requests by calling (334) 206-5418. In-person requests are processed on the same day within 30 minutes or less.
How Long to Keep Records After Death
Relatives of decedents usually need vital records like marriage certificates, tax returns documents, birth certificates, and death certificates for claiming the decedent's estates. As such, it is crucial to keep such records permanently. However, if any of these records go missing, relatives of the deceased may locate the appropriate record custodian to request it. For instance, vital records like marriage, divorce, birth, and death certificates are maintained by the Vital Records Office of the Alabama Public Health Department.
How to Expunge Death Records in Alabama?
There is no provision for the expungement of death records in Alabama law. Rather, the expungement law in Alabama allows only persons convicted of misdemeanors and non-violent felony offenses to erase their criminal records. Individuals who have successfully expunged their records may refrain from discussing details of their past convictions.
How to Seal Death Records in Alabama
In Alabama, death records cannot be sealed; only criminal record information like arrest reports, misdemeanor convictions, and selected vital record information can be sealed by the record holder to restrict them from public view. These sealed records are only available to the record holder and approved law enforcement agencies in Alabama. A death certificate in Alabama is automatically restricted by law for the first 25 years from the time of death. The restricted death records are available to only the deceased person's relative and legal representative for the first 25 years.
How to Unseal Death Records in Alabama
Relatives of decedents cannot unseal death records in Alabama as no laws support such an action. However, a death record automatically becomes publicly available after 25 years from the death date.
How to Use the Alabama Death Registry
The Alabama Department of Public Health provides an easy-to-access death registry for all public requesters. However, the death registry is not maintained independently. Rather, the death information held by the department is maintained alongside other vital records and can be accessed through the vital records service.
The information typically required to search for death information on a death registry includes; the decedent's name, date of death, county, and last known address.
How to Find an Obituary for a Specific Person in Alabama
An Alabama obituary search can be done by querying local publications in the judicial district where the deceased was resident. Some publications maintain an online database or index of publications. To proceed with Alabama obituary search using these databases, input the full name, the date of death, and the location of death into the database and the results will be generated. Where online options are not available, the requestor may query the local library or national center for vital statistics.
Likewise, public requesters seeking to obtain the obituary information of a specific person can do so online by sending a mail-in request to the office of vital records in Alabama or the public health department.
Alternative to local publications and the national center for health and vital statistics, death information or obituary records can be obtained through a third-party aggregate site or online vendor. However, these sources do not issue certified copies of a vital record.
How to Conduct a Free Obituary Search in Alabama
Requesters seeking to conduct a free obituary look-up in Alabama can easily do so through third-party sites or by visiting the office of vital records in person to inspect the records for free. Requestors are required to provide all the necessary information to facilitate such a search. However, persons missing data or insufficient information may be required to pay a nominal fee to cover the cost of the research. Details typically requested for an Alabama obituary search include the subject's full name and county as of the time of death.
What are Alabama Death Notices?
Alabama death notices are public notices published in dedicated columns of local newspapers by family members or close relatives of a deceased person to officially inform the public of their death. The publication usually covers details such as the decedent's surviving family and details of the funeral.
What is the Difference Between Death Notices and Obituaries?
The only difference between death notices and obituaries is that while a death notice is usually brief, obituaries are detailed and lengthy. However, death notices and obituaries are both public announcements of people's deaths posted in newspapers and other publications. Summarily, while a death notice tends to be a shorter version of a death announcement, an obituary is typically a long-form publication containing the decedent’s biographical information and is usually published by the newspaper's staff as editorial content.