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  Obtain Accurate Documentation of the Facts

The most valuable information for an obituary search can be found on a death certificate. The death certificate will provide information on both the date of death and the last known residence. We strongly encourage you to document your ancestor's death by obtaining copy of the death certificate.

If you're thinking about skipping this step because you *know* where your ancestor lived, and when he or she died, reconsider. Take a look at the valuable information you can find on a California Death Certificate. Click on the image to see the detailed death certificate information. Not only do you obtain the decedent's last known address. You also get hints on other places to search for an obituary, such as the location of the cemetery, the address of the person who reported the death, etc. These are all clues that may lead you to that elusive obituary.

This page includes suggestions on several sources for this important information:

State and County Recorder Offices
CADI - California Death Index
SSDI - Social Security Death Index
Pre-1905 California Death Index Project
City Directory Listings
Federal Census
LDS Family History Centers

State and County Recorder Offices

Special note: The State of California recently enacted Senate Bill 247, which increased the fees for searches and certified copies of birth and death records. Before ordering a death certificate, contact the appropriate office to confirm the fee and to learn of any special requirements that may have been instituted.

Also, effective July 1, 2003, restrictions will be placed on persons requesting copies of all vital records. Senate Bill 1614 was enacted January 1, 2003, which places controls on the contents of the indices retained by the County Clerk-Recorder offices for public access.

Death certificates are available from either the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder or the Office of the State Registrar of Vital Statistics. Here is contact information for Los Angeles, as well as the other Southern California counties.

 

California Statewide

Vital Records Request
Office of Vital Records
304 'S' Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 445-1719 or (916) 445-2684
Fax: (800) 858-5553

Vital Records Request
Vital Records Office
Office of the State Registrar of Vital Statistics
Department of Health Services
410 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814-4381

Portal to all California County recorder information:
Vital Records Link Page

Los Angeles County

Available 1873-present

Policies

Vital Records Request
Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk
12400 E. Imperial Highway
P. O. Box 53120
Norwalk, CA 90653
(562) 462-2137 (recorded message)
(800) 815-2666
Orange County

Available 1889-Present

Policies
Vital Records Request
Orange County Clerk-Recorder
630 North Broadway, Building 12, Room 101
P. O. Box 238
Santa Ana, CA 93702
(714) 834-3005 or (714) 843-3006
Riverside County

Available 1893-Present

Policies
Vital Records Request
Riverside County Clerk Recorder
4080 Lemon Street, 1st Floor
P. O. Box 12004
Riverside, CA 92502-2204
Phone: (909) 486-7000
San Bernardino County

Available 1853-Present

Policies
Vital Records Request
San Bernardino County Recorder
222 W. Hospitality Lane
San Bernardino, CA 92415
(909) 387-8314
San Diego County

Available

Policies
Vital Records Request
San Diego County Recorder-Clerk
1600 Pacific Highway, Room 260
Mail Stop A-33
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone (619) 237-0502
Fax: (619) 557-4155
Ventura County

Available 1872-Present

Policies
Vital Records Request
County Government Center in Ventura
Hall of Administration, Main Plaza
800 South Victoria Avenue
Ventura, CA 93009-1260
(805) 654-2295

CADI - California Death Index

Another good source of information is the California Death Index. While it provides accurate information on date of death, it does not provide any information on the decedent's last known residence. The California Death Index can be searched online using the links provided below.

 
CA Death Index 1905-1929 Vitalsearch online. Subscriptions are available but you can search for free if you're willing to fight your way through several annoying popups. You'll see a window that says "Wait until this screen finishes loading." When the screen loads, you can click on the link to close it. You'll see a popup for Net Detective 2000. On the very bottom of that Net Detective screen, you'll find the search block. It's in the bottom right hand corner. Data contained on this index includes the decedent's name (first, last, middle initial), spouse's initials, age group and age, county of death, date of death (month, day, year), the year the death was filed with the State, and the State file number.
CA Death Index 1930-1939

Vitalsearch online. Again, the downside is the fight through several popups, but the site is free. On the very bottom of that Net Detective screen, you'll find the search block. It's in the bottom right hand corner. Data contained on this index includes the decedent's name (first, last, middle initial), spouse's initials, age group and age, county of death, date of death (month, day, year), the year the death was filed with the State, and the State file number.

CA Death Index 1940-2000 Vitalsearch online. After wading through the popups, look in the far right bottom corner for the "search" link. On this version of the death index, you'll find the following information: last name, first name, middle name, sex, birth date, death date, birth place, death place (county only), Social Security Number, mother's maiden name, and father's surname.
CA Death Index 1940-1997

Rootsweb version of the fully searchable California death index. This source is missing the last couple of years, but it boasts a more flexible search capability, with no annoying popups. If your ancestor died between 1940 and 1997, this is the page I'd recommend you use.

SSDI - Social Security Death Index

The Social Security Death Index may give you an indication of the date of death. Some records, however, list only the month and year. The SSDI may also give you the zip code of the last known residence. Use this with caution, however. Your relative may have been living in a nursing home or other facility before their death, and the zip code listed on the SSDI will be for that facility.

 

Social Security Death Index

This version of the SSDI is housed at Rootsweb.com. It's a free site with a good search capability that is easy to use.

Social Security Death Index

This resource for the SSDI is on the ancestry.com site but is free for everyone (including non-subscribers). This source offers a strong and flexible search capability.

Pre-1905 California Death Index Project

A project is under way to build an online index of California deaths before 1905. Volunteers are working to compile the indexes, which can be found at their website.

City Directories

You might be able to obtain listings from city directories to help you determine the last known address. Some online city directories are linked below. If you can't find the appropriate directory online, consider requesting a city directory lookup as an alternative way to obtain this information.

Federal Census Listings

If the decedent died around the time of a national census was conducted, you can refer to census information to obtain an address. Before you trek to do this census research in person, you may be able to use an online census index to find where your relative lived. LDS Family History centers and many libraries have free access to the ancestry.com and genealogy.com pay sites to access their online indices.

You may also want to post a census lookup request at one of the message boards and email lists at Rootsweb.com. Several lists are dedicated to census lookups. These are listed on our links page.

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