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18 October 2012

Start Local

When trying to obtain a copy of a vital record, begin searching at the local level first (town, county, etc.), then try the state records office. Avoiding search firms that advertise for "immediate" delivery will be easier on your pocketbook. Determine if any records are available online or on microfilm via FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org).

Chances are you do not need the death certificate tomorrow, via overnight mail. Don't pay for services you do not need.


  1. I have to say that this is ordinarily good advice. Unfortunately, one cannot necessarily tell when one of those more costly "immediate delivery" services will be a better buy. In July of this year I wanted a death certificate from Detroit. I looked online and saw that I could pay $20 directly to the City of Detroit and get the record (according to their website) in about 4 weeks or I could pay $36 to a commercial service and get it in about 2 weeks.

    I chose the cheaper, longer-wait option and more than three months later I am still waiting. I even called Detroit at about the 8 week interval and was told they'd check into it. At this point, I'm starting to think I threw $20 away. I would have been better off paying the $36.

  2. How can the commercial service obtain the certificates any quicker than the official vital records office? Doesn't it have to come from the official office any way?
    In Mississippi the Vital Records division of the Mississippi Department of Health is the only source for certified birth and death certificates.
    Perhaps payment options are the main advantage of the commercial services.