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How to Find a Death Record in Georgia?

What Are Death Records in Georgia?

In Georgia, a death record is an official document that indicates the cause, date, and location/place of a person's death. It is the only acceptable legal proof of death. Georgia death certificates are issued for deaths that occur within the state only and they are issued by the Vital Records Office at the county or state level.

A death certificate contains the following information about the deceased:

  • Name
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Date and place
  • Date and place of death
  • Cause of death (including manner and circumstances)
  • Disposition of the deceased's remains - location of the burial, funeral director, or any other agency responsible for disposition

A death certificate is very important and useful for the following reasons:

  • The family of the deceased uses the death certificate to claim life insurance benefits and settle the estate of the deceased
  • It is needed as legal documentation for the deceased's spouse to remarry
  • It is needed to re-establish the contact details of the account holder with utility companies
  • State and federal agencies, especially public health agencies like the National Centre for Health Statistics use it to gather data for the National Death Index, a statistical resource that aids researchers with their medical and health research
  • Medical practitioners use it for epidemiological research

How are Death Records Created in Georgia?

According to Georgia Code §31-10-15, when a death occurs or a dead body is found in the state, the following steps must be taken to record the death and prepare a certification of the death within 72 hours:

First, the family is required to appoint a funeral director or anyone that can act in that capacity. The funeral director must report/register the death with the vital records department of the local health facility where the death occurred. This must be done within three days after the death. If a body is found, and no family can be traced, the coroner is responsible for recording the death.

Information to be reported are the decedent's personal information and the cause of death. Required personal information include; full legal name, date of birth, date and place of death, or where and when the body was found. These data must be obtained from the authorized source or the decedent's next of kin.

Secondly, the cause of death must be certified. The funeral director must get a duly completed and signed medical certification indicating the cause and circumstances of death. If the death occurred under medical attendance, the physician in charge of the decedent's care before death must report the cause of death. However, with the physician's consent or in their absence, an associate physician, the chief medical officer of the facility where the death occurred, or the officer who carried out an autopsy on the dead body may do it if they have access to the decedent's medical history, have seen the body after death, or if death occurred naturally.

For a death that occurred without medical attendance, or the death is being investigated under Georgia Death Investigation Act (Article 2, Chapter 16 of Title 45), certification will be done by the coroner or medical officer of the county. Where the death was as a result of a public health emergency caused by a pandemic, a registered nurse or assistant physician is authorized to certify the death and report it.

Where the cause of death cannot be established within 48 hours after death, the funeral director must be notified about the cause of delay. The final disposition of such a body must be delayed until the certification is completed, except otherwise authorized by the physician, coroner, or medical examiner in charge.

In Georgia, medical certification of the cause of death is completed within 72 hours after death. However, if the death is under inquiry, or the person died without medical attendance, the state allows certification to be completed within 30 days after death.

The death report and certification of the cause of death must then be submitted to the coroner who appends their signature for onward submission to the State Office of Vital Records for filing by the Georgia State Registrar.

How to Find Death Records Online in Georgia

A death record is regarded as a public record in Georgia and made available for public access 100 years after death. While statewide registration of death began in 1919, several counties have records dated earlier. Interested parties can look up death records through the different online platforms provided by government agencies and third-party organisations.

The most prominent of these is the Georgia Archives, an amalgamation of websites that index death certificates from the year 1914. The archives or Georgia's Virtual Vault is a database of indexed death records from 1825-1930 and death certificates from 1914 to early 1919. It also contains non-indexed records from 1928 to 1930. Requesters can query the database using date and county of death, or the certificate number. Death certificates from 1944 to date can be found online using ROVER, the online service of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through 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 considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order 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 when compared to government sources.

How to Find Death Records for Free in Georgia

Generally, there are no such things as free death records in Georgia. Under GA Code Ann. §31-10, a non-refundable search fee of $25 must be paid to obtain a certified death certificate. If the record is found, the requester is issued a copy from the payment made.

While the Georgia Archives grants interested persons access to view original death records from 1825 to 1930 for research purposes, to acquire copies, interested parties must pay a token fee, charged to cover maintenance costs.

Where Can I Find Death Records in Georgia?

To obtain a death record in Georgia, the first port of call is the vital records office of the county where the death occurred, or the State Vital Records office at Georgia Department of Public Health. The state office has records of death that occurred in Georgia from January 1919 to date, but some counties have records of deaths that predate this period.

Requests for Georgia death records can be made by mail, in person (walk-in), or online. For these request methods, the following steps are required:

Requests by Mail: Download and complete the Request for Search of Death (Form 3912). Be sure to indicate the county where the death occurred and include the required processing fees. Do not send cash by mail. Also required is a valid copy of your government-issued photo ID and a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Mail all documents to:

The State Office of Vital Records
1680 Phoenix Boulevard
Suite 100
Atlanta, GA 30349

Walk-In Requests: Visit the state Vital Records office with a written request with adequate information about the decedent such as name, sex, age at the time of death, date and location of death. The state office opens from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every Monday to Friday, except on public holidays. Requesters are required to show proof of eligibility by stating their relationship to the decedent. The office is located at:

1680 Phoenix Boulevard
Suite 100
Atlanta, GA 30349
Phone: (404) 679-4702

Walk-in requests are mostly processed and issued on the same day at the state office.

Online Requests: In Georgia, online requests for certified death records are handled by the state-controlled online service - ROVER. Through ROVER, requests are submitted directly to the DPH Office of Vital Records within five minutes for processing. Requesters must upload a valid copy of government-issued ID and make required payment for the request to be processed.

Interested candidates may also search for death records at the various county offices. County death records are dated as far back as 1825.

Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Death Certificate in Georgia?

Yes, Georgia's plain death certificate is available to anyone. The plain copy does not contain the decedent's Social Security number. It is usually redacted. Certified copies are issued to eligible requesters only, and they must provide evidence of eligibility to get copies. According to Georgia's Disclosure of Vital Records and Information Rule (Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 511-1-3-.33), only the following requesters are eligible:

  • A child or parent of the decedent.
  • The decedent's legal living spouse, or any other next of kin.
  • The administrator or executor of the decedent's estate.
  • Any other person who can provide proof of direct and tangible interest to the decedent.
  • Anyone that officially requires a certified copy of the death certificate to establish a legal right or claim.
  • Authorized government officials of federal, state or county agencies who require it for official purposes.

The state typically requests some form of identification. The most common is a state or federal government-issued photo ID. Family members are also required to provide notarized statements to prove their relationship to the decedent.

How Much Does a Death Certificate Cost in Georgia?

A certified copy of Georgia death certificate costs $25. This is a non-refundable search/processing fee, pursuant to GA Code Ann. 31-10 of the Official Code of Georgia. If the record is found, a certified copy is issued to the requester. But if no record is found, a certificate of "No Record Found" is issued. Additional copies ordered at the same time cost $5 each. There is no documented difference in price for a plain copy death certificate in Georgia.

Cash and credit/debit cards are accepted for walk-in service, and certified check/money-order for mail-in service. For online requests, an additional $8 processing fee is charged and the acceptable mode of payment is by major credit cards. All payments must be made payable to the State Office of Vital Records. Requesters who wish to get death records directly from the county where death occurred must contact the specific county for payment details.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Death Certificate in Georgia?

At the State Vital Records Office, walk-in requests for death certificates are processed and the certificates issued on the same day. Mail-in requests take up to 4 - 6 weeks and 8 - 10 weeks at the county offices. Online requests also take between 4 - 6 weeks. Although by paying additional $10 for expedited service, online requests can be processed within 5 days.

How Long to Keep Records After Death

In Georgia, death records are kept indefinitely. Apart from being crucial for managing a decedent's estate, death records preserve family genealogy, and are treated as part of the historical heritage of the state. Officially, the Department of Public Health sends the death certificates of people who died in Georgia to the Georgia Archives for permanent retention (State Agency Specific Retention Schedule). This means they must never be destroyed.

How to Expunge Death Records in Georgia

Death records cannot be expunged in Georgia. Expungement is the official erasure or purging of part of a person's record so that it no longer shows up during background checks. However, a death record is not a criminal record but a crucial part of Georgia's vital statistics. As such, it does not qualify for expungement.

How to Seal Death Records in Georgia

In Georgia, sealing refers to the process of restricting public access to a record, or a part of it. To seal a record, you must file a petition in a court of competent jurisdiction to get an order to seal. At other times, a record is sealed by the state. For instance, juvenile court hearings, files, and records are generally sealed from public access by the state.

However, record sealing does not apply to death records. Georgia does not restrict public access to death records and does not have rules allowing anyone to seal these vital records.

How to Unseal Death Records in Georgia

To unseal a record, the restriction order placed on it must be lifted. This usually requires a court order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction. The State of Georgia has no provision for unsealing death records.