Obtaining Death Certificates


From 1852-1907, a physician attendant at a death was required to submit a death certificate to the county register of deeds. In 1897, the requirement to file a certificate was extended to all deaths, whether or not a physician was in attendance. Legislation passed that year made it illegal for any sexton, undertaker, or other person to bury anyone without obtaining a burial permit from the local health officer or clerk. The burial permit was to be issued only if a death certificate had been submitted.

It has been estimated that less than 50% of the records were submitted for State permanent filing before Oct. 1907. Death Records at the Wisconsin Vital Records Office are available for Milwaukee County deaths after 1872. Additional records might be found at the county level.

Searching for Death Certificates

There are a number of death indexes available both online and at area facilities. A list of free online death indexes is available here. Once you have the information you need, you can order a death certficate from Milwaukee County Register of Deeds or the Wisconsin Vital Records Office.

Wisconsin Vital Records Office allows in person searching of records. See their site to schedule an appointment or for more information.

Record Searches

There are sources available that will do free lookups for different types of records. You can check my lookup page to see if there are any people willing to do death records.

You can check Random Acts of Genealogy Kindness-This is a website for people who will do lookups.

You can try the Milwaukee Rootsweb Message Boards or Mailing Lists

If you don't have the information to order a certificate, the Wisconsin Vital Records office will conduct a search for a nominal fee.

Ordering a Death Certificate By Mail

If you know the county of death is Milwaukee, you will have the best luck ordering the certificate from the Milwaukee County Register of Deeds

Cost of a death certificate is $20.00 Check or money order is acceptable payment Although, money order is preferred. If they don't have the record in their books, the money is kept for the search fee. Otherwise there is no search fee, just the amounts quoted for the records.

For More information see the Milwaukee County Website

Wisconsin State Law states that only the immediate family of the person named on the certificate may get a "certified" copy of a death certificate. A "non-certified" copy of a death certificate is available to anyone who applies.

Application is available here: http://dhfs.wisconsin.gov/forms/dph/dph05280.pdf

With your request include as much as you can of the following:
the name on the death record being requested
date of death
place of death (city or county)
your relationship to the individual
the purpose for your request
your daytime telephone number with area code
your mailing address and your signature
Application for Death Record

Other Sources of Death Records:

Bible records and other family papers
Court records (wills and administrations)
Census records (mortality schedules)
Military service and pension records
Death notices in the newspaper
Cemetery records and tombstone inscriptions
Church Records