Genealogy Basics: How to Obtain Birth or Death Certificates in Arizona
by Diana DeLugan
Anyone serious about genealogy knows that birth and death records reveal important information useful in building a family tree. Certificates contain intimate details about family members like where they lived, what caused their death, parental information, as well as other useful details for family history research. If you are conducting genealogy research for family members who were born or died in Arizona, read on. This article deals with public vital statistic records, missing records, and how to obtain closed records in Arizona.
Arizona Revises Statutes 36-351 mandates that the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records permanently preserve copies of birth and death records for the state and its citizens. Births that are 75 years old and deaths recorded at least 50 years ago are available to the public online at Genealogy.az.gov. The site is maintained by the Arizona Department of Health Services. As of this writing, births up to the year 1939 and deaths on or before 1964 are available free to the public.
The website provides a searchable database that allows users to search by name, year, or county. If a match is found, copies of microfilmed images from photo reproductions are available as PDF images to view and download.
Why Can’t I Find My Ancestor’s Birth or Death Certificates?
According to a representative at the Arizona State Archives, there was no law that required birth or death records to be stored until 1909. Unfortunately, many counties had poor recordkeeping, and as a result county records supplied to the state repository are scanty. The Arizona State Archives has a county register dating from 1903 to 1931 – but remember that during pre-statehood Arizona, many churches recorded births and deaths. FamilySearch.org is an excellent free online resource for church records.
How to Obtain Closed Birth and Death Records
As a general rule, birth and death certificates that fall outside of the statutory period for public access are restricted. However, certain individuals may still be able to obtain closed certificates.
If you are an immediate family member (self, parent, spouse, grandparent, adult child, or adult sibling), you may still be able to obtain the closed certificate if you meet specific criteria to determine your eligibility. When a genealogist seeks closed birth/death certificates, he or she must have a relationship to the person whose certificate he or she seeks, provide documentation to establish relationship, submit a signed application accompanied with a valid government issued identification, and pay a fee. Closed certificates can be requested directly from the Arizona Department of Health Services of Vital Records, located at 1818 W. Adams, Phoenix, AZ 85007; a local county office; or via mail, by completing the appropriate birth or death certificate application.
There are no guarantees that you will locate the specific certificate you seek. However, you may discover information that yields important clues to help you locate your ancestors’ history. Feel free to contact Diana DeLugan if you have questions about locating your Arizona family member’s birth or death certificates or for general research questions. Happy research!
Diana DeLugan, J.D., is a historian, singer, and author of Haunted Otero: Ghost Tales from the American Southwest is available on Amazon.com. Her second book, The Otero Arizona Land Grant Documentary, limited edition, is available at bookstores in Tubac, Arizona. Diana is the editor in chief at OurArizonaHistory.com and contributes a blog post here on the 20th of every month. For more information, visit her website, subscribe to her YouTube channel, follow her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, or add her to your circles on Google+. Reach her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.