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How to Find a Death Record in Delaware?

What Are Death Records in Delaware?

Delaware death records are vital records prepared to document deaths that occured within the state. Delaware issues death certificates as death records and provides them only to eligible individuals. A Delaware birth certificate establishes the identity of the deceased and can be used as a proof of their passing. This vital document contains the following information:

  • Full name of the deceased
  • Full names of the parents of the deceased
  • Biodata of the deceased including their age, gender, and race
  • Last known address of the deceased
  • Place and date of death
  • Place and death of birth
  • Cause of death
  • Death certificate registration number
  • Signature of the physician, medical examiner, or coroner certifying cause of death
  • Name and location of funeral home charged with burying the remains of the deceased

Living relatives of a decedent as well as their legal representatives need copies of their death certificate for a number of reasons. Besides establishing the passing of the decedent, this vital document is also required for legally administering the will of the deceased and settling their estate. Living survivors will need this document to close the deceased bank accounts and claim insurance benefits as well as outstanding pension payments.

The government of Delaware keeps death records for its own purposes. It uses data from these vital records to determine population growth and the age distribution in the population. Combined with census data and birth records, these are needed to put the state’s resources to best use. From such data, Delaware can predict future trends, allocate resources more efficiently, and execute public health policies more effectively.

Medical researchers and social scientists also rely on death records for epidemiological and genealogical studies. Using the information contained in these documents, they can pull data to calculate mortality rate and spot other morbidity trends.

How are Death Records Created in Delaware?

The creation of a death record starts at the funeral home tasked with handling the remains of the deceased. This can also be a cremation outfit or some other entity in charge of this task. The director of the funeral home compiles the information needed for the death certificate before sending it to the Office of Vital Statistics of the Delaware Division of Public Health.

The funeral home gets contact and identity details from the family of the decedent. Information required from the family include the names of the deceased and their parents as well as last known address and age. A completed death certificate requires the signature of the physician, coroner, or medical officer certifying the cause of death. In addition to cause of death, this person may provide additional information such as the place and date of death.

After completing the death certificate, the funeral home sends it to the Office of Vital Statistics for registration. Only after this process is completed can eligible persons apply to receive copies of the registered death record.

How to Find Death Records Online in Delaware

Delaware does not have an online database where the public can look up vital records. However, eligible persons can request copies of death records online. The Office of Vital Statistics does not accept online requests for death certificates itself. Rather, it partners with two third-party record providers to offer this service. Requests for certified copies of death certificates submitted through these providers are still processed by the Delaware Office of Vital Statistics.

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 Delaware

The State of Delaware does not provide death records for free. Its Office of Vital Statistics charges fees for copies of these records regardless of the method used to request them. Archived death records that have become publicly accessible are available from the Delaware Public Archives. The Archives also charges a certain fee when providing copies of these publicly available records.

Where Can I Get Death Records in Delaware?

The Office of Vital Statistics, a unit of the Delaware Health and Social Services, is the agency solely responsible for providing death records in Delaware. It has three offices around the state located in:

Jesse S. Cooper Building
417 Federal Street
Dover, DE 19901
Chopin Building
258 Chapman Road
Newark, DE 19702

Thurman Adams State Service Center
546 South Bedford Street
Georgetown, DE 19947

These offices are available and open to the public from Monday to Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. except on public holidays.

To get copies of an archived death record, visit or contact the Delaware Public Archives at the following address:

121 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard North
Dover, DE 19901
(302) 744-5000

Go to the Mabel Lloyd Ridgely Research Room of the Archives to request certified copies of archived death records. This location is open to the public from Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

In addition to requesting Delaware death certificates online, eligible parties can request them directly from the Office of Vital Statistics in person and by mail.

To request a death certificate in person, visit any of three locations of the state’s Vital Statistics. Bring along a completed Application for a Certified Copy of a Delaware Death Certificate. The Dover office in Kent County also accepts written requests. Funeral directors requesting certified copies of death certificates use a different application form.

Note that due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, the Delaware Office of Vital Statistics no longer accepts walk-in requests. When they start accepting in-person requests for death certificates, requesters should make appointments by calling the closest locations to them at the following numbers:

  • (302) 744-4549 for the Dover office in Kent County
  • (302) 283-7130 for the Newark office in New Castle County
  • (302) 856-5495 for the Georgetown office in Sussex County

They can also call these numbers to ask questions.

To request for certified copies of a Delaware death certificate by mail, send the completed form along with the required fees and a copy of a valid government-issued photo ID to any of the three locations listed above. Acceptable IDs include driver’s license, Work ID, and State ID. Minors applying for death records must include photocopies of their parents’ IDs.

The Delaware State Archives accepts requests for death records online, by phone, and by email. To request these records online, complete the Contact Form provided on the Archives’ website and select Death Certificates from the drop-down menu. When requesting Delaware archived death records by email, send a request email to archives@delaware.gov. Alternatively, call (302) 744-5000 and ask for the archivist.

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

No. Delaware restricts access to death records for 40 years. During this period, only those deemed eligible can request copies of death certificates. To be eligible to request a death certificate, Delaware requires the requester to have one of the following relationship with the decedent listed on the record:

  • Child
  • Parent
  • Current spouse
  • Legal guardian
  • Authorized representative

The photo ID included with the request will show whether a requester is who they claim to be. Delaware also requires spouses to include certified copies of their marriage certificates while parents and children must include certified copies of birth certificates establishing their direct relationships to the deceased.

For a legal guardian, Delaware will only accept a request for a death record if accompanied by a court order authorizing specific access to the record. Authorized representatives and researchers conducting genealogical studies must also present proofs of their statuses and claims.

An attorney or a legal representative requesting a Delaware death certificate must include a written letter formatted in the OVS legal template on their firm’s letterhead. This letter must explain their client’s need for the death record and the client’s relationship to the decedent named on the record requested.

Funeral directors requesting death certificates on behalf of their clients must also state so. In addition, they must indicate the relationship between their clients and the decedent listed on the records requested as well as include proof of these relationships with their requests.

Delaware death records that are 40 years and older are public records. Anyone can request to get copies of these records from the Delaware State Archives.

How Much Does a Death Certificate Cost in Delaware?

Delaware’s Office of Vital Statistics charges $25 for each death certificate issued. This fee is the same whether the record is requested by mail or in person. The fee for an online request may vary depending on the third-party provider selected. Generally, requesters should expect the cost of a Delaware death certificate to be higher when requested online.

The $25 fee is non-refundable and will be kept even if no death record is found. Delaware keeps this fee to cover the cost of searching for the requested record. Delaware accepts checks and money orders for death certificates requested in person and by mail. Make the check or money order payable to the Office of Vital Statistics. Credit cards are the only payment options accepted for online orders.

The Delaware State Archives also charges $25 for each certified death certificate issued.

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

The Vital Statistics Review Committee of the Delaware Office of Vital Records reviews all requests for death records to ensure that those requesting them are eligible to receive them. These reviews do take time. Therefore, it can take 2 - 3 weeks to process a request for a Delaware death record. If the review is successful and the record found, the requester should allow another week to receive certified copies of the death certificate they requested.

How Long to Keep Records After Death in Delaware

Delaware does not establish a time limit for when relatives and authorized representatives of deceased persons must keep their records after death. However, it is best to keep financial records for as long as possible. A minimum of 5 years is advised to cover audits like the ones conducted by IRS. There is no reason to keep identity records for long after the passing of the owner. Property records, on the other hand, should be kept until passed on to inheritors. These records can come in handy when settling estate issues in court.

How to Expunge Death Records in Delaware

Expungement refers to the permanent removal of part or all of a record. This most commonly applies to criminal records and are usually ordered by courts to erase the records of pardoned convicts or in cases where convictions are overturned. Delaware makes no provision for erasing any part of death records.

How to Seal Death Records in Delaware

To seal a record is to restrict public access to it. By that definition, all death records in Delaware are sealed by default for 40 years after preparing them. Therefore, there is no reason to petition a state court to seal death records in Delaware.

How to Unseal Death Records in Delaware

Delaware death records become unsealed after 40 years and are then available from the State Archives. There is no need to obtain a court order to unseal a death record after this period elapses. Delaware does not make provisions for unsealing death records prepared within the last 40 years.