Sunday, May 6, 2012

How to Order Death Certificates from the State of Arkansas

Do you have ancestors who died in the State of Arkansas after 1914? If so, you can order a copy of their Death Certificate from the Arkansas Department of Health Vital Records Division.

All you have to do is print a copy of their Death Certificate Request form which can be downloaded here, fill it out, and sign it.

You must include a copy of your Driver's License with your completed application. I scanned my Driver's License and saved a copy to my computer and I print it off and include with every Death Certificate application I send off to Little Rock.

Then include a check for $10.00 (or more if you ordered more than one certificate). This fee is NON-REFUNDABLE, which means that if they do not find a death certificate for the person you are searching for, then they keep your $10.

FEMALES Be sure to include as much information as you can on the application. It won't hurt you. Also, be sure to include the woman's MARRIED name, which is what her death certificate would have been filed under. So you want to be sure you know how she lived the latter most part of her life before you order her death certificate.

In the field that asks what is the reason for requesting a copy of this certificate, I write "For genealogical purposes."

In the field that asks what is your relationship to the deceased, I give my exact relationship. Your genealogy software should be able to tell you this.

When ordering death certificates watch out for the varying nuances they might require. The State of Arkansas does require a copy of your photo ID like I mentioned above. But that does not mean that you have to be a resident of the State of Arkansas. Some states require you to include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) as well. The State of Arkansas does NOT require an SASE. The State of Oklahoma does require both an SASE and a copy of your Driver's License.

So far I have ordered the death certificates for 4 great-grandparents and have started working on my 2nd great-grandparents, most of whom died between 1940-1980 and 3 of whom were still alive after I was born. You can track my progress of securing death certificates of my great-grandparents in my July 2009 post here. I created two tables to keep track of the death certificates and obituaries and whether they were scanned, entered as notes into my genealogy software and added as sources as well. It helped me to create and stick to goals throughout the years. I hope to create a new set of tables for my set of sixteen 2nd great-grandparents.

I always keep copies of the completed request forms and save to the individual's surname folder. I also open a to-do item in my genealogy software which I update as I receive the certificate and process it.

Their website says to allow 4-6 weeks for receipt of the death certificate in the mail. However I have sent as many as 5 requests in the mail at one time and had them turn around in as little as 3 weeks.

Yes you can submit as many request forms as you want. I would put each request on a new form. But you can put them all in the same envelop and just write a check for $10 times the number of requests you send. Don't forget to include a copy of your Driver's Licence!

When I receive the death certificate in the mail, first I do the Happy Dance and then I show it off to everyone on Facebook

Then I process it:

  1. Scan and save as a PDF, TIF, and JPG file
  2. Transcribe and save to Word document or Notepad File
  3. Copy the Transcript to the notes file for that person in my genealogy software
  4. Enter the Birth, Death, Burial, Occupation, Marital, etc facts into my genealogy software, including the parents' names
  5. Create a source and attach to the Facts (some call these "Events")
Ordering death certificates can be addicting, so watch out. Please let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to leave a comment below or email me directly at ginger dot reney at gmail dot com. Replace dot with a period like usual. 

Here are some links to the Arkansas death certificates I have collection on my family: 

(wow, it looks like I need to start uploading some of these...)

Other resources: does have the Arkansas Death Index 1914-1950, but notice it only goes up to 1950.

If you have ancestors from Sebastian County, Arkansas, the Fort Smith Public Library also has an online death index. This is kind of a clunky system to use, so be patient and start with clicking on the search link in the upper left. Click to the right of where it says "Last Name." When using Google Chrome, a box doesn't show up until after I click in the empty space beside Last Name so it's kind of confusing at first.


  1. Hi, just a comment, Little Rock's early records are sparse. I have sent off for death certificates dating in 1918 and 1919 and they were unable to provide them. Just a FYI.

    Hunting in Arkansas... bunches!
    Alissa Gage Hill
    Muskogee, OK

  2. Hi Ginger, great blog! I don't live near your area so this post doesn't quite pertain to me, but I was wondering if your genealogy expertise has ever led you to use VitalChek for obtaining death certificates? It seems you have a system down pat, but for my own purposes, I'm not so well-versed in research like you seem to be, so ordering from this express certificate service seems more my speed. Just wondering if you were familiar with it at all.

    Thanks a bunch

    1. Hi, I looked at VitalChek when I first started researching but was put off by the costs of the service. I just tried to look at it again and could not get the drop down boxes to show up in order to enter the date of death, so I could not go any further. Also a lot of their help files are missing as well. I have been very happy with ordering directly from the county or from the State agencies and have not needed to employ a service like this. If you have used this service I would love to hear about your experience. Thank you.

    2. Thanks for your quick response (sorry mine is so belated!). I actually did use the service, and I have to say that it was overall a good experience. I'm not sure what the price would have been comparably to ordering directly from the county, but I don't regret using VitalChek. It was a fast process, as far as ordering and delivery go. So I guess it just comes down to the genealogist's preference!

    3. Thank you for sharing your experience with using VitalChek. Ordering death records through the state usually costs around $10 each. They take about 4-6 weeks to arrive in the mail. What is the cost from VitalChek?

  3. You're welcome. That sounds like a pretty large amount of time to be waiting, to me at least. There’s not a standard pricing, seeing as VitalChek charges the same certificate fee as the agency, they just charge more because you’re getting it much quicker with the convenience of ordering & expediting along with express shipping. So it really just depends on which state you're ordering from because the fees vary. The site's FAQ section, which I've found helpful, has a lot of other answers for people looking into using the service.

    1. Oh ok, that makes sense. Thanks so much for the info! I will check out the links.