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Articles from The Massachusetts Focus

Newsletter of Stewart Title Guaranty Company, Massachusetts Offices
Fall 2005, Volume 4, Number 4

Paralegal Page
by Donald A. Brown, Boston Office Paralegal

How do I Request Death Information from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Registry of Vital Records and Statistics?

I have recently been asked to obtain a death certificate to address and resolve a title issue in the chain of title. The problem with this case and in a lot of other cases that we run across these days is that I did not have proof of the person’s death. The first thing I did was contact the town clerk of the city where I believed the person may have passed away. They were unable to locate any records for this person, so I was out of luck there. The next place I went to try to research and find this information is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website and found the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Registry of Vital Records and Statistics.

I went on to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website located at www.mass.gov. and at the top set of tabs there is a tab for government. Click government; then click on Branches and Departments. There is an alphabetical list of all branches. Click this link and scroll down until you see Department of Public Health. On the left hand side of the page there should be an option for Center for Health Information, Statistics, Research & Evaluation. Eventually you will be brought to the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics home page. The Registry of Vital Records and Statistics says on its website that it maintains birth, death, and marriage records that occur in Massachusetts from 1911 to present. Any records prior to 1911 would be accessible in the State archives at the State House. So, as you can imagine they maintain the most complete and updated record of deaths in the State.

There are several different ways to make requests for certified copies of death records from The Registry of Vital Records and Statistics. They also have public access to the registry which is open Monday-Friday 8:45 a.m. – 4:45p.m. However, I know a lot of us in this industry simply don’t have the time to physically go over to The Registry and search the records ourselves. So I am going to briefly describe some of the ways we can make a request without the hassle of having to physically go to the Registry of Vital Statistics to research these records ourselves.

The first three ways are by internet, telephone, and fax. The cost for a certified copy of death is $42.50, and each additional copy of the same record is $37.00. You need to have access to a major credit card to make these types of requests. All internet, telephone, and fax orders will be processed within 7 to 10 business days of receipt and, for an additional charge of $13.00, your order can be shipped UPS overnight or, for an additional charge of $9.50, your order can be shipped UPS 2nd Day air.

Finally, the last way we can make our request is by mail. This is the method most of us would probably use including myself as I did on my last request. On the website they have a mail order form in PDF form and Microsoft Word version that you have to use in order to request a death record. When you pull up the request you will see that there are three options: one for birth, the second for marriage, and the third for death. You fill out as much information in the box provided for death as you can. Then you will see a line for the relationship of the requestor to the subject named on the record. Obviously it was to resolve a title issue so I described that in this line. Once you are finished with the form you will have to make a check payable to The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The cost for each 10-year search including one certified copy or official statement that the desired record is not on file (negative statement) is $28.00. This is the regular mail service for each record requested. Keep the period of the search in mind when making your request because in the recent request I made I thought the person passed away between March of 1977 and March of 1997, which would constitute a 20-year search so I had to request a check for $56.00. They say orders are normally processed within 20 to 30 business days of receipt if it is regular mail service. If faster service is required on your mail order, they have an expedited mail service which is $37.00 for each certified copy. You order is processed 7 to 10 business days of receipt. Be sure to address your envelope to the attention of “Expedited Mail Service.” Lastly you have to make and enclose a business size self-addressed envelope. You mail the request to Registry of Vital Records and Statistics, 150 Mt. Vernon Street, 1st Floor, Dorchester, MA 02125-3105.

I ended up adding a short cover letter referencing the purported descendant’s name, beginning-to-end search dates, and enclosed the mail order form, check made payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and business size envelope as requested. I hope this information is helpful to you folks out there that have to resolve title issues and research and obtain death records from time to time.