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Request for a Death Certificate


Notice of Office Closure Dates

The Wisconsin Vital Records Office will be closed on the following dates in 2014. No applications for certificates will be accepted on these dates, and no appointments for genealogy services will be available.

2014 Office of Vital Records Closure Dates
Date and Holiday
January 1, Wednesday, New Year's Day November 27, Thursday, Thanksgiving Day  
January 20, Monday, Martin Luther King Day December 24, Wednesday, Christmas Eve Day
May 26, Monday, Memorial Day December 25, Thursday, Christmas Day
July 4,  Friday, Fourth of July December 31, Wednesday, New Year's Eve Day
September 1, Monday, Labor Day  

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I request copies of death certificates?

Wisconsin law requires that applications for copies of death certificates include both a signature and the appropriate fees. Therefore, the Wisconsin Vital Records Office cannot accept applications through this Web site, by e-mail, or by telephone. This applies to both information from and copies of death certificates.

You can apply for a copy of a death certificate three ways: in person, by mail, or by fax.

Identification is required to apply for copies of vital records in person, by mail or by fax. The acceptable forms of identification are listed below.

ONE of the following:
Wisconsin driver's license
Wisconsin ID card
Out-of-state driver's license/ID card

OR
TWO of the following:
U.S. government-issued photo ID
Passport
Checkbook/bank statement
Health insurance card
Current, dated, signed lease
Utility bill or traffic ticket
Paycheck or earnings statement

At least one form of identification must show your name and address.  Expired cards or documents will not be accepted. You must have an original ID to apply in person and provide a copy to apply by mail.

There is no additional charge for postage.

If you still have questions after reading the information, please contact us.

In Person:

You can apply in person for a copy of a death certificate at 1 West Wilson Street, Room 160, in Madison, Wisconsin (driving directions/parking). The office is open from 8:00 A.M. until 4:15 P.M. (C.S.T.), Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays.

Applications are available in our office or you may fill out the death certificate application form (PDF, 159 KB) and bring it with you. Acceptable identification is required.

Our office provides both regular service and expedited service for in-person requests.

Regular Service:  In-person requests for certified copies of death certificates are completed within two hours of acceptance at our counter if received by 2:00 p.m.  Requests received at our counter after 2:00 p.m. will be completed by 10:00 a.m. on the next business day.

Because of the high demand for copies of death certificates, requests for uncertified copies are not completed on the same schedule as certified copies.  In-person requests for uncertified copies of death certificates may take up to three months to complete.

The cost for the search, which includes one copy of the certificate, if found, is $20.00. Additional copies of the same record, requested at the same time as the first, are $3.00 each.  The cost is the same whether you request a certified or uncertified copy of the death certificate.

The fees are not refundable if no record is found. Acceptable methods of payment for in-person requests are cash, personal check, or money order.  Credit and debit cards are not accepted for in-person requests.

Expedited Service:  In-person requests for both certified and uncertified copies of death certificates can be expedited for an additional fee.

Expedited in-person requests for certified copies of death certificates generally will be completed within 15 to 30 minutes. Expedited in-person requests for uncertified copies of death certificates will be completed within two hours. Expedited requests will not be processed after 4:00 p.m.

The cost for expedited service is $20.00 per record in addition to the $20.00 death certificate search fee.  Additional copies of the same certificate, requested at the same time as the first, are $3.00 each.  The cost is the same whether you request a certified or an uncertified copy of the death certificate.

The fees are not refundable if no record is found.  Acceptable methods of payment for in-person requests are cash, personal check, or money order. Credit and debit cards are not accepted for in-person requests.

By Mail:

Applications for copies of death certificates should be mailed to:

Wisconsin Vital Records Office
P.O. Box 309
Madison, WI  53701-0309

Please use the death certificate application form (PDF, 159 KB) or request an application by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to:

Death Record Application
P.O. Box 309
Madison, WI  53701-0309

Incomplete or unsigned forms will be returned unprocessed. Include a copy of acceptable identification (required).

If you are requesting a certificate for a death that occurred prior to 1907, please check our list of earliest registered deaths to see if we may have the record.

The cost for the search, which includes one copy of the record, if found, is $20.00. Additional copies of the same record, requested at the same time as the first, are $3.00 each.  The cost is the same whether you request a certified or uncertified copy of the death certificate.

The fee is not refundable if no record is found.  You must enclose a personal check or money order made payable to Wis. Vital Records. Please do not send cash.

Please include a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope with your request.

Requests for certified copies of death certificates will be completed within one month. Because of the high demand for copies of death certificates, requests for uncertified copies of death certificates are not completed on the same schedule as certified copies and may take up to three months to complete.

Expedited service is not available by mail.  If you require expedited service for a copy of a death certificate, you must apply in person or by fax.

By Fax:  

If you require expedited service for a copy of a death certificate and cannot apply in person, you may submit a fax application. The certificate can be sent to you by regular mail or overnight United Parcel Service (UPS) Next Day Air.

Please use the fax death certificate application form  (PDF, 51 KB) or call (608) 266-1373 to have the form faxed to you. Once the application is filled out, please fax it to the number listed on the top of the form. Include a copy of acceptable identification (required).

All requests received by fax will be charged for expedited service.  The cost for expedited service is $20.00 per record in addition to the usual $20.00 death certificate search fee.  The search fee includes one copy of the certificate, if found.  Additional copies of the same certificate, requested at the same time as the first, are $3.00 each.  All costs must be paid by credit card and there is an additional $6.00 fee for credit card processing.

The fees are not refundable if no record is found.

Faxed requests for both certified and uncertified copies to be sent by regular mail will be completed and mailed within five business days.

Faxed requests for copies to be sent by overnight UPS will be completed and shipped within one to two business days. UPS requests are processed until 1:00 p.m. each business day for next business day delivery. The fee for UPS shipping is $19.00 within  the continental U.S.  There may be additional shipping costs for areas outside the continental United States or for Saturday delivery. UPS requires a signature for delivery.

What if I don't have all the information requested in the application?

The Wisconsin Vital Records Office can search for death certificates even if you cannot provide all the information requested in the application. For us to search our files for a death certificate when some information is not available, you must provide the name of the subject at the time of death and a period of time to search.

Because of the different ways in which Wisconsin vital records have been indexed over time, how they are searched differs depending on the year(s) being searched. Please read the following carefully to see what constitutes a search and how much it will cost.

Can search any five-year period in the following single-year indexes as one search:
  • October 1, 1907 through 1958

Can search either one of the following multi-year indexes as one search:

  • Earliest filed records through September 1907;
  • 1959 to the present.

For the $20.00 death certificate search fee, we will search one five-year period in the single year indexes OR one multi-year index. You may request that an additional five-year period of single-year indexes is searched OR an additional multi-year index is searched for $20.00 each. For example, the cost for our office to search for a death certificate from 1940 through 1949 would be $40.00.

If you are requesting a death certificate for a person with a common last name such as Anderson, Johnson, or Smith, you must include additional identifying information such as the place of death.  Please include as much additional information as possible to assist in the search.

What is the difference between a certified and an uncertified copy of a death certificate?

A certified copy of a death certificate issued by our office will have a raised seal, will show the signature of the State Registrar, and will be printed on security paper. A certified copy may be required to settle an estate or claim insurance benefits.

State law restricts who may obtain a certified copy of a death certificate. A certified copy may be issued to:

  • The current spouse of the person named on the record,

  • The current domestic partner of the person named on the record,

  • A parent of the person named on the record,

  • A sibling of the person named on the record,

  • A child of the person named on the record,

  • A grandparent of the person named on the record,

  • A person authorized in writing by one of the above. The written authorization must accompany the request and the relationship of the authorizing party to the subject of the record must be clearly explained,

  • A person who can demonstrate that the record is required to protect a personal or property right.

If you do not meet one of the above criteria, you cannot receive a certified copy of a death certificate.

An uncertified copy of a death certificate is available to anyone who applies. An uncertified copy will contain the same information as a certified copy but will not be acceptable for legal purposes, such as claiming insurance benefits.

What information will be on the death certificate?

An uncertified copy of a death certificate will be a photocopy on plain, white paper of the original document that was filed in our office. A certified copy of a death certificate will be a photocopy on security paper of the original document that was filed in our office.  The information provided on a death certificate varies from year to year. Typically, a death certificate from 1907 will include the cause of death and the place of burial. Death certificates from later years may include additional information such as occupation and underlying causes of death.

How do I obtain an authentication or apostille for a death certificate?

An apostille is a specific authenticating certificate for a death certificate that may be required by other countries. In Wisconsin, an apostille is issued by the Office of the Wisconsin Secretary of State. Information on how to obtain an apostille is available on the Web site of the Office of the Secretary of State at http://www.sos.state.wi.us/apostilles.htm (exit DHS).

If you want our Vital Records office (located in Madison, Wisconsin) to assist you with obtaining a certified copy of a death certificate and submitting the certified death certificate copy to the Office of the Wisconsin Secretary of State (also located in Madison, Wisconsin), you must do the following:

  1. Request a copy of a death certificate from our Vital Records office using the application and procedure shown on the Vital Records Web site at http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/vitalrecords/death.htm;
  2. Request an apostille from the Wisconsin Secretary of State's office using the order form and procedure shown on their Web site at www.sos.state.wi.us/apostilles.htm (exit DHS), only instead of submitting your request to the Secretary of State,
  3. Submit the required Vital Records application form and fee and the Secretary of State's order form, fee, and prepaid envelope (from the Secretary of State to you) to Vital Records for processing. NOTE: You must submit separate payments and completed application/order forms, one for Vital Records services and one for Secretary of State services, if you want our Vital Records office to assist you with this process.

Once Vital Records has received forms and fees for both agencies from you, we will create a certified copy of the death certificate and will submit the certified death certificate copy, Secretary of State's application, Secretary of State's fees, and prepaid envelope directly to the Office of the Secretary of State. They will complete their process and return the certified death certificate copy and apostille directly to you in the envelope you provided for them.

How do I request a death certificate if the death occurred in another state or country?

The Wisconsin Vital Records Office has certificates only for deaths that occurred in Wisconsin. You can find information on obtaining certificates from other states or U.S. territories on the Internet  at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w.htm (exit DHS).

For information on obtaining death documentation for a death that occurred outside of the United States or U.S. territories, you can find information on the sites listed below:

1. If you are requesting a copy of the death certificate on file in that country, you may contact the U.S. Embassy in that country or that country's consulate located in the United States.

    Reminder: This document will most likely be completed in the official language of the country of death.

Addresses and telephone numbers for consular offices in the U.S. can be found on the Internet at http://www.state.gov/s/cpr/rls/dpl/32122.htm (exit DHS).

2. If the decedent was a U.S. citizen at the time of death and you are requesting a copy of the Consular Report of Death, you can find information at the following U.S. Department of State Web site: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/death/death_6174.html (exit DHS).

What is a Report of Fetal Death and how can I obtain a copy?

A Report of Fetal Death (HCF 5042) is a confidential form that is filed with the Wisconsin Vital Records Office to report certain non-abortion-related fetal deaths (stillbirths). The information provided on the report is used for statistical purposes only and the report is destroyed once the information is entered into the computer system. The Report of Fetal Death is not a vital record and a copy of the report cannot be issued by the Wisconsin Vital Records Office.

A copy of a Report of Fetal Death may be obtained from the hospital where delivery occurred or from the birth attendant if the delivery occurred outside of a hospital. The report is part of the mother’s medical information and its release is subject to standard medical confidentiality laws.

How can I contact the Wisconsin Vital Records Office directly?

If you have a question that is not answered on this Web site, please contact us directly in one of the following ways:

  • E-mail:  DHSVitalRecords@wisconsin.gov.
  • Telephone:  For automated assistance 24 hours a day, please call (608) 266-1371.   To contact our service counter during the hours of 8:00 A.M. to 4:15 P.M. (C.S.T.), Monday through Friday, please call (608) 266-1373.
  • Mail:  Our mailing address is Wisconsin Vital Records Office, P.O. Box 309, Madison, WI   53701-0309.

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Last Revised:  September 11, 2014