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North Carolina Death Records

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What Are Death Records in North Carolina?

A death record is a document stating personal information and details of the death of a deceased person. Like other North Carolina Vital Records, death records are maintained by the state Vital Records Office. The department provides death records for only deaths that occur within the state from 1930 to the present. In North Carolina, death records are available to the public on request, although the law specifies who can make such a request. A death certificate contains vital information about the deceased. These details include:

  • Full names of the deceased
  • Date of death
  • Age at the time of death
  • Marital status at the time of death
  • Cause of death
  • Race
  • Location or county of death
  • Date of birth
  • The decedent's social security number

Members of the public can make requests for a vital record (including death, marriage, and divorce records) as well as other vital statistics information through the state vital records department or the National Center for Vital Statistics.

Death certificates may be required for the following purposes:

  • To determine the cause of death
  • To settle estates of the deceased and obtain insurance or other pension benefits
  • May be required before cremation or burial services
  • Required by the state for compiling mortality rates and tracking health statistics and disease trends, setting public health policies, and allocating health and research funding

How are Death Records Created in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, a death record is created when a person dies, or a dead body is found in the state. According to the North Carolina General Statutes 130A-115, the funeral director who handles the deceased's body must prepare the death certificate. However, suppose a funeral director will not be assigned this role. In that case, anyone who assumes custody of a body must file a “notification of death” form with the local registrar within 24 hours of taking custody of the body.

The funeral director or anyone taking up this role must obtain a certificate of death from the Vital Records Office in the county where the death occurred. The funeral will then complete this certificate with all the required information and pass it on for medical certification of the cause of death by a medical examiner or the attending physician. Typically, the law mandates the hospital where the deceased died to provide the funeral director with the name of the deceased, the date and time of death, and the attending physician’s name.

After the death certificate has been completed, the funeral director must file it with the Vital Records Office within 5-days of the death. Note that the funeral director must ensure that the attending physician has signed the death certificate before filing it. This information will be used to create the death record.

Are Death Certificates Public in North Carolina?

Yes. North Carolina death certificates are public records. According to the North Carolina Public Records Law, anyone can get a death certificate in the state upon request.

North Carolina death certificates may be certified or uncertified. Anyone not related to the deceased can only access the uncertified copy, while those with a direct tangible interest in the record or a biological relationship with the deceased (deceased spouse, parents, children, grandchildren, attorney of the deceased, and others related to the deceased) can only obtain the certified copies. However, the associates must provide proof of relationship in accessing the certified copy of the death certificate.

How to Find Death Records Online in North Carolina

The North Carolina Vital Records Office uses a third-party website for online searches of death records in the state. However, requesters may acquire certified copies of death records by visiting or mailing the office. Alternatively, a requester may search a death record at the Office of the Register of Deeds in the county where the deceased died. For example, in Durham County, requesters may search for death records by using the online Vital Records system portal. From the portal, requesters can search for certified copies of death certificates online.

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. To order online from aggregate sites or online vendors, interested parties furnish the record custodian with:

  • 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 compared to government sources.

Death Record Search by Name in North Carolina

A death record search in North Carolina requires the requesters to submit an application form. When requesting a death certificate from the vital records office in North Carolina, the application form must bear the deceased's full name and last known address to search for the certificate. Similarly, death records search by name is the established procedure when using a third-party agency website to search for a death certificate. Requesters only need to supply the name of the deceased and the state because the third-party sites do not index death records by address.

Death Record Search by Address

A death record search by address can be made possible through the deceased's full name and last known address. In doing this, individuals may search for information in the county where the deceased lived. Specifically, when trying to locate someone who died in a particular home, one will get the names of past dwellers in that home and look through available records to identify where the death occurred. Specialised third-party sites offer the death record search by address service. However, the information on their databases is a tiny fraction of the total deaths in the state.

How to Find Death Records for Free in North Carolina

In North Carolina, copies of death records cannot be obtained for free. However, death records can be found at the North Carolina Vital Records Office or at the office of the Register of Deeds in the county where the death occurred. Note that searches and requests for death certificates can only be made for a fee.

Where Can I Get Death Records in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, death records can be obtained at the North Carolina Vital Records Office or the Register of Deeds Office in the county where the death took place. The first step to take when seeking a death record at the NC Vital Records Office is to visit or mail the office located at:

North Carolina Vital Records (Cooper Memorial Health Building)
225 North McDowell Street
Raleigh, NC 27603-1382

A person requesting for a death record must hold an acceptable ID and proof of eligibility. Acceptable IDs includes:

  • State-issued driver’s license (address must match requester’s address on application)
  • Current state-issued non-driver photo ID card (address must match requester’s address on application)
  • Current passport or visa (must include photo)
  • Current U.S. military ID
  • Current Department of Corrections photo ID card dated within the last year
  • Current state or U.S.
  • Government agency photo ID card (for persons requesting certificates as part of that agency’s business)
  • Current student ID card with copy of transcript

The next step is to complete the Application for Vital Records Form required to obtain a death certificate. A requester must have the following information of the deceased at hand when filling the request form:

  1. Full name of the deceased
  2. Date of death
  3. Place of death
  4. Race
  5. Age at the time of Death
  6. Date of birth

If requesting a certified copy of record, a requester must furnish evidence of relationship to the deceased. A person requesting a death record by mail, should send the completed Application for Vital Records Form, a copy of the appropriate photo identification and a $24 money order or certified/business check to the Vital Records Office. Add $15 for each additional copy. Note that the office does not accept cash for mail requests. Cash is only accepted for walk-in requests.

Request at the Register of Deeds Office

Here, a requester is required to visit the Register of Deeds Office in the county where the death took place to obtain certified or uncertified copies of death records. Each county has specific requirements and fees for obtaining death certificates. For example, in Guilford County, persons may obtain death records by visiting the Register of Deeds Office located at:

The BB&T Building,
201 West Market Street,
1st Floor,
Greensboro, NC

Or at:

325 East Russell Avenue,
High Point, NC

Guilford County requires a requester to provide at least one valid picture ID as proof in order to obtain a death record. Examples of valid picture IDs include driver’s license, state-issued ID cards, and passports. Eligible persons who can request death records include any of the following:

  1. An immediate family member of the individual named on the death certificate, such as a spouse, sister, brother, child, parent/stepparent, grandparent, or grandchild.
  2. Persons seeking information for legal determination of personal or property rights.
  3. Authorized agent, legal representative, or attorney of the deceased.

After determining eligibility, the next step is to fill the Application for Vital Records Form and submit it in person. Note that a request can also be made by mail, which involves mailing the “Application for Vital Records Form” along with a check or money order to the office of the Registrar of Deeds.

Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Death Certificate in North Carolina?

The North Carolina General Statute 130A-93© specifies persons who are eligible to obtain certified copies of death records in the state. They include:

  • A person requesting the death record of a spouse, sibling, direct ancestor, direct descendant, stepparent, or stepchild
  • A person inquiring information for legal determination of personal or property rights
  • Authorized agent, legal representative, or attorney of the deceased

Persons who do not meet these eligibility requirements may obtain uncertified copies of death records, which may only be used for genealogical or research purposes. Certain information, like the deceased Social Security Number, will not appear on the uncertified copies of the death certificate.

How Much Does a Death Certificate Cost in North Carolina?

The Department of Public Health specifies the required fees for obtaining death records. At the North Carolina Vital Office, the fee for requesting the first copy of a death record is $24.00 for each 3-year period search. Additional copies cost $15, while additional searches cost $24. Expedited processing of records costs $15. Persons requesting expedited processing by mail must indicate this by writing "expedited" on the front of the envelope. Certificates are sent by first-class mail unless otherwise requested. The cost of expedited shipping is $20.

Fees may be paid by one of the following methods:

  • Credit or debit card
  • Money order
  • Business check
  • Certified check
  • Cash is accepted only for walk-in services and not for mail service

Note that fees are not refundable after a search or service has been provided whether or not the record was found. If requesting from the Register of Deeds Office, each county has its own specific fees. For example, in Guilford County, the cost of a certified copy of a death certificate is $10.00 per copy. The cost of an uncertified copy is $1.00 per page if requested by mail. Guilford County accepts cash, business checks, or money orders made payable to the “Register of Deeds”. Requests are processed within three working days upon receipt. At Guilford County, requests can also be made online for the same fees.

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

In North Carolina, the processing time for a death certificate is between 6 - 8 weeks, while expedited requests take 5-10 days. Same-day walk-in expedited service is available at the North Carolina Vital Office. Note that office hours for walk-in services are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. However, walk-in services were suspended due to the COVID 19.

How Long to Keep Records After Death?

There are no statutory provisions indicating how long death records should be kept after death in North Carolina. However, it is necessary to keep a death record indefinitely because it is considered permanent official evidence of a person’s death.

How to Expunge Your Death Records in North Carolina?

Expungement is when a judge declares a record deleted from public access. There are no legal provisions on the expungement of death records in North Carolina.

How to Seal Your Death Records in North Carolina?

There are no legal provisions for the sealing of death records in North Carolina.

How to UnSeal Your Death Records in North Carolina?

There are no legal provisions for the unsealing of death records in North Carolina.

How to Use the North Carolina Death Registry

Most North Carolina death records are indexed in the state archives, Division of Public Health, or county's register of deeds office depending on the year of death.

Individuals can use the State Archives of North Carolina to find deaths that occurred between 1913-1979. These state archives can be accessed online through the North Carolina Family Record. Also, death records from 1930 can be obtained from the Division of Public Health. However, this division should not be the first place to search for these death records.

On the other hand, individuals can contact the county register of deeds office for death records from 1979 that occurred in a county. Anyone interested in this death record should check with the county register of deeds office to find out if it is available online or visit the office to request for the record.

How to Find an Obituary for a Specific Person in North Carolina

Obituaries are not required documentation by law. However, they are important as they inform people about an individual's passing.

People can search for the obituary of a specific person in the state by looking into the newspapers published in the city/county where the individual lived/died. However, the public library in the city/county is the best place to start the search because these libraries archive newspapers that individuals can look through to search for specific obituaries in North Carolina.

Also, most historical organizations and genealogical research sites provide links to old publications and newspapers that one can look through when searching for a specific person's obituary in North Carolina.

How to Conduct a Free Obituary Search in North Carolina

People in North Carolina can perform a free obituary lookup at the public libraries in the state or newspaper archives. Usually, the free obituary lookup can be done online or in-person, depending on when the obituary was published. Recently published obituaries can easily be found online, while old published obituaries can be found by searching the newspaper archives at the library in person.

What are North Carolina Death Notices?

Death notices in North Carolina are publications regarding someone's death. These announcements are usually short and require payments of fees.

Death notices contain details such as memorial/funeral services to be held, place of death, deceased name, date of death, and state where the death occurred.

What is the Difference Between Death Notices and Obituaries?

The primary difference between death notices and obituaries is in the length of the content. Death notices are short announcements, while obituaries are more lengthy and comprehensive. Obituaries include information like names of surviving family members, funeral poems, photos, etc.

What is the Difference Between a Death Certificate and Other Death Records?

A death certificate varies from other death records in terms of comprehensiveness. For instance, a death certificate contains information about the deceased's death, the demography of the deceased, and the method of disposition of the body. On the other hand, other death records include the obituary index, death index, burial and reburial records, cemetery records, and transit and disinterment records.

A death certificate is the authentic, official record that provides official proof that death has occured, while other death records draw from this confirmation of death.