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Originally, no official death records were kept for deaths occuring in King County.  The city of Seattle began keeping death registers in September 1881 and King County began keeping death records in July 1891.  On July 1, 1907, the state began keeping death records.

The King County Archives holds the following historical death records:

Death Registers - Seattle only (1881-1907)
Records from 1881 to 1891 include the name of the deceased, as well as their age, sex, race, marital status, birthplace, occupation, date of death, place of death, cause of death, and attending physician. Records from 1891 to 1907 additionally include the place of interment. The register entries are organized chronologically. Only registers from 1889 to 1899 have self-contained indexes. Registers from other years do not have indexes. We have the original volumes as well as electronic copies.

The Seattle death registers have been indexed and are available online (external link).

Death Registers - county wide (1891-1907)
These entries contain basically the same information as the Seattle Death Registers (above). They are organized by first letter of the last name, and then chronologically.

The King County death registers have been indexed and are available online (external link).

Ordering Certified Death Certificates?

King County birth and death and records are available through King County Vital Statistics.

Phone: (206) 897-5100 or toll-free: 1 (800) 325-6165.
For deaths in King County (1944 to present) or in the city of Seattle (1880-present), contact:

King County Public Health - Vital Statistics
(206) 897-5100

For deaths in any county in Washington (1907 to present), contact:

Washington State Dept. of Health (external link)
360- 236-4313

 

King County Death Returns (1891-1907)
These are the original returns/certificates that were used to create the county death registers (above) and document people that died in King County (including Seattle) or were buried in King County. They are organized numerically by the return number (1-18901). They often contain more detailed information than the death registers including: name of deceased, date of death, place of death, cause of death, date of birth, age at death, place of birth, sex, race, occupation, place of residence, names and birth places of parents, place of burial, name of undertaker and name of attending physician.

These records are indexed by the King County Death Registers (external link).

There are forty seven (47) death returns that were not included in the death registers and have been indexed separately (PDF, 9KB).

 

DeathReturnSample
Sample Death Return

Coroner's Death Records (1889-1913)
These records document incidences of accidental or violent deaths in King County that were investigated by the Coroner's Office (Medical Examiner). Death records after 1913 are held by the King County Medical Examiner's Office.

Coroner's Death Indexes (1890-1986)
These indexes reference volume and page number in the Coroner's Death Records.

Coroner's Inquest Transcripts (1897-1906)
Transcriptions of testimony given at King County Coroner's inquests. These records usually include the name of the deceased, death date and place and findings on the cause of death. The King County Archives' holdings only includes records from 1897-1900 and 1905-1906. Transcripts from other years (1899-1955) can be found at the Puget Sound Regional Archives (external link).

Auditor's Death Records (1897-1901)
Each entry only contains a name, a date (presumably date of death) and an unidentified number. The entries are organized alphabetically. This index does not have many entries and is not a complete death index for these years.  It is unknown what the purpose of this index was or what the numbers refer to.

Record of Bodies Exhumed from Potters Field Cemetery (1900-1912)
Register of Individuals who died between 1900 and 1912 and were buried in the Potter's Field Cemetery (also called Duwamish Poor Farm or King County Hospital Cemetery) in Georgetown. The remains were exhumed and cremated at the King County Crematory in Georgetown. The index entries contain names, dates of death and ages at death. They are not organized in alphabetical order. The names in this volume have been indexed by an outside source and are online (external link). The King County Archives maintains a separate record of the disposition of 176 of these 855 cremains.

Death Indexes - Seattle only (1907-1937)
These alphabetical index entries contain the individual's name, the date of death, age at death, and death certificate number. 

Death Certificates - southeast King County only (1913-1951)
These certificates are limited to districts containing Black Diamond and Enumclaw. The records are organized by district, and then chronologically.

Coroner's Scrapbooks (1914-1969)
These scrapbooks are comprised of newspaper clippings relating to accidental or violent deaths in King County that were investigated by the Coroner's Office (Medical Examiner). The clippings are organized semi-chronologically and are not indexed by name.

Death Indexes - County wide (1953-1965, 1976-1978)
These alphabetical index entries contain the individual's name, the date of death, age at death, and death certificate number.

Burial-Transit Permits (1969-1977, 1981-1986, 1995, 1997-2006)
These forms are required before the disposition of any human remains can take place and are created after the completed death certificate is submitted. This series documents individuals who died in King County, were buried in King County or whose remains were transported through King County. Forms include name of the deceased, date of death, place of death, age, sex, cause of death (if a communicable or infectious disease), method of disposal (cremation, burial, storage or removal), and the date and place of burial or cremation. Varying information includes date of birth, place of birth, marital status and name of spouse. These records are not indexed and are organized semi-chronologically. Also included in this series is permits for individuals who were buried or cremated in Auburn only from 1963 to 1969. Also included are disinterment permits (when remains were exhumed and reburied elsewhere) from 1950 to 1968.

Death Certificates (2000, 2002, 2005, 2006)

Online death indexes (on external websites)

1891-1907 King County Death Register on the Washington State Digital Archives. Name index/transcriptions and corresponding images of death register pages.
1907-1960 Washington State Death Index on the Washington State Digital Archives. Name index to certificates.
1960-1974

 

Washington State Death Index at the Vitalsearch website. The index is not searchable by name, but users may browse images by page number.

 

* 1937-present

 

Social Security Death Index on the Washington State Digital Archives, which documents individuals that had a Social Security number issued in Washington, had a last residence in Washington or had their last benefit mailed to an address in Washington.

* Although the index entries begin in 1937, they are few in number and do not represent a significant portion of deaths until the mid-1960's.

 

Death indexes for searching in person

1907-1979

 

Washington State Death Index at the Southwest Regional Branch of the State Archives (in Olympia)

 

1907-1995

 

Washington State Death Index at the Eastern Regional Branch of the State Archives (in Cheney)

 

1907-2002 Washington State Death Index at the Central Regional Branch of the State Archives (in Ellensburg)
1907-2004

 

Washington State Death Index at the Washington State Library (in Tumwater)

 

1940-1954, 1965-1996 Washington State Death Index on Ancestry Library Edition (at most public libraries)