Unlike many other states, there are no privacy laws with respect to acquiring copies of California death records. You don't have to wait a certain period of time after the death occurred in order to be permitted access to the files. Instead, there are 2 kinds of records: informational and authorized. Informational is what most genealogists or family researchers will want whereas the authorized version is for legal purposes to establish identity. Information copies will say "not a valid document for identity" across the text of the page.
To get an authorized copy, you must be a direct relative of the deceased person (meaning a parent, child, grandparent, a spouse or a sibling). Part of the application includes a sworn statement to this effect that must be notarized and included with the forms. Informational requests don't require this.
You'll be able to access most California death records dating back to at least 1905, which was the year the state began tallying such information. If you looking for a death that occured in Monterey County, you may be able to look as far back as 1824.
Applications to get a copy of a death record can either go to the central office of the California Department of Public Health, or to the specific County Recorders office where the death occurred. Your wait times may be less if you go through the county. The CDPH can take up to 10 weeks to process if you're looking at years between 1905 and 1981. Newer records will be quicker (around 2 weeks).
You can find a list of contact addresses of the county offices at the CDPH website (http://www.cdph.ca.gov/certlic/birthdeathmar/Pages/CountyRecorderOffice.aspx).
If you are sending to the main office, their mailing address is the California Department of Public Health, Vital Records MS 5103, PO Box 997410 Sacramento CA, 95899-7410 USA. Include the filled out form, along with the necessary notarized statement (if necessary) and your fee. The current cost to get a California death record is $12. Its non-refundable, even if no record is found. The application needs your own contact information and basic details about the deceased. You should have their name, date of death, place of death and date of birth. If you know their social security number, that will help greatly.
There are some searchable indexes, run by genealogy services rather than the actual state of California where you can do some preliminary research on someone's death records. The indexes will usually tell you if a record exists, and some of the information included. But you won't get an actual image of the certificate this way.
The information you should expect to find on a California death record would include the name of the deceased, their age at death or birth date, the place and date of death, burial location and possibly the names of their parents. Some records include a marital status and occupation at the time of death.
To request California death certificates, you will need to:
Complete the downloadable California Death Certificate form.
If you are requesting an authorized copy, get a notarized sworn statement to accompany your request. Informational copies need to be marked on the form as informational requests.
Return the statement and application to the Office of Vital Records, along with a check or money order for the $12 fee.
For more information or help accessing California death records, you can contact the office below:
California Department of Public Health
Office of Vital Records – MS 5103
P.O. Box 997410
Sacramento, CA 95899-7410
How to Request Copies of California Death Records
The California Department of Health provides access to California death records. There are two types of certified California death records available: authorized, which are under restricted access, and informational, which are available to the general public.
How to Access Death Certificates
You will need to contact the California Department of Health to order California death records. Request forms are available for download on the Department's website.
Restrictions to Accessing Death Records
Authorized California death records are not considered part of the public record, and therefore they are only released to certain individuals. You must be a direct relative of the person listed on the death certificate, a legal authority, or an employee of a funeral home requesting one as part of your duties of employment.