Though Tennessee death records have been collected at the county-level since at least 1908, you can only get the last 50 years of documents through the state Vital Records department. Older death records are held at the Tennessee State Library and Archives where you can access them free of charge.
When accessing the more recent Tennessee death records from the state, you have the choice of getting a proper certified copy or just a "verification". The true death certificate is restricted and will only be issued to members of the immediate family, but the verification can be ordered by anyone. A verification of death is just a hand-written list of facts found on the death record and it cannot be used in any sort of legal manner.
Forms for both are available online, just make sure to get the proper one for either the certified copy (http://health.state.tn.us/vr/PH1663EN.pdf) or the verification (http://health.state.tn.us/vr/ph-3055.pdf). They both will need basic information about the deceased (name, date and place of death, etc.) but the verification form has a second page that you need to leave blank. That is where an Vital Records employee will fill out the information to return to you.
With the deceased's information, you also need to include your own contact information as well as a copy of your own photo ID. You can also choose whether or not you want the cause of death to be included.
Along with the form, you have to enclose a check or money order to cover the search fees. It costs $7 USD for a Tennessee death record, and a check or money order should be issued to Tennessee Vital Records. Refunds are not issued if the record you want can't be found.
Once you have all the requirements together, the whole thing can either be mailed to the office or you can visit in person. Mailed applications will take at least 4 weeks for processing (sometimes 2 months) but in-person requests are usually issued while you wait. The address is Tennessee Vital Records, Central Services Building, 1st Floor, 421 5th Avenue N, Nashville TN, 37243 USA. Its the same for counter service or mail-ins.
If you are looking for older records, you will need to get in touch with the Tennessee State Archives (http://www.tennessee.gov/tsla/history/vital/vital.htm). Some of their Tennessee death record indexes can be searched from their website, and they also have a list of which areas have material from before 1908. Chattanooga goes back to 1872, Knoxville to 1881 and Memphis has some material that goes back to 1848 as a few examples.
The archive itself is at 403 7th Avenue North in Nashville but they also do mail-order document searches if you are not in Nashville. Visit their ordering page (http://www.tennessee.gov/tsla/history/mailstat.htm) for all the details on how to do so. There is a $20 fee for each record and the proper forms for ordering are on this page as well.
To request Tennessee death certificates by mail, follow the steps below:
Download and complete a Tennessee Death Certificate application form.
You must include a legible copy of your government-issued photo ID. Sign the copy.
The application, identification, and a check or money order covering the $7 fee can be mailed to the Vital Records Office listed below.
If you have further questions regarding accessing Tennessee death records, then you can contact:
Tennessee Department of Health
Tennessee Vital Records
Central Services Building
421 5th Avenue North
Nashville, Tennessee 37243
Obtaining Copies of Tennessee Death Record
Tennessee death records from the last 50 years are available through the Tennessee Department of Health. The cause of death will not be included on your copy unless specifically requested by an authorized person.
Ordering Methods Available
If you would like to request Tennessee death records, then there are three different ways that you place this request. If you are willing to pay the fees for expedited service, then you can order the record online. Otherwise, you can order Tennessee death records in person or by mailing in an application.
Limited Access To Certified Records
Tennessee death records are considered to be private records for 50 years after the person's death. When requesting Tennessee death records, the cause of death is usually not included. If you need this information, then you must be an immediate family member or legal representative to make the request.