What are Death Records in Alaska?
In Alaska, death records are vital records that are prepared to register deaths that occurred in the state. Like other Alaska vital records, death records are maintained by the Health Analytics and Vital Records unit of the Division of Public Health in the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. An Alaska death record is a certificate that contains the following details:
- Full name of the deceased
- Age, gender, race, and other biodata of the decedent
- Place and date of birth
- Place and death of death
- Cause of death
- Last known address of the decedent
- Signature of the doctor, medical examiner, or coroner providing cause of death
- Full names of the parents of the deceased
- Death record registration number
- Name and address of the funeral home handling the remains of the deceased
Alaska records every death that occurs within its borders in order to have accurate assessments of its population. Death records are useful for tracking population growth and age distribution. By using the data provided by these records, the state can allocate available resources more efficiently and identify emerging mortality trends.
Individuals surviving the deceased also need death records for different reasons. A death certificate establishes the status of the individual named on it and is required to execute their will. This document is also legally valid in court during cases involving estate settlement, guardianship, and parentage. A named next-of-kin also requires a death certificate to claim the decedent’s insurance and pension benefits.
Genealogical and medical researchers also find death records useful for their studies. Genealogical researchers use them to establish family histories and lineages. Medical scientists use data from death records to investigate trends in mortality and morbidity as well as in epidemiological studies.
How are Death Records Created in Alaska?
The creation of death records in Alaska begins at the funeral home, crematorium, or establishment tasked or hired to handle the burial of the deceased. The funeral director fills out the details required for a death certificate. They will need to ask the family of the deceased certain details and contact the physician, coroner, or medical examiner for time of death and cause of death. After completing and signing this document, the funeral director forwards it to the Health Analytics and Vital Records department of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. This department registers the death and certifies the record. Thereafter, eligible individuals may request copies of the vital records from this state agency.
Are Death Certificates Public in Alaska?
No, Alaska death certificates are considered confidential under state laws. Public access to death records generally remains restricted for 50 years after the date of the event to eligible persons. Eligible persons include the decedent's family members, their legal representatives, and others who can prove that they are legally entitled to the record. Only after 50 years have passed since the date of a decedent's death is their death certificate considered to be a public death record in Alaska.
The Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics is the government agency responsible for maintaining, issuing, and updating vital records in Alaska. Vital records include birth, death, marriage, and divorce records/certificates. Hence, parties interested in conducting a death record search can do so by querying the bureau. The bureau is also responsible for compiling and making records of vital statistics and health statistics data publicly available.
How to Find Death Records Online in Alaska
Alaska does not have an online repository of death records that the public can access to look up death certificates issued in the state. This is because death records are confidential records in Alaska for the first 50 years after creating them. During this period, only immediate family of the deceased as well as others deemed eligible may access these records. Even then, eligible persons cannot look up the records online. They have to request for copies. The Alaska Health Analytics and Vital Records unit does not directly accept online requests for death certificates. Rather, it partners with a third-party vital record provider to accept online orders on its behalf. Requesters can find a link to the website of this provider in the instructions section of the Alaska Death Certificate Request Form.
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. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- 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 when compared to government sources.
Death Record Search by Name in Alaska
There is no specific way interested persons can conduct a Death record search in Alaska with only a decedent's name. However, when filling out an Alaska death certificate request form, record seekers are generally required to provide the decedent's full name on the form. Interested persons can also find the obituaries of descendants by searching for descendants' names on online obituaries indexes provided by local libraries.
Death Record Search by Address
Unfortunately, there is no way interested persons can search for death records by address in Alaska. This is mainly because death records are maintained at the state level in Alaska. Hence, there are no local government agencies through which record seekers can conduct death record searches by address.
How to Find Death Records for Free in Alaska
Alaska does not provide free access to its vital records. It also does not provide public access to them and does not accept payment from members of the public to get death records. To request copies of Alaska death certificates, eligible requesters must pay recommended fees to cover record searches and copies. Alaska death records that are 50 years and older are available to the public and provided by the Alaska State Archives. However, the Archives charges a nominal fee for those requesting copies of these records.
Where Can I Get Death Records in Alaska?
The Bureau of Vital Records is solely responsible for providing certified death certificates in Alaska. Also known as Health Analytic and Vital Records, this government agency has two offices in Juneau and Anchorage. The Juneau location is the main office while the Anchorage office serves those who find Juneau too far.
To obtain death records in Alaska, call or visit:
5441 Commercial Boulevard
Juneau, AK 99801
Phone: (907) 465-3391
3901 Old Seward Highway
Anchorage, AK 99503
Both offices are open to the public from Monday to Friday. While they open at 8:00 a.m., the Juneau office closes at 5:00 p.m. and the Anchorage office closes at 4:30 p.m.
Due to the current COVID-19 restrictions, the Anchorage office only receives visitors by appointment. Call the office or send an email to email@example.com to book an appointment.
The Alaska Bureau of Vital Records accepts requests for death records:
- In person
- By mail
- By email
- By fax
All online requests for these vital records must be submitted to the approved third-party provider listed on the agency’s website.
To request for Alaska death records in person, visit either of two offices listed above with a completed Alaska Death Certificate Request Form. Requesters who cannot print this form at home must arrive 5 minutes before their appointments to print and complete the forms in either the Juneau or Anchorage office. All requesters must provide valid government-issued photo IDs to confirm their identities. Acceptable identifications include:
- ID issued by Alaska state government
- Tribal/BIA card with photo
- Driver’s license
- Military ID
- School ID
Anyone without any of these IDs must call the Juneau office to learn about alternative IDs they may present.
Only the Juneau office of Alaska Vital Records accepts mail requests. To submit one, send the completed request form, a photocopy of a valid government-issued photo ID, and payment for copies requested to:
Health Analytics and Vital Records
P.O. Box 110675
Juneau, AK 99811-0675
For an email or fax request, scan the completed request form and a copy of a valid ID. Send these to firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 465-3618. Those submitting fax requests must call after 10 minutes to confirm that their requests have been received.
Each request submitted to the Alaska Bureau of Vital Records stays valid for 180 days. The agency will keep requests on file for this period while waiting for further communication from requesters. This may occur if Vital Records replies to a requester and asks for more information or additional documents to prove they are eligible to receive requested records.
Those seeking archived Alaska death records, that are now publicly available, may visit the State Archives at:
395 Whittier Street
Juneau, AK 99801
Walk-in requests are accepted between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Alaska State Archives require visitors to make appointments before visiting. Such appointments must be made at least two business days before coming. The pandemic restrictions have also led to the shortening of the hours allotted for visitors. Currently, requests may only visit the Archives from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday.
Alternatively, they may submit requests to access the records of the Alaska State Archives using the Research Inquiry Form.
Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Death Certificate in Alaska?
No. Death records are confidential records in Alaska. The only individuals eligible to request a death certificate in Alaska are the family members and legal representatives of the deceased. A requester must prove that they are legally entitled to receive this record before the Bureau of Vital Statistics can release it to them.
Alaska requires that the person requesting a death record be related to the decedent in one of the following ways:
- Legal guardian
- Attorney or legal representative
A requesting spouse must provide a marriage certificate or other acceptable proof of marriage. Parents must provide the decedent’s birth certificate listing them as parents. Similarly, a child of the decedent must provide their own birth certificate listing the deceased as a parent. A sibling must present their birth certificate listing a parent in common with the decedent. A legal guardian must include guardianship papers with their request as well as proof that the requested death record is required to establish personal or property rights. The Office of Public Advocacy may also request a death record. Its request must be accompanied by guardianship papers.
An attorney must provide a letter written on their firm’s letterhead stating the client they represent, a signed agreement confirming the client-attorney relationship, and certified documents establishing that the death record requested is needed to prove property rights.
How Much Does a Death Certificate Cost in Alaska?
Regardless of the method of request, the Bureau of Vital Records charges $30 for the first certified copy of an Alaska death certificate. Each additional copy of the same record ordered at the same time costs $25. The agency also accepts requests to make corrections in the details on death certificates. It charges a processing fee of $30 for this service.
Requesters looking for apostille copies of death records can also get them from the Alaska Vital Records. This agency charges $12 for the first apostille copy of a death certificate and $2 for each additional copy of the same record.
Eligible persons requesting Alaska death certificates can also ask for expedited processing. This rush service is only available to those requesting death records by email and fax. The Bureau of Vital Records charges $11 for a rush service.
Alaska ships all requested death records by regular mail unless otherwise instructed to use faster mailing options. While regular mail does not cost extra, priority mail costs $9. This shipping option includes package tracking but does not require the recipient's signature. For a priority mail option that includes both tracking and signature, the Alaska Bureau of Vital Records charges $12.
FedEx shipping is another delivery option also offered by the agency. This is only available for those providing street addresses rather than P.O. Boxes. FedEx delivery of Alaska death records include both tracking and signature. FedEx shipping within Alaska costs $25 while out-of-state delivery costs $30.
For walk-in requests for death records, the Alaska Bureau of Vital Records accepts cash, check, credit card, and money order for these fees. Check, money order, and credit card are accepted for mail requests while only credit card is accepted for fax and email requests. When paying with a check or money order, make it payable to the Alaska Vital Records Office.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Death Certificate in Alaska?
Those requesting Alaska death certificates in person can get them on the same day while they wait. However, some walk-in requests take up to 48 hours to fulfill. Mail requests take 4 weeks to process while fax requests are processed within 2 - 3 weeks. Requesters living in Alaska should expect shipping these records to take another week unless they choose expedited shopping options. Death record delivery will take longer for those requesting them from other states in the country.
How Long to Keep Records After Death
A decedent’s family members may keep the deceased’s personal, financial, and property records for as long as they wish. Alaska does not have rules on the time allowed. However, financial records should be kept for at least 3 years. This is how long it might take for a possible IRS tax audit. Property records should be kept for as long as it takes to transfer the decedent’s properties to the inheritors. These will be useful in court if the decedent’s will is contested or when settling the estate.
How to Expunge Death Records in Alaska
Expungement is a legal term that describes the permanent deletion of part or all of a record. It most usually applies to criminal records. Alaska does not allow the execution of death records. It does allow the correction of these vital records but makes no provisions for legally removing any part of the details contained in certified death certificates.
How to Seal Death Records in Alaska
All death records are sealed by default in Alaska for 50 years after creating them. Therefore, there is no reason to ask a court to seal a death record during this period. After this period, the records become public records.
How to Unseal Death Records in Alaska
Alaska death records become unsealed and publicly available after 50 years from the dates they were created. Members of the public do not need to petition state courts to unseal the records after this period. It is highly unlikely that an Alaskan court will unseal death records before this period elapses.
How to Use the Alaska Death Registry
Unfortunately, an Alaska death registry is not maintained by the state Bureau of Vital Statistics, which is primarily responsible for maintaining vital (birth, death, marriage, and divorce) records. Hence, looking for an Alaska death registry can prove to be difficult compared to other U.S. states. However, interested persons can find non-regulated Alaska death indexes on third-party websites. Because the government does not regulate third-party sites, the accuracy of information found on them is not guaranteed.
The terms “death registry” and “death index” are used interchangeably to mean a database containing information on all deaths that have occurred in a particular region. Common information that can be found in a death index includes the full name of deceased persons, their date of death, and place of death or last known residence.
At the national level, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) maintains the National Death Index (NDI). The NDI contains records of all deaths that have occurred in the county from 1979 to the present day. The NCHS claims that the NDI contains over 100 million death records. The NDI is, however, not a publicly accessible database. The NDI is only accessible by investigators solely for statistical purposes for public health and medical studies. Interested persons can visit the CDC’s NDI FAQ page for more information about the NDI.
Another notable United States death registry is the SSA's public Social Security Death Index. This death index contains records of death in the county from 1962 to the present. Unlike the NDI, this death index is publicly accessible for free through third-party websites.
It's crucial to avoid confusing Alaska death notices for death indexes or registries. As mentioned earlier, a death index contains details about all deaths in a specific region. Meanwhile, Alaska death notices are brief publications announcing the death of individuals in the state.
How to Find an Obituary for a Specific Person in Alaska
Interested persons can find the obituary of a specific descendant in Alaska by visiting or contacting a local public library during its open hours. Most libraries maintain archives of old newspapers where obituaries are listed that interested persons can inspect to find a specific person’s obituary. Some local libraries publish a detailed list of all obituaries found in achieved newspapers they maintain on their website. A good example is Anchorage public library’s newspapers obituary index. On this obituary index, record seekers can find the full name, date, source, and page number of newspapers where relevant descendants' obituaries were published. Alaska state library also provides an online obituary index of prominent/important Alaskan decedents that interested persons can use to find relevant persons in Alaska.
A record seeker can also contact the publisher directly to obtain the desired obituary if they know who published the obituary of the deceased they are seeking for.
How to Conduct a Free Obituary Search in Alaska
Interested persons can conduct a free obituary lookup in Alaska by visiting the local libraries to inspect records of achieved newspapers the library maintained. Alternatively, record seekers can search a local library’s online obituary index if available. Record seekers that opt to visit a local library in person to conduct a free obituary search should note that, in certain situations, they may be charged a fee. These include if they are assisted by a library staff when conducting an obituary search or if they request copies of an obituary record.
What are Alaska Death Notices?
An Alaska death notice is a brief public statement that announces an individual’s death in the state. Common information that can be found in death notices includes the full name of the deceased, the date and location of death, cause of death (optional), and the names of their surviving family members. Death notices are often written by the decedent's surviving family members, who also pay to have the notice published in a newspaper.
What is the Difference Between Death Notices and Obituaries?
Obituaries and death notices differ mostly in how much information they contain. Obituaries and death notices are both publications that announce a person's passing. However, death notices are typically shorter and contain only the bare minimum of details about the deceased. In contrast, obituaries often have lengthier, more detailed publications. Obituaries are usually written by a paid professional and include biographical information about the decedent's life.