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Vital Records: Marriage, Birth, & Death: Death Records

About Death Records

Minnesota law required the recording of deaths beginning in 1870, but compliance and enforcement was sporadic during the early years. Many counties were not formed until after 1870, so deaths occurring in what became those counties may be recorded in parent counties. Deaths were recorded in Minnesota townships, villages, and cities from 1870-1953; in Minnesota's counties from 1870 to the present; and at the state Department of Health from 1899 to the present.

Death records in Minnesota vary in form, content, and location depending on the time period and the jurisdiction in which the death was reported. The records may be in the form of a one-line entry on a register page, an individual card containing data on each death, or a certificate containing a great deal of information about the individual and his/her death. Information on the death certificate may include: full name of the deceased, full date and time of death, jurisdiction of death, sex, race, age, marital status, usual residence, occupation, date and place of birth, parents' names and places of birth, spouse's name, military service (if any) and Social Security number.  

The State Archives has unofficial death certificates (dated 1900, 1918-47) for Native Americans who either died in Minnesota and were enrolled or otherwise connected with any Indian tribal groups or bands, or died outside of Minnesota but were enrolled or otherwise connected with tribal groups or bands located in Minnesota.  The records are arranged by state and within each state by Indian agency.  An online finding aid for this collection can be viewed here.

Additionally, the State Archives holds probate records such as Will Books and Final Decrees of Distribution of Estates for certain counties for select years.  You can access these materials by searching the library catalog with the county name and the search term "probate court."  For more information on probate court records see the Court Records Research Guide


Accessing Death Records

The State Archives microfilm holdings for death records include:

  • 1899 death register 
    • Roll list can be found in the Department of Health Death Registers finding aid
  • 1900-1907 death cards
  • 1900-2001 death certificates
  • 1900, 1918-1947 Native American death certificates



The State Archives also holds county copies of death records for certain counties for select years. Below is a comprehensive list of MNHS' holdings for county death records:

Anoka  (1870-1945)

SAM 426

Brown (1870-1991)

Index: 1870-1993

SAM 215

Chisago, index only (1870-1981)

SAM 317

Clay, index only  (1873-1981)

SAM 379

Dodge (1870-1940)

Index: 1870-1945

SAM 219

Faribault  (1870-1910)

Index: 1870-1990

SAM 248

Hennepin (1870-1886,1888-1909)

Index: 1890-1931

SAM 449

Isanti (1873-1940)

SAM 318

Kanabec (1880-1998)

SAM 458

Kandiyohi (1946-1988)

SAM 261 & SAF 14

Martin (1870-1992)

SAM 193

Mower (1870-1993)

SAM 209

Norman (1876-1882, 1886, 1900, 1903-4)

106.H.17.7B-2 box 1

126.F.19.3B box 2

Olmsted (1870-2000)

SAM 410

Pine, index only (1870-1981)

SAM 320

Sherburne, index only (1870-1981)

SAM 321

Sibley (1870-2001)

SAM 435

Stearns (1916-1982)

SAM 456

Steele (1870-1993)

SAM 207

Wadena (1880-1994)

SAM 230

Waseca (1870-1940)

Index: 1870-1982

SAM 213

Washington (1870-1994)  SAM 234


You can also search in the online catalog with the county, township or city name and the subject "birth records" for a complete listing of birth records, indexes, and registers.


The State Archives also holds original death registers from a number of Minnesota townships and cities, dating from 1870-1953. Generally, these are chronological listings, although some of the volumes include indexes. These sets are not complete; township and city death records may not contain precisely the same information as the official death certificate. These records can be found in the library catalog.

For certified copies of death records and post-2001 death records, contact the following organizations:




The Minnesota Historical Society holds the largest single collection of Minnesota newspapers with dates ranging from 1849 to the present day. You can access obituaries in these papers by searching an online newspaper resource (view a list of free digital resources here) or by obtaining a date of death and locating the obituary on microfilm. Newspaper microfilm can be requested via Interlibrary loan. Please visit our website for additional information on this service.

Generally, small-town newspapers publish more detailed obituaries that may include the places and dates of birth and marriage, survivors, and biographical information. In larger cities, particularly Minneapolis and St. Paul, the older daily newspapers did not publish obituaries as they do today. The biography card files collection at the Library often gives citations to obituaries.  

 You can also have us search for your obituary for you for a fee by submitting an Obituary Research Request

Coroner's Records

Records of some county coroner offices (name of deceased person, conclusion as to cause of death, name of coroner and other relevant information) can be found at MNHS. The coroner records are filed in the county district court records. To locate records available at the Library search the library catalog using the keyword [county name] county coroner.  

The State Archives also holds records of Corpse Permits from 1898-1912.  

Death Record Links

MNHS Reference Staff

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