Two bureaucracies, both alike in dignity
June 20, 2016 9:04 AM   Subscribe

A relative of mine is at an impasse trying to get copies of their late mother's birth and/or death certificates; they can't get one without the other.

Their mother was born in New York, and when he approached the appropriate city bureau he was told they could not release it without a death certificate. So he contacted the appropriate agency in Los Angeles, where she died, but was told they could not release it without a birth certificate. Is there any way to break this impasse?

(Yes, he has asked other family members if they had copies, but no one does.)
posted by Soliloquy to Law & Government (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Option 1: Try the bureaucracy navigation strategy of calling a few times until you get a more sympathetic/useful person. Bureaucracies may look monolithic but they are not. Was there a newspaper obit? Try offering that as an alternative proof of death. If an immediate family member is doing the asking and can prove their own identity that is also usually helpful.

If option 1 fails, have they tried going through a commercial service that does this, like Vitalchek? Those companies are used to weird situations like this, and can probably help.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:14 AM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was looking at the LA County records website. Depending on whether it's been less than a year since the death, this is handled by different branches, but in both cases it seems pretty straightforward that you just submit a request for the certificate and a notarized attestation that you are entitled to the record (which he is, as a child of the deceased person). The notary doesn't have to confirm that you're actually entitled to it, just that you've pinky sworn that you are.

Here's the link for requesting a death certificate by mail for someone who has been dead over a year, and here for under a year. You can also do this in person or online.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:15 AM on June 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yeah, your friend might not be trying in the right place. You don't need much to get a death certificate, and you certainly don't need a birth certificate to obtain one.

Here's a link to the LA county public health office; the process seems straightforward and does not mention the need of a birth certificiate.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:18 AM on June 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you tried setting up a conference call with you, the LA person, and the NY person?
posted by Etrigan at 9:23 AM on June 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

If their mother had services through a funeral home the funeral home could possible help obtain the death certificate. Of course you have to know what funeral home and they have to still be in business.
posted by Jane the Brown at 1:23 PM on June 20, 2016

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