There are places where individuals can do a free death certificate search, including at National Archives facilities. By visiting a National Archives facility, individuals have the ability to search subscription-based websites, such as Ancestry.com or Heritage Quest Online, at no charge.
As of April 2015, National Archives facilities are only in certain parts of the country, including Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and New York City. Individuals can find their closest National Archives facility by selecting the Our Locations tab on the organization's website.
There are also websites such as Family Search, Castle Garden and Ellis Island that give individuals the ability to perform free death certificate searches. These sites do not require users to be at a National Archives facility. However, these sites may be limited to deaths reported in specific years or in certain areas of the country. Castle Garden has records for immigrants that came to the United States from 1830 until 1892, while Ellis Island focuses on immigrants that came to New York between 1892 and 1924.
Another option for searching for death certificates is to visit or contact a Vital Records office in the state in which the deceased passed away. A complete list of information regarding where individuals can contact in regards to death certificates is available from the Center for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics.