Thursday, January 17, 2008


Sometimes it pays to just pick up the phone.

I wanted a copy of a death certificate for an ancestor who died in Wyoming. And I wasn't trying to mooch or anything - I was ready to cough up between $6-20, type up a letter, send it off and wait six weeks, because usually, death certificates are valuable pieces of information - the exception being that of my great-great-grandmother Mary Lucinda Newberry Ackley, where almost every field was filled in "unknown."

I Googled "Wyoming Death Records," was taken to their official page, read the instructions, and saw their phone number. After I dialed it and pressed 1 and 2 and 1 a few times, I was directed to another phone number, for the Wyoming State Archives. Any death that occurred more than 50 years ago is filed with the Wyoming State Archives, not at the Vital Records department (good to know if you have peeps in Wyoming).

After dialing up the State Archives office, I was privileged to speak with a real live human being of the male persuasion, who asked me what I needed. I told him I wanted a death record for Susan Virginia "Jennie" Zane, gave him the death date and county, and he said "OK" and took down my name, address and phone number. I'll probably have it within the week. And that was that. I asked what the charge was and he said, "No charge for one record."

What - no paperwork? No fee? No pleading, "Please, I'm begging you, it's just for genealogy, I really am her granddaughter, I promise to not use her information for identity fraud" letter to the Archives Office? Sweet! And all this time, I've been a tad bugged at Wyoming (and all the other states) who so far haven't bothered to create an online death index. "Come on, Wyoming... all the other states are doing it..."

But if it's as easy as calling up Steve at the Archives Office and just plain asking... I guess I can live with that.


  1. I know!!!

    The one snag I did run into was when I had to remind the first lady I talked to at the Archives office that this death occurred in 1929, and I didn't need to be transferred back to Vital Records... then she transferred me to some lady's voice mail, but I pressed 0 instead and got Steve on the line.

  2. I want to have Wyoming ancestors now just so I can call up Steve and say that Millie sent me.

  3. You know what, his name is actually Carl. At least... that's how he signs his name. Maybe Steve is a code word for speakeasy genealogists.