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Death certificates now have an online option

March 26, 2018

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We’re making things a little bit easier when it comes to buying death certificates from the City of Boston.

Grim? Indeed. A fact of life? Sadly, yes.

Death isn’t necessarily the most upbeat topic, but we’re really excited to show you a new digital tool we created. Through our death certificates app, you can now search the City’s database and order a death certificate online.

Why we did this

We know how complicated things can get after someone close to you passes away. Aside from coping with the loss of a loved one, dealing with the paperwork can be a horrible experience. Getting a death certificate is just one small part of the process, but making that process easier for you became a priority for us.

Current systems

You’ve always been able to buy death certificates through the City — either by mail or in person — but our customers wanted an online option. Many private online companies that process death requests do offer online payments. But, they charge high processing fees (more than $40 per request) and even more for “expedited” — or urgent — requests.

Building our online app

We knew the potential was there for us to step in and create a more user-friendly — and cheaper — experience. After connecting to the Registry Department’s existing database, we built an application to make it easy to search. We then partnered with Stripe to figure out how to nicely integrate our online payment system with our app. We also worked with the Treasury Department to make sure those payments could easily be made while protecting your information.

If you want to learn more about how we handle online payments — and why a service fee is charged — check out our common questions page.

The results

A copy of Robert Frost's death certificate bought through our new online system.
A copy of Robert Frost's death certificate bought through our new online system.

You can now buy death certificates online from 1956 to the present for anyone who died in Boston, or listed Boston as their home. And the best part? We only charge you $14, plus a small service fee that goes to Stripe. You can buy a death certificate online as soon as the death is registered in the City.

A look at our new death certificates online search.
A look at our new death certificates online search.

You’ll have to be the judge, but we also think our app is really easy-to-use and search. Our simple design works great on all screen sizes. Whether you need to make an order from a traditional computer or through your smartphone, you’ll be able to get in and get out without any complications.

What happens next

Death certificates are, ironically, just the beginning. We plan to add the creation of online payments for birth and marriage certificates to our roadmap. With the help of Patty McMahon and the staff of the Registry Department, we’ll start that work soon.

Stripe offers us the ability to quickly create online options for many of our existing applications. At the moment, we’re still deep in the process of migrating legacy systems and applications to Boston.gov. But, this new way of accepting online payments will only make our jobs easier as we move forward.

Want to learn more about the technical work behind our death certificates app? We took a deep dive on Medium that goes into all of those details.