When I began researching before the internet (showing my age I know!) death certificates were my major source of information. Now with online records nothing makes me happier than to find a state that has free on line access to death records. I will jump for joy when I find not only an index but a link to the actual scanned death record. While cause of death does not really provide genealogy data (unless it is a genetic disease or long term illness that forced life changes in your ancestor) I love knowing why my ancestors died. It somehow makes me feel more connected to them. But it can become quite expensive when you have to send for the certificate and I find myself having to pick carefully which ones I need the most. I am one of few I'm sure who would hit the lottery and spend my cash on ordering death certificates!
To show how useful these records have been here are some of the things I have found through the death certificates of ancestors. Of course it is important to keep in mind that the information is only as good as the person who was the informant. Do not assume all information like parents' names and birth dates are 100% correct. Generally the older the person at death the more shaky the info might be. Things like birth place and maiden names are more likely to be forgotten.
- The most useful information on most DC's is of course names of parents. Many times the mother's maiden name is listed as Unknown. But just a first name can be helpful in searching for a family in the census.
- For married females you can discover their maiden name through the father's name if listed plus maiden names of the deceased mother if listed.
- Locations of birth and death of the deceased as well as birth location of parents. Locations will tell you where to look to find census information.
- Place of burial. Finding the cemetery can lead to discovering more ancestors in the same or even surrounding cemeteries.
- Look at the name of the informant. This is usually (but not always) a close relative. I have found unknown children and married names of daughters through the informant names. I also actually found a living cousin of my grandmother who was listed as an informant.
|Bottom Right-Katie Orth-14 months-Death Record|