Friday, February 06, 2009

Fun With Death Certificates

Call me morbid, but I love reading death certificates - probably for the same reason I love my grandmother's huge "Modern Medical Counselor" book from the 1940's. Diseases and causes of death are horrible, but fascinating.

ANYWAY... has an impressive collection of death certificate images, with the LDS Church hot on its heels as more volunteers index records and collections of records are made available on Familysearch's pilot site.

Lately my favorite genealogical amusement is to narrow down people in my PAF file who died in the state in question and within a certain year range, and start looking people up. For example, the Kentucky collection on Ancestry ranges between the years 1852-1953, so after I've set up my list of people who died in Kentucky between those years, I'll search out those people.

By doing this, I've found women's maiden names I didn't have before, parents' names, children who died young whose existence I was unaware of, places of burial including cemetery names, and quite a few new family members I didn't have in my collection. A death certificate is also a great way to verify old information, so even if you think you know everything about Grandma Gert, it's still worth your time to check out her death certificate.

If you're an subscriber, the easiest way to find a state's death record collection is to head to the home page, then scroll down to the list and map of the United States, then click on that state to see what it offers.

If you're like me and "free" is your favorite price, you can take your chances at the Familysearch pilot site. As fast as those indexers can type, they're indexing and digitizing thousands and thousands of records. They recently passed their 25,000 indexed record milestone and have reason to be proud. I've had some success with Washington state's death records on that website.

Before too long, you too can be living it up with death certificates. Good luck!


  1. Great tip, Mills. Just coming by to see what you've unearthed...get it? Un. EARTHED.

    bwahahhaa..choke, spit, cough...

  2. When you are requesting death records from a government sector, you can be sure that it is a trusted and reliable way to do so, however there are some problems. One such problem that you might encounter is the way in which this sector presents the files they give to you. While the law does require that they turn over any and all death records you request, it doesn't stipulate that they must give them to you in an organized fashion. Sometimes the wording of the death reports can be somewhat complicated, and it helps to refer to someone who is familiar with such government documents.

    public records