Even More Places to Search for Death Records

By Sherry Stevens, professional genealogist

Lesser-known sources may be the key to unlocking the death record of your ancestor.

Lately we’ve been discussing the many ways to find death information. When you’ve tried the more obvious records such as death certificates, obituaries, the Social Security Death Index, and the records listed in my other articles, these lesser-known sources might help you unearth that death record you seek:

Church records
Your ancestor was probably a member of a local church, so his or her church records may include the death date. If the funeral took place at the church, you might even find the funeral records, burial location, and other valuable information in the church’s records. To find possible churches, type your ancestor’s address into Google Maps, click on Search Nearby and type in “churches”.

Family SourcesWe’re often told to check with older or extended family members regarding family records in their possession, and that is good advice. But it’s important to go beyond just asking the “family genealogist”. Your great aunt may have some old photos with dates on the back, while your grandfather might have your ancestor’s diary. Ask as many family members as you can. The records in the top of their old closet might include family Bibles, interview transcriptions, letters, journals, insurance papers, and other priceless articles.

Census Mortality Schedules– Mortality schedules are lists of those who died in the 12- month period before the U.S. censuses of 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880. These schedules list the deceased’s name, sex, age, race, marital status, birthplace, month of death, occupation, and cause of death. The 1870 schedules also include the parent’s birthplaces. Free transcriptions of the census mortality schedules are available at http://www.mortalityschedules.com/, and they are also free on Ancestry.com by clicking on the link in the mortalityschedules.com website.

Journals, Genealogies and Histories
Consider the extended family members, friends, neighbors, and church leaders who lived in the same vicinity as your ancestor. They may have written details about your ancestor’s death or funeral in their journal. Or someone may have compiled a genealogy or written a history book containing the very person you seek. These types of records are usually found at libraries, so check the public libraries in the area, and also the libraries of local universities and colleges. In the library catalog, these records are usually listed under the name of the city or county. Also check with local historical societies. You can often find these organizations on the Internet by entering the name of the city, county, or state, followed by “historical society”, “archive”, or “library”.

Until next time, best of luck in your searching!


P.S. For expert help with your genealogical research, contact me at http://www.mygenpro.com/.

Other Types of Death Records: Digging Up Cemetery Records

By Sherry Stevens

After you’ve checked the Social Security Death Index, if you’d like even more death-related information, try cemetery records. Cemetery records often reveal the birthdate, death date, location, and of course, the cemetery. Often you will even find the names of those buried next to your ancestor, or tombstone inscriptions. Sources are popping up almost daily on the Internet to help you find burial and cemetery records. Here are some of my favorites:

Cemetery listings:
Find A Grave– This is probably the largest database of grave transcriptions today. You can browse it by name, birth date, death date, or cemetery.
US GenWeb– This is a large database that must be searched by location and cemetery. The names in each cemetery are listed alphabetically, and include their tombstone inscriptions.
Interment.net– This is a smaller database but well worth a look. Many of the more obscure graveyards are included, including those no longer in existence.
Names In Stone On this newer database, you can see a map showing the location of the gravesite in the cemetery, and the names on the plots nearby. You can even get GPS coordinates and driving directions. How’s that for thorough?
Billion Graves This brand new site is sure to become a hit. Using new technology, an iPhone or Android app first captures images of headstones, and a desktop piece transcribes the information on the headstones into a searchable database. The Smartphone app stores an accurate location and a photo of each grave. The database is small right now, but likely to grow quickly.
Cemetery Surveys– This site focuses mainly on the cemeteries in the southern states.
Nationwide Gravesite Locator– This site lists the burial locations of U.S. veterans and their family members.
American Battle Monuments Commission– The burial locations of U.S. veterans who died overseas are listed here, plus Tablets of the Missing.

The Internet
Many people post their family’s genealogy on their own websites. To find these gold mines of information, just enter your ancestor’s name and birthdate and/or place. Don’t forget to enter a variety of spellings if there was any chance your ancestor used a nickname or alternate name spelling. If their name was common, try entering the name of their spouse(s) or a child instead. If you strike gold, always contact the website owner to verify the information with actual documents or other sources.

Compiled Databases
Try entering your ancestor’s name and information into FamilySearch, the database of the Family History Library. The Family History Library is the largest genealogical library in the world, and is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, otherwise known as the L.D.S. or the Mormon Church.

Ancestry.com has a vast collection of cemetery records from many locations. If you don’t have a subscription, you can access many of them free at your local library or FamilySearch Center. If you have a subscription, also remember to check their Public Family Trees under the Search tab.

Microfilmed Records
If you know the place of death but need the date, try searching the Family History Library Catalog. Just enter the Place Name to see what cemetery records they have for the area. If the town is small and there is no cemetery listing, try entering the closest larger town. If you find a microfilm you would like to order, for a small fee you can have it sent to the FamilySearch Center of your choice, where microfilm readers are available to view it, and helpful volunteers can assist you.

Still having no luck finding your ancestor’s grave? Here are some tips that may solve the problem:

Check all possible cemeteries
City cemeteries were the most common place to be buried, but don’t overlook private, military, or family cemeteries, or those owned by various religious denominations. To find them, go to Google Maps and enter the location. Click on Search Nearby, and type in “cemeteries” to find their contact information.

Another way to find cemeteries is the Internet. Just enter the name of the place, followed by “cemeteries”. You may be surprised to find that obscure cemetery where your ancestor was buried.

Check cremation or mausoleum records
Perhaps your ancestor was not buried in a cemetery at all. Check the Internet for mausoleums in the area, or in the case of cremations, search for other types of death records such as mortuary records, probates, death certificates, coroner’s records, obituaries, medical examiner’s records, and state death indexes. More articles will be written in the future on these types of records and where they may be found.

Have fun in your searching, and good luck!

Sherry StevensSherry Stevens is a professional researcher, writer, lecturer, and the owner of GenPro’s, a genealogical research firm. A descendant of Danish immigrants, she specializes in the records of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, as well as the United States. For more information on research services in these or other locations, please contact Sherry at:http://mygenpro.com/.

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Historical Newspapers & Periodicals

Historical Newspapers & Periodicals for Genealogical Research

Ancestry.com’s Historical Newspapers & Periodicals Collection helps you to look for a wealth of real information about your ancestors from quite a few different kinds of newspapers, magazines, and periodicals. These types of sources can often supplement public records and provide information that isn’t recorded any place else. You can study more about your ancestor’s lives by placing them into the context of their daily lives.

As an example, a newspaper account of a marriage might indicate that it happened inside of the home belonging to the bride’s parents, maybe even giving their names; it could possibly list the occupation associated with the groom, or indicate that your choice of ceremony was an element of a double wedding where a bride’s sister was also married. These details are not very likely to be seen on a marriage record at the local courthouse.

Historical Newspapers

The newspaper collection at Ancestry.com comprises the largest historical newspaper database on the internet. Search or browse newspaper titles from the United States Government, the United Kingdom and Canada. These newspapers date from the 1700s to 2001. Because each page is a single digital image, you can print individual articles from your own computer and preserve them for your specific family scrapbook.

Newspapers have been proven a valuable genealogical tool for understanding historical events contained in the lives of our ancestors. They supply a number of clues about vital statistics (birth, marriage, and death announcements), obituaries, local news, biographical sketches, legal notices, immigration, migration, along with other historical items that place our ancestors in the context of the society in which they lived.

What are the strengths of exploring the Historical Newspapers Collection?

The Historical Newspaper Collection is an wonderful resource for “fleshing out” the details from the local events that affected our ancestor’s lives. Once you learn the basic dates and locations of the events in a person’s life, you can utilize historical records, like newspapers, to learn what happened in the areas where he or she lived.

Newspapers record the day-to-day events of a local community. You could consider them to be a journal of local events. They may include birth, marriage, and death announcements; obituaries and biographical sketches; legal notices; details about people moving into and out of the area; and other events. These may include information not included in the official records.

Here are a few of the Historical Newspapers Databases on Ancestry.com

Newspaper Obits

Minnesota Newspaper Headline Index

Missouri Newspaper Death Index

Northern Michigan, Newspaper Surname Index

Leavenworth, Kansas Newspaper Name Index, 1866-68

Rayville, Louisiana Newspaper Name Index, 1872-74

Champaign, Illinois Newspaper Index, 1892

Colusa, California Newspaper Records, 1876-84

Western Life Newspaper Name Index, 1900-02

Sacramento California, Sacramento Beenewspaper 1859, Obituaries, Marriages, Births

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