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/.

Death Certificates and Where to Find Them

By Sherry Stevens, professional genealogist

October is upon us again, the month when all things “deathly” are fun! And what could be more fun than finding your long-lost ancestor’s death certificate? Here is my handy guide for “haunting” it down:

These sites offer free death certificates:

Arizonahttp://genealogy.az.gov/. Includes 1844-1960 & Birth Index 1855-1935. Also includes images of the certificates, although the early years are incomplete.
California- http://vitals.rootsweb.ancestry.com/ca/death/search.cgi?cj=1&o_xid=0000584978&o_lid=0000584978. Includes 1940-1997.
Georgia- http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/cdm4/gadeaths.php. Includes 1914-1927. The years 1928-1930 are available at http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/cdm4/nondeath.php.
Kentuckyhttp://kyvitals.com/. Project is ongoing and not complete at this time.
Michiganhttp://seekingmichigan.org/discover-collection?collection=p129401coll7. Includes 1897- 1920.
Missourihttp://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/resources/deathcertificates/#searchdeath. Includes 1910-1960 and free downloadable images of each death certificate.
Utahhttp://www.archives.utah.gov/research/indexes/20842.htm. Includes 1904-1958
West Virginiahttp://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_select.aspx. Includes 1853-1970.

These sites offer free indexes, but charge a fee for a copy of the original certificate:

Idahohttp://abish.byui.edu/specialcollections/. Includes 1911-1956.
Illinoishttp://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/archives/idphdeathindex.html. Includes 1916-1950.
Indiana- http://www.genealogycenter.info/search_pre1882deaths.php. Includes pre-1882 deaths.
Kentuckyhttp://ukcc.uky.edu/vitalrec/. Includes 1911-1986.
Louisianahttp://www.sos.la.gov/tabid/640/Default.aspx. Includes 1911–1960, certified copies only.
Mainehttp://portal.maine.gov/death/archdev.death_archive.search_form. Includes 1960-2009.
Maryland- http://mdvitalrec.net/cfm/index.cfm. Includes the twenty-three counties other than Baltimore City for 1898-1944, and for Baltimore City from 1875 to 1972.
Michiganhttp://www.mdch.state.mi.us/pha/osr/gendisx/search2.htm. Includes 1867-1897.
Missourihttp://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/resources/birthdeath/default.asp. Includes pre-1910 birth & death records.
Montanahttp://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mtmsgs/death_records.htm?cj=1&o_xid=0000584978&o_lid=0000584978. Includes 1882-2002. Incomplete.
New Jerseyhttp://www.nj.gov/state/darm/links/databases.html. Includes June 1878-June 1887.
New Mexicohttp://www.usgwarchives.org/nm/nmdi.htm. Includes 1899-1949.
North Dakotahttps://secure.apps.state.nd.us/doh/certificates/deathCertSearch.htm. Includes 1881 to one year ago.
Ohiohttp://ohsweb.ohiohistory.org/death. Includes 1913-1944.
Oregonhttp://www.heritagetrailpress.com/Death_Index/. Includes 1903-1930.
South Carolina- http://www.scdhec.gov/administration/vr/vrdi.htm. Includes 1915-1960.
Tennesseehttp://www.tennessee.gov/tsla/history/vital/death2.htm. Includes 1908-1932.
Texas- http://www.jdoqocy.com/click-584978-10471554?url=http://vitals.rootsweb.ancestry.com/tx/death/search.cgi. Includes 1964-4998.
Washingtonhttp://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/Collections/TitleInfo/472. Includes 1907-1960.

If your state is not listed above:

Check the following free sites: http://www.deathindexes.com/or FamilySearch.org. Death certificates are also available at Ancestry.com for a subscription fee, but access to some of Ancestry’s records is free at your local library or FamilySearch center. Also try Googling the name of the state in which your ancestor died, followed by “death certificates”. You will usually be able to find the website of the state’s department of heath or vital statistics in this way, where you can order a copy of your ancestor’s certificate. Fees usually range from $5.00-$25.00 for uncertified copies, and slightly more for certified copies.

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/.

More Types of Death Records: Death Certificates, Mortuary records, and Sexton’s records

By Sherry Stevens,
Professional genealogist

Many types of records are created at the time of death, and one of these three record types might help you to find the missing piece in your ancestor’s puzzle.

Death Certificates
Death certificates usually contain the deceased’s birth date and place, death date, cause of death, and address at the time of death. They may also include the spouse’s name, the deceased’s occupation, the name of the attending physician, the name of the mortuary or funeral home, and the name of the cemetery in which they were buried.

To find a death certificate, try searching online first. Many free databases such as FamilySearch are adding death certificates to their collections regularly. Ancestry.com, a subscription database, also has a good collection of death certificates. In both of these databases, I prefer to start my search by location rather than by the person’s name, so I can see what types of records are included in the database. If they have death certificates in the location I need, I can then go back and search using the person’s name.

If you can’t find your ancestor’s certificate in an online database, you may need to send for a copy from the county or state health department. You can find the correct agency on the Internet by typing in the name of the county or state, followed by “death certificates”. Government agencies usually charge a fee of about $25 for a copy of a record, but if you’re lucky, some are free.

Your ancestor’s death certificate may also be available on microfilm. Check the online catalogs of the Family History Library or the Allen County Public Library in the location in which your ancestor lived, then contact the library for more information. Family History Library films can be checked out and viewed at your local FamilySearch Center for a small fee.

Funeral Home or Mortuary Records
Your ancestor’s funeral home may have more information about your ancestor than you could learn from their headstone. Such information may include the obituary, death certificate, funeral card or program, place of burial, and billing information of the next-of-kin.

To find the name of the funeral home, you may need to consult the person’s death certificate. Then search the Internet to determine if that funeral home is still in operation today. If the funeral home cannot be found on the Internet, do not despair– it may have merely changed its name. Even if it is no longer in business, its records were probably not destroyed, but just passed to the succeeding funeral home or one nearby. Call a few of the surrounding mortuaries, and they might be able to steer you in the right direction.

To find the nearby mortuaries, enter your ancestor’s final address into Google Maps, then hit Search Nearby, and enter “mortuaries” or “funeral homes”.
To find your ancestor’s address, search records such as federal census records (it’s usually written up the side on the far left), state censuses, death certificates, and old phone books or city directories.

Sexton’s Records
A sexton is the person or team in charge of a cemetery. They keep the cemetery records and also serve as its caretakers. In the case of church-run cemeteries, the sexton could also be the priest or his appointee. Most cemeteries, except perhaps small family cemeteries, have a sexton. Sexton’s records are especially valuable if your ancestor’s the headstone has been lost or damaged.
Sexton’s records generally name the individual buried there, the plot location, burial date, and the name of the plot’s owner– which can be a clue leading to other family members. In some cases, you might even find the death certificate or obituary, cause of death, names of possible family members, or learn if the deceased was moved from that cemetery.
To find sexton’s records, contact the cemetery office. If the cemetery is older and burials are no longer taking place there, its sexton’s records are likely located at a local archive, historical society, or city hall.
Sextons are not required to provide their information to the public, so be extra courteous in your requests to them. You might ask for the charge per name or per record, or offer to make a small donation in exchange for the information you seek.

Next time I will discuss even more types of death records and how to find them. Until then, I wish you success in all of your diggings!

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: mygenpro@gmail.com.