Understanding Death Records in Genealogy Research

Death records, like birth records, can be a valuable source of information when searching for your family history.

Death records can be obtained from military records, cemeteries, the vital statistics offices, and even via public records like newspapers, and city directories.

Additionally, while many people think a death record provides only information about the date someone died, the truth is they can provide much more valuable information, and even clues to help further your research.

An obituary


An obituary can tell you where, when, why, and how a person died. However it’s also a source for other valuable family history information. For example, an obituary can tell you who the person was married to, the names of their children, the names of their siblings, and other survivors, as well as their birth date, and on a rare occasion, their wedding date.

An obituary might also include military service and occupations.

Cemeteries and funeral home records

A cemetery can be a valuable source of information too. Many times, family members are buried in the same cemetery, and you can learn about a whole group of people you have yet to research. Date of birth and death, survivors, family members and sometimes even the cause of death or occupation are listed. You’ll also find information on the tombstones and plaques themselves.

Military records

Military records often include birth, marriage, and enlistment information, and if the person died in action. This record might also list a cause of death.

Military documents will also often list the military branch and unit, and possibly information on rank, and the years in which your ancestor served.

Pension requests are potentially the most useful military records. the National Archives has pension applications and records of pension payments for veterans, their widows, and other heirs for service individuals between 1775 and 1916. This can be one of the most useful of military records because the information often contains discharge papers, narratives, marriage certificates, and birth and death records.

Death Certificates

Death certificates can be quite comprehensive in the information they include. They can also be quite vague and a lot of your “luck” depends on when and where the person died. A good death certificate will include:
  a) Date of death
  b) Maiden name
  c) Gender
  d) Race
  e) Age
  f) Cause of death
  g) Residence
  h) Occupation
  i) Place of death
  j) Place of birth
  k) Name of mother
  l) Name of father
  m) Birthplace of mother
  n) Birthplace of father
  0) And where they’re buried

That’s an abundance of information and can be a real asset when trying to construct a family tree.

Death certificates and records can actually be one of THE more useful tools when undergoing a genealogical project. They’re often the foundation for a comprehensive family tree, and can be used to verify information you already have discovered.

Previous articles:
  What Is Genealogy?
  Why is Genealogy Important?
  What To Do When You Have A Common Surname
  Do I Need The Help Of A Professional Genealogist?
  How to find free basic genealogy information
  Understanding Birth Records In Genealogy Research

Next article: How Accurate is Census Information And Will it Help Me in Finding My Family Members?

About the Author Admin

Internet Specialist by trade and passionate about my family's history, I set out to try and reconnect the many lost connections with my paternal family.

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