Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’

Halloween: using death records

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Halloween costumes and traditions, ranging from the silly to the creepy to the gory, preoccupy Americans and some other peoples at this time of year, wherever Western Christianity has been influential.

By contrast, death records of various kinds capture family historians’ attention year-round. We’ll look at several kinds of death records and consider their strengths, limitations, and usefulness in family history.

Mortuary Tour

In a recent tour of a local mortuary (of which more in a later blog post), we were given a packet of paperwork and information that the funeral home provides to the family of the deceased. Its contents provide a good tour of the various death records that are available.

There are several pages in the packet related to funeral and burial arrangements, including prices of cemetery plots, caskets, concrete vaults, funeral services, and more. You might not think that any of these would be of genealogical interest, but cemetery plot purchase records, if you can find them, can lead to other death records and also help you locate the tombstone.

Death Certificate and Death Certificate Application

The folder also contains a death certificate application, from which an official death certificate is created. The application itself may be kept on file at the funeral home and may be useful when studying family history.
The application will vary from place to place. The one we were given asks for the following information about the deceased:

Death Certificate

Death Certificate

• US Social Security Number
• Name
• Place of death
• Time of death
• Age
• Attending Physician
• Date of death
• Place of birth
• Date of birth
• Father
• Mother
• Spouse
• Spouse – Living – yes or no, and date of death if applicable
• Place of Marriage
• Date of Marriage
• Occupation
• Church affiliation
• School year complete
• Veteran – yes or no – and branch of service
• Clubs/Activities/Accomplishments/Church Service

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Death, Halloween, and Family Traditions (It’s Almost October!)

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Halloween celebrations have increased through the years, and have become more fun and less morbid. But, like family history, Halloween is still very much about the dead.

Throughout October we’ll bring you several blog posts about death and the dead, some serious and some not. We’ll talk about finding and using death records (such as the SSDI), wills, obituaries, etc., in our family history work, as well as some of the things we ourselves should not leave undone as we contemplate our own eventual deaths. In preparation, we’ve been collecting Halloween memories and traditions from colleagues, families, and friends; playfully inviting coworkers to design their own tombstones (there’s a web app for that) and write their own epitaphs; and even interviewing morticians.

All that’s coming, but first, here’s some background.

A Bit of History

The word Halloween itself is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve — the eve of All Saints’ Day, celebrated November 1 by much of Western Christianity, especially in Scotland and Ireland. Traditionally, it was believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints’ Day, before moving on to the next world, making Halloween their last chance to take vengeance on the living. The living, in turn, wore masks and costumes to avoid being recognized, and used fire (which turned over time into Jack-o-Lanterns) to ward off the spirits of the dead. There are also some pagan influences.

Learn more of the history of Halloween from this video at History.com:

The spooky side survives, now more secular than religious in feeling, but for most people Halloween is great fun, with costumes, trick-or-treating for youngsters, and parties for youth and adults. The day of the dead is alive with fun and family traditions. (more…)