Posts Tagged ‘obituary’

Nineteen Kinds of Death Records and Their Uses

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Last month, I listed 28 places to find birth information, and the number could have been higher. Death records are less ubiquitous, probably because documents with birth dates accumulate for a lifetime. But there are still several excellent places to find death records, and some of them have a wealth of other information.

Death records

Examples of death certificates and obituary


Death Certificates

The official record in modern times is a death certificate. Depending on the time and place, it may be issued by a doctor or other medical practitioner who attended the deceased, or by an official registrar of vital records. Besides providing the name of the deceased and the time and place of death, it may include various details. In fact, death certificates can be interesting reading. (Sorry, is that too grim?) You may find:

  • cause of death (sometimes in grisly detail)
  • last place of residence
  • age at death
  • birth information
  • marriage data, including marital status and spouse’s name
  • burial information
  • parents of the deceased and their birthplaces

As with birth certificates, every jurisdiction has its own rules about when death certificates become publicly available, who can obtain them in the meantime, and the processes for obtaining them. The Internet is your best friend, when you need to find where and how to obtain an official copy of a death certificate. For example, if I were searching for my brother’s death certificate, I’d start with this search term: “Colorado death certificate.”

For genealogical purposes, WorldVitalRecords itself could prove to be your best friend. We have indexed hundreds of millions of death records from around the world, and many of our one billion family tree records also contain death information.
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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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