Using Death Records for Genealogy

To the family researcher, death records can be a gold mine of information. For example, a death certificate often includes the deceased's date and location of birth, along with the name of his or her father and mother and where they were born. In fact, if you are lucky, the death certificate may even include the mother's maiden name. In trying to trace a family, the death certificate may be one of the few places where the mother's maiden name may appear.

In addition to the birth information, a great deal of death information is also included. The date, location and cause of death are listed, along with the doctor's name and the length of time that the doctor had been seeing the patient. The date and location of interment may also be included.

The death certificate includes information about the deceased's life as well. There is often a space for occupation and marital status. Marital status includes married, single and widowed. Even if the deceased's spouse is already dead, his or her name is often listed as spouse.

Death certificates also list an informant, which allows you to assess how accurate the information might be. In the case of people who have long ago immigrated to the United States, the information of family left behind might be somewhat inaccurate. The informant might be an offspring who never even saw his or her grandparents and so the information about their names and birthplaces might be confused. This is why many family researchers try to find several pieces of information to confirm each other.

The name on the certificate may be different from other names used by the person you are searching. Nicknames may be used in later years and eventually evolve into the person's legal name.

If you are not sure that searching for a death record is the next best option for your research, consider using the advice feature of this site. This will help you pick your next best steps in your research. Go to Genealogy Search Advice.