Interviewing Family Members
In 2011, I visited my mother's cousin LaRane in St. Paul, Minnesota several times to gather information on that side of my family. (My mother died in 2007. So, LaRane was one of the fewremaining people from that generation whom I could interview.) At one of the visits, LaRane's younger sister was there with with a baptismal record that contained what turned out to be a surprise clue for a family member no one knew existed.
Starting With a Death Record Based on a Known Death Date
Before we get to the surprise discovery, let's start with the family members I knew. I was already in the process of getting more information using death records at the time I visited LaRane. The death record for my great-grandfather Andrew was quite easy to obtain. Family records showed his death date was April 17, 1938 in North Dakota. By 1938, North Dakota was maintaining death records at the state level. So, I searched the North Dakota Death Index and ordered the certificate shown below.
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Using an Obituary to Find a Death Record
Andrew was my mother's grandfather. She had saved Andrew's obituary. It mentioned that he had a brother Peter living in Helena, Montana. So, assuming Peter continued to live in Montana, I searched for him FamilySearch.org. There was only one Peter Otterberg in Montana. He died in 1941. Other entries at FamilySearch.org showed that his wife was Anna, which matched other family records I had. Starting in 1907, Montana kept death records at the state level. Here is the death certificate I ordered from Montana.
Now for the Surprise
The baptismal record LarRane's younger sister listed Olof Otterberg as a sponsor. No one knew who he was. To find out took some searching. I found an Oluf Otterberg in the 1900 U.S. Census for Moody County, South Dakota and in 1910 for an Ole Otterberg in the same location. Andrew Otterberg also lived in Moody County at those times. So, it is possible that Ole/Oluf in the censuses was the Olof Otterberg in the baptismal record. I searched FamilySearch.org for Olof Otterberg with a death location of South Dakota. There was only one entry for an Ole Otterberg who died in 1911 and there was a link to Find A Grave. At that link I found this obituary:
Validating this Obituary
Note that brothers Andrew of North Dakota and Peter of Montana are mentioned at the end of the obituary. This validates that this is obituary relates to our family. As a result, our family learned that Andrew and Peter had a brother who had been forgotten, probably because he died earlier than his brothers and had no children.
Death Record for Ole Otterberg
Starting in 1905, South Dakota kept death records at the state level. Here is the death certificate I ordered from South Dakota for Ole Otterberg:
The Problem With Names of Parents on Death Records
Take a look at the names of parents on the above three death records. They are inconsistent. This is a common problem with death reocrds. Often those names are either missing, mispelled, or simply wrong. The reason is that the person reporting the death may not be knowledgeable about the parents. It is important to find a way to verify the parent information on death records.
Finding the Correct Names for the Parents
More recently, I worked with a second cousin in Denmark and a friend of his in Sweden to locate Swedish Household Records in Sk?ne, Sweden for this family. Here is the Gluggstorp record from 1877 through 1866. All three brothers are listed. In the Swedish record, Andrew is Andreas and Peter is Per. I also learned from this that the names of my second great-grandparents are Sven Svensson Otterberg and Gunilla Nilsdotter. Compare those names to the parents' names on the death records above. It just shows that you cannot always accept all the information on death records as accurate. It depends on who provided the informaton.
Additional Resources Related to Death Records
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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 the Free Online Genealogy Search Advisor.
Death Records Search Guide Context
Other Genealogy Search Guides
- Using Birth Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Marriage Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Ship Manifests for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Obituaries for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Census Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Naturalization Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Historical Societies for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Church Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Family Trees for Researching Your Ancestry
- Record Keeping for Researching Your Ancestry