Death Records: Search Example

Disclosure: Some links on this page pay us a commission. First and foremost, however, these links are here because they may be helpful for your research. The commission is an extra benefit for us, because that provides funds for us to maintain this free website. Clicking on these links does not obligate you to buy anything. The choice to buy something is entirely yours.

This search example involves using death records. One lesson in this example is that you need to be careful with the names of parents on death certificates. This example also contains what was, for me, a surprise discovery.

In 2011, I visited my mother's cousin LaRane in St. Paul, Minnesota several times to gather information on that side of my family. At one of the visits, LaRane's younger sister was there with with a baptismal records that contained what turned out to be a surprise clue for a family member no one knew.

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.

Smaller Screens

The image below might be difficult to view on a smaller screen. You can enlarge the image by spreading your thumb and finger on the screen. If that does not work or it is still hard to read, try tapping on the image. That will bring up a larger image that you can view. The larger image should be easier to view on a smaller screen.

Andrew Otterberg Death Record

My mother had 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 There was only one Peter Otterberg in Montana. He died in 1941. Other entries at 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:

Peter Otterberg Death Record

While researching the family, a cousin showed me a baptismal record that 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 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:

Ole Otterberg Obituary

Note that brothers Andrew of North Dakota and Peter of Montana are mentioned at the end of the obituary.

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.

Starting in 1905, South Dakota kept death records at the state level. Here is the death certificate I ordered from South Dakota for Ole (Olof) Otterberg:

Olaf Otterberg Death Record

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:

Otterberg Swedish Household Record

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.

Also see:

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 Search Advisor.