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Monday, July 18, 2016

Part 2: What Can You Glean From a Death Certificate?

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"SC, Deaths, 1915-1943," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N96F-K4N : accessed 27 July 2012), George A. Tucker, 1932.

This is the second article in a series on how to reseacrh using death certificates. Part 1: How do you research using death certificates? covered names, place of death, marital status, occupation, and birth place. This article covers more strategies that will help you glean more information about your ancestor from the death certificate.

Parents
Information provided about the parent’s names and birth place that you did not know beforehand make the death certificate one of the most significant documents for identifying the previous generation. The death certificate of George Anderson Tucker was the first resource outside of oral history and the only historical document that listed the names of his parents, (George) Epps Tucker and Martha Talley.

Many times researchers discover the female ancestor’s maiden name for the first time on a death certificate. Do not forget to search for both ancestors on the census. You may discover both of these parents living with their parents identifying another generation back in time for you. Every event that reveals a different locality opens up a wealth of new resources, so research the record types that exist in each area which may provide more information about your family. You may discover that the information provided by the parents may help you locate the family group on several censuses. This was also the case with the parents of George Tucker. His Tucker ancestors were identified all the way back to 1800, and Martha was discovered living with her parents in 1870.

Informant
Often the informant, the person who provided the information about your ancestor on the death certificate, was a family member or friend. If you do not recognize this person’s name, do the research to understand the connection to your family. Perhaps someone will know who it is if you just ask. If this person is still living, set up an interview. It may even be worth your while to interview a descendant to see if they remember anything useful about your family. If the person does not have a surname that you recognize, do not assume they were not related. The informant for the death certificate for George Tucker was his son-in-law, E. W. Vance. George died in Columbia where his daughter was living and where he was receiving care after becoming ill.

Place of burial and undertaker
Visit the cemetery where your ancestor lived so that you can determine whether or not other family members were also buried there. If you live far away, your first step may be to request a Find a Grave volunteer take a photo for you. It took four years for someone to honor this request for the photo of the grave of George Epps Tucker, however the trip to the burial site at Kelly Chapel Cemetery is still forthcoming. What is really promising is that in this new photo there is a fresh flower on the grave! Perhaps a new family member is waiting to be discovered.

Funeral home records can answer other questions that you may have about your ancestor, such as “How did the family pay for the burial?” If you find that the funeral home records are accessible, find out what other cemeteries they used and which other family members they serviced. Cemeteries which are on the property or owned by churches which still exist may be great opportunities for you to visit and get to know the descendants of those who worshiped with your ancestors. Perhaps your ancestor provided service to the church which can be documented.

Cause of death
It is important to know the cause of death or lingering illnesses which an ancestor suffered from in order to be aware of health issues that you may be predisposed to. This information can be very useful in a plan for the prevention of certain diseases.

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