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Monday, July 18, 2016

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Trouble Documenting a Virginia Death?

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Did your ancestor die in Virginia? You may have noticed that fewer death records are online for Virginia than many other states. Hopefully, the resources below will make it easier for you to find death records for Virginia.

Before 1853
Death records were not officially kept before 1853. If you want to learn about an ancestor’s death, you will have to do what most people do in other states when they want to discover more about an ancestor’s death before records existed. Look for other records to use in place of death records.
For probate records before 1800, search the index at Library of Virginia. For probate records after 1800, search the Family History Library Catalog or contact the county courthouse to see if your ancestor’s name appears on a probate index.

For more probate record resources, see:
· See Virginia Probate Records and other Virginia records to learn more.

1853 to June 1917
Counties in Virginia recorded deaths beginning in 1853, but no deaths were officially recorded between 1896 and 1912 according to the Research Wiki at FamilySearch.org.
1853-1896 Death Index at Library of Virginia (free) – This index is not complete, and the original record is on microfilm.

Virginia Deaths and Burials Index, 1853-1917 (subscription) – In addition to civil records, this collection contains copies of records from churches and families. Any data that is not from an official record would need to be verified for accuracy. The same is true for the following database which you can access for free at FamilySearch.org

Virginia, Death and burials, 1853-1912 (free) – Be sure to locate the original document and verify any details that you learn from a family record. They are available on microfilm through the Family History Library.

You cannot tell much from these indexed records, so knowing the name of your ancestor, approximate date and place of birth and death, and parents’ names can help you narrow down the results some. Search other records in an attempt to verify what you find after looking at the original record.

In some cases, you may not be easy to find other records to verify information. For example, according to this indexed record, John Solomon Carter was born in 1852, and he is five years old when he died. He is not going to show up on a census. Unless you find a headstone or church record documenting a birth or christening, this may be the only evidence that he lived.

June 1912 to Present
There are no indexes online right now for deaths from 1912 to the present. If your ancestor died after June 1912, you should find a death certificate in the county where the death took place or in the Virginia Department of Health State Office. If you are not the parent, grandparent, spouse, sibling or legal guardian of the deceased, you will not be able to obtain a death certificate for anyone in Virginia prior to 25 years from the date of death.

More resources
Review the following resources where you may find access to more death records, obituary and cemetery information: Online Virginia Death Records and Indexes. Also, if you are unable to find a death record or a probate record, try:
· cemeteries
· Social Security Death Index
· obituaries

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