The Value of Death Records in Genealogy Research

By June 12, 2017Historical Records
death certificate

Genealogical research for ancestral backgrounds is an interesting project for someone trying to dig out information about their family history or working for an organization for the same purpose, and it gets difficult many times when an individual is unable to access information that is either lost or probably considered sensitive to be shared publicly. Death records, however, are not considered so private and death record availability is a great source to find out about one’s ancestors and details about them available in these records. These death records include death certificates, funeral home record, obituaries or newspaper articles in some cases. Death records in genealogy research are vital to find new information as well as confirm existing.

The value of death records in genealogy research can be of paramount importance and yield fascinating results.

Death Records in Genealogy Research

Death records are usually exempted from the list when the research is conducted to find out about one’s ancestors’ birth, marriages, place of birth and the like. Surprisingly, these death records are a great source of information (at least the basic and important one) in order to assist with the genealogical research. So what kind of information can death records in genealogy reveal? The list below provides an insight into the values they  include:

1 – Death Certificates

These are the certificates issued by medical practitioners to certify the death of a person and this is one of the most important records to be submitted to the state such as birth certificate and marriage certificates etc. this certificate states the date, location, time and the cause of a person’s death which help in providing the basics about an ancestor (the location could come in handy for various projects).  This provides immense value when we consider the place of death records in genealogy research.


2 –  Funeral Home Records

Apart from the death certificates mentioning the basic information, the drawback could be that it gives only the basic information about a person’s death (probably why people skip through death records considering irrelevant for genealogical research). Funeral home records are a great source of information in many cases since it contains the number of children and names of them, spouse, and also their contact information. Some funeral home records also include obituary prints, information regarding birth, places lived, family details and education etc. Grave location and markers are also included in the funeral home records.


3 – Obituaries

Obituaries are the newspaper article that contains the news of the death of an individual on behalf of his/ her family members. The report of an individual’s death also carries (in brief description) information about the person’s life, achievements and funeral procession details (time, venue, dress code, etc.). Often it is published for people with celebrated status in the society for their renowned achievements in any of the fields, however, that’s not necessary and local newspapers contain obituaries of general public too. This detail helps in the finding of a person’s relative and information regarding the cause of death or by the least, the last dwelling of an ancestor.


4 – Death Records for Genealogical Research

Death records help in various ways in the finding of a person’s deceased relatives, but it also helps in research about information regarding the living ones and the various details one might need to reach towards the answers to questions about ancestors’ lives etc.  There is no question surrounding the value of death records in genealogy research.

Once you have acquired your death certificate, why not add it to your family tree and share with your relatives, together you can create a rich and exciting family history.


5 – Date of Birth

One of the components of basic information about a person available in the death records is the date of birth. This could help in genealogical research by tracing to the era of one’s birth, any important events of the year (famine, war etc).


6 – Place of Birth

Place of birth is mentioned in almost all of the death records and that could help determine the location of ancestors, also it is more likely if a deceased relative was born in a certain country/ state, his/her parents were living there and that could lead to further information about the lineage if you don’t have records of that relative’s parents.


7 – Date and Place of Marriage

Usually one of the basic parts of information present in death records about the deceased person is the date of marriage, place of marriage and name of the spouse. This may also lead to spouse’s maiden name (if the research is on the spouse’s side of the family or relates somehow to it). Location of the marriage could help in learning about where did the couple initially settled.


8 – Occupation

In order to learn about the occupation of an ancestor, their death records could come in handy. What your ancestors did for a living has a high chance of being mentioned in their death records whether they worked for a government department (could be checked in government records for further information). Individuals who served military are also likely to be searched for in the death records and the information reveals a great number of details about them and their achievements.


9 – The Names of Deceased’s Family Members

The death records help in the finding of the deceased person’s immediate family members such as parents, spouse, and children. In order to find out about ancestors and their generations, death records could assist by providing with information about their residence and contact details in some cases.


10 – Death Cause

The cause of death not only serves in criminal cases but also helps people learn about the cause of the death of their ancestors which could be the result of a genetic defect, a disease that is dormant in genes, epidemic, etc. This helps in learning about any accident or an attempt to murder which could take the genealogical research elsewhere. Funeral homes are a great source of information, particularly in finding the cause of death of relatives.

When researching your family history, keep track of death cause as this can provide an insight to family medical history.


Where to Search?

The death records provide abundant information about the lives of the deceased and also contain information about their living relatives which could lead to further information for the genealogical project. Some online databases for death records are:

  1. Family Search Death Records
  2.  Death Indexes
  3. Ancestry – Death, Burial, Cemetery & Obituary Records
  4. Deceased Online
  5. Find My Past
  6. The Ryerson Index- Death Notices and Obituaries
  7. Genealogy Bank – Ancestors in newspapers
  8. Ancestry- Birth, Marriage & Death Records
  9. Ancestry- U.S. Social Security Index
  10. UK Archives
  11. Births, Deaths and Marriages – Ireland

The genealogical research links to the death record not only for the information on death but about life itself! As you identify each record related to your ancestors, you will no doubt understand the full value of death records in genealogy research.


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