On Ancestry.com has just come available more than 2.4 million records along with images of the actual death certificates for people who died in Pennsylvania between January 1, 1906 and December 1924. Additional later dates for certificates will be added in the near future. Such records / death certificates by the turn of the 20th century had become a statewide requirement and these certificates, finely scanned can be searched and downloaded. Ancestry.com is a fee-based resource, but many times they have open periods when anyone can use the databases and there is their 14-day free trial offer also.
When searching, it doesn’t have to be someone who lived there, the individual could have been visiting or on business, when they died there. They might have come from a neighboring state for medical treatment in Pennsylvania.
Place the full name or try just a surname. You can some additional information such as death year but the database is already limited to just 1906 to 1924. If you find one click on it to enlarge and you can download a copy to your computer.
Information on a person’s parents, birth date, place of birth, occupation, cause of death, burial date and location and who supplied the information on the certificate can be invaluable to unlocking some roadblocks in your family history research. Discovering what caused a person’s death is another important piece of information.
I located the certificate of an ancestor who died on August 18, 1908 in Hanover, York Co., Pennsylvania. What was surprising was that age 34, married and a father, he was killed when a gasoline engine exploded. I would not have thought to check any newspapers of the time if I have not learned through the certificate his cause of death. Even more interesting was some of the phrasing describing his being burned alive — not necessary wording that would be found in a newspaper today – such as “burned to a crisp”.
So check out these millions of certificates, they just might have some “interesting stories” to tell.
Photos: Article on Aug. 19, 1908 in the Gettysburg Star and Sentinel newspaper. Article on Aug. 20, 1908 in the New Oxford newspaper.
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