Finding Death Information

As the nation remembers for who served in the military and gave their lives this Memorial Day, you may have your own military veterans or other ancestors that you need information of when and where they died. So here are some locations, make you to completely check all locations.

The hometown obituaries / death notices in newspapers are the best method to begin the research but include obituaries in other places the person lived for any length of time.

The Social Security Death Index is important for more recent ancestors.

The hometown cemetery or cemeteries always need to be checked, not just any listings of headstones, but ask about copies of their records relating to a burial of an ancestor.

City directories, where a person lived at the time of their death, can include the death dates for residents who passed away in the previous year.  

Any ancestor who served at any time in the American military, you need to check their military records which can hold important clues about your ancestor. You may find information regarding the person’s date of death and place of burial and also information about military pensions.

Ask other living family members if there is a family Bible. See if hand-written records of deaths are listed in the Bible.

For certain years, such as 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1885 (in applicable states), the U.S. census included special mortality schedules which included the information for individuals who passed in the year immediately preceding the mortality census year. Similar to the city directories but with much more valuable information included, like: name, age at last birthday, marital status, occupation, place of birth, the month the person died, and cause of death.

Contact the county courthouse for the county the ancestor died in, there could be probate records, death certificates, Wills, land deeds, executors, guardianship records, list of heirs and an inventory of possessions. Make sure you do check the state for any death certificates.

Check with any local civic organization the ancestor may have belonged such as the Masons, the Odd Fellows, DAR, Woodmen of the World, Garden Clubs, Eastern Star, Kiwanis, etc. Many have a good deal of information, even photos of their members. If not sure, still locate the local chapter and write them, could prove very fruitful.

Photos: Family Bible records;  Social Security Death Index for Emil Soderlund – 1906-1996; tombstones for the Harrisons 1911 and 1927.

Related FamilyTree Blogs:

State Death Records

An Ancestor’s Cause of Death

How to Locate Obituaries


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