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Using Vital Death Records to Find Your Family Tree

However, for those descendants who are now looking to discover more information about that same ancestor, discovering historical deaths as a result of the vital death records, funeral home records, obituaries or cemetery records can be exciting as we find the data we’ve been searching for regarding that hard to find ancestor.

Various death records can be a plentiful source of information about an ancestor’s life. Usually you can find the date, place and often, the cause of death. The records may give the ancestor’s previous address, how long they had lived in the area, their birth date and place, their occupation, and frequently the names of other relatives – both living at that time and those that had preceded them in death.

Death related records may contain the maiden name of women relatives including the ancestor’s wife or mother. You may also find information about other relatives that were buried close to your ancestor. If siblings were born and then died – between census years, the gravestones in a cemetery may be the only way you would discover their existence. Once you have that information, more searching of vital records may give a clearer picture of life events of these relatives. Tombstones also often contain references to the individual’s membership in various fraternal societies, military services, occupations and religious affiliations.

If a family member was away from home when they died, there may have been burial transit permits issued which allowed the body to be transported from one place to another. Remember to check out that possibility if you want more information.

Vital death records and obituaries are often an abundant source of historical information about the relative and their family (including maiden names and married names – for women). Often, an obituary has details about the person’s parents, siblings and children. If the ancestor was an immigrant, the town and/or country of birth may have been included as well as information about other events about the person’s life.

It’s good to remember to check out the death records of all the family members. Many times in the obituary or death records of a close relative, you can discover information about your ancestor that you otherwise would never have found.

Some additional tips about death record searches may be helpful. Here are a few. Sometimes as you follow the lives of your ancestors through successive decades of census records, they may seem to disappear. Such an occasion may help you narrow down the ancestor’s death date. Be sure to check the census records of the children too, as often an aging parent may live to an old age in the home of a child, grandchild (or even a nephew or niece). It’s also happened that rather than having died, they moved into an infirmary or a boarding house.

In the process of checking death records, after you find one type of record, be sure to use that information to locate the other types of death records that may be available and which will often give more details about the person. If you know the places your ancestor previously lived, that city or town newspaper may have obituary notices that can also give more family information.

Beginning your ancestral search with the death records is often the fastest way to get information and ideas for further research. Often these death records tell the cemetery where the person was buried and the date and place of death will give you ideas as to where to go looking for a helpful obituary. If you don’t know the ancestor’s death date, you might start with the cemetery.

The question then comes up – Which cemetery is the best place to start looking? Start in the vicinity of where they lived. Some churches and religions had their own cemeteries and death and burial records. It is usually a good idea to do an online search for possible cemetery grave indexes. One popular website that has a large number of cemetery records is

It is also possible that your ancestor is buried a lot further away from where they lived or died than what you might think. As towns grew and new development took place, the dead sometimes were moved to more open areas near the outskirts of the city.

An ancestor’s body may have been moved to a different city or state for burial where other relatives lived or where there was a family burial plot. Because the movement of bodies was regulated, there may be burial permits or body transit records available. Check with the Family History Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They have many of these records microfilmed. In addition, check with the city, county and state vital records departments to discover these records.

If you will start your search for an ancestor with their death, you will often find the quickest route to discovering a lot of interesting information about their life.  you enjoy the discovery process as you build a lasting family legacy that your family can cherish for generations yet to come.

The family tree help center that is owned and maintained by Ellis will help folks when they are searching for family historical deaths from vital death records as they build their family tree. On the site there are a number of great resources and links to other sites and tools to speed up the genealogical discovery process.


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