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# Tuesday, 25 October 2016
Nine Kinds of Ancestor Death Records You Should Look For
Posted by Diane

Genealogists start with death—meaning that we generally research ancestors from their deaths and moving back in time. But death-record searches can be challenging for several reasons, including when relatives died before statewide vital record-keeping or their names were recorded oddly.

If you can't find a death certificate for a relative, look for other death records for the time and place he died. If you've found one death record, look for others. Different types of records might have different details, and they provide additional documentation that you have the right death date and place. 

You'll learn how to find and analyze death information in Family Tree University's three-day crash course, Tricks and Treats in Death Records.

Here are nine kinds of old death records to look for (including examples I've found in my research):

The State Death Certificate



Once statewide death recording began (in the early 1900s for most states), counties created standard-format death certificates and sent copies to the state vital records office. Our free downloadable Vital Records Chart lists when these official death certificates began for each state. You can order them from county and state vital record offices, possibly with privacy restrictions (such as proving a relationship to the deceased) if the death was less than 25 or 50 years ago.


The Local Death Record



You're not necessarily out of luck if your ancestor died before statewide death records. Many cities and towns issued their own death certificates, which varied in format. They may be available microfilmed or digitized via a local library or archive, the state archive, or online at a genealogy website such as FamilySearch or Ancestry.com.

The Death Register



Local jurisdictions may have recorded deaths in a table form, such as this register with the death date, cause and place, along with the deceased's name, age, birthplace, parents' names and address (all if known). The columns span two pages. Look for death registers in the same places as local death records.

Substitute Death Records

Before statewide vital records begin, death recording can be hit or miss. Luckily, many types of records can substitute for death records, providing similar information. That includes the cemetery record:



the census mortality schedule:



the church death record:



and the probate file and the obituary and the burial permit and more. I haven't even touched on indexes to all these records.

Learn all about the different types of death records, where to find them and how to analyze them for clues—and false leads!—in Family Tree University's three-day crash course, Tricks and Treats in Death Records.

This crash course runs Oct. 31-Nov. 2, and includes video classes and a conference message board for getting help from your instructor and fellow students. See the Tricks and Treats in Death Records crash course program at FamilyTreeUniversity.com.

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Cemeteries | Research Tips | Vital Records
Tuesday, 25 October 2016 08:30:13 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 04 October 2016
9 Things You Can Learn About Your Ancestors From the Cemetery
Posted by Diane

Changing scenery and pleasant temperatures make Fall an especially good time to visit cemeteries (alongside a genealogy buddy for fun and safety). Seeing the gravestone and viewing records in the cemetery office may yield ancestry information you won't find in an online database of burials—although online databases are very helpful, too.

The latest issue of Family Tree Magazine, October/November 2016, has our Genealogy Workbook on cemetery research. You'll also find essential guidance in Family Tree University's two-week course on Doing Cemetery Research (your access to course materials starts as soon as you register).

Here are nine things you can learn about ancestors from the cemetery:
  • name and birth and death dates. Most tombstones have the deceased's name (although sometimes you get the dreaded "his wife") and at least a year of birth and death. But you also might learn parents' names. One of my family cemeteries has a searchable database that includes parents' names, if known. It's the only place I've found parents' names for my third-great-grandmother Elizabeth Butler Norris. (A visit to this cemetery is in order to view records—they may contain information beyond what's in the database.)

  • relationships, either named on the stone or deduced from nearby stones and further research. I found two "mystery men" buried in my family plot, and subsequent research led me to my third-great-grandmother's first marriage. Here's my post about that
  • babies you didn't know to look for, because they were born and died between censuses and/or before official birth records. Some of my family cemeteries have separate "infant" sections, and tiny stones are easily overgrown, so you might find clues by searching in a database or through records in the cemetery office, even if there's no telltale marker in a family plot.
  • maiden names. They may be on a woman's grave marker or on a burial record, if it names parents or if her father or another relative owned the plot. Or you may discover the maiden name by researching those buried near her. It's a bit hard to see in this photo, but my great-great-grandmother's stone has her maiden name, Ladenkoetter:
  • membership in fraternal societies, religious organizations or unions, revealed by symbols on the gravestone. Here's a nice collection of photos of gravestone symbols and their interpretations.  These can lead you to records of the fraternal society.

  • immigrant place of origin. This is one I haven't encountered in my own research, but genealogy experts recommend checking burial records and gravestones for immigrant birth places. I found a photo on the Everyone Has a Story blog of an Irish immigrant's tombstone with his county and parish of birth

  • religion, especially if the person is buried in a cemetery affiliated with a church. If not, a burial record might include a religion or the name of a church where services were held. 

  • cause of death. Rarely, it might be engraved on a headstone, like the examples on this Rootsweb page. They include "was killed by a fall from a building" and "while ... viewing a span of horses he was suddenly kicked by one of them in the lower part of his bowels."

    More likely, though, you'll get clues to point your research in a direction. The same death date on a woman's gravestone and a nearby child's could indicate a mother died in childbirth. Several deaths around the same time might indicate an epidemic. A young man's death during wartime could mean he died in service.

See an outline for Family Tree University's two-week Doing Cemetery Research course by clicking here, and check out the October/November Family Tree Magazine in ShopFamilyTree.com (it's available in print or as a digital download).



Cemeteries | Family Tree Magazine articles | Family Tree University | Research Tips
Tuesday, 04 October 2016 10:26:33 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 03 October 2016
3 Ways to Use GEDmatch in Your DNA Research
Posted by Diane

You’ve spent money on a DNA test for yourself and possibly one or more relatives, but what do you do with those results once you've got them? How can you wring every bit of knowledge out of those results and get the most for your money?

Third-party tools (many of which are free) give genealogists more ways of exploring and analyzing their DNA test results. DNA expert and author of The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy Blaine Bettinger shares three ways you can analyze your results with GEDmatch, one of the most commonly used genetic genealogy tools:
  1. Find genetic cousins in the GEDmatch database. Unless you’ve tested at all three testing companies (23andMe, AncestryDNA, and Family Tree DNA), your DNA isn't being compared to all test-takers. GEDmatch, however, has thousands of test results from each of the testing companies, allowing your DNA to be compared to the DNA of those who had their DNA tested by other companies. After you’ve uploaded your own raw data to GEDmatch, you can compare your DNA to all those test-takers and (hopefully) identify even more genetic cousins.

  2. Identify shared segments of DNA. Not all the genetic genealogy testing companies provide information about shared segments. Each shared segment at GEDmatch, however, can be identified by chromosome number, start location, stop location, and total size. This can be helpful for genealogists interested in chromosome mapping and triangulation.

  3. Analyze your DNA with other ethnicity calculators. Biogeographical estimates, also called “ethnicity” estimates, aren't an exact determination of your genealogical ethnicity. Instead, these calculations are just estimates based on imperfect modern-day populations. Accordingly, you shouldn’t take these estimates to the bank.

    Instead, look for patterns or trends among multiple ethnicity calculators at the testing companies and at GEDmatch, and focus on estimates at the continental level (Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe), which tend to be more accurate.
The image above, a screenshot from GEDmatch's home page, displays some of the analyses GEDmatch can run. For more on tools available at GEDmatch and other third-party sites, check out The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, available in both print and e-book versions at ShopFamilyTree.com.

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Genealogy books | Genealogy Web Sites | Genetic Genealogy
Monday, 03 October 2016 13:55:22 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]