Free Updates

Let us tell you when new posts are added!

Email:

Navigation

Categories

Search

Archives

<October 2014>
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2829301234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930311
2345678

More Links










# Thursday, December 11, 2008
This Brick Wall is Murder
Posted by Diane

Q. I have a great aunt who was murdered in San Francisco, July 18, 1918, at age 30. Her husband had died four months before and she had a 3-year-old son. I was able to find the date of death, but I really want to know the facts behind the case. How did it happen? Was the killer caught?

A. You don’t mention whether you’ve already found a death certificate. If not, look for one. The certificate will confirm details such as the date and cause of death. Contact San Francisco’s Office of Vital Records or the California Department of Public Health for information.

A microfilmed index of California deaths covering 1905 to 1988 is at the Family History Library. You can rent film for viewing through your local FamilySearch Family History Center.

As a FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum member suggested, coroner’s records (also called medical examiner records) may help. Coroners would investigate suspicious deaths. The San Francisco History Center at the San Francisco Public Library has coroner’s reports from 1906 to 1950. Contact the library (415-557-4567) to request a search .

You’re right to search newspapers. You can use a service such as Proquest Historical Newspapers or Newsbank at many libraries; or you could use a site such as the subscription site GenealogyBank at home.

If searching doesn’t produce results, try browsing through newspapers for the days and weeks after your great-aunt’s death. San Francisco being a major city, your local library may have its newspapers on microfilm. Search for titles of San Francisco papers using the directory on the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site.

The above records should help you determine whether anyone was caught and tried for the crime. The State Archives of California has San Francisco criminal case files from 1850 to 1965. Learn more about researching California court records using the archives' online finding aid.


birth/death records | court records | printed sources
Thursday, December 11, 2008 9:59:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, November 20, 2008
Researching a Merchant Mariner's Overseas Death
Posted by Diane

Q. Is there a central repository where the death of a merchant seamen who died abroad would be recorded? My ancestor is rumored to have died in Peru, possibly between 1875 and 1890. (This question comes from the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum.)

A. The merchant marine is a civilian auxiliary of the US Navy. Mariners transport cargo and passengers during peacetime; but during war, they may be called upon to deliver troops and supplies.

Until 1985, merchant mariners (also called merchant seamen) weren’t eligible for veteran’s benefits, even if they were killed participating in military action.

First, learn more about your ancestor’s service by requesting a search of Merchant Marine records from the National Personnel Records Center (part of the National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA). In the April 2006 Family Tree Magazine, professional genealogist Emily Anne Croom advises readers to provide the mariner’s full name, birth date and approximate employment dates.

You also can find some merchant crew lists on microfilm at NARA and at the Family History Library, or FHL (run a keyword search of the FHL's online catalog on merchant crew list).

You can rent relevant film through a local Family History Center (See a directory of locations on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.) Crew lists arranged by port, so it’ll be helpful if you know the ports your ancestor sailed into.

These records should tell you about your ancestor’s employment and give you an idea of whether he in fact died while serving as a mariner.

NARA also has seamen’s protection certificates, identification issued to seamen to protect them from being impressed into service by the British.

As far as civilian deaths abroad, US consular officers have been charged with reporting to the Department of State deaths of US citizens in their districts. NARA has an online listing of its resources for overseas death reports.

For deaths from 1870 to 1906, consult Registers of Consular Despatches. It comprises 14 volumes on rolls 19 through 32 of NARA microfilm M17, Registers of Correspondence of the Department of State, 1870-1906.

The FHL has copies of many films from this series, titled by place. To find them, run a keyword search of the online catalog on registers of consular despatches.


birth/death records | occupational records
Thursday, November 20, 2008 1:37:55 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Help! My Ancestor's Birth Record Is Restricted
Posted by Diane

Q. I’m having difficulties getting a relative’s birth records because I live in a state that restricts vital records. I’m not an immediate family member, and thus not entitled to the record. Any suggestions?

A. You don’t say about when the ancestor was born, but many states loosen restrictions on records created more than 75 or 100 years ago. So first, double-check the rules where your ancestor was born. If older certificates are unrestricted, you may need to request the record from the state archives. Try these ideas, too:
  • Try to find someone who is a qualified family member of the person in the record, and ask if he or she will request it for you (or perhaps the person already has a copy). A relative may be able to help you connect with the person, or you can post to surname message boards.
  • See if you can get an uncertified copy of the record. Unlike a certified copy, an uncertified copy can’t be used for official purposes such as identification. The uncertified record also may contain a bit less information.
  • Look for a birth index in print, online or on microfilm. It’ll certainly have less information than the full record, but you can confirm the person’s name, place and date of birth, and maybe the parents’ names. To find printed or microfilmed indexes, check with the state archives and a local library. Also, run a place search of the FamilySearch catalog on the county of birth, then look for a vital records heading. You can go to your nearest Family History Center to rent the microfilm.
  • You may need to go to other sources for birth information. The person’s church may have recorded his or her baptism. Maybe there’s a family Bible entry or the newspaper announced the good news (check newspaper databases such as Ancestry.com’s or GenealogyBank’s, or visit the local library for microfilmed papers).
  • Military records, death certificates, cemetery records and the Social Security Death Index can provide birthplaces and dates. Remember that these records, created long after a person’s birth, are more likely to contain errors than a birth certificate.
See the December 2006 Family Tree Magazine for more help finding ancestors’ birth records. If you have more tips, click Comment to post them.


birth/death records | US roots
Wednesday, September 10, 2008 10:09:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Strategies for Finding a Death Date and Place
Posted by Allison

Q. It seems that my great-grandmother is still living! (She was born about 1863!) I can't find where she died and is buried. I know about where and when.  I've heard through the family she was cremated and buried with her husband. I've searched the Internet at home and the county library. All I've been able to come up with is seeing her name on the 1910, 1920 and 1930 censuses. She's listed below her husband in the 1910 and 1920 censuses and as widow in 1930. I've even tried to search her by her maiden name and still come up with no matches. Any ideas?

A. If you've done all your searching online thus far, don't worry about being stuck: You still have plenty more avenues to explore.

If your great-grandmother died after 1936 and had a Social Security number, she should appear in the Social Security Death Index, or SSDI (search multiple versions of this database simultaneously from Steve Morse's One-Step site). The SSDI lists the deceased's last residence, where you can check to see if she died or was buried.

Try to request a death certificate from the vital-records office of the state where you think she died. Every US state was issuing vital records by the 1920s, so you wouldn't need to know the specific town or county to get the record. See the National Center for Health Statistics' Where to Write for Vital Records Web site to learn the address, fees and ordering information for each US state.

Check Great-grandma's hometown newspapers for obituaries and death notices in the time frame you believe she died. You can identify newspapers published during that time, and which institutions have them on microfilm, at Chronicling America.

Research the husband. You know from your census research he died between 1920 and 1930, and I’m guessing you also know where based on where they lived. Use this information to try to get his death certificate. Check newspapers for his obituaries, too. By identifying the husband’s burial location, you can find out if husband and wife are indeed buried together.


birth/death records
Wednesday, March 26, 2008 7:16:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, March 18, 2008
How to Find Your Ancestor's Will
Posted by Diane

Q I'm not sure if my grandparents ever had a will drawn up. They died 10 years apart. How would I go about checking to see if they ever filed a will? Whose death should I check first?

A We asked Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer, author of Long-Distance Genealogy (Betterway Books, out of print), to weigh in on this question:

Your grandparents didn’t necessarily have one will in common. While that's possible, a will is usually made for one person. In pre-feminist days, any land probably would've been in your grandfather's name, so he might've been the only one with a will—but your grandmother might've had a separate will. It's also possible neither had a will.

Your ancestor’s will would be in his estate file. An estate file might exist even if neither ancestor left a will. They're often more interesting without a will, because they could include papers listing names and relationships, filed to prove the heirs’ identities.

Estate files may contain many types of documents other than wills, including:
  • letters of administration
  • list of the deceased's heirs, including their relationship
  • list of who bought what at the estate sale
  • final account of the estate (who got how much money), which can help you deduce relationships from the differing amounts each person received
  • petitions, which may state the relationship of heirs to the deceased
Check for an estate file for each ancestor. If a female ancestor remarried, look for her under her the last surname she used.

To locate estate files, write to the probate court in the county where the ancestor resided at death. Give the name and death date of the ancestor, and ask for photocopies of the estate papers for that person.

Several books list addresses for probate courts, including:
You'll find more on researching wills in the September 2008 Family Tree Magazine, on newsstands in July.

birth/death records | court records
Tuesday, March 18, 2008 2:56:09 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Finding Birth Dates and Parents' Names
Posted by Diane

Q My great-great-grandfather Edwin Lemon was born in Chester County, Penn., in 1818. This is all I can find about him. How do I find his parent's names and the month and day of his birth?

A When you boil it down, finding parents’ names is what genealogy research is all about. Make sure you've taken the basic steps to talk to family, search for home sources, and research your more-recent Lemon ancestors.

You don’t say how you know Lemon’s birthplace is Chester County. Family stories and even later records identifying birthplaces sometimes turn out to be wrong. Look into Chester County history and see if boundary changes could have affected where you should look for records on Edwin. 

Assuming Chester County is the right place, you’re not likely to find a vital record from 1818, and unfortunately, no magical record is guaranteed to give you the information you need. Instead, search for records on all the members of the Lemon family and create a timeline of their locations and dates. Eventually the clues will add up to answers. Here are some records to search for:
  • Baptismal and other religious records. Lutheran, Reformed, Quaker, Moravian and Roman Catholic were common denominations in Pennsylvania. Check the Family History Library (FHL) online catalog for microfilmed records from churches in Chester County. (Run a place search on the county, then click the church records heading.)
  • Tax records. Everyone had to pay taxes, so search for Lemons in Chester County tax records (alson on FHL microfilm) when your ancestors lived there.
For more ideas, you'll want to use the Pennsylvania State Archives genealogical records guides. Here, you can see the types of county records available and what the archives has on microfilm for each county. As one of the three original counties William Penn created in 1682, Chester County is the subject of a lot of microfilm.

For more helps researching Pennsylvania ancestors, see the February 2007 Family Tree Magazine Pennsylvania State Research Guide.


birth/death records | court records | genealogy basics
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 8:44:45 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, August 31, 2007
How to Find Records of an Accidental Death
Posted by Diane

Q I have a family note that says Robert Samuel Robinson (born Sept. 18, 1877, in Chaffey, Muskoka County, Ontario, Canada), died in "western USA" Aug. 11, 1901, and that it was a work-related death. It had to do with electricity, according to family story. I'd love to get a copy of a death certificate and any newspaper articles about the accident, and then to really push my luck, a photo of his grave marker. (Posted by Tracy on the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum.)

A You may not be lucky enough to find a death certificate, as most states—particularly those in the then-relatively unsettled US West—didn’t mandate recording of deaths until after 1901. (See our chart of statewide vital-recordkeeping dates.) Occasionally, counties or cities recorded deaths before the state required death certificates, so it’s worth checking with the county clerk where he died.

An accidental death also might have generated other records, including coroner’s reports, coroner’s inquests (if the coroner found negligence or intention),
and, as you mentioned, cemetery records and newspaper articles. Depending whom Robert worked for, his employer might’ve had to fill out paperwork for a work-related accident.

It sounds like your first problem is you don’t know where Robert was at the time of his death. You’ll need that information to find coroner’s records, which are kept at city or county coroner offices (they also may have been transferred to the state archives and/or microfilmed by the Family History Library, which has branch Family History Centers around the world).

Finding historical newspaper articles, in most cases, also requires you to know where he lived. You might get lucky and find Robert by searching a database of digitized, indexed newspapers, such as the subscription sites GenealogyBank and World Vital Records (see our news blog for more information on World Vital Records' newspaper databases). But most newspapers haven’t been indexed and digitized, so you’d need to use a directory such as the Library of CongressChronicling America to find newspapers covering his area. Then you could see if a library near you has the paper on microfilm, or try to borrow it through interlibrary loan.

I’d suggest searching a 1900 US census database to see if you can pin down a location for Robert in that year. Continue your research on his earlier life, which could turn up information on where and when he moved to the United States. You also should examine your research and family papers on his parents, siblings and other relatives—information on them might give clues to Robert’s whereabouts.

Check online cemetery records, such as Find A Grave and Cemetery Junction, just in case he’s in one of them. Likely, though, you won't find his burial place until you can learn where he died.

It also might help to do a little historical research on electricity-related happenings in 1901, such as cities that were getting electric power. This article, for example, discusses the dangers of electricity between 1901 and 1909.


birth/death records
Friday, August 31, 2007 2:53:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Suspicious Death
Posted by Diane

Q Leslie Carlisle Grant was born about 1912 in Macon Co., NC. I last found him on the 1930 census in Miami, Dade Co., Fla., living near his sister Ethel Heinneman. Shortly after, he supposedly joined the Army. Coming home on leave from who knows where in 1931 or 1932, he supposedly drowned in New Orleans’ Lake Pontchartrain or the Gulf of Mexico. How can I find out where he was in the military, and what records show about him?
from the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Brick Walls Forum

A Unfortunately, military service records won’t help you, since the War Department didn’t compile service records for the Regular Army—men who served during peacetime. (For more, see archives.gov/genealogy/military.)

Leslie Grant’s death certificate should give his cause of death. If he indeed died in Louisiana, you can request the record from the Louisiana State Archives, which has instructions on its Web site.
    
An unusual death might’ve led to an autopsy. According to the New Orleans Public Library Web site, autopsy reports held there are “almost exclusively limited to crime-related deaths or to accidental deaths caused by some sort of violence (e.g., suicide, automobile accidents, drowning, etc.).”

Autopsy Reports, Proces Verbaux, 1905-1968 include the date and cause of death as well as other information from autopsies. Coroner’s Record Book Journals, 1905-1969, record all cases referred to the coroner.

 “Seems like an event like that would have made the papers,” posted FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum user Michele. “The current major newspaper is the Times-Picayune.” It’s among the microfilmed holdings at the NOPL, which offers a newspaper listing by year. See your February 2007 Family Tree Magazine for newspaper research advice.

If you can’t visit the Crescent City, ask your librarian about requesting microfilmed records through interlibrary loan. Also research Ethel Heinemann, who may have left correspondence, funeral cards or other documents bearing clues about what happened to her brother.

Anyone have another suggestion? Click Comment to add it.


birth/death records
Wednesday, May 23, 2007 2:25:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]