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# 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]