Sunday, October 11, 2009

Looking for Death Information - Thinking about Genealogy Sources

David Rogers' grave, 1927, Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

The other day, for fun(!) and for a genealogy class I'm teaching at the Burnaby Community Centred College for the Retired, I sat down with a cup of tea, paper and pen, and made a list of all the sources for death information I could think of at the time. Some will have dates of death, others will have cemetery information or the cause of death, but all are potential sources for genealogical death information. Now I've put an asterisk beside those I've used or found family information in during my own research.

I know there must be more sources, perhaps some very obvious ones - please do comment!


*Insurance records
*Land records (deeds, assessments, petitions, etc.)
*Cemetery records (including burial records, photographs)
*Funeral home records or crematorium records
Coffin plates
Memorial jewellery or other momentos
Post-mortem photographs
*Newspaper obituary or article or notice
*Government or other records (other than strictly death related) e.g. disaster reports, commissions, year-end reports of epidemics or mortality, or attorney-general or police or court records (including coroner’s reports), etc. Lists, notices, correspondence regarding government aid to orphans, widows, or burial assistance. Also voters lists and the like.
*Tombstone inscription
*Funeral programme
*Government notices of deaths (e.g. in a newspaper for particular months)
*Death certificate/death registration of individual (or a family member)
*Family letters
*Marriage applications, registrations, invitations, etc. of related person
Pension applications
*City/community directories
*Proved will of individual; wills of family members or others
*Church records, burials, burial charges/services (e.g. burial in wool – England 1666-(1770) 1814), memorial gifts or bequests, sessional records, etc.
*Organization or association records or publications, e.g. Royal Canadian Legion – ‘Last Post’; lists or notices of graves visited on 'Decoration Days'. [Also burial assistance records or cemetery records, if the organization has a cemetery or owns cemetery plots for members' use.]
*Community history book
Ship’s passenger lists
*Family photograph of grave/funeral/monumental inscription
Monument makers record
*Genealogical publications or databases, e.g. D.A.R. applications, also family genealogies
*Guardianship applications
*Medical records –physicians or hospital, also autopsy reports
*Memorial or funeral cards
*Probate or estate files, wills, applications, inventories, etc. of individual or another person
*Census – mortality schedules
*Genealogical/historical society recordings of monumental inscriptions
School records and publications
*Military file of individual or related person
*Urn or container of cremains with official or other label
*Legal ads – newspapers, government gazettes. Also auction or other sale notices
Pension records for individual or related person (company, private, government)
*Family bible or other record, family journals, diaries [My grandmother's address book was very helpful - she even added dates.]
*‘In Memory’ website or Facebook page.
Employment records or publications
*In Memoriam notices – newspapers, other publications. Also Cards of Thanks. [Found a newspaper notice from my great uncle remembering his step-sister - 10 years after her death. That's how I found her date of death.]
*Oral or other family tradition, e.g. ‘died at sea’. [My grandmother remembered lilies of the valley on her brother's grave.]
*Funeral, monument or other cemetery related receipts
*Memorial monuments or rolls (other than cemetery related), e.g. cenotaphs, community memorial plaques
*Union records and publications
Certificate of burial/cremation or transfer/transport of body/ashes

(I'm not thinking about indexes here as those should lead us to the actual documents and artifacts. )

And I could have added:

*Obituary collections - printed, on-line, or in card files, etc. from individuals or genealogical/historical societies/museums, etc. [Hope I am not taking these for granted!]

*Birth records of related individuals may have information on deceased parents, etc.

Receipt for purchase of one share BC Electric Power and Gas Company Ltd., from estate of David J. Rogers, 1927. To be paid to G.W. Hamilton, Esq., Undertaker, Vancouver, BC, Canada

1 comment:

Janet Iles said...

That is an impressive list. I can't think of anything offhand that you have missed.