United States, How to Use Death Records

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

The following sections are summaries of the "How to Use the Record" sections in the FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles.

About U. S. death records[edit | edit source]

  • Name indexes make it possible to access a specific death record quickly.
  • Indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings or misinterpretations. If the information was scanned, there may be character recognition errors.
  • The information in these records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the informant.
  • Earlier records may not contain as much information as the records created after the late 1800s.
  • The type of information given may vary from one record to another record.

Find your ancestor’s death record (search strategy)[edit | edit source]

Follow these steps.

1. Find your ancestor in the index.

  • Note the locator information (such as page, entry, or certificate number) for the record.

2. Find your ancestor’s death record.

  • Look for the page, entry, or certificate number (or other locator information) you found in the index.

3. Evaluate and record each piece of information you find.

To search the index, you need to know the following:[edit | edit source]

  • The name of the person at the time of death.
  • The place where the death occurred.
  • The approximate death date.

Tips for finding your ancestor[edit | edit source]

  • Verify whether the name you found is your ancestor’s. Compare the information you know to the information you find. Look at relationships.
  • When looking for a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
  • Check for variant spellings of the surnames.

If you don’t find your ancestor in the index, do the following:[edit | edit source]

  • Check for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.

Find death records for other family members[edit | edit source]

While you are searching death records, it is helpful to follow the same steps to find the death records of other family members who lived in the same time and place.

1. Look for:

  • Every person with the same surname. This is especially helpful if the surname is unusual or the family lived in rural areas.
  • Children, siblings, parents, and other relatives whose records may be in the same county.
  • A second marriage of a parent.

2. Compile the individuals into families, with the appropriate parents. (Create family group records for the families.)

3. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify.

Continue your research[edit | edit source]

Use the information you found to search other records. You can learn more about the same family or look for additional ancestors. Choose what you want to look for next.

If you know this information: Search for or do this:
Birth date or age and place of birth Find or verify birth records and parents names

Find the family in census records.
Residence and names of parents Find church records.

Find land records.

Find census records.
Occupations Find employment records.

Find military or other types of records.
Parents’ birth places Find former residences.

Establish a migration pattern for the family.

Find census records.
Names of the officiator (clue to the religion) Find church records.

Find the area of residence in the county.
Name of the undertaker or mortuary. Look for the names and residences of other family members in funeral records.

Look for the names and residences of other family members in cemetery records.

Related Wiki Articles[edit | edit source]

Wiki articles describing these collections are found at:

Other Wiki Articles in this Series[edit | edit source]