Have you maximized your understanding of the most common sources in genealogy?
Your ability to solve problems in your research will grow as you learn to scour each source for every clue it imparts.
This image is from one of my lectures. There are twenty-two pieces of genealogical information on this death certificate.
Would you have noticed them all (click to enlarge)?
If you would have missed some of these, there are many ways to grow in your research skills. I have found that when I solve problems today, it’s often because I can see things in the sources I couldn’t see before.
I have learned primarily by reading journal articles, and attending conferences and lectures over the years. This, in addition to reading and referring to core genealogy books.
Sometimes even the tiniest clue can be the key to breaking a brick wall.
Sources to Learn How to Evaluate Vital Records
I have three suggestions for learning how to evaluate vital records such as a death certificate. All three of the books should be on the bookshelf of all genealogists. They are expensive (you can find used books for slightly cheaper) but they are an investment that will pay off over and over again.
- The Source, 3rd edition, edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, Chapter 13, “Vital Records.”
- Researchers Guide to American Genealogy, 4th edition, by Val D. Greenwood, Chapter 13, “Vital Records.” (**If you can only purchase one, let it be this one**)
- Evidence Explained, 3rd edition, Chapter 9, “Local and State Records: Licenses, Registrations, Rolls and Vital Records.”
I am an engineer by day, but my true passion lies in genealogy. I have been a researcher, writer, lecturer and teacher for over twenty years. This blog is where I share family history methods, resources, tips and advice, with an emphasis on slave research, slavery and its aftermath. This lifelong quest has helped me to better know my family’s past. I’ve taken back– reclaimed– some of that lost memory, especially that of my enslaved ancestors. I hope you’ll sign up to receive my posts—if you do, you’ll get a free PDF with some of my favorite tips! And please do share posts that interest you.
This is very true. I found my grandmother’s aunt and uncle through the death certificate of her uncle. And I found him through following an address on a letter my grandmother had written to his widow.
Yes! So many people neglect all the other good clues on death certificates. Your example is a good one. I particularly like to see how long they have lived in the state/county and I always notice whether they died in a hospital or at home. There are a lot of small tidbits that could be used to build the person’s biography. Thanks for commenting.
ps- still trying to find our DNA match;)
I have found out some interesting things looking at the death certificates of my ancestors. I tried signing up but the page would not scroll down far enough to hit a submit button.
Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry the sign up did not work, please try again when you can–perhaps use a different browser? I have not heard that as an issue, but do let me know if it persists.
Great post, Robin! I be hoping that the person giving the information is a sibling, because he/she would more likely give the correct father’s name and, more importantly, the correct mother’s maiden name.