​​​Genealogy Detective


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Sharron Mirikitani

Many public records are available online and the number of records available increase daily. For those records not available online, you can often request copies of documents from a wide variety of sources.

Examples of public records are as follows:
Birth Records
Death Records
Marriage Records
Divorce Records
Social Security Records
Military Records

Over the next few weeks we will be discussing each of these types of records and how to obtain them in depth.

Copies of death records are confidential under Texas Law for twenty-five years. They are only available from that period to immediate family members either by blood or marriage, guardians or legal representatives. Copies of death records can be request from the Texas Department of State Health Vital Statistic Unit. Death records were not forwarded to the State until 1910, so some death records from 1903-1910 may be found at the County Clerk's Office in the county where the birth took place.

Very often the information given at the time of an individual's death may be inaccurate, or incomplete. The person reporting the information on the death certificate may not even be a relative and may not know the names of the individuals parents, place of birth or given name. Typically, nicknames and best guesses are on many death certificates.

Death certificates can provide information that you cannot find anywhere else. The birthplace and birth date of the deceased. The names of his parents and their places of birth. Their occupation and cause of death. Knowing the cause of death of your ancestors is important. It actually provides an extended medical history.

Internet resources such as Ancestry.com or Familysearch.org have a vast array of death records and learning how to use those resources efficiently is very important to your search. The following are resources are on the web:

Ancestry.com Resources

  • U.S. Find A Grave Index (Ancestry.com purchased Find A Grave)
  • U.S. Social Security Death Index
  • United States Obituary Collection
  • Texas Death Certificates 1903-1982
  • U.S Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications 1889-1982
  • Historical Newspapers 1851-2003
  • Web: Obituary Daily Times Index 1955-Current
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs BIRL Death File 1850-2010
  • U.S. Headstone Applications for Military Veterans 1925-1963
  • U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules 1850-1885
  • U.S. Federal Census Mortality Index 1850-1880
  • Web: RootsWeb Cemetery Index 1800-2010

Find A Grave  a FREE resource that you can search independently. It has a very active membership and the number of memorials are growing daily. My profile is Ancestry-Detective #47705006. I have been a member for over three years and manage over 12,000 memorials. When I research a family, I use this resource and connect families and add them as necessary.

Billion Graves: is a FREE website that functions differently from Find A Grave. You must first photograph the headstone and upload it. Then the information is transcribed. I am an active member of this site as well, and was documenting Myrtle Cemetery in Ennis before I broke my back last year. The GPS is automatically attached to the record and there is no ownership or control by the person “contributing” the photo. Once it is uploaded it becomes the property of Billion Graves. There are a lot of graves recorded on this site that are not recorded on Find A Grave.

Family Search.org
 is a FREE website. You will find many records on this site that are not on Ancestry.com, so please make sure you spend time looking for your ancestors here.I recommend you browse by  COLLECTIONS. You can narrow your search by country and then by State. For Texas there are 40 collections. Those related to deaths are:

  • Texas, Death Index, 1903-2000
  • Texas, Death Index, 1964-1998
  • Texas, Deaths and Burials, 1903-1973
  • Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976
  • Texas, Deaths, 1977-1986
  • Texas, Probate Records, 1800-1990

RootsWeb.comis a FREE website owned by Ancestry.com

Church records are an invaluable resource. Some of those records are no available online. The old German Churches,  Quaker Churches and the Catholic Churches kept death records. For example, I stopped into a small church in Pennsylvania and asked if they had burial records. They took me to the basement and there was a record of every burial from the very beginning. Many of those graves had no stones. The old handwritten records had never been published and they were an incredible resource.

Cemetery Associations may have burial records that are not found in any other place. For example, Myrtle Cemetery in Ennis has an association and the burial records are kept by their accountant.

Funeral Homes obviously have burial records, but unless you are a family member, they don't give you the information freely. Example:  Curtis Funeral Home

​The cause of death listed on an old death certificate may be a total mystery if you don't have a list of old terms for illnesses and their current meanings. A guided of Old Medical Terms  is very helpful.

Samples of death certificates.