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  • Writer's pictureTheFormidableGenealogist

Death Certificate Details

Remember: Details in death records are only as reliable as the informant.

Many times the informant is not a family member but a friend, neighbor, or landlord. We've also seen acquaintances, employers, and even local policemen as informants.

A few times in our research, we've found death records that list 'hospital records' as the informant. One such record, from the 1940s, has caused quite a bit of misinformation in family trees.

The record stated that the recently deceased man was age 77. It also stated his birthdate, his home address, his parents' names, and their birthplaces. All of this information was correct.

The detail on the document that was confusing is the name of the decedent's wife. Some people have interpreted this detail to mean that the woman was the man's wife at the time of his death. That, in turn, led to family trees that misattributed the mothers of his children. And most trees included two wives over the course of the man's life; no trees accurately reflected the actual total of five wives.

Digging for other records proved that the wife named on this document was actually the man's first wife. She had died 50 years earlier, shortly after the birth of the couple's only child. Perhaps that baby had been born at this hospital, or the man himself was a patient some five decades earlier. Whatever the case, the hospital records contained the information recorded on this document. It was just half a century out of date.

Death certificate
Though hard to read, this informant is Hospital Records.


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