Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Patriotic Organizations: Some patriotic organizations and lineage societies, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, require that their members prove their line of descent from a man who fought in one of America’s wars. Such proof can exist in the form of a lengthy application form and numerous supporting documents, one of which could contain notice of a person’s death.

Pension Records: If a person died while receiving a pension, a record of the person’s death may exist in the pension file, because any survivors would have been required to notify the pension issuer of the death of the pensioner. Pension files of Civil War soldiers often contain a copies of death certificates, or the death certificates of widows who could draw pensions based on the service of their husbands. If death certificates were not issued at that time, a file may contain a letter from the man’s widow or physician reporting the death.

Police Reports and Court Records: If a person was murdered, killed in a brawl, or otherwise died violently, there is probably a police record of the arrest and a court record of the trial of the perpetrator. There is probably also a record of a coroner’s inquest, and a prison or execution record for the guilty party.

Probate, Estate, and Will Records: There is a good chance that a well-to-do ancestor left a will or probate record (there may also be a will or probate proceeding for a soldier who died while in service). There is also a good chance that such a record exists even if that state did not require the keeping of vital records at that time. These records also are usually indexed. Such records can provide an exact (sometimes approximate) date of death.

Copyright 2000 by St. Louis Public Library. All rights reserved.

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