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Sometimes the best stories

where to find death certificates

You can learn a lot about your ancestors’ lives when you start with their deaths. Explore our extensive collection of death records and find fascinating details about your own family story.

What can you discover in a death record?

Can you outwit death?

Try these challenges to test your research skills.

  • A Death in the Family

For someone with such a gloomy last name, William Newman Death brought quite a few bundles of joy into the world. Start by finding William and the names of his family members in West Ham, Essex, England, on the 1911 England & Wales Census.

One of Mr. Death’s progeny went on to marry into another family with an equally grim surname.

Click to reveal the answer

Answer: Graves

Start by finding William Death in the 1911 UK Census. Collect the names of his family members and search them, one by one, in the Marriage and Divorce collections until you find Daniel N. Death, who married Ms. Graves. When you view the record and click “Find Spouse,” you’ll see her first name was Maud. What are the odds they gave their children hyphenated surnames?

  • Cadavers of Calaveras

    Put on your white lab coat and prepare to save some lives.

    It’s the late 19th century and the new California State Board of Public Health is reviewing mortality schedules for each district in the state. As you look over your jurisdiction you notice something interesting about the town of Calaveras in Calaveras County in 1850.

    Assistant Marshall John W. Jones reported that “this district is remarkably healthy.” And he was right—just two conditions were deemed responsible for the majority of the 60 deaths there that year.

    In your report back to the powers that be, you wisely suggest the district invest in privies and a sheriff as a way to save lives in the future.

    What were the top two causes of death in

    the town of Calaveras in 1850?

    Click to reveal the answer

    Answer: Dysentery, shot

    Look at the cause of deaths listed on the 1850 U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedule. “Dysentery” and “shot” take the top two spots, although “stabbed” and the catch-all “murdered” are close behind. Interestingly, while most of the deceased were miners, the second most common job of the Calaveras dead in 1850 was “gambler.”

  • A Deathly Distinction

    You might not have heard of Fleetwood Lindley before, but he has a macabre claim to fame—a creepy honor that gives him a special place in history.

    Determine Fleetwood’s connection to history (you can find details in the Stories & Publications collections on AND which member of Fleetwood’s family played an important role in earning this claim to fame.

    Clue: Sometimes starting with minimal information (in this case a name) can get you the answers you want. Don’t be afraid to look beyond the first page of search results.

    What was the historical connection? And which relative helped him secure this claim to fame?

    Click to reveal the answer

    Answer: He was the last living person to have seen Abraham Lincoln’s body. His father helped him.

    Fleetwood Lindley, who was born 22 years after President Abraham Lincoln died, was the last living person to see Lincoln’s body. He earned this honor because of his father, who was an honor guard at a 1901 ceremony in which the body in Lincoln’s tomb was verified to be Lincoln.


  • What Rhymes with Death?

    Monsieur Andre Chenier was a French poet of some renown. But not everyone appreciated his passionate prose. In fact, at the time of his death in France, his words were definitely coming back to haunt him.

    How did M. Chenier die?

    (Clue: Use his name and location to first find the date of his death.)

    Click to reveal the answer

    Answer: He was guillotined.

    Category: Insurance

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