Friday, January 29, 2010

Are death certificates filed in multiple states?

Q: I am looking for several death records from the second half of the nineteenth century. If one died while out of state, would it be normal for a death certificate to be filed in the home county or state? Or might it be filed in the place where he died?

Good question.
Here's your rule of thumb. The death certificate will always be filed in the county/state where the person died.

Note that your question was framed on the 2nd half of the 19th Century - 1850-1900.
Depending on the year many states did not have any statewide registration of vital records - so no record would be filed in those states.

Look also for burial records. If the body of the deceased was returned to the home state for burial there will definitely be a burial certificate on file in the home state even if a death certificate is not created. Burial certificates can be interfiled with the death certificates or be kept separately. Usually the burial certificate is part of a death certificate - but depending on the local practice they might be indexed separately. So be sure to ask if they are also available.

Remember too that the census also included mortality schedules. These vary by census year and include all persons that died in the previous 12 months. Another source for you is probate records. These will be filed in the probate court of the person's home state and include the death certificate/record of the deceased.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Most times I'm looking for just an obituary notice. How do I limit my search to just those articles?

A: Yes, you can do that on GenealogyBank.
Here's how.

Step 1. Start your search.
For example let's say that you are researching the surname: Clapper
Enter that surname & press enter

Step 2. Limit your search results to just the obituaries
Click on the blue highlighted category: Obituary

Your search results will then be limited to only the obituaries for the name you are searching.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My grandfather had a WWI pension - he wasn't wounded - why did he have a pension?

Q: I have my grandfather's World War I payroll records and his discharge. However, I know that he collected a veterans' pension until his death in1973, and then my grandmother received a widow's pension until she died in 1976. Since his discharge clearly states that he was not wounded in the war, I would like to see his pension records to determine on what basis he collected a pension. Since he served 1918-1919, those records are not available through NARA. How can I access them?

A: Pension benefits for World War I veterans evolved over the years. Basically the rule of thumb for a pension was having served for 90 days. See: Veteran's Administration guidelines.

The National Archives has set up a special site for requesting these records. The son or daughter of a WWI veteran should use that site to request his records.

As the granddaughter, you may access the records of retired veterans from World War I to the present at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO.

You need to use Standard Form SF-180 Military Records Request Form to request those records. Click on the link to get a copy of that form. Simply complete the form and submit it to the appropriate mailing address listed on the form.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I am looking for my family tree. I thought when I signed up I would find it already prepared. What do I do now?

A: GenealogyBank - is an online library of resources - millions of them. Like a library it has an index - in our case an index on every word making it easy to find references in each of the issues of the newspapers, books etc. It has over 1 billion names.

(Illustration: Wikipedia Commons)
Documenting your family tree is a lot like putting up the family Christmas tree. You have the bare tree and now you need to look in the boxes of Christmas decorations and put up each one. It takes time to pick out and put the items in just the right place on the tree - but when you're done - wow - it always looks great.

So - let's get started on putting together your "family tree".
What do you know about the family?
Who are you looking for?
For example - what are your grandparents or great-grandparent's names?
When and where were the born? When, where were they married?

So - you'll see who you are looking for and with the when/where of their birth, marriage and death - you can decide where in GenealogyBank will I be likely to find that information.

If they died in say, 1982 - then look in the Social Security Death Index and in the America's Obituaries section.
If they served in the Revolutionary War - then we'll look in the early newspapers for articles and in the Revolutionary War Grave Index in the "Historical Documents" section.

Tell me more about your family and we'll start researching in GenealogyBank to discover the original sources that document their lives. Taking the time to gather together the facts to document your family tree is worth it - just like it is to take the time to put together the family Christmas tree each year.

We can do this.
Tell me more.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How do I limit my search to only the "List of Private Claims" volumes?

A: We are working on making it possible to bookmark each one of our historical documents. When we have that enhancement in place you will be able to search only one book at a time.

For now - you need to fine tune the search by adding the term "List of Private Claims" in the include keywords with search terms box and adding 1880 to the date field.
That will narrow your searches to just those two volumes. See the attached example.

You may then add the surname of the family or name of the individual you would like to research.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I am looking for the parents of Michael and Catherine (Lyons) Rafferty. Where should I look next?

Here's what I know:
I found my grandfather Michael Rafferty in the 1910 Census in Boston - living with his wife Catherine and family. It indicates that he was born in about 1872, was a Motor-man on a street car, was married around 1900 and immigrated in 1895.

Since Michael was not in the 1920 census and Catherine is listed as a widow, it is reasonable to conclude that he died somewhere between 1910 and 1920. My brother believes he died in 1914-1915.

The 1900 Census shows a Michael Rafferty born in 1873, emigrated in 1893, was a motorman and was living in a boarding home with a Thomas Rafferty.

The 1910, 1920 and 1930 census lists the brother of Michael Rafferty, Thomas Rafferty, as living with the family.

Catherine Rafferty (my grandmother, maiden name Lyons):

The 1920 and 1930 census shows that Catherine immigrated from Ireland in 1892. She was naturalized in 1897. She lived at 272 Corey Rd in Boston. She was living at 78 Hichborn St in Brighton at the time of Thomas Sr's wedding (according to newspaper clipping). She died approx 1950.

A: OK. I would suggest several approaches. First that you look for their death certificates.

FamilySearchLabs has been putting all of the Massachusetts death certificates from 1841 through 1915 online but at this point that project is only 58% complete. That is a terrific free resource - you will want to check back as more certificates are added.

You also want to contact the Massachusetts State Archives. They hold the original Massachusetts vital records from 1841 to 1915. They have put up a searchable index to these records from 1841 to 1910.

You also have several clues in the research that you have already done.

Look again at the 1900 Census. You have them identified in Boston Ward 25, Precinct 7.

Click Here to see the full census page

TIP: You may search the 1900 census for free at:

Notice that there is a Timothy Rafferty living on the same street, just a few houses down from them.

Look closely at the lines for Timothy and his wife Bridget.
It says that Timothy has been married for "42" years - getting married in approx. 1858.
The record shows that Bridget has been married for 27 or 28 years (notice the two numbers written in that column) in approx. 1872 when she was 44 years old. Notice further that the record indicates that she had no children.

The census taker should have indicated how many times they have each been married. Since the record indicates that Timothy was first married in 1858 and Bridget first married in 1872 - there was certainly another marriage for one or both of them.

But, look again at line 84 for Timothy. What is the 8/12 written after the marriage? It is possible that this represents the number of children that Timothy had with his first wife - 12 children and that 8 of them are still living. Spacing 12 children from a marriage date of 1858 - could indicate children born from 1859 to the early 1870s.

Just an idea, but could Timothy be Michael Rafferty's father or uncle?

I would suggest that you keep searching the Massachusetts and Irish vital record indexes.

In searching the Civil Registration Indexes for Ireland for 1845 to 1958 I do find a Timothy Rafferty married in Castlebar, County Mayo in 1870. The Civil Registration Indexes are also free on the site.

Here is the citation:
Name: Timothy Rafferty
Registration district: Castlebar
Record type: MARRIAGES
Registration date - quarter and year: 1870
Film number: 101251
Volume: 4 Page: 144
Digital GS number: 4179384 Image number: 00313
Collection: Ireland, Civil Registration Indexes 1845-1958

Looking further at the Irish Civil Registration Index there is an entry for a Michael Rafferty born in Castlebar, County Mayo in 1873. You should get a copy of this birth certificate to see if this person was also born in November 1873 - giving you a strong indication that you have a match.

Name: Michael Rafferty
Registration district: Castlebar
Record type: DEATHS
Registration date - quarter and year: 1873
Estimated birth year: 1873
Film number: 101586
Volume: 19
Page: 69
Digital GS number: 4200218
Image number: 00501
Collection: Ireland, Civil Registration Indexes 1845-1958

I did not find an entry for Thomas Rafferty born January 1870 in Ireland.

Be sure to also search for the naturalization records of Michael, Thomas and Timothy Rafferty - to see what clues these give you. Contact the National Archives Regional centers in Massachusetts for these records. Click here to see their online guide.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y

I am often asked: Do you have Canadian newspapers in GenealogyBank?

Well, no we don't - but that's not the question you want to ask.

Tip: I have been researching my family tree for 45 years and I can tell you that you'll find the information on your family where you least expect to find it.

Here's a wedding announcement for Alexander James Ross of Winnipeg, Manitoba and Mary Moore McArthur of Picton, Nova Scotia - they were married in Chicago 6 March 1882. (Inter Ocean 14 March 1882).
GenealogyBank has over 3,800 newspapers - all of them published in the United States - but it has several million articles, records and documents on Canadians.

Newspapers were published - every day.

And everyday editors had to fill the next day's paper & they wanted to sell papers.

So they pulled "news" from a wide circle of influence. Birth announcements, marriage announcements, and obituaries from small towns and big cities were included.

Just like CNN or Fox News - the daily newspapers had to fill their pages with hard news. News that people wanted to read and that would sell subscriptions.

If you are researching Canadian genealogy then GenealogyBank is an essential online tool.

Eastport, Maine is a small town on the Maine coast right on the border with New Brunswick, Canada.

As you would expect this newspaper regularly carried birth, death and marriage announcements from the Canadian side of the border.

Look at this example of marriage notices published in the 29 March 1828 Eastport ME) Sentinnel. Look at the places mentioned "Lubec" - "Dennysville" - "St. Andrews" - "Antigua" - "St. Stephens" and "Charlotte". Towns on both sides of the border and "Antigua" refers to the island nation of Antigua.

Nothing unusual here - just a typical day with a newspaper editor packing his paper with the information his readers wanted to read.

Just like GenealogyBank - everyday we pack in more resources that genealogists need and rely on. You're not finished with your research until you've searched the newspapers in GenealogyBank.