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Your Guide to Cemetery Research > Chapter 1: Records of Death

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message 1: by Liz (last edited Oct 18, 2009 09:36AM) (new)

Liz | 379 comments This is the thread where we will post discussion about this chapter. Please post your comments in the correct chapter topic to make it easier for all to follow along. (I doubt that spoilers will be a problem with this book, but the Chapter topics will help organize the discussions).

From the Table of Contents of Your Guide to Cemetery Research:
Chapter 1: Records of Death
There are many records associated with a person's death. This chapter explains what they are and what they will tell you and shows you how to access the records. Covered are autopsy and coroners' records, death certificates, obituaries, death notices, wills and probate, prayer and memorial cards and funeral home records, mortality schedules, and more.

message 2: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments Sharon Debartolo Carmack gives a very comprehensive look at the huge variety of records that might be generated at death. Just paging through the chapter I was amazed at the thoroughness of her survey. In the spirit of doing being the best way of learning...

Activity: Choose one or more family members that you would like to learn more about using the sources in this chapter. Please feel free to share a little about the family and your successes in finding the sources mentioned in the book. If you are aware of sources that might help another participant, please let them know!

message 3: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments Liz wrote: "Activity: Choose one or more family"

I choose the plot of my 2nd great-grandaunt, Mary Elizabeth (Morehouse) Jones (1838-1862). Mary Elizabeth married John Wynne Jones on 7 Jan 1857 in Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio. She died 19 Jul 1862 in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. John Wynne Jones remarried and his second wife as well as some of their children are buried in the family grave in Cincinnati.

I've long been curious to learn more about the family marker and since the family members died in places other than Cincinnati, I'll also be able to look for transportation records. I've placed a copy of the family monument in the photos. Some of the death records for this family have already been collected and I'll post them as we cover that record type.

message 4: by Liz (last edited Oct 31, 2009 02:05PM) (new)

Liz | 379 comments Bible Records
Many of the resources cited in Your Guide to Cemetery Research are now found more readily on the internet. I've included below the links for websites that she mentions in her book and added a few more. It is easy to forget all the different possible places to locate bible records! If you haven't already done so, setting up folders of Genealogy bookmarks by record type can be a real time saver. (Thanks to George Morgan for this tip!)

Activity: Search for your family names and locations. If you have copies of bible records in your possession, consider making a deposit! Most of these repositories welcome contributions. See their websites for details. Generally a search on SURNAME family bible yields results.
More can be found on the website's homepage about finding these records in their repository.
Search the catalog in the upper right hand corner. You may also want to search for bible records in the state and local libraries where your ancestor lived. Be forewarned, however, that many repositories to not include names inscribed in the bible in their catalog search forms. :(
Bible pages may be found in pension applications. If your ancestor was alive during any of the major wars, searching for a pension application may turn up a bible record. See also the website which indexes a series of book extracts of records from the Revolutionary War pension files.

PERSI indexes many genealogical and historical journals. For more information see,
If you are an ancestry subscriber or can access ancestry at your local library, this is a direct link to PERSI:
A surprising number of bibles were for sale on ebay - a source I hadn't considered before! FamilySearch catalogs the many records available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Many of the records have been microfilmed and are available for short-term rental. Carmack recommends searching under the bible records heading of the state where your ancestor lived.

Some recommended published sources:
Sometimes it is easier to scan names rather than generate all the potential spellings of a given surname. In those cases, print sources can sometimes be faster than electronic ones! Here are a couple of additional sources:

A guide to Bible records in the Library of Virginia

Index to Personal Names in the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, 1959-1984.

A couple of additional online sources:

Other ways of locating bible records

It is always a good idea to check for contributed records for your locality and surname. There is also a rootsweb list specifically targeted toward collecting bible records: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.a....
This source has not only many links to online bible records but also links to many how-to articles. I particularly liked: George Morgan's article on the potential pitfalls of bible research, , and The latter is a listing of Bible Records taken Revolutionary War era pension applications. There is an index to the books available online.

There are a variety of search engines that might locate an online transcription of a bible record. Try several search engines and search on both the name and the locality.

Happy hunting!

message 5: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments I've found it a bit cumbersome to add photos here. Please see for pictures of the cemetery markers and additional details of the family I've decided to search in applying the learning from Your Guide to Cemetery Research.


message 6: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments Please let us know how your searches are progressing! Any luck finding family bibles?

message 7: by Liz (last edited Nov 01, 2009 10:21AM) (new)

Liz | 379 comments Bodies in Transit and Burial Permits

These records might be found in State Board of Health records, undertaker records, cemetery files or in local and county government records. Frequently newspapers included a listing of burial permits issued in the past week. While they may not contain much information, they predate death records and registers in most communities. An example of a newspaper listing can be found at

An article about burial permits written by George Morgan can be found at The links to examples of burial permits no longer work.

For bodies passing through NYC, more can be found at

Some examples of bodies in transit documents are contained in discusses the difference between burial permits and transportation permits. This article is specific to NYC. In fact, a search on 'burial permits' turned up many local sites. 'burial permits' + location may just do the trick for identifying where to find these records.

A few examples of burial permits:

message 8: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments Are any of your ancestors buried in place other than the place they died? Have you had success in tracking down their burial transit permit?

message 9: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments City Directories

City directories can be a great help in furthering your research. Carmack describes using city directories to determine (or estimate) the date of death of a person.

But city directories have their own pitfalls that are illustrated in the following listing of New York City directories. For brevity, I've not included the source citations.

1804/5 Morehouse, Abraham, tailor, Essex
1805 Morehouse, Abraham, tailor, hester
1806 Morehouse, Abraham, tailor, Essex near Division
1807 Morehouse, Abraham, tailor 11 Essex
1808 Morehouse, Abraham, tailor, 11 Essex
1809 No listing
1810 No listing
1811 Moorehouse Abraham, tailor 11 Essex
1812 Morehouse Abram gr 11 essex
1812 Moorehouse Abraham, tailor 11 Essex
1813 Moorehouse, Abraham, grocer 11 Essex
1814 Moorhouse Abraham, grocer Water n. Ship-yards
1814 Morehouse, Abraham, grocer 11 Essex
1815 Moorehouse, Abraham, grocer, 11[3?:] Essex
1816 Moorehouse, Abraham, grocer 11 Essex
1817 Moorehouse, Abraham, grocer 11 Essex
1818 Moorehouse, Abraham, grocer 11 Essex
Moorehouse widow Sarah, 11 Essex
1819 Moorehouse widow Sarah 11 Essex
1820 Moorehouse widow Sarah, 11 Essex
1821 Moorehouse widow Sarah, 11 Essex
1822 Moorehouse widow Sarah, 11 Essex
1823 Moorehouse widow Sara, 11 Essex
1824 Moorehouse widow Sarah, 11 Essex
1825 Moorehouse widow Sarah, 11 Essex
1826 Moorehouse widow Sarah, 11 Essex
1827 Moorehouse widow Sarah, 11 Essex
1828 Moorehouse widow Sarah, 13 Essex
Morehouse Sarah widow of Abraham, 13 Essex
1829 Moorehouse widow Sarah, 13 Essex
1830 Moorehouse, Sarah widow of Abraham, 13 Essex
1831 Morehouse Sarah widow of Abraham, 13 Essex
1832 Morehouse Sarah widow of Abraham, 13 Essex
1833 Morehouse Sarah widow of Abraham, 13 Essex
1834 Morehouse, Sarah widow of Abraham 13 Essex
1835 Morehouse, Sarah widow of Abraham, 13 Essex
1836 No listing for Sarah Morehouse from this year forward.

The first listing for Abraham wasn't until 1804 but Abraham had actually purchased property in NYC in 1801. He does not begin appearing in the directory for a couple of years.

There is no listing for Abraham in 1809-1810 showing the need to check directories for several years after the first 'no show'.

Note that both Abraham and his widow are listed in the 1818 directory. It is possible that Abraham was a son of Abraham and Sarah. It is also possible that the collector of directory information chose to keep Abraham's listing. The directory information collectors were paid by the item so they had incentive for maintaining listings! Abraham had died in October of 1817.

Tracing forward on Abraham's widow Sarah, she continued to be listed until 1836 but she did not die in that year. She relocated to live with one of her sons.

Despite the drawbacks, directories can be very helpful. This example clearly shows that Sarah and Abraham were married and significantly narrows the possible date of his death. It also gives me a very clear idea of about when Sarah moved.

message 10: by Maryd (new)

Maryd | 28 comments Liz wrote: "Are any of your ancestors buried in place other than the place they died? Have you had success in tracking down their burial transit permit?"

My great great grandmother, Jennie (Eliza) Gove Barnard died in Des Moines, IA 17 feb 1896, so i assumed she was buried in IA. I haven't found a burial record, but found tombstone of Jennie E Barnard showing her buried next to her husband, John M. Barnard in Rochester, NY. Can we assume she's actually buried there? How do i find out?

message 11: by Liz (last edited Nov 07, 2009 06:33AM) (new)

Liz | 379 comments Maryd wrote: "My great great grandmother, Jennie (Eliza) Gove Barnard died in Des Moines, IA 17 feb 1896, so i assumed she was buried in IA. I haven't found a burial record, but found tombstone of Jennie E Barnard showing her buried next to her husband, John M. Barnard in Rochester, NY. Can we assume she's actually buried there? How do i find out?"

Most likely Jennie is buried in Rochester, NY next to her husband. There is an outside chance that the tombstone in Rochester, NY is a Cenotaph though these are usually more of a monument and less likely to be found in cemeteries. The wiki definition of cenotaph is here, I've only run into one case where there was a tombstone and the person was not interred at that cemetery. In that case, there were two tombstones in two separate cemeteries!

There are several records that might answer your question of whether Jennie is buried in Rochester:

Cemetery Records
If the cemetery is still active, the cemetery records will indicate if Jennie is buried there. Records kept vary tremendously from cemetery to cemetery but their records of burial usually include the name of the deceased, their date of death, location in the cemetery and date of internment. Sometimes they also include the cause of death and other information.

A google search on the cemetery name may lead you directly to their website where you can get their address. Increasingly cemeteries are putting their historical cemetery records online. There are also locality message boards on and where you can post questions. Many local genealogists track the boards and answer questions. Asking if the cemetery is active and for contact information is exactly the type of question that folks are ready and willing to answer!

Chapter 2 covers finding cemeteries and graves in detail so I'll save that for later. But, you may want to read ahead if the above approaches don't turn up your cemetery.

If the cemetery has a website, they may indicate there what the cost is for a copy of their records. Even if they make no mention, write to the cemetery and ask for copies. Include a small donation and a notation that they can contact you if the donation does not cover their charges for obtaining the information. I have been amazed at the variety of information I have received in making these requests. One cemetery sent me a record of all the burials in the plot as well as their obituaries!

Death Record
Jennie's death record in Ia may contain a notation that she was buried elsewhere or that her body was transported. Look also for the name of the Funeral Home - it will most likely list a local funeral home but may indicate a distant one as well. I have a death report from Cook Co., Illinois that notes the burial location as Cincinnati, Ohio. So sometimes even the early death records provide bonanzas! Death records for Des Moines, Ia are at the county level,

Funeral Home records
See p. 27-30 in Your Guide to Cemetery Research. We'll cover these in more detail next week.

Transit Permits
This is definitely a case where I would look for a transit permit. Search in County and State records in both Des Moines Co., Iowa and Monroe Co., New York (Rochester). I'll make a separate post on strategies for finding these records.

Burial Permit
Check Monroe Co., New York and Rochester, New York for burial permits. I'll make a separate post on strategies for finding these records.

Thanks for posting such a great question!

message 12: by Liz (last edited Nov 07, 2009 07:06AM) (new)

Liz | 379 comments Finding Burial Permits and Transport Permits

Of all the records discussed in this chapter, these are the most perplexing! Their value is underestimated in part because of the difficulty in locating them. Furthermore, it is difficult to point to a specific place to look since these were handled differently in different communities. Sometimes it feels like you are looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. George Morgan states in his article "Often they were considered as temporary documents to facilitate the movement of a corpse through the transport and burial process. If the records exist, they are most often found in the cemeteries' or morticians' files." Here are a few possible approaches to find those that remain:

Cemetery Records
Once you know the name of the cemetery you can often find cemetery records as noted previously. Some cemetery records have been microfilmed and are available onloan from the FHL. For a list of those for the area in question, search under both the county and city where your ancestor lived. Do a place search at

Since cemetery records may also have found their way into an archive or historical society, searching Nucmuc is also a good idea, Records may have been transcribed in a journal - try searching PERSI to find these,

Mortician's files
Will be discussed in more detail later in the book. The name of the mortician might be found on the death record, cemetery record or obituary. Search strategies are similar to those for cemetery records with the added complication that many mortuaries changed name over time but still retain the original records of the original company. Posting a query on a local genealogy board may help you to locate the current company.

Sometime newspapers listed the burial permits issued in the prior week. Often the listings included the names of the individuals, their age and cause of death.

Local Boards of Health
In the late 1800s to the present, you may find these records at the local board of health. Searching their website for 'burial permit' sometimes takes you to the correct page of their website. Often the procedures for applying for transport permits is on the same page. Different places had different names for their transport permits so it is more difficult to use a search engine to find the information.

Local Historical Societies, Local Genealogical Societies and Archives
Older records may also have been moved to local historical societies or archival local government repositories. Cyndi's list, has lists of links to those having repositories that have websites. Go to her listings for the State and locality of interest.

Cyndi's list,
A search on 'burial permits' didn't yield any hits but a search on the broader term 'burials' did provide numerous links.

Internet Search Engines
I've been experimenting with different search terms to find these lists online with only modest success. So far, the best approach is 'burial permit' + County Name + State.

Further suggestions appreciated!

message 13: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments Liz wrote: "Please let us know how your searches are progressing! Any luck finding family bibles?

I may have found a bible that was owned by a relative of James Wynne JONES:

JONES Family; Holy Bible; 830 pp.; printed 1824 by E. Gardner, London, England; entirely in Welsh; was the personal Bible of Lewis Jones (no family data); found in Cincinnati, Ohio on 30 Dec 1995. {Returned to family}

Unfortunately, there was no family data but, still I would never have know of its existence if not for

I also posted queries on a few message boards. Sometimes it's years before connecting that way but its still worth a shot. :) Ever the optimist.

message 14: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments Maryd wrote: "Liz wrote: "Are any of your ancestors buried in place other than the place they died? Have you had success in tracking down their burial transit permit?"

My great great grandmother, Jennie (Eliza..."

Maryd (Mary?), Were you able to find the sexton's office?

message 15: by Maryd (new)

Maryd | 28 comments I tried your link, wouldn't work, to iowa. i found another "sketch" in our family history written by the Norwich university, the school
Jennie's husband attended RE John M Barnard - lists John M, Jennie & their sons Charles, John all buried at Mount Hope Cemetery. The cemetery lists the dates of death as well. So it appears this is true. I think i'll skip trying to track down burial or transfer records at this time. I'm barely able to read the book right now (I'm working, have other activities). i really appreciate your work, Liz. i'll copy this updated info you're presenting. Mary

message 16: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments Maryd wrote: "I tried your link, wouldn't work, to iowa . . . . I'm barely able to read the book right now"

I fixed the link so that it should work now. Evidently, the period at the end of the sentence was throwing it off. I'll go back through the previous posts and make certain all the links are working.

It would definitely be a good idea to take a couple of minutes to request the death records and write to the cemetery. I agree that tracking down the burial permit or transit record is secondary. In fact, since your ancestor died at a time when death records were being kept, you may well find all you need in those records.

I was a bit concerned scheduling the reading of the first two chapters. They present a great deal of material, much of which includes sources that are less commonly used -- we could easily spend a week on each record type! I knew that reading the chapters and applying the learning would spread us all a bit thin. But, we can continue to revisit these chapters as we progress through the book. Also, please feel free to post questions to these threads later when you have had time to apply the learning. :)

message 17: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments Autopsies and Coroner's Reports

I've grouped these together even though autopsies are frequently performed independently of any Coroner's report. However, there will almost always be an autopsy anytime a Coroner is requested. Autopsies are conducted when there is a question about the cause of death or when requested by the family. Coroner's inquisions are conducted whenever the death occurs in suspicious circumstances. Note, however, that the deaths of children may result in a coroner's inquisition if the reason for the death was unknown.

Autopsies and Coroner's Reports are somewhat easier to find than burial permits and body transit permits.The records are typically maintained by the Board of Health at the County level. Cyndi's list may provide a direct link or google on "Board of Health" + County to find the Board of Health website. Once found you can search their site for 'Coroner' or 'Autopsy'. Coroner's records may also be maintained by the court. Look on Cyndi's list for the county and state of interest and other local genealogy websites.

Older Coroner's records may be found in archives and historical societies. To search for these records, use many of the same strategies used to find burial permits and transit permits (see above). For example, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society has Coroner's reports on microfilm for deaths occuring in Manhattan 1823-1898 < >. Some additional searching turned up a partially completed index to these records! < >

Newspapers may have listings of cases where Coroner's were involved. The Hamilton County Genealogy Society notes on their website, "For a brief period in the 1830's and 1840's, the Board of Health published, on a weekly basis, the names of persons who died in the local hospitals, and cases brought before the coroner. These death notices are of great use to the family history researcher, since before 1865 the City of Cincinnati did not keep any record of deaths, and until 1908 death certificates were not required by the State of Ohio." < > . Similar notations may be found on County Genweb pages or the County's genealogical or historical society web page.

Additional information on Coroner's records: - very complete article about Coroner's records including links to some records.

In addition to searching coroner's records for death records of ancestors, these records can also be used to place an individual in a particular place prior to the collection of census records. Many local citizens served on one or more Coroner's inquest juries. Furthermore, the inquest may list persons who were deposed regarding the death. The depositions often give the name and age of the person giving the deposition.

message 18: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments In the first two chapters, there are potentially helpful sources mixed amongst the standard sources with little differentiation between the two. That is fine for the experienced researcher but may be bit daunting to a beginner . . . Where should one start? What are the sources likely to yield the most information with the least effort?

I'll take a stab at those questions based on my own experience. Please feel free to share your own experiences since the value of various records varies from region-to-region and between different ethnic and religious groups. All these sources are mentioned in Chapter 1.

Fundamental Sources

Death Certificates For time periods that these are available, they are wonderful! Typical certificates will give the date and place of death (& usually birth too), the cause of death, the burial location and the name of the undertaker. On top of all this, older certificates are increasingly available online.

Death Registers May be available as early as the mid-1800s for some cities. Death registers may overlap with death certificates so look for both.

SSDI Available online for free and easy to search. Well worth it for the time periods covered.

Mortality Schedules - only cover 1 year of every 10 but pre-date death registers and death certificates in most geographies.

Estate Settlements - Wills, Accounts, Inventories, etc. The signing of a will and its subsequent execution can give a range of potential death dates that will make it easier to identify your ancestor in the cemetery. Even if there was no will, an intestate account or inventory will give you an upper limit of the death date.

Obits, Death Notices, Estate Admin Notices - Obits and death notices often include the name of the cemetry and sometimes the undertaker. Estate administrator appointment notices give an upper limit to the possible death date.

Bibles Because of the many potential problems associated with using bible records (including locating them!), I've listed them last. That said, a bible record is often all we have to go on.

Other Potential Sources
These are some additional sources to consult if other sources do not yield results. Many may indicate the name of the burial ground and the funeral home. They also may provide a richer perspective on your ancestor's life.
Bodies in Transit
City Directories
Coroner's Recorders
Deaths at Sea - Ship lists Ship lists for inland waterways may also indicate deaths that occurred on board.
Institutional Records
Monument Maker's Records
Of these records, autopsies, city directories, coroner's records and necrologies are generally easy to locate and search. Finding the other records may prove more elusive than searching for your ancestor!

message 19: by Liz (new)

Liz | 379 comments Death Certificates and Death Registers

There is a helpful chart in the book listing when these records are available by state. Be aware though that some municipalities maintained death records before they were required to do so by the state. These records often overlap so that there was more than one place that a death might be recorded. Since the records vary in content, it's a good idea to check all available sources.

Increasingly, images of death certificates can be found online. Cyndi's list may provide links or an internet search might turn these up. In particular check the State Archives websites for the states of interest and the FHL's record pilot, They have some records for Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Philadelphia, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington and West Virginia. There are even some funeral home records! This site is updated regularly so check back often for your states of interest.

Here are some websites that give contact information for requesting death certificates that are not available online:

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Books mentioned in this topic

Your Guide to Cemetery Research (other topics)
A Guide To Bible Records In The Library Of Virginia (other topics)
Index to Personal Names in the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, 1959-1984 (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Sharon Debartolo Carmack (other topics)