While the Death Record Challenge is over, there is still a lot you can learn about death records. Start by exploring the challenge questions and answers and get valuable tips for improving your death record investigative skills. Then dig into your own family story and see what new details you can discover in our extensive collection of death records.
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.
What was the surname?
Answer: C. GravesMarriage Record Census Record
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?
Searching for a death record? Include a death date in your search on Ancestry.com by including “death” as a life event in the search box. When producing search results, the Ancestry.com search engine attempts to match all of the details you’ve included. And since death information is only included on records created after death, these records will be nearer to the top of your search results.
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.U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885
What were the top two causes of death in the town of Calaveras in 1850?
Answer: A. 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.”
Death records were often held at the state level, so use the map at the bottom of the Search page to get a list of the death records available on Ancestry.com for each state. Start by selecting the state you’re interested in. And also check the Resources tab, where you’ll learn more about the overall availability of a state’s vital records and how to order originals.
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 Ancestry.com) 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?
Answer: A: He was the last living person to have seen Abraham Lincoln’s body.
Which relative helped him secure this claim to fame?
Answer: B: His father.
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.
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.Guillotine Record Death Index
Answer: D: He was guillotined.
You’ll know you have the right Andre Chenier by checking for the occupation on his death index. Then dig a little further using the information in the death index. And in a flash, you’ll discover Chenier’s unfortunate, but fast, demise—by guillotine in 1794.
Who provided the details on the death certificate? It may have been a relative, a friend or someone else entirely. Dig around a little to uncover the relationship between the deceased and the informant. You’ll also get a better idea of how reliable the death certificate information is likely to be once you know who gave it.
Before the candles on the cake were even lit, Mr. John Gordon Ramsey’s birthday celebration
took a tragic turn. Despite the exotic Brazilian setting of his party, it was certainly the worst birthday
he ever had.
Who died and how?
Answer: B. He died from congestion after a hearty birthday meal.Death Record
Burial locations listed in death records and obituaries can lead to a cemetery, where you’ll often find other relatives buried nearby. Can’t visit in person? Call or write the cemetery for more information. They may even provide you with the names of everyone buried in the family plot.
Don your Scotland Yard hat for this challenge.
Cora Crippen (a.k.a. Belle) has been found dead by poisoning in 1910. The prime suspect is her husband, Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen. The bad doctor and his mistress, Ethel Le Neve, are rumored to have fled London and have boarded a ship from Antwerp to Quebec, traveling under the names John Philo Robinson and John George Robinson (Miss Le Neve is disguised as a boy).Border Crossings Probate Record
In order to overtake them and apprehend the dastardly duo, you need to figure out exactly where they are.
What is the name of the ship they are aboard?
Answer: The SS Montrose
Search under the aliases in the immigration and travel collection and you’ll find both a passenger list and a wonderfully detailed manifest in Border Crossings: from Canada to U.S. You don’t have to read far to see you’ve found your men, er, man and woman.
As any good inspector knows, there is more to the story, and if you dig a little further you’ll find it. If you search our death collections, including probate records, you will find Dr. Crippen was returned to England, and died in Pentonville prison, Middlesex on November 23rd, 1910. He left his remaining possessions to his mistress, Ethel Clara Le Neve.
It’s the 6th of February, 1925 and there’s a drama unfolding on the pages of the Charleston Daily Mail. William Floyd Collins is trapped in Sand Cave, near Cave City, Kentucky. He’s been there since January 30th.
The country has been riveted by the daily reports on the story–and today is an especially poignant time in the continuing saga. This was supposed to be William’s wedding day. But instead, his betrothed, Alma Clark, waits at the mouth of the cave for news of his rescue.
How does this story end?
A. He dies from exposure on the 17th of February.
There are many records pertaining to this tragic story, including:
See a gap of more than a couple of years between the ages of children in a census record? Or notice a difference between the number of children living and born to a woman in the 1900 or 1910 census? Either can be an indicator that a child died. Search for a death index or certificate to see if you’re correct.
Frederick Dethlefsen was born in 1866. And that’s all we can tell you about him. Using records on Ancestry.com, give us the details that could have been included to write his obituary:
Clue: All the answers can be found in just one recordFuneral Home Record
You know the woman you’re tracing remarried, but you’re not sure of the name she took? Search through the Social Security Death Index using just the woman’s first name and date of birth. You may have to sift through a lot of results, but if you find someone who feels like a good fit, you can do a little research to find her marriage records, which could include her former surname.