What are Death Records? How can I use them?
North Carolina began keeping death records in 1913. Many of the early records, initially created at the township level, varied greatly in their completeness and legibility. The spelling was often very "creative." Death certificates may be a very valuable source of genealogical information. However, the accuracy of the certificate is dependent upon the knowledge supplied by the informant and the recording of that information.
Not every individual who died in Swain County in 1913-1930 has a death certificate. Some of the reasons for no death certificate include: many deaths occurred in remote parts of the county, family members were uncertain who was responsible for filing the certificate, certificates may have been lost in transfer, or family members did not feel obligated to follow state regulations. If the decedent died before 1913, or does not have a death certificate, sources such as tombstones, Bibles, wills, deeds, census records, and family histories may be helpful.
How are Out-of-County Death Records different?
In 1978 the North Carolina Bureau of Vital Statistics began issuing a report for each county, entitled "Deaths Occurring in a County Different from County of Birth". These out-of-county death reports are especially helpful to genealogists searching for an individual who may have moved away from the county of birth, died while seeking medical treatment in another county, etc.
What information can I find in a Death Record?
Death records are a very good source of genealogical data. Death records may be the only source of finding names of parents who were born before birth records were kept.
Death Record publications usually contain:
|name of each decedent,||his/her death date,||his/her age,|
|his/her place of death,||his/her gender,||his/her race,|
|his/her birth date,||his/her place of birth,||names of parents,|
|birthplaces of parents,||name of informant,||burial place,|
|cause of death,||spouse,||certificate number,|
|clarifying note (if applicable),||full-name index of fathers,||full-name index of mothers.|
The medical terms listed as the cause of death were often extremely difficult to read. In cases where the cause of death could not be deciphered, a contributory cause of death was listed - if available. In some cases underscores are used to indicate illegible letters. Some records contain more information than space is available in the column. Again, it is recommended that the researcher consult the original record or a photocopy of the original record.
What information can I find in an Out-of-County Death Records publication?
An out-of-county death records publication contains, if available, the following information:
- name of each decedent, listed alphabetically,
- his/her gender,
- his/her birth date,
- his/her death date,
- his/her county of death
- surname of father,
- clarifying note (if applicable), and
- surname index of fathers