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Journey # 24: When Death is Only the Beginning

I’d initially had a frustrating experience with death records, but it’s amazing what a little distance will do. I left the search for death records behind and moved on to other avenues of research. But I knew that one day I would need to come back to them. After a few weeks I decided it should be sooner rather than later. 

I opened up my GRAMPS genealogy application and browsed the list of ancestors I had accumulated. Almost all had a guess in the death field. I really only knew the death dates of the most recent couple of generations.

I chose someone at random and went online in search of a death date. There were several possibilities in the records for this one person. This was, of course, the same issue I’d struggled with the first time. So I decided to use my instincts. I studied the choices and determined which was the most likely. But how could I know for sure? If there had only been one record, then I could feel confident I had the right one. But with three possible records, what were my options? The most obvious was to order a copy of the death certificate from the United Kingdom and hope that my instincts were correct. So that’s exactly what I did. 

Afterward, worried about wasting money on a document that might be wrong, I checked the exchange rate. The cost of a certificate from GRO was 9.25 GBP, so I put that into a currency converter and was surprised to discover that it worked out to be only about $16.50 in Canadian dollars that day. If I was wrong, I’d be losing the price of a restaurant lunch. But if it were right, I might gain some valuable information that I’d not be able to get anywhere else.

Suddenly I was ordering death certificates all over the place. So far I've ordered eight, and as they gradually arrived in the mail one by one, I found that they were all correct. My instincts had served me well. 

I've already discovered an unknown child of an ancestor because of the death certificate. She was the informant on the document and listed as my great-grandmother's daughter. Yet I didn't recognize her at all. At first I assumed I must have the wrong document, but the address was correct. So I went to the Internet and discovered that she had been born after the last census record I had available. Without that death certificate, I couldn't know she existed, but I found her birth record and the parents were my ancestors. 

At their least, these death certificates will help me close the life records of my ancestors, but there is always the possibility that they will lead to new information otherwise hidden. 


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