Genealogy Wise

The Genealogy & Family History Social Network

The digitization and indexing of U.S. deaths is of one of the largest projects in the world of genealogy.

The valuable death records, which the Family History Library has carefully gathered during decades of microfilming, have been undergoing a sometimes painstaking digitization and double indexing by LDS volunteers and a few others under the banner of FamilySearch Indexing (FSI). After a decade of effort, in 2009 we are seeing a revolution for genealogists in terms of ease of access and use. Hopefully the documents will be properly evaluated for the sake of linking families and producing quality family histories instead of bare genealogy.

These types of historical documents, although not created for genealogical research, especially valuable to genealogists and family historians because they may provide primary information on an ancestor's age, last residence, and final resting place. The documents also provide important clues to an ancestor’s place of birth, spouse, and parents.

Death records often exist in the United States for individuals for whom there are NO birth or marriage records. The death records, however, have no privacy restrictions. Yet the federal government provides only a very incomplete Social Security Death Index (mostly male deaths after 1962 if benefits were requested). The documents being extracted by FSI will help form a nationwide index to deaths, and will complement the various death indexes of cities, counties, and states.

How large is the project? When placed into one alphabetical sequence by the LDS Church, for the New FamilySearch system [a separate Group here], the database of death records will be larger than those for the Social Security Death Index, and other projects by the LDS Church such as: the 1880 U.S. Census, the 1881 British Census, and the New York Immigration Records (including Ellis Island, 1892-1924). In terms of number of entries or range of years, many millions of names in available collections have been digitized, and/or indexed.

What types of death records are being indexed?
The most common records are U.S. civil deaths, in either certificate style or register style. Few civil or church burial records have been identified for this project. Records excluded from the project include:
grave registration files published lists
census mortality schedules indexes (except in New England)
newspaper clippings obituaries
mixed court minutes wills and probate or estate files

We thank all of those volunteers! You bring to light the lives of millions of our ancestors.

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