Thursday, February 4, 2010

Death Certificates; a genealogist's treasure

Death Certificates are one of my favorite sources for information about an ancestor. Not only can you find their date of death, date of birth, last residence, and parentage but also their cause of death. This little fact can sometimes solve or start a mystery. Take for example my great grandfather John Wesley Tracy. My father had heard that he died in a hunting accident. After ordering his death certificate and obituary I found that he had died of a massive heart attack while sighting a rabbit with his rifle. He was hunting and I guess it was an accident but not what my dad thought all these years. No big deal but kind of interesting nonetheless. You could make a great story for the fact that it was the beginning of the depression and times were tough for farmers but the reality is he died of a heart attack; happens all the time; the only thing interesting is that he was about to shoot a rabbit. I wonder if the rabbit understood its great luck that day? Then there was the curious coincidence between my great grandfather Charles Gotcher and his father Daniel Gotcher's cause of death. No big deal if they both died of a hereditary disease but no, they both died of a fractured skull. Charles in an auto accident and Daniel in a Steel Rail accident. It was probably just a coincidence but an interesting one.
I just like that Death Certificates give me a little more insight into my family history.

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