While the coroner provides some of the information on a death certificate, other information is provided by an informant, usually a family member or friend: date of birth, place of birth, spouse’s name, father’s name, mother’s maiden name, current residence, etc. These are the fields that can qualify or disqualify someone as your ancestor. Wrong father’s name, wrong place of birth, wrong birthdate can mean he or she is not your relative.
However, information from the informant is often wrong or missing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found the father’s name or mother’s maiden name listed as “unknown” on a death certificate. And this is when the informant was a spouse, sibling or child of the deceased. It can be so frustrating, especially when you’re specifically looking for the mother’s maiden name, which is often difficult to find.
My grandpa’s death certificate said his mother’s maiden name was Bradshaw (the informant was his wife, my grandma). Once I started looking for my great-grandmother, however, I discovered her maiden name was really Branshaw. But that was only after her father had immigrated to the U.S. (Wisconsin) from Quebec, where the family name was actually Branchaud. Apparently my great-great-grandfather felt the need to simplify or Americanize his French surname.
Do you know your mother and father’s birthdates and your paternal or maternal grandma’s maiden name?
Discover your roots and watch the branches of your family tree begin to grow.
For more information on my Family History Research services, visit TheMemoryQuilt.com and click on “Family History Research.”