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Extract and Confirm All the Information on a Death Certificate

George Anderson Tucker (1882 – 1932), Robin R. Foster's great grandfather.

With the availability of so many records online now you can become inundated with all the historical records you collect and not pay attention as you should to the details on each record. Have you met with a challenge in documenting an ancestor? The real quest in genealogy research is to extract the details from a record and use that information to locate further information and resources.

"South Carolina Deaths, 1915-1943," index and images, FamilySearch

( : accessed 16 Feb 2014), George A.

Tucker in entry for George A. Tucker, 11 Dec 1932.

To illustrate the importance of looking at each detail on a record, look at the information gleaned from the death certificate of George A. Tucker. To really be successful at using the information provided in historical documentation, you really need to be highly inquisitive and resist taking information at face value. This is illustrated in several numbered extractions taken from the death certificate mentioned above along with the questions or conclusions that came to mind. Not every numbered item on the death certificate is included below:   

(1) Place of death: Richland County. Was this where George lived? No, he was documented on each available census living in Union County.

(4) Address: 1501 Manning Ave. Why was George listed as living at this address when he lived Union County? It was discovered that George’s oldest daughter, Otis Vance, took care of him during his illness. This was her address.


(10) Married: This does not say widowed, so his wife was living at the time of his death.

(18) Father: Epps Tucker. This is not the full name of George’s father, but he was known by this nickname. According to oral history and historical documentation (a will), his name was George Epps Tucker.

(19) Mother: Martha Talley. Martha’s maiden name was not Talley. Her maiden name was Sims. She was never married to Epps Tucker, but this was their child. Interracial marriages were against the law during this time period. George A. Tucker also was the name of the father of Epps. Oral history, census records, and wills were used to confirm this.

(20) Informant: E. W. Vance, the son-in-law of George A. Tucker. Always contact the informant or family of the informant to learn more. George was living in his home while his wife, Otis, cared for George, her father.

(21) Burial: Union, SC. What is the name of the cemetery where George was buried? According to oral history, he was buried in the family cemetery at Maple Ridge Baptist Church. No headstone exists, so this must be researched further.

(22) Funeral home: Manigault. Locate the funeral home record and look for a newspaper obituary.

Hopefully, you are able to see the value of weighing each piece of information on a record. Do not shy away from doing it because you do not know how to use the information. I have been very persistent in taking from the death record. I am still finding clues.

You need to evaluate the details that you find on a death certificate because even original records can have incorrect information. Not all the information provided on a death certificate occurred at the time the record was generated making the possibility for errors even greater. So how do you go about analyzing the data? Some tips to do this are included below. 

Unfortunately, like many death certificates, the name of the cemetery has not been provided. That can be a huge disappointment if the funeral home is no longer in business. When this happens, consult your family to ask about known burial sites in the area. Consult death notices in newspapers and take a trip to the church cemetery. In this case, the burials sites for George's wife and children were researched. Most were found to be buried in Maple Ridge Baptist Church Cemetery where the family attended church in Union County. Later, descendants who still attend the church confirmed that George was buried there also.

You may have relied heavily on clues on a death certificate to determine the names of your ancestor's parent's and birthplace. Be careful accepting this information on a death certificate as factual without any other documentation. If the names or birthplaces given are incorrect, you may find yourself on a wild goose chase.

Records that can verify secondary information such as parent's names on a death certificate include:

•       birth records

•       marriage records

•       death records

•       military records

•       probate/wills

Before you etch any details, you discover on records in the annals of history, be sure to provide your analysis of the accuracy of the information and other forms of proof. Do not give up. You do not know what you can uncover. Read my book, My Best Genealogy Tips: Quick Keys to Research Ancestry Book 2.


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