Other Things To Be Leery About with Regards to Obituaries and Death Certificates August 2, 2019

In addition to my warning about being careful trusting obituaries and death certificates when it comes to where someone is buried Pet Peeve Rant Warning – Find-A-Grave Plopping and Burial Unknowns/Cremated August 1, 2019, there are other things to be careful about trusting on both documents. This holds true for other documents – birth certificates, census records (probably the worst of the bunch in my experience for official records), etc.

In general, you can trust the death date on death certificates. However, there are exceptions. A friend’s mother died December 21 late on her doctor’s shift. He didn’t fill out the death certificate until the next day and mistakenly wrote the death date on the death certificate as December 22. In another case with this friend, somebody transcribed a maiden name on a death certificate as Ruhr. He showed me the death certificate; maiden name was Unknown. I’m half-blind and it was obvious to me what the name was. Guessing the transcriber was not used to cursive writing.

On my mother’s death certificate, the date is correct, but the time of death is way off. Because she died at home and alone, the coroner was called in. He declared her dead upon his arrival, but admitted she had obviously died much earlier in the day. I finally received a copy of my great-grandmother’s death certificate with information provided by her youngest son who had lived near her most of his life. Don’t Know and Can’t Say were the most common things on it. Informants can get things wrong as can transcribers.

Another thing to be wary of – cause of death if a full autopsy wasn’t done. In my mother’s case, cause of death was COPD, and while the coroner showed up, he didn’t order an autopsy which would have revealed other issues that were far more likely to be cause of death than what he ruled. His ruling made sense given what limited information he knew. Had he bothered to ask questions or been open to hearing suggestions, I think he may have ordered an autopsy.

On obituaries, there can be plenty of things wrong there as well. A different friend was sent an obit prepared by a relative for the friend. It left out a sister and the relative is unwilling to add the sister. My favorite example was two obits next to each other in a newspaper. One done by the wife and the other done by the girlfriend. Surprisingly, or not, neither obit mentioned the other children or the mother of said children.

Going back to my great-grandmother above, an obit for a relative of hers had her living in Power, Mississippi. She lived in Moss Point, not Power. My uncle who I mentioned in the Pet Peeve rant was listed as living in his sister’s (not my mother, but a different sister) obituary in 2009. Seems the two siblings and their families had not been talking to each other as he died in 2008, pretty much a year earlier. They both died in June. It was only after seeing the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) later for my uncle did I realize the obit for my aunt was wrong.

About ICT Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's collaborateDealspotr.com
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