Monthly Archives: October 2015

Death Records and their Usefulness as a Research Tool

The idea of being able to use death records for research can be a morbid thought. The fact of the matter is that there is an abundance of useful information that exists within these records. First off there are numerous types of death records. For Warren County we have three types available to the general public for research: Statement & Report of Deaths by township 1885-1908, Death Records 1867-1908, and Coroners Inquests 1873-1908.

Death records can be a great place to start researching family history because they can be one of the most comprehensive record of information about the person when they passed. The death record index and Statement & Report of Deaths typically includes the following information: name, date of death, condition (married, single, widowed), age, place of death, place of birth, occupation, father & mother’s names, race, cause of death, place of residence, and who reported the death. Having all of this information in one place can easily direct researchers to their next destination of records. For instance if you know your great grandmother passed away in Warren County but are unsure of her place of birth these records can provide that information. Another useful type of family research that can be obtained from these records is family medical history.  You can track such genetic health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, cancer, etc.

Tracking the causes of death within a county is fascinating, especially if you survey this information chronologically. The causes of death become more detailed and complex as medical knowledge advanced throughout the decades. In one year you could have the cause of death listed as “kidney disease” and a few years later it is listed as “Bright’s Disease” which shows the isolation of a  type of kidney disease. You can also track the transition of what certain illnesses were reported, i.e. when influenza was previously listed as La Grippe. This also varied according to the physician or individual who reported the death. The introduction of new technology also introduced new causes of death such as “killed by cars” or “killed on railroad”.

The images below represent examples of how these records can be used. The first images include a township that kept useful comprehensive records with all of the requested information. In the next 2 images these show the first recorded death by “flux” also known as “dysentery” in the year 1868. Following this initial case there were 28 sub sequential deaths caused by the spread of dysentery throughout the county.

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Salem Township Statement of Deaths, 1887

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Salem Township Statement of Deaths, 1887

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Salem Township Statement of Deaths, 1887

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Warren County Death Record, 1867-1881

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Warren County Death Record, 1867-1888