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Beginning Genealogy, Family History Research, Featured, Let's Talk Records

Where a Death Certificate Can Lead

Robin Foster
by Robin Foster
4 November 2016

When you begin researching, one of the first events that you should look to document is the most recent in your ancestor’s life. The most common recent events are death and burial. In South Carolina, you can access death certificates online from 1915-1961, and Charleston City death records cover 1821-1914. The challenge is knowing how to use the information on the death certificate to connect to other records. Follow along below as we extract information from the death certificate of Joseph (Joe) Barnett who died on January 1, 1944.

Death Certificate of Joe Barnett, 1944.

Ancestry.com. South Carolina, Death Records, 1821-1961 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.

The first information that you can glean from this death certificate is that Joe lived in Charleston on 37 Hanover Street with his wife, Annie. Joe died 4 years after the 1940 Census. It can be pretty tempting to want to follow Joe back on each census because he supposedly was born around 1875, but you should stick with learning the dynamics of this family group first.

We can learn a lot about a person from studying the relationships in a family group using records that document them. A search for Joe and Annie on the 1940 Census in Charleston reveals the names of 2 sons and a grandson living at the same address:
• Joseph Barnett, 71
• Annie Barnett, 42 (wife)
• Jervey Barnett, 23 (son)
• Willie Barnett, 21 (son)
• Joseph Richardson, 9 (grandson)

Joseph Barnett, 1940 Census

Household of Joseph Barnett, 1940 U.S. Census

“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-27893-5029-2?cc=2000219 : accessed 19 February 2016), South Carolina > Charleston > Charleston City, Charleston, Ward 10 > 10-42 Charleston City Ward 10 > image 51 of 68; citing NARA digital publication T627 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012).

While you cannot tell who the parents of Joseph Richardson are, you can tell by the ages of sons Jervey and Willie that they should appear on the 1930 Census:
• Joseph Barnett, 47
• Anna Barnett, 26 (wife)
• Jervy Barnett, 14 (son)
• William Barnett, 11 (son)

“When you begin researching, one of the first events that you should look to document is the most recent in your ancestor’s life. The most common recent events are death and burial.”

Household of Joseph Barnett, 1930 U.S. Census

“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-22842-2138-14?cc=1810731 : accessed 19 February 2016), South Carolina > Charleston > Charleston > ED 42 > image 7 of 41; citing NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002).

So where is Joseph Richardson?
A quick search through the Charleston City Directory shows a listing for a Richardson family living on the same street (Holmes) as Joseph Barnett:

James Richardson 1930 City Directory

Joseph Richardson, 1930 City Directory, Charleston, SC.

Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

At first glance, you do not see, grandson Joseph Richardson near his grandparents on the 1930 Census, and you do not see him if you scan the entire page. If you look at the next page, however, you will see him listed with his parents among other residents living on Holmes Street:
• James Richardson, 21
• Janie Richardson, 20 (wife)
• Joseph Richardson, 1 (son)

Joseph Richardson, 1930 Census

Joseph Richardson, 1930 U.S. Census

“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-22842-2031-20?cc=1810731 : accessed 19 February 2016), South Carolina > Charleston > Charleston > ED 42 > image 8 of 41; citing NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002).

Sharpen the Saw

There are other great details on this death certificate like the names of Joseph’s parents and where they were born. Now it is your turn! Choose a detail from the death certificate, and use it to find a record. Share your results in the comments below, so that others can learn along with you.

About Robin Foster

Robin Foster has been researching and helping people discover and share information about their ancestors since 1985 and as a blogger and freelancer, she has worked to heighten awareness of genealogical and historical resources through social media. She has worked as as a FamilySearch Missionary from May 2007 until July 2013. Robin is a HubSpot certified Inbound Marketer. She was selected as Family Tree Magazine’s “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow” in 2014.

Putting forth a great pioneering effort to share her knowledge on social platforms not originally used to disseminate genealogical information, she was among the first to use Pinterest for genealogy and was interviewed by Madame Noire, “Tech Talk: Pinterest Gains Ground with African-American Women.” Robin is co-owner of GenealogyJustAsk.com, and she has helped to build Genealogy! Just Ask Facebook groups with the main group having more than 27,000 members.

Robin is a member of the South Carolina Genealogical Society – Columbia Chapter, and has presented for the following chapters: Anderson, Pinckney, Greenville, Columbia. She has presented at the Annual Summer Workshop of the South Carolina Genealogical Society held at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History and the Charleston SC Family History Workshop. Some recent presentation venues include: the Wisconsin Black Historical Society (Milwaukee), Lakelands Lifelong Learning (Greenwood), the Lower Richland Heritage and Genealogy Society (Columbia), Historic Columbia, and the Indianapolis African American Genealogy Group. Robin was previously a volunteer at the Greenwood County Library in the Lawrence Family History and Genealogy Room and the family history director of the Greenwood Family History Center.

Libraries and museums requesting presentations she honored include: Lexington County Public Library (Cayce Branch), Union Carnegie Library, Richland Library (Main), and Union County Museum. Robin served in FamilySearch.org Support from 2005 until 2014.
Robin was a freelance writer for Examiner.com from June 2010 until July 10, 2016 until they abruptly shut down. One of the five titles she wrote for was National Genealogy Examiner.

Blogs:

Genealogy is a Trip (New blog covering recent genealogy trips.) 

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