Thursday, February 5, 2015

Web Searches and Iowa Death Certificates

Not every piece of genealogical information can be found online but knowing how to do a good web search, having patience and persistence can lead you in the right direction.

I decided to track down the death certificates of some of my ancestors. I did a search for Iowa Death Certificates and found the IAGENWEB Quick Reference to: County Vital Records found here:

Clicking on Lee County brought me to the Lee County IAGenWeb page:

There is a link in the bottom right corner of the page for "Vital Records", which goes here:

I then click the link for Death Records, leading here:

There is then a link to the Lee County Death Certificate Index 1919 - 1933:

At the end of the text at the top of the page is a link to the State Historical Society of Iowa Archive Collections:

At the bottom of that page is a link to County Death Certificates:

As it shows in the link, this is not just the death certificates. They also have birth and marriage records from this page. This page notes "Uncertified copies of death certificates included in the above county indexes may be ordered from the Research Center in Des Moines, 600 East Locust St., Des Moines, Iowa 50319. The cost is $7.50 for each certificate; to be paid in advance. Please include the following information for all death certificates requested: Name of the deceased, Date of death, County, Certificate number, Box number."

I was then able to click the dropdown arrow and select Lee County (July 1919-1938) and click the GO button.

Following all of these steps finally brought me to the information I was searching for:

An Adobe pdf document listing the death certificates from this timeframe that are available to order. In this list, I was able to find my great-grandfather, Charles E. Miller, Born October 7, 1852 in Germany and died October 20, 1923 and another great-grandfather, Thomas Doran, born December 16, 1857 and died December 1, 1936. Thomas Doran's birth date did not match what I had but the death date was correct so I'm sure this is the correct person. Each entry lists the certificate number and the numbered box that it is located in.

I composed a letter to the Historical Society of Iowa requesting these two death certificates. I received a letter from them today. In the envelope were the death certificates for Charles E. Miller and Esther A. Bond of Keokuk, Iowa. I know I requested Thomas Doran's death certificate and I don't know who Esther Bond is. I looked at what I requested and verified I asked for the correct certificate. When they put together my reply, they weren't careful and grabbed someone else's death certificate. The letter included a phone number, which I called and left a voicemail, explaining the situation. Within a couple of hours, I received an email with a scan of Thomas Doran's death certificate.

Esther Bond's Death Certificate - Sent unintentionally. If you are related to Esther Bond, please use this as you see fit.

Charles E. Miller's Death Certificate - It tells me his address, the cause of death and a bit of information about his career but unfortunately didn't provide anything that will help in our genealogical search.

Thomas Doran's Death Certificate - This tells us that his birth date was December 16, 1857 and his place of birth was Brooklyn, New York. This is new information! Is it correct? It might be and is one more piece of information about Thomas that we can use for further research.

What's the lesson? You can't expect to find the information you're looking for with just a quick web search. My initial search led me to one page, which didn't contain the information but linked to another page, which also didn't contain the information, which linked to another page and so on. Eventually, with determination, you just may find an address you can write a postal letter to in order to obtain the information you're looking for. As much as I wish everything was online and available to find with a quick web search, it is not. The good news is that we are slowly getting there. I believe that in a decade or so, we will probably be able to do quick web searches and relatively quickly obtain the exact information we're looking for. More and more organizations are putting their databases and images online, both for free and for a monetary charge. It's taking a while to get there but I believe eventually we will arrive at the point where anyone can find their genealogical information relatively quickly and easily online.

And always remember that we're dealing with human beings who make mistakes. Have patience good things can happen.


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