I often smile when I hear someone say, “She said her parents were [fill in the blank] on her death certificate. Well, no… She didn’t give the information on her death certificate. When you are evaluating death certificates, no matter what country, always look for the informant. The errors on death certificates are amazing, and they may be the least accurate of all documents. However, all the information may be correct, you just can’t assume that until you research it out.
If the informant was the spouse, then you would think the information would be correct. Well, again, not so simple. Some families never talked about the past, a spouse may be elderly who gave the information, the spouse may be distraught at the death, or perish the thought – the spouse may not have cared one way or another! There’s any number of reasons why spouses gave wrong information.
When children give information, it can be even worse. All the above reasons are still valid, however all the fact the child is removed from their parent’s birth place and their grandparent’s names. They may have never met their grandparents. So be careful if a child gives the information. Now saying this it is interesting when a daughter gives information about her mother’s birth and parents. This can be correct, especially if the daughter lived at home and took care of her mother. The same is often true with daughter-in-laws, although the accuracy is removed even further.
Now when a funeral director, next-door-neighbor, hospital worker or doctor provides the information, then watch out. This is when information can become bizarre.
The rule of thumb on judging for accuracy on death certificates is who gave the information. It’s only as good as the person gave it!
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Irish Genealogical Society International: www.irishgenealogical.org I write articles for their journal The Septs
Kelowna & District Genealogical Society located in beautiful British Columbia: www.kdgs.ca I will be speaking at their conference in September
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