The most common sources for death information are
death certificates, obituaries, and a grave markers.
I try to obtain all three sources if they
are available. In the absence of those three, I will use any other records
I can come up with including compiled cemetery records, compiled
funeral home records, oral family history, etc.
Any source for death information,
including each of the three primary sources
for death information, has the possibility of providing
incorrect information. For example,
death certificates and grave markers can contain birth dates that are
I always try to remember these potential
problems when I am recording deaths and their sources.
Death sources can usually serve also as burial sources. I transcribe
death certificates and obituaries into the Death Note field in RootsMagic.
See the burial section of this page for information on how grave marker
transcriptions are handled.
I list death places in RootsMagic as something like
St. Mary's Hospital,
Knoxville, Knox County, Tennessee. If there is no
city or other political subdivision at that level of the place
hierarchy, then I list death places in RootsMagic as something
like St. Mary's Hospital,
Knox County, Tennessee
I enter all the place data into
RootsMagic's place field, including a hospital name or other
more specific place of death. RootsMagic offers
a Place Detail field to contain a more specific place of death,
but the Place Detail field
is unlikely to be recognized by any third party genealogy software that
reads RootsMagic's database or that process a GEDCOM file exported
I spell out the name of the state, and I omit the country when the country
is the United States of America.
I include the word County or Parish
as appropriate for locations in the United States of America.
I usually the place name as it was at the time of death. For example,
what was St. Mary's Hospital at the time of death
may now be known as St. Mary's Medical Center or
Tennova Regional Medical Center.
Whenever possible, I obtain an image of death certificate as a source for each
death. It is not always possible to do so because many deaths in my database
took place before death certificates were routinely issued. And for
recent deaths, privacy considerations and state laws sometimes
prevent the release
of death certificates to anyone who is not a close family member.
I store all death certificates in a folder called
under a folder called rm_media.
The file name for a death certificate would typically look something like
The file name includes last name, first name, and type
of document. This naming convention makes it relatively easy to find
specific death certificates in the list of file names.
If I can't obtain an actual death certificate, I will use
a death index record of some kind until I can obtain the death
certificate. Originally, I did not include the year of death in the
file name, but I'm beginning to do so to be sure I can distinguish
the death certificates from similarly named individual. The file name
reflects the individual's name as it appear on the death certificate,
not their name at birth.
I link each image of a death certificate to a separate Master Source
in RootsMagic. This procedure is somewhat unorthodox and is often described
as being extreme splitting of sources. The Master Source names for a death
certificate would typically look something like the following.
*death certificate: Bray, Joseph R.;
Certificate 61767; Dallas, Dallas County, Texas, 1981;
ancestry.com (Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982);
viewed 25 September 2014
*death index: Bray, Charles L;
Los Angeles County, California, 1974;
www.ancestry.com (California, Death Index, 1940-1997);
viewed 23 December 2015
This naming convention makes it relatively easy to find
specific Master Sources in the list of Master Sources in RootsMagic.
Most of the Master Source name is derived via a copy and paste from
the Footnote Sentence that RootsMagic produces for the source, so there is
not all that much typing involved to produce the Master Source name. Also,
I produce each new Master Source by first copying an existing one. So the
copy provides a model for each new Master Source that I create. The Master
Source name within RM itself is a single string of letters that fits in
one line, but the length of the name makes it necessary to break it into
multiple lines on this Web page.
I transcribe each death certificate. I enter the transcription into
the Note for the Death Fact in RootsMagic, and also into the Source Text
field under the Master Text tab for the Master Source in RootsMagic.
I use user defined Source Template in RootsMagic to format the
footnote sentence for each death certificate. The footnote sentence is as
follows: Death <[DeathRecordType]|Record>: [DeceasedName:Reverse];< Certificate [DeathCertificateNumber]; >[DeathPlace], [DeathYear]< [WhereViewed]; viewed [WhenViewed]>.