AncestorNews: Death Certificates

By Nancy Hendrickson Premium

If you haven’t sent away for family death certificates, you are missing a chance to break through a brick wall. One of my longest-running challenges was to track down my great-great-grandfather, John Hendrickson. After years of research, I got a break after ordering my great-grandfather’s (James Hendrickson) death certificate. The one clue that helped the most was the maiden name of James’ mother (and John’s wife), Hatton, and that she was from Indiana.

Using that tidbit, I searched Indiana marriage records, and sure enough, found the records for Lydia Hatton and John Hendricks. A bit more scouting around proved that John Hendricks, was my John Hendrickson. I still had a lot of research to do, but the information on James’ death certificate got me started in the right direction.

Death, marriage, birth and divorce records are known as vital records. They play a critical role in genealogical research because they are the official documentation of our lives. Vital records contain important names and dates, and are among the most important documents in our research.

To learn more about vital records, and where to find them, we’ve gathered these resources:

&#149 Where to obtain vital records

&#149 Death Records

&#149 Vital Records

&#149 Where to write for vital records

&#149 Links to Vital Records Information

Nancy Hendrickson is a contributing editor for Family Tree Magazine. She also is a family historian, freelance writer and the author of two astronomy books. Her Web site is at E-mail her at