What can a death certificate tell you?

When doing genealogy research, I find that the death certificate provides a wealth of information.  I will actually look for this document first when starting on a person’s history.  If it is filled out completely, it can provide many leads.

There are 5 pieces of information that a death certificate can provide:

  1. Last address.  For those of you that have not discovered “Street View” in Google maps, check it out. Most of the time there will be a picture for the address you type into the search field.  Why am I telling you this?  The death certificate sometimes lists the home address of the deceased relative.  You can search the address to see if the home is still standing and what it looks like.
  2. Name of funeral home.  This can prove to be helpful in certain situations.  For instance, my great, great grandmother did not have a death date on her tombstone.  I could not find an obituary or death certificate for her either.  The family had all used the same funeral home, according to their death certificates.  I visited the funeral home and they found the burial records for my great, great grandmother.  I was able to complete that portion of my research because her death date was now known.
  3. Clues to family members.  There are several sections of the death certificate that can provide clues to family members.  The father and mother’s names are the most valuable, in my opinion.  This can provide the maiden name of the deceased, if she is a female. The mother’s maiden name may be listed as well. Unfortunately, this part of the death certificate is not always filled out and may be left blank.  The informant name can also lead to family members.  Sometimes the informant can be the wife, brother, sister, or their children.
  4. Name of cemetery.  The name of the cemetery can come in handy, if you want to visit the tombstone.I recommend taking a picture because future weathering of the stone can cause dates and names to be unreadable.
  5. Cause of death. For those of you who want to add to family medical records or if you are just curious, the death certificate provides a cause of death.  This can validate family stories about how someone passed away or answer why someone died at a young age.


I have had so many questions answered by death certificates.  Do you have any stories of how a death certificate helped lead you to answers about your family history?