Tim's Terrific Tips--Death Information


Copyright 1996
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Remember, some records refer to burial dates rather than death dates. In the old days people were usually buried within 1-3 days. Remember, they didn't have embalming then, so they weren't going to let the bodies sit around a long time.

The dates on tombstones are often expressed in born and died dates or death date and age. I usually just use a month=30 days and seem to get the right date without actually looking at how many days are in each month. The birth dates on the tombstones are often a little off from the baptismal record. I usually expect no more than one thing to be off though - day, month or year. If you have to start really altering the dates, you better recheck something. Still, it's better to actually visit the cemetery, if possible, and take a picture of the (now deteriorating) tombstone. You may find that the date was originally copied and recopied wrong!! It's really neat to look at the old stones with the old artwork. It sort of reflects the atmosphere of the time. I figure that other than us, they didn't leave a lot around other than the tombstones they bought, so I take the time to check them out. If they were happy leaving their names in a book only, they needn't spend time on those fancy stones.

Many of the old stones are gone. A lot of the records came from a government project in the early 1900's (finally something useful with my tax dollars!). Anyway, you may find records listing row and column numbers with an index, or simply an alphabetical list. Many times the versions in the books don't include all the relevant information on the tombstones, like where born, number of children, when married, etc.

I haven't found too many places where they actually published a burial map, or some listing of the gravesites. This is more readily available at newer private cemeteries in my experience.

If you don't have PA death certificates for all your ancestors (those born after 1906), get them! They're only a few bucks. For a few more, they'll do 10 year searches. The response time varies a bit. I'd guess they must put them in a queue, and loop through the years to print and send out - just a guess.