A Death certificate is one of the trio of documents that forms the building blocks of your family history. Along with Birth and Marriage certificates, Death certificates can provide the most basic details enabling you to identify family members, but without really fleshing out the details of their lives.
This Death certificate, that I will walk you through, is for my 2x Great grandmother, Claris Isobel Martin:
First off, under the official crest etc, the certificate shows the district in which the death was registered and the year, in this case, Staines in 1946.
The columns then go on to show the date and place of death. Depending on where the person died, this could show you where the deceased was living at that time, possibly allowing you to narrow down a corresponding census entry. Obviously if they died in a hospital then this could be less useful!
Next come the name, sex and age of the deceased. The age can be particularly useful if you are not sure of when the deceased was born. This certificate shows that Claris was 85 years old, so enabled me to narrow down her birth to sometime circa 1861.
The next column shows the deceased’s occupation. In the case of a male, it would show an occupation but, as Claris obviously didn’t work, it just shows her as the widow of James Martin, and his occupation of railway clerk. If you had any queries over the identity of a spouse, then this column would be useful.
The next shows the cause of death, in this case it is nothing out of the ordinary for a woman of her age, so no suspicious circumstances there!
The next column shows the name of the person who registered the death of the deceased and, in this case, it shows that Claris’ death was registered by S. Martin – my Great Grandfather and tells you his address. As this entry is from 1946 there is no census to marry it up against, but if you’ve got a death certificate from earlier that 1911, this may help you with that.
As I said, the BMD certificates are the basic building blocks of family history and can potentially take you right back to 1837, the beginning of civil registration and I’ll explain how to order copies of these certificates in my ‘G’ post.