Birth records are wonderful, but they don’t always give us the complete picture of the family. There could be children listed without first names (which can make it harder to find them in a search). There’s also the sad reality that some infants who were stillborn or who died shortly after birth weren’t recorded in the births.
So how do we look for people when we don’t know their names, or when they are missing from the birth records? One strategy is to use death records.
Why Use Death Records to Fill in the Gaps
Death records give us another opportunity to take a look for someone. When the records list the parents’ names, it opens up a new way to search for a person even if we don’t know that person’s name. This strategy also works well for finding those daughters who we think got married, but we don’t know to whom.
I went into the Kentucky, Death Records, 1852-1963 collection on Ancestry. This collection includes the names of the parents. Since that information is indexed, I did a search without filling in the name of the deceased. Instead, I searched just by the names of the parents, George and Caroline Martin.
I got three results – two married females and a male (Sherd) whose surname was indexed as “Hartin.” (On his death certificate, the name was typed and the top corner of the M is missing.) All three death certificates list the parents as George Martin and Caroline Frazier.
Searching with just the parents’ names can also reveal children who were born and died between census years. Searching in the Kentucky death records for father Gilbert Abner and mother Ada revealed two children: McKinley, who was born in 1915 and died 26 October 1918, along with Minnie, who was born in 1913 and died a few days after McKinley.
Tips for Searching by Parents’ Names
When you’re in a collection of death records and you’re searching by parents’ names, you should try a variety of searches. The parents’ names could be recorded any number of ways, especially the mother’s name. Her surname might be recorded as her maiden name, her married name, or left blank. This is why my first search is with father’s full name and just the mother’s first name.
Because of all of the variations of how the parents’ names might be recorded, try different searches using:
- Father’s full name and just the mother’s first name
- Father’s full name and just the mother’s maiden name (first name blank)
- Just the father’s surname and the mother’s maiden name
Of course, there will be instances where the person giving the information was completely wrong about the parents’ names. However, this strategy of searching just with their names can help you discover children who were previously unknown as well, and possibly find the deaths of those married daughters.