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As I mentioned in a previous post, 1928 was rough for my West family. Their patriarch had died the year before, and their matriarch and two sons – including my Papa Ed’s father – all died in 1928. We’ve had years like that in my lifetime, so I know they were not happy campers back in 1928. Surely good things were in store for 1929…!

Oh wait.

Hooray for Death Records!

For the researcher in me, though, this terrible year was a bit of good fortune. (I’m sorry, ancestors!) The state of Georgia started requiring registration of all deaths in 1919. (Some counties were registering deaths as early as 1875, but your mileage may vary there.) As you can guess, registering deaths was probably seen as another bureaucratic takeover attempt by government (sigh) so many counties didn’t comply until 1928. Still, this means that death certificates are available for some of my ancestors as early as about 1914, and that’s awesome because death records tell us lots of cool stuff. Including but not limited to:

  • Full name
  • Birth and death date
  • Birth and death place
  • Spouse’s name
  • Parents’ names (even mother’s maiden name!)
  • Parents’ birth places
  • Cause of Death
  • A close family member (often in the form of whoever reported the death and signed the certificate)

They’re a veritable treasure trove of information, especially if your person was really, really old and and their early records are hard to find. Also if they were a lady. Because we ladies really get shafted by history with the whole name change thing and are hard to trace. (Caveat: Keep in mind that the person filing out the death certificate may not be all that well-informed. Non-genealogists, if your great-grandma or neighbor died suddenly would you be able to report her maiden name and her parents full names and her MOM’s maiden name and where she was born? Exactly.)

Georgia Death Certificates from 1918-1927 are easily findable online through a free search at FamilySearch.org. But what isn’t as readily apparent is that Georgia Death Certificates from 1928-1930 are also online at the Georgia Archives. They’re just a little hard to find.

How to Find Georgia State Death Certificates from 1928, 1929 & 1930 Online

So here’s what you do:

1. Click over to to the Virtual Vault site at the Georgia Archives. Behold all the cool stuff there. Try not to get lost.

2. Click Georgia Non-Indexed Death Certificates. (I could have linked you straight to this but I wanted you to see all the awesome stuff in the Virtual Vault.)

3. Read the dang instructions.

4. Or I’ll summarize them for you: First, pick the year you want to search from the “Year” dropdown menu. Second, from “Record Type” dropdown menu, pick “Index.” You’ll have to manually navigate over to the surname you are searching. For example, it will say “1928 Index A” and that will mean surnames that begin with A. It isn’t entirely intuitive.

1928 Index A = A Surnames

1928 Index A = A Surnames

5. Once you find your ancestor, jot down the number next to their name. (You don’t need to worry about the letter.) That will be their death certificate number.

6. From there, navigate back to the search page. This time, pick the same year in the “Year” dropdown, but pick “Certificate” in the “Record Type” dropdown. From there, you’ll once again have to manually navigate until you find the record number you jotted down.

This number indicates records numbered 1 through 100

This number indicates records numbered 1 through 100

7. And viola! There is your ancestors death certificate. Try to decipher his or her cause of death and then not immediately diagnose yourself with early signs of dropsy or Spanish influenza or whatever. I dare you!

Stacking Georgia Death Certificates

And hey, guess what? Georgia Death Certificates from 1931 to 1937 are also available to the public now. But you have to drive to the Georgia Archives in Morrow, GA to get access to them. And thanks to budget cuts, the archives are now only open on Fridays and Saturdays. (I do plan to make a trip soon, and am available for lookup requests there, so let me know!)

If you know of an ancestor or relative who died between 1914 and 1930, it’s worth it to look them up in the Georgia Death Records. The more actual documentation you can get about your relative the better, and you may even get a shock… Like my poor great-great-uncle who died from a light bulb spark/lightning strike…

John M. West's Death Certificate, Courtesy of the Georgia Archives

John M. West’s Death Certificate, Courtesy of the Georgia Archives

While you’re at the Georgia Archives site, check out “Vanishing Georgia” for old pictures, sorted by county. I dig this one of Forsyth County Georgia ladies playing croquet. My ancestors would have been the ones with horse poop on their shoes growing the food for their post-croquet banquet.

Happy detecting!