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Robin Foster is a 2008 award-winning independent book publishing consultant at Heritage Makers, Inc. She has been researching her family history and helping others to document their ancestors since 1985. She is currently a columnist for Examiner.com, where she shares her knowledge about genealogy, social media, and African American History. Be sure to visit and subscribe to her articles so that you do not miss the resources and strategies shared on a regular basis.

Robin presents regularly at libraries and genealogical societies and has extensive knowledge about Southern historical resources in the US. FOLLOW ROBIN:

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1. Missing on the US Census………………………………………………………………4 2. Death indexes and death certificates…………………………………………….6 3. Newspaper obituaries……………………………………………………………………8 4. Genealogy websites: How to determine what is online………………..10 5. Funeral programs………………………………………………………………………….12 6. Cemeteries……………………………………………………………………………………14 7. Social Security Death Index…………………………………………………………..16 8. Funeral homes……………………………………………………………………………..18 9. Online historical newspapers……………………………………………………….20 10. Google Search..…………………………………………………………………………..22 11. Missing on the city directory……………………..……………………………….24

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Taking the census / after sketch by Thomas Worth. Illus. in: Harper's weekly, 1870 Nov. 19, p. 749. LOC.

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Missing on the US Census
As you research your ancestors on the US Census every ten years, you may notice that they eventually come up missing in later years. When you are not able to locate them consecutively or they are missing from the family group, consider the possibility that they may have passed away. It would be wise to check local death records. My great grandmother, Lula Vance, was documented in 1880 through 1900 living in Abbeville and Greenwood Counties in South Carolina. By 1910 she was married and had moved twice. In 1920, she was living with her husband, Rev. Lafayette Franklin Vance, but according to the US Census in 1930, Lafayette had a different wife, Martha. I figured Lula had passed away prior to 1930, however, I needed to prove it. The last residence for Lafayette was Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina. I decided to check the Richland County Library’s Online Obituary Index. I found four different obituaries for Lula for August 1927. You can learn more about newspaper obituaries on page 8. The best way that I have found to keep track of ancestors that I want to trace each census year is by using a US Census Tracker. I record each member of the family group on the same sheet, and I enter the age of each person during every census year that I locate them. You can download a US Census Tracker here. Learn more: United States Census

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"South Carolina, Deaths, 1915-1943," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N9V1-J49 : accessed 30 July 2012), Lula Vance, 1927.

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Death indexes and death certificates
A death record is one type of vital record. A death index makes it easier to locate a death certificate for your ancestor. Sometimes you will find vital records databases contain images along with an index. Most of the time you will be able to locate a death index for a state online, but sometimes you may have to use that information to order a copy of the original death certificate. When you discover an index first, always use it to locate an image of the original death certificate. Sometimes an index can be inaccurate, and it usually contains less information than the actual death certificate. If you are not sure where to locate these resources in the area where your ancestor lived, use the Research Wiki to learn how to access death records. Enter the state along with the words “vital records” (Ex. “Illinois Vital Records”) in the search field on this page. Click on the correct result, and you will find an article with a contents box. Select “Death Records” from the contents. In this section, you will learn:  when death records were first recorded for the state  what death records contain  how to access death records Many resources are being made available online. On page 10, we will discuss how to access death records available through online genealogy websites.

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Find A Grave: Christopher (#46903473), Lula Vance

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Newspaper Obituaries
Many libraries make obituary indexes available online. Sometimes it is difficult to navigate to it from the library’s home page. Look for a link to the genealogy or research section of the website. For example, the obituary index for the Richland County Public Library would be found by taking the following path: research & learning > research tools >Genealogy > South Carolina Obituary Resources > Web Site > Richland County Public Library >Online Obituary Index. After you discover the direct link to the index at the library where you need to research, bookmark it. If you cannot find a link to the index from the library home page, you can always contact them for assistance. In most cases, these newspapers have been microfilmed. It is also a good practice to check other local repositories in your area such as university libraries to determine if missing issues or different newspapers exist. Keep in mind that some newspapers which were published during the lifetime of your ancestor may no longer exist. Several different databases link you to historic newspapers online. Sometimes premium newspaper sites can be accessed from home using your local library card. See page 8 to learn more. Four different obituaries were discovered for Lula Johnson Vance of Columbia from information found on her death certificate. They were located using the Online Obituary Index at the Richland County Library (The State and the Palmetto Leader). The Palmetto Leader is an African American newspaper formerly published in Columbia. These obituaries led to the discovery of much more information about Lula and her family, and they are still being used to connect to other resources. One of the shorter obituaries published in The State on August 8, 1927 was uploaded to her

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memorial on Find A Grave. Some of the details learned from Lula’s obituary include:
    

day of the week and part of the day she died husband’s occupation address son’s occupation day of week and place of funeral

FamilySearch.org

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Genealogy websites: How to determine what is online
In Death indexes and death certificates on page 6, we used the Research Wiki to locate death records. Many death records are available on sites such as FamilySearch and Ancestry.com. When you are looking for a specific record type such as a death certificate, it is easiest to search that particular collection instead of searching the entire database for your ancestor. Several free and subscription based collections are already linked to Research Wiki articles. If your ancestor died in North Carolina, and you want to know how to access death records through an online genealogy website, you would search “North Carolina vital records” from any search field on the Research Wiki. In the contents box of the article, look for death records online. For North Carolina, some of the resources for death records are:
    

North Carolina Deaths 1906-1930 -Free North Carolina Deaths and Burials 1898-1994 -Free North Carolina Birth, Marriage and Death at Ancestry.com- ($) Order North Carolina Certificates online -$ North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services: Vital Records - $ It is very helpful to know which sites are free and which are not. Pay close attention to the description of a collection. This will help you to determine if the records cover the year when your ancestor died. Also, sometimes only an index is available. Once you locate the reference to your ancestor on an index and the number of the death certificate, you may either need to order the original from a local repository or access a subscription site. Many local libraries offer free access to subscription sites. You may live near a FamilySearch Center where you may also access databases for no charge. In either case, be sure to call ahead. To find a FamilySearch Center near you, click here. See Top Genealogy Websites for Finding Ancestors in the United States
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Bio

Family Group

Obituary of Emory Wallace Vance, 1901-1973

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Funeral Programs
Funeral programs can be very helpful to you in learning about an ancestor. Many people have historians in the family who collect them. Older programs can be help you understand how you are related to extended family members. Most funeral programs provide the names of an ancestor’s parents, spouse, and siblings, and I have used them many times to locate family groups on the census. I have learned the surnames of female ancestors and birth places that I could not find anywhere else. The funeral program has often been the first clue to help me locate a death certificate or a burial site. I discovered several people in my family who collected funeral programs, and they were willing to share copies with me. Funeral programs can be quite elaborate these days, and even those that were created for your collateral line can lead you to resources to document an ancestor. In several cases, family members used the same funeral homes, churches, and cemeteries. Libraries have begun to recognize the value of collecting funeral programs. I had the opportunity to browse the obituary collection at Richland County Public Library where I did find obituaries of extended family that I did not have. Check the local library where your ancestor lived. If they do not have a collection, perhaps they will start one. See these examples:
African American Funeral Programs from the East Central Georgia Regional Library Indiana African American Genealogy Group Funeral Program Project Birmingham Public Library Funeral Programs

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Seekwell Baptist Church Cemetery, Maybinton, Newberry County, South Carolina

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Cemeteries
I have used several different strategies for locating cemeteries. Some ancestors have died before death certificates were required. I traced my 2nd great grandfather, Anderson Chick, up to the 1900 US Census. In 1910, my 2nd great grandmother, Elenia Coleman Chick, was listed with her children but her husband was not there. Death certificates for Newberry County, South Carolina begin in 1915. I knew that Anderson probably did not have a death certificate. I interviewed his granddaughter who was born nearby in Buffalo, Union County, SC. She said they attended Maple Ridge Baptist Church and visited Seekwell Baptist Church in Maybinton, Newberry County quite frequently. I discovered there was a cemetery at Seekwell from a death certificate for Elenia that listed Seekwell Baptist Church Cemetery as her burial site. I was so excited. I had never been to South Carolina, but I arranged to meet another granddaughter who would show me how to get there. The cover photo of this e-book is the first photograph I took on the property that day. Anderson and Elenia share a headstone, and I learned that Anderson died in 1903. Never overlook the details you can learn from oral history. These are other resources that can help you find a cemetery:
United States Geological Survey (USGS) Geographic Names Information System – See The Digital Cemetery Find A Grave Billion Graves Historic maps - Survey maps, district maps, plat maps, archived maps Google Maps or aerial maps Follow the land (land records, tax, census) - These records can help you determine possible

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cemeteries where an ancestor may be buried.

Social Security Death Index at FamilySearch.org

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Social Security Death Index
The Social Security Death Index has helped me to locate information about ancestors who died after the time period covered by death indexes and death certificates made available online. If you do not have any idea when or where an ancestor died, you may find them among over 76 million records in this index especially if they died after 1972. See Social Security Index: Record Description. My grandfather, Emory Wallace Vance died in 1973, and I was fortunate to find him in the Social Security Index because I would have not found a record of his death online any other way.

"United States Social Security Death Index," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JPNV-7P6 :

accessed 20 July 2012), Emory Vance, 1973.

After you locate your ancestor on the SSDI, you can use it to obtain a copy of the full application where you can learn much more about your ancestor including:
  

Your ancestor’s full name Your ancestor’s birth date and place Your ancestor’s parent’s names and mother’s maiden name.
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If you have not been able to find this information any other way, the small expense required may help your research a great deal. To learn more, see: Social Security Records for Genealogists.

Minor-Morris Funeral Home, Joliet, Illinois

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Funeral Homes
Perhaps you have no idea when or where an ancestor died. Maybe the funeral home that serviced your family is still in existence. You might be able to locate it in this online funeral home directory: Funeral Home Resource. If it is not listed there, contact funeral homes nearby to see if there was ever a merger or if they would know where older records are kept. I have also had success in these ways: 1. Search historic newspapers to find advertisements for funeral homes or obituaries that mention funeral homes in the area where your ancestor lived. 2. Contact local historical societies to learn about local historic cemeteries and local sextons. 3. Check the local history sections of the county or parish library or local societies for cemetery books. 4. Find out what church your ancestor attended, and ask who has handled member’s burials in the past. Information gleaned from funeral home records when accessible and preserved can be a great substitute for death certificates especially since many pre-date the period when death certificates were first recorded. Some of the details that you may learn from funeral home records are:

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   

who paid for the funeral obituary or death certificate may be on file ancestor’s birth, death, burial information ancestor’s parents, spouse, siblings

What you & your friends shae Narrow your results

Google Search: death records genealogy

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Google Search
Google is one of the most commonly used search engines for genealogical research. Google has even tailored the search experience so that you get results that are more relevant to you. See the following video: Search, plus Your World. You can easily narrow your search results using the links on the left side. Some of the searches that I use commonly are:  Maps  News  Books With so many genealogists and family historians sharing resources online, you never know who you might connect with that shares common ancestors or helpful strategies. I have made great connections through Google Search. More great resources can be found on the drop down menu under “More” at the top:
Blog Search Reader Google+

Ironically, it has been Google searches that have led me to obituaries of family members that I had not known were deceased. This happened quite a bit before I met extended family members. While looking for historical records for ancestors online, I started finding recent obituaries of their children because usually obituaries list the parents. This is one way I was able to locate the whereabouts of descendants and determine their
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relationship to me. Once you have researched for any length of time, you learn that you may not always be able to find documentation on your ancestor. It helps to know the names of siblings or cousins who you can research to link to the previous generation. Just recently, I discovered estate sales in a local paper that also listed the Personal Representative is a relative. I was able to obtain the contact information of the descendant of a cousin whose obituary I also discovered online. See Public Notices from the Columbia Star.
To discover more see, Top Genealogy Websites for Finding Ancestors in the United States.

Chronicling America

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Online Historical Newspapers
Chronicling America is a helpful site for determining if historic newspapers exist for the area where your ancestor lived. Search the American Newspaper Directory at Chronicling America to discover newspapers which were published from 1690 to the present and where to access them. The site is free and many newspapers are searchable there. If you have searched to no avail to document an ancestor, you may find success by simply browsing the articles published in newspapers in the locality where your ancestor lived. It may help you find clues as you become familiar with the events, people, and organizations from newspaper articles. Our ancestors are more than just names and dates. They lived lives and interacted in their communities. Historic newspapers exist when historical records become scarce. You never know what details will provide the clues you need. If you knew your family attended certain churches or schools in an area, search through the articles that relate. You may find important connections to people or learn of record collections that you have not yet considered. Remember that more recent newspapers are accessible online too, and they are often categorized apart from historic newspapers. You may be able to access both types online from home through your local library. Keep in mind that some newspapers which were published during the lifetime of your ancestor may no longer exist. Other online Historic newspaper databases include: Accessible Archives, GenealogyBank, and NewsBank. To learn more tips about researching newspapers, see: United States Newspapers.

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City directories are a great supplement to the US Census in researching an ancestor who lived in an area where city directories were published. Several brothers and sisters of the Johnson and Vance families in Greenwood County, South Carolina intermarried. Most of the siblings in both families moved away and settled elsewhere. I lost track of them after 1900 in Greenwood, and the only clue I had was that some of my family moved to Columbia. Frustrated, my search had taken me from Abbeville to Union. The only way I was able to document my family consecutively was by searching them between census years in the city directories. I found my great grandfather, Lafayette in Laurens County on the 1910 US Census. I continued to trace him in Laurens County where I found him to the 1917 Clinton City Directory with my great grandmother, Lula:

“1930 Clinton City Directory,” (Lafayette F. Vance) page 233, Laurens County Public Library.

By 1920, I had lost everyone again. I consulted the city directories in the Walker Local History Room, of the Richland County Public Library in Columbia. In doing

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so, the whole world opened to me. I traced each city directory looking for and Lafayette and his siblings. I finally located his brother, Calvin and his wife. I discovered the city directories listed not only the head of household, but they also listed the spouses and their occupations along with adult children. I found Lafayette listed in the 1930 Columbia City Directory. Other members of the Vance family and their residences were also recorded:

“1930 Columbia City Directory,” Columbia Colored Population, (Lafayette F. Vance, Martha), Richland County Public Library.

This is where I noticed my great grandmother, Lula was no longer listed. I checked the Richland County Public Library Online Obituary Index and discovered an obituary which led me to her death certificate. I then knew she had died on August 5, 1927. Both the newspaper obituary and the death certificate state that she was buried in the Historic Randolph Cemetery. Unfortunately, this cemetery was vandalized by grave robbers in later years, and these two documents are the only evidence I have that she may have been buried there.

From Robin: Hopefully, this e-book will be helpful to you. I would love to have your feedback. I am sure it is not completely without errors; that is why I am counting on you to share your thoughts so the final edition can stand on its own. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you!

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