Collecting Death Certificates–Payoffs and Pitfalls


Who, what, where and when are key questions that are answered by genealogical records. In the following discussion, we are adding two more questions: why and how.

Who to collect death certificates for:

● Direct ancestors are a top priority.

● Ancillary ancestors are a second priority.

● Obtaining death certificates is becoming more costly. You probably will have to be selective.

What are death records?

● The event in question is a person’s death.

● A death certificate officially documents a person’s death.

● It is recorded by a health department in a local jurisdiction

● Most states required preparing a death certificate beginning early in the 20th century.

● Before death certificates, death records document a person’s death but contain less information.


● You should know where the death occurred.

● Most death certificates are recorded at the county level.

● Some jurisdictions, such as cities, also have agencies that perform recording of death certificates


● This is one of the questions that can be answered by a death certificate

● You can obtain a death certificate within days of a death today

● In Ohio, after 1867, a death record may exist.

● After 1908, there should be a certificate.

● Dates for other states vary.

Why collect death certificates?

● You can gain information about the following from death certificates:

  • Legal name (first, middle and last).
  • Sex.
  • Age.
  • Race.
  • Social Security Number.
  • Date and place of death.
  • Date and place of birth.
  • Most up-to-date address (state, county, city, street address and zip code).
  • Marital status at the time of death.
  • Surviving spouse’s name if applicable (note, if surviving spouse is a wife, the maiden name must be provided).
  • Family history (mother and father’s names, mother’s maiden name).
  • Occupation and type of industry in which the deceased worked.
  • Family history (mother and father’s names, mother’s maiden name).
  • Military involvement (branch, type of discharge, dates served) or copy of DD214.
  • Name of doctor.
  • Informant name, relationship, and address.

● A death certificate may be required for heritage or lineage society applications.

How to find and acquire death certificates includes a couple of steps:

● Check for On-Line death indexes.

Check for available indexes.

Search on

Search on

● Start by searching for decedents in indexes.

● Then write or visit state or local health departments or vital statistics departments. When writing, use an official request form if possible. Check for one on-line.

● If you don’t have an official form, provide decedent’s complete name, and as much other information as possible. Remember, searches cost extra. is a resource for ordering death and other vital records online.


● Death certificates contain much primary and secondary information

● Primary information, such as date of death and burial, should be accurate.

● You may learn information that adds to what you already know, e.g. an immigrant’s home town, or his or her parents’ names.

● Collecting death certificates may be important for constructing a family health history.

● Consult Cyndi’s List for medical dictionaries —


● Some information on a death certificate—especially secondary information—may not be accurate or correct.

● Secondary information includes birth details, names of parents.

● Secondary information should be confirmed with other sources whenever possible.

● In some cases, the informant will state: “Don’t know.”

Causes of Death

● Entered by physician or other medical person.

● In case of accident or crime, a coroner may enter the cause of death

● Some death certificate images have numbers hand-written on them

● These are IDC codes for compiling causes of death by disease

Researching IDC Code Numbers

● Go to the following URL for a table of IDC code numbers

then click on the link for the most relevant Code Revision.

Other Resources

How to Find Ohio Death Records Wiki

Detailed discussion of death certificate resources on FamilySearch and other repositories

Death Certificates in Cuyahoga County

Cleveland Department of Public Health

75 Erieview Plaza, Cleveland, OH 44114

Phone: 216 664-2324

Death Certificates in Ohio
Ohio Department of Health
Center for Vital and Health Statistics
246 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43215
Phone: 614-466-2531

Ohio Death Index

Ohio Department of Health Death Certificates, 1913-1944, 1954-1963

Ohio History Connection
800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus, OH 43211-2474

Phone: 614.297.2300

How to Fill Out a Death Certificate in Ohio

Busch Funeral and Crematory Services


Phone: 1-800-252-8724

Did the Pandemic Kill Christmas Cards?


2020 probably was a terrible year for Christmas Card sales. At least my experience would indicate that is was. I received only 1 Christmas letter this year via the U.S. Postal Service. Ordinarily, I would receive a half dozen letters from family and friends. I received only two Christmas cards, and one was hand-delivered to my mailbox by a neighbor. The other arrived in my mailbox today, Dec. 31, but it was originally postmarked on Dec. 20!

The frequent news reporting about the U.S. Postal Service being so far behind in deliveries no doubt was partly to blame. Who wanted to send out Christmas cards and have them arrive after Christmas?

Also, there probably was some reluctance on the part of some to go out and shop for Christmas cards.

In the matter of postal deliveries, I can report that I was nervous about receiving my auto license renewal sticker. In recent years, I have renewed my Ohio vanity plate via email and that system worked very well.. This year I was required to take my 2015 Honda Odyssey to pass an eCheck for emissions. If you are interested you can go here to learn about Ohio’s eChack program:

Wally Huskonen’s Ohio license plate

My vehicle passed the eCheck and I received the certificate. Now I could have gone to the local license bureau registrar to renew my vehicle registration and receive the license plate sticker. Normally, that would mean going into the registrar’s office and wait for my “number” to be called. With the pandemic protocol in place this year, I would have to stand in line outdoors, which wouldn’t be fun in November or December.

So, I mailed in the renewal form along with the eCheck certificate and my check for the renewal on Nov. 11 to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in Columbus, Ohio. The BMV cashed the check on Dec. 04. The envelope with the sticker didn’t arrive until Dec 23. I’m sure that some of the slow delivery was caused by short staffing at the Ohio BMV due to Covid 19. But the USPS also must share the blame.

Just another concern during the pandemic.

Found! My Military ID Card from 1962


I recently was doing some sorting and disposing of boxes and clutter in the attic. I found a box of black and white negatives for photography that I took in the 1960s. I moved this collection to my craft room for sorting and curating. Will I find some negatives that are worth printing out as photos? I think so — stay tuned.

What I also found in this box is my ID card from serving in the U. S. Coast Guard beginning in January 1962. The front of the ID card is reproduced here:

Coast Guard ID photo, January 1962

Some interesting data is recorded here. For example, the card is good until 28 Sep 1969. My rank is Non-Petty Officer, which covers my actual rank of Seaman Apprentice as the card was created at the beginning of my basic training at Cape May (New Jersey) Coast Guard Training Center <>.

Note also my Service Number: 2052-558. According to several entries in, military service numbers were started in 1918 and continued through until 1974 when all branches of the military (Coast Guard, Army, Navy, and Air Force) transitioned to using Social Security Numbers as identifiers.

The back of my ID card provides more information about me:

Back of Wallace Huskonen’s Coast Guard ID card, January 1962

Here is my birthday, my weight of 184 lb (which I wish I could get back to), and my height of 70 1/2 in. Also, my hair color and eye color, and my blood type.

I had forgotten that I was fingerprinted for the ID card — that is at least the index fingers of both hands. I know that all my fingers were printed when I applied to work on the 2010 census. I wonder if the two fingerprint records were ever matched up. I would guess not.

I will store the ID card safely in my collection of military records, along with my DD214 service record, and upload the two photos to my personal gallery in my family tree on Points to Mayflower Ancestors


Today, I received an email from

“You Have a Mayflower Heritage!

“Discover your Mayflower connection, and learn about the sacrifices your relative made for religious freedom and greater opportunities as he helped shape the new world.”

When I clicked on the View Relationship link, it led me to my relationship with Stephen Hopkins, my 10th great-grandfather. I had previously discovered this relationship late last year during the publicity buildup to the 400-year anniversary in 2020 of the Mayflower’s arrival from England. The FamilySearch message further led me — by clicking on the green arrowheads — to Constance Hopkins, Stephen’s daughter, and Giles Hopkins, his son.

Clicking some more on the arrowheads led me to Thomas Rogers, another 10th great-grandfather, and his son, Joseph Rogers.

The FamilySearch message further indicated that passenger Moses Fletcher was my 12th great-granduncle and that the famous Miles Standish was my second cousin 11 times removed.

My kids and grandkids, of course, share these ancestors, but they also have some other Mayflower ancestry through my late wife Mary Jane Vancourt Huskonen.

The relationships to me are already in place on the FamilySearch community tree. Now I’ll be adding details for these relationships to my family tree on and my genealogy database program RootsMagic.

Binge Watching Life Stories of CNN Personalities


I recently stumbled onto the following series of family history stories. It was broadcast in 2014, but I found it interesting and relevant nevertheless. The link below will give you access if you want to check it out. Note: you will have to endure some commericals.

ROOTS: OUR JOURNEYS HOME” kicks off Sunday, October 12th, with a two-hour primetime special airing Tuesday, October 21st at 9 pm ET

Storytelling is at the core of what CNN does, and in a week-long series beginning Sunday, October 12th, thirteen of the network’s prominent hosts and anchors set out on a journey to find their ROOTS. A project one-year in the making, these journalists embark on an emotional journey across continents as they discover never-before-known details of their family histories.

ROOTS: OUR JOURNEYS HOME will kick-off on Sunday, October 12th at 9 pm ET with a special episode of Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown and will air across the network throughout the week, culminating in a two-hour special on Tuesday, October 21st at 9 pm ET. The following is the broadcast schedule for ROOTS:

SUNDAY 10/12
Anthony Bourdain – (9 pm ET) This investigation into the puzzling history of the Bourdain’s great, great, great, grandfather, Paraguayan émigré Jean Bourdain, serves as a springboard to his first tour of this South American country. In Paraguay, Bourdain explores both jungle and desert land, a rich culture, and savory local dishes that include Bife Koygua, Bori Bori, and Sopa Paraguaya.

MONDAY 10/13
Michaela Pereira – (6am ET on New Day) Michaela Pereira’s adoption journey began when she was very young—just three-months-old in Canada. Although she “hit the jackpot” with her adoptive family, she also knows that much of what you see in front of you—the color of her skin, the curl of her hair—comes from her biological parents. After a brief search years ago led to closed doors, Michaela embarks on her roots journey again—this time not in pursuit of her birth parents, but for the place that her ancestors came from—in St. James Parish, Jamaica.

Anderson Cooper – (8pm ET on AC360) Many people know Anderson Cooper as having come from one of America’s most famous families – the Vanderbilts. But growing up, Anderson was always drawn to the southern roots of his father, Wyatt Cooper. Anderson travels to Mississippi where his father grew up and discovers ties between the poor farming family and the rich Vanderbilts that existed before his parents ever met.

Chris Cuomo – (6 am ET on New Day) The son and brother of two governors of New York, Chris Cuomo thought he knew all there was to know about his roots, but he discovers a mysterious figure, Germana Castaldo, at the heart of it. Chris travels to the bedrock of the Cuomo family in Italy to retrace her steps.

Jake Tapper – (4 pm ET on The Lead) Jake Tapper grew up in Philly, blocks from Independence Hall, steeped in Americana. He was surprised to learn his family members were Colonists. He was even more surprised to learn that, during the Revolutionary War, they were traitors who sided with British and fled to Canada. Jake travels to Canada to unravel the mystery of why his family remained loyal to the Crown, and how that changes his own story.

Erin Burnett – (7 pm ET on Erin Burnett OutFront) After 50 years of living on a farm in Maryland, Erin Burnett’s parents are packing up their memories and moving on. The move prompts Erin to learn more about her roots beyond the home she grew up in and loves so much. Her journey takes her to a remote Scottish island where she uncovers her ancestors’ struggle to survive the potato famine, and meets relatives who still call Scotland home.

Don Lemon – (10 pm ET on CNN Tonight) Because of poor record keeping, it’s nearly impossible for descendants of slaves in America to trace their ancestry past 1870. So CNN’s Don Lemon sets off to find his roots and fill the gaps in his family tree. It’s a journey that takes him from a Louisiana plantation to the hub of the transatlantic slave trade in West Africa.

Christine Romans – (6 am ET on New Day) As a journalist, Christine Romans interviews newsmakers every day. But in her family, the real newsmaker is just an ordinary girl who had the courage to leave a small town in Denmark, and everything she knew, behind to start all over again in America. Christine goes there, to where it all started.

Wolf Blitzer – (5 pm ET on Sit Room) Wolf Blitzer pays a visit to Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum. While there, this son of Holocaust survivors discovers his paternal grandparents actually perished in one of the most brutal extermination camps of WWII, Auschwitz. Wolf returns to his roots in Poland: to visit the camp where more than a million Jews were murdered by the Nazis. He travels to his father’s hometown in the neighboring village, where not one Jew lives today. Wolf also looks for any trace of his maternal grandparents – including his namesake Wolf Zylberfuden – a task made more difficult by a Poland completely rebuilt after the war. Wolf then heads to his own hometown of Buffalo, New York, where his parents managed to start a successful new life in America.

Sanjay Gupta – (8 pm ET on AC360) CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, takes his family half-way around the world to uncover his roots. Their trip, from his mother’s tiny village in Pakistan to his father’s hometown just outside Delhi, is full of surprises. And you won’t believe how mom and dad actually met, right here in America. (re-air Saturday 9/18 at 4:30pm ET on Sanjay Gupta MD)


Kate Bolduan – (6 am ET on New Day) Kate Bolduan just gave birth to her first child, a daughter, so finding out about her family tree comes at a perfect time. Bolduan grew up in the Midwest, and was surprised to learn that she comes from a long line of glass blowers from a tiny village in Belgium. Pregnant during her journey, Bolduan set off to find out more about the family business, learning her great great grandmother traveled to America while SHE was pregnant, too. And you’ll never believe what historic event happened just weeks before she set sail.

FRIDAY 10/17

John Berman – (6 am ET on New Day) Could John Berman be royalty? Is he related to the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, noted as the Prince of Philosophers? John Berman travels to Amsterdam, the country where his ancestors, the Spinozas, lived for 140 years in search of his “Inner Spinoza”… and the truth.

Fareed Zakaria – (8 pm ET on AC360) Fareed Zakaria takes viewers on a historical journey as he explores his family’s roots and discovers how his personal story intersects with critical moments in history. Fareed’s father, an orphan and self-made man who eventually became a Minister in India’s government, often claimed that he had Central Asian “warrior” ancestry. Given the lack of records in India, Fareed takes a DNA test to see whether his father’s jocular claims can be validated. True to form, Fareed puts what he learns along the way into greater historical context. (re-air Sunday 9/19, 10am ET on Fareed Zakaria GPS)

MONDAY 10/21

ROOTS: OUR JOURNEYS HOME – 9 pm ET – CNN anchors Anderson Cooper and Michaela Pereira will host a two hour special featuring 12 of the network’s hosts and anchors stories. The special will also include interviews with Anderson Cooper, Michaela Pereira, Erin Burnett and Dr. Sanjay Gupta about what the experience has meant to them personally.

Beginning Friday, October 10, a sneak peek at Roots will be available on As the journeys unfold on-air, viewers online will be invited to watch and share the segments as well as explore more of each anchor’s story through video extras, exclusive photos and first-person accounts of their individual journeys. They will also be able to compare their habits and hobbies to CNN’s anchors with a new “Which anchor are you?” quiz. Throughout, the Roots experience will extend across on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr using the hashtag #CNNRoots.

2020: Anniversary Year of the Mayflower


Who’d a thunk it?

As a third-generation Finnish-American with a Finnish surname I inherited from my paternal grandparents, I would seem to be an unlikely candidate for membership in the Grand Society of Mayflower Descendents. Yet, I believe that Stephen Hopkins, a Mayflower passenger, and a Plymouth Colony stalwart, is my tenth great grandfather.

On Friday, 20 Dec 2019, I gave myself a Christmas present: a membership to the New England Historic Genealogical Society. This gave me member access to records about the Pilgrims who arrived in America on the Mayflower in 1620. I wanted to know if I could find a connection to any of these early immigrants.

From the biographies of the 51 Mayflower passengers on the NEHGS website, I was able to link the New England ancestors I knew about on my mother’s side to Stephen Hopkins and his son Gyles, both of whom born in England and who sailed to America on the Mayflower in 1620. I have attached a descendency chart showing how I am descended from Stephen Hopkins.

The inspiration for doing this was a podcast last year by Lisa Louise Cook in which she interviewed a representative from NEHGS.

If you want to learn more about Stephen Hopkins and his family, do a Google search. There are plenty of articles available online. He had a very busy life.

Connections to 2020 Cleveland Presidential Debate


Tomorrow night I will be watching the first Presidential debate leading up to the 2020 Presidential election on TV. For the record, I have some connections to the site of this debate in the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion at the Health Education Campus at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic.

For example, I attended Case Institute of Technology, earning a BSc degree in metallurgical engineering in 1960. Later, I attended the Weatherhead School of Business of Western Reserve University earning a MBA in marketing in 1967. That also was the year that the two universities “federated” to become Case Western Reserve University.

My late wife and I have been using the Cleveland Clinic as our healthcare provider for about 30 years. I have driven by the Samson Pavilion many times on the way to appointments on the Clinic main campus.

Finally, my grandmother Grace and her third husband Don Stafford lived on East 89th St just a long block from East 93rd St where the Samson Pavilion is today.

Their house was torn down a couple of years ago, as I posted under the title “OMG!!! Grandma Grace’s House Is Gone!”

In 2014, I posted about visiting this house:

And in 2016, I posted this about when she lived in this house:

So I will be right at home with the setting of the first 2020 Presidental Debate. I know the neighborhood!

Tracking My 2020 Mail-In Ballot


I have been voting in presidential elections since 1956 when I was first 18 years old. My oldest recollection is of voting machines where I placed a ballot sheet in a machine and then punched my choices, candidate by candidate and issue by issue. Later, I marked a paper ballot which then was inserted in an electronic ballot box for processing.

I began voting by mail in 2010 and found it very convenient. Not only did I not have to stand in line at my assigned polling place, but I was able to study the ballot and do some research on any candidates I wasn’t sure of, such as judges, without feeling the pressure of other voters waiting in line to cast their ballots. The Cuyahogs County Board of elections at has an online database recording my participation. Note: this does not indicate who I voted for!

For the 2020 election, I downloaded a ballot request form from the Board of Elections website, filled it in, and mailed it on August 10. Today, the website indicates that the request has been received and approved. Further, the website states that my ballot will be mailed to me on October 6.

Check this space for updates on my receiving my ballot and returning it.

Goodyear Connections


I was flabbergasted when I read earlier this week in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that our president had tweeted that his followers should boycott the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. and not buy its products. Apparently a social media posting to the effect that MAGA gear shouldn’t be worn at a Goodyear plant in Topeka, Kansas, get under his skin. Why did he take the time to post about it?

Well, I can’t answer this questions, but I can state a couple of my connections to Goodyear.

For one thing, I have a set of Goodyear Assurance tires on my 2015 Honda Odyssey. I bought them as replacements for the OEM tires before traveling to visit my daughter and her family in New York state last summer.

More appropriate to the genealogical theme of this blog, I do have a collateral relative who worked at the Goodyear company as a carpenter. My uncle, Frank Nikkari, listed as his employer on his WWII “Old Man’s Draft” registration card the Hunkin-Conklin Construction Co. that was doing contract work for Goodyear in Akron, Ohio.

It’s little connections like this that make genealogical research so fascinating.

A Photo Blast from the Past


This morning (20 Aug 2020), Sanford “Sandy” Baumgardner, an Andover High School classmate, sent me a photo from the 1950 Boy Scout Jamboree encampment at Valley Forge. The photo shows the scouts attending from northeastern Ohio. I am shown seated fifth from right. Next to me, fourth from right, is Sandy’s older brother Hugh (now deceased).

Scouts from Northeastern Ohio attending the 1950 Boy Scout Jamboree at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

We made the teepees from a waterproof composite material that I believe farmers used to line silos to store silage.

According to Wikipedia, the 1950 Jamboree was held from June 27 through July 6, and was attended by 47,163 scouts and leaders.