I have been searching for information on a female relative, and have been unable to find anything about them after their divorce from the family in the 1920s.

I just know their married name from their second marriage (but not their spouse's name) and so far have had no clear hits on any marriage records as the name combination is common and I know when and where they are buried. So I have been trying to work backwards and find their death certificate hoping to find the name of their spouse or another family member with the hope of finding information her and her descendants.

I have so far been unsuccessful to obtain it through multiple requests to find a death certificate through the state (IL) vital records office in which they are buried, and the state has sent me a letter they basically have no further information. Leading me to believe they may did not die in the county they were buried or any of the near-by counties. I am not clear what, if any, permanent paperwork is generated for the transport of a deceased individual.

Being I do not when or who they remarried and just their name at death I do know of any other areas to search. As well there are several dozen individuals of similar age and name found living across the country when I looked broader due to the commonality of the name. I did check her parents census records following time period and she was not listed living with her parents.

I have also used Archives.com and Newspapers.com and others to try to find a marriage, divorce, or obituary record for her but have so far been unsuccessful for the individual. All local newspapers from that time are on one of those two sites for the time period. I have also so far not been able to locate them post marriage in any public tree or database I have checked, but know they had children in their other marriage(s) as well but know nothing about them. (Thus one reason searching)

I also know the individual I am seeking is the proper grave due to first hand knowledge of where they were buried from a relative that attended the funeral (but they were young at the time) and the location of the grave marker has been confirmed on FindAGrave.com with a successful photo request of where the above mentioned persons remember them being buried with their married name. They recall few details about others at the funeral and didn't know anyone there but their dad (the target individuals ex), who died in the early 70s themselves. I've also asked other relatives of that individual and they didn't get any more detailed version of the story or details about the person 40+ years ago.

The person fulfilling the photo request also stated that the cemetery had no further information on file about the burial other than the dates of the burial, lot, and location. The names of the adjacent graves appear to be random and not necessarily a family plot, but they did have family in the surrounding area.

They died in 1952 (in their 40s) and do not appear in the Social Security Death index under their maiden, mother's maiden, or either of their married names. I also know they themselves were not in the military so it is unlikely they died over seas.

The Question: I am looking to find out what other sources might be useful for finding out where they actually died so I can seek out a death certificate.

Note: I am seeking other avenues of finding out more about them too, but this is just one avenue I have been successful with in the past. So looking for an answer to the specific question.

  • You've used "a relative" and "they" & "them - are you looking for both of the original pair or just the female (or the male)? Can you narrow down which other states might be applicable? A number of states have death indexes or accessible certificates that include 1952. Outside the scope of the question, but city directories might help. Also, since you know some of the funeral attendees, assuming them to be close relatives, the obit may have been published in their hometown newspaper.
    – bgwiehle
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 20:26
  • @bgwiehle Thanks for comment, I clarified my wording and added more detail.
    – CRSouser
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 21:27

1 Answer 1


One checklist I have found helpful is the page Sources of Genealogical Information compiled by Joanne Todd of KindredKeepsakes and published on RootsWeb.

For death records, she suggests:

DEATH: Vital Records, Cemeteries, Probate Records, Church Records, Obituaries, Newspapers, Military Records, Court Records, Land and Property

You have already tried several of these records and come up empty, so it is time to dig deeper, and consider some reasons why the searches may not have been successful.

Consider the coverage on the sites where are searching

Check each site when you make a search to see what issues are included for the newspaper you are looking in. I just signed up for Newspapers.com and found that for many of the people I'm looking for, the site doesn't have newspapers from the period when the obituary would have been published. It doesn't take a big gap in an online collection for a death notice to be 'missing'. It's possible that obituaries exist, but not in the issues the site currently has online.

Newspapers are constantly being added to sites, so it pays to go back and search again from time to time. One good source for information about new content coming online is The Ancestor Hunt. Look for tips in the learning centers like the one at Genealogy Bank and try to vary your searches -- surnames don't always get spelled or OCR'ed the way you expect them to be, especially with German or Eastern European surnames.

Widen Your Search

Vary the date of death. Even if your informant is correct and your research subject died in 1952, an exact search for that year will not pick up any 'in memoriam' notices which may have been published in following years.

Society notices from earlier in a person's life may give you information about which church the deceased attended, club memberships, or involvement in other organizations which may have records. Sometimes those organizations have bulletins or magazines which list obituaries or have a list of members who have died in the past year -- such a notice may not be published in the same calendar year as the death occurred.

Social pages of newspapers may reveal the location of relatives in other towns. For families who were well-off, consider too that people who lived up North may have had summer homes in Florida or other places in more temperate climates. Since people can die anywhere, not just at home, try doing a nationwide search; check the hometown newspapers of anyone who might be a survivor listed in an obituary, and search for the survivor's name.

It may also be profitable to conduct a search in the ways you would do if you didn't know the date of death, and were trying to narrow down the window in which it occurred. Try to fill in the events in between the 1940 Census and the death -- some detail in those records may be the key that will unlock the door.

Look for records that haven't been indexed yet

Apart from the newspapers, the records that have been most helpful in my research have been probate records. Check FamilySearch's browseable image collections and microfilm holdings in the catalog -- often there are indexes to the probate files on separate microfilm rolls or digital files. Some files have the index to the files at the beginning of the corresponding microfilm roll.

Ask a local expert

Have you contacted the local historical or genealogical society, or the local public library, to see if they have obituary indexes, or to ask which archive might have holdings for local business records? The cemetery may not have the information, but usually some funeral home is in charge of the arrangements for a burial -- if you can find out which funeral home that was, you might be able to get more information. Sometimes if the business changes hands, the records end up in a local archive.

You've already looked in nearby counties, but for others who read this answer later, this article by J. Mark Lowe has some good advice: Border Jumping: Researching Across State & County Borders

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