I can trace an ancestor of mine, Samuel McReynolds b. 1812 Tenn, up to the Arkansas (Sebastian county) 1880 census, but loose him after that. I am trying to find a record that will help me determine his parents. He was married three times and unfortunately none of the marriage records list his parents.

So now I am interested in finding his death record. Unfortunately we know there is no access to the 1890 census and he doesn’t show up on the 1900 census, so I know he died somewhere in this 20 year period but don't know how to narrow that down. Can I request a death certificate with such a big window? I have looked at the "reconstructed 1890 census" for Sebastian Arkansas and he isn't found, so either they missed him or he had died by then. He also doesn't show up on the Find A Grave website. I have searched every published cemetery book for Sebastian county at the Family History library in Salt Lake and he isn't listed in any of those either.

Any suggestions or help for how to proceed would be greatly appreciated.

  • I see a Samuel Mc Reynolds in Big Creek, Arkansas, which I see listed as Craighead county, married to a Mary. Is that correct? Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 14:36
  • On the 1870 Census he is with Mary in Clear Creek, Washington County, Arkansas. On the 1880 Census he is with Mary in Big Creek, Sebastian County, Arkansas. I am getting "Sebastian County" from the top of the Census page - is that not correct? Where do you see Craighead county? Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 19:21
  • Might be a modern issue, it could be that Big Creek is in Craighead county today, but used to be in Sebastian. In any case, if it's on the Census page, I'd go with that. Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 19:25

1 Answer 1


The first thing is to narrow down the location that he died. This can be rather tricky, but there's a few ways to do it. Considering it's in the 1800's, you have a lot of options. Generally speaking, here's what you do.

  1. Try to compile as accurate of a timeline as you can. Find the last date that you have a record for. Census is a good start, use tax records if you can to narrow things down even more.
  2. Look at where family members lived after you lose record of your ancestor. If this person's wife was alive in 1900, and she lived in a different state, that gives you two potential locations where your ancestor died (Her new location, and the previous location). Children might also have moved, look in their locations as well.
  3. Narrow the window of time as much as you can. Again, this might be rather wide opened, but the narrower of a window you have, the easier it will be.

Okay, so you have narrowed down the location and time (Which I think you've done). Search for the records, and see what you can find. If you can't find anything that matches the locations/ dates, keep in mind that person might have moved in the mean time. I usually evaluate potential candidates by the following criteria:

  1. Is there any indicator that this person has relatives that you know? Is there a name mentioned on the headstone, or other family members in the same cemetery, for instance.
  2. Does the candidate have a record in the previous census that conflicts with your record? If you have a census record that matches their information, you probably have the wrong one. If, however, there is no information there previously, it is possible that the person moved.
  3. Is there any information from less reliable sources (Family trees, ancestry pages, etc) that matches the information you have suspected. If so, look at their sources, and perhaps contact the person who included the information if you can, it will all help to collaborate. I usually don't take these sources themselves as confirmation, but they do give a place to look for more information, and often they give the sources.

If you still don't have anyone, then open up your search locations, dates, re-investigate assumptions, and consider name changes. All of these could have results that might make it harder for you to find your information.

Good luck!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.