Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Celebrating Digital Access: Chicago Death Index, 1871-1933

Sample Image from the Chicago Death Index, 1871-1933 [1]
Over the next few weeks, I'll be highlighting Chicago sources that are newly-available in digital format through FamilySearch's Catalog.

First up is a multi-volume set titled [deep breath] Indexes to deaths in the city of Chicago during the years 1871 to 1933 : showing name, address and date of death. I just call it "the Chicago death index, 1871-1933" or "the CDI" for short. One thing you should know about it right up front is that the title is a bit misleading. It mostly lists Chicago deaths, but it also includes some out-of-town deaths--entries for people who died outside the city but were probably brought to Chicago for burial.

1) When you're looking for deaths 1871-1877. As far as I know, this is the only public index that covers the early deaths. If you find a match, contact the Cook County clerk's office. My husband's ancestor appears and I was able to get the matching death record in that way. Looking at what I received, I'm pretty sure someone copied information from a death register onto a blank form. (As far as I know those death records aren't available anywhere else, but if you know differently, please let me know.)

2) When you can't find a name in any of the online indexes. Two reasons. First, the name might be spelled differently in this index, making it easier to pick out. Second, this index includes entries for people who died outside Chicago but were buried in the city. That Chicago ancestor may have died on vacation in Michigan--seriously--and this index is a good way to work around the unexpected. Out-of-town deaths are indicated by the "OT" in the column just before the date of death. If you find one of those entries, it's best to contact the vital records office where the death took place to see if you can get an original record. However, if the death occurred 1909-1915, the matching Chicago records (likely derivative) are available at FamilySearch. See Out of town deaths, 1909-1915.

3) When you're trying to find a record for someone with a common name. This index includes address of death so, if you know where your John Smith lived and if he died at home, which was often the case, it will be very easy to pick him out.

4) When you're looking for mention of a stillbirth. Stillbirths are indicated by the "SB" in the column just before the date of death. I haven't explored how to find the matching records, but I can tell you two things: 1) some stillbirths are recorded in the birth registers at the end of each alphabetical section; 2) many new stillbirth certificates appear to be online at FamilySearch, accessible through the catalog.

5) When you're looking for children who died but you don't know their names. Sometimes it's possible to pick out possible matches based on a known family address. So, when should you use this index? If you find matches, for deaths 1878-1933, follow the usual steps for finding those certificates. And, if you find yourself stumped, feel free to email me for help: info@chicagogenealogy.com.

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[1] Chicago Board of Health, Deaths in City of Chicago During the Years 1871-1933 Inc. Showing Name, Address, and Date of Death, Volume 27, Rid-Rzy ([no publishing information]); digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/004261176?cat=293534 : accessed 12 September 2017); Indexes to deaths in the city of Chicago during the years 1871 to 1933 : showing name, address and date of death > Deaths, Rep-Sik 1871-1933 > Image 54 of 929; citing FHL microfilm 1295973.

2 comments:

Greenhill39 said...

My G-Grandfather TW Greenhill died Aug 19, 1911 in North Riverside which I believe at that time was unincorporated Cook County. I have a letter from Cook County Clerk's office that said the death certificate should be on file but isn't. I have the coroner's report describing his accident from the Illinois Regional Archives Depository and I have a Chicago tribune newspaper article describing the accident. I don't know where he was buried and hoped the death certificate would tell me that.

Cynthia said...

Thanks for the comment! I just took a look in the online index, searching in a fuzzy way, and I don't see a match for his death. It's very curious! If you have a certificate number, post here or email me and I'll take a look.

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