Monday, June 13, 2016

Mining the Indiana Death Certificates, 1899-2011 Database

I've spent about six hours so far "mining" the "Indiana Death Certificates, 1899-2011" record collection on, adding persons, events, and source citations to my RootsMagic database.  So far, I have resolved the first 50 of the 97 "exact" matches for the Seaver surname.  After I do the Deaths, including other surname spelling variations, I will move on to the Marriages and Death databases.

Why do I "mine" these statewide vital records databases?  Because I have been building a "one-name study" type of database for all Seaver/Seavers/Sever/Severs/Sevier/etc. persons in the USA for over 25 years.  I get queries every month from persons with a Seaver ancestor and often I cannot help them without doing a little more research.

The Indiana Death Certificate collection provides many "new-to-me" Seaver folks, especially in two of the non-New England lines.  On Ancestry, the record summary page for an Indiana death certificate may provide a Suggested Records link to census records,  a birth record, a marriage record, a gravestone location, a draft registration card, and many other record types.

Some of the death certificates have names have have been extracted and indexed erroneously.  One of the names on the Results list that caught my eye was Benjamin Wiley Seaver.  I looked in my database, and did not see that name, so I figured I had found another "new-to-me" Seaver.  I clicked on the name and saw the record Summary:

I also didn't have the father's name in my database.  No surprise, because it;'s given as Weaver!

Here is the death certificate for Benjamin Wiley "Seaver":

Look at that - the typed name of the decedent is Benjamin Wiley Weaver.  And his father is Henry Clay Weaver.  The record is very clear!  The record summary was wrong.

I went back to the record Summary, and clicked on the link to "View/Add Alternate Info."  I added the correct name for the decedent.

Of the 50 Seaver entries I've resolved so far, three of the surnames for the decedent were misspelled.  One or two had the wrong death date or birth date, and there were spelling errors for some place names.  Three out of 50 is a 6% error rate.  I could understand the error if the name was handwritten and was only semi-legible, but this one for Benjamin Weaver is not that - it's typewritten.

What all of this means is that if a searcher does not find a death record (in this case) using the correct surname spelling, they should try alternate spellings, and should try wild cards for names.  Wild cards should be tried for the first letter, each of the consonants, and adding an "s" to the end of the surname.  They could search for one or both parents names also (which might also be misspelled!).

In my search process in this Death Certificate database, I need to consider that there are:

*  97 entries for "exact" Seaver surname
*  83 entries for "exact" Seavers surname
*  72 entries for "exact" Sever surname
*  69 entries for "exact" Severs surname
*  94 for "exact" Sevier" surname

*  1,138 for "exact" se*v*r* surname
*  8,322 for "exact "?eaver" surname
and others!

The possibilities seem endless, don't they?  This may be a lifetime exercise for me.  This is why a genealogist's work is never done.

Even with all of the possible errors in the indexing, these vital record certificates are invaluable additions for those of us that need them.  I just wish that Ancestry's indexing error rate was lower than it apparently is.


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Lynn David said...

Some of your SEAVERS or SEVERS may in fact be SIEVERS or even SIEWERS (still pronounced Seavers), if you run across any people of that name from Knox county, Indiana. They're all my cousins from a familial connection in the Emsland area of Germany. Of course, the Germans pronounce the 'v' like an 'f' - but when they got to America the pronunciation of the name was anglicized to the 'v' sound. This strangely enough later led one branch of the family to change the 'v' to a 'w' thinking the pronunciation was correct but the spelling had been anglicized. All of that took place within the space of 3 generations.

Diane Geanuleas said...

I've not been a transcriber for genealogical records, but it is possible that a volunteer who was keying the index using touch-typing could have reached for the "w" instead of hitting the "s" on the home row. Same finger to key both letters. So glad you discovered and corrected the error. Your work is much admired. And inspiring. Thank you for your regular screen-shot explanations of your process; they are invaluable.

Jacqi Stevens said...

Thanks for the idea, Randy. I've watched some time fly by on that Indiana Death Certificates database this afternoon, thanks to your inspiration. Looks like I'll have to revisit, soon. We have a lot of folks in Tippecanoe County...

anitab said...

I've also been making good use of the Indiana Death Certificates (& even of the Indiana Birth Certificates, for my mother & her siblings); but I have been astounded at the number of transcriptions which are very incorrect. I've had to be very creative in locating death certificates for some family members, but the work has been worth it - I'm SO glad these are available online!!