Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Finding FREE Los Angeles California Death Certificates for 1905-1939 on FamilySearch Digital microfilm

I've been doing genealogy research for a society project and have struggled to find a death date for an Elizabeth Richardson, born  in England in 1846.  The last record I have for her is the 1910 United States Census record residing in Los Angeles,, Los Angeles County, California.  Online family trees had a death date of "before 1930."  Several of her children resided up to and past the 1930s in the Los Angeles area.

I tried to find her death date in the California Death Index, 1905-1939 record collection on FamilySearch.  The process is:

1)  Search the record collection - I used the first and last name and limited it to Los Angeles between 1910 and 1930 (all "not exact"):

2)  Clicking "Search" gave me a list of 31 matches to my search request:

3)  I clicked on one of them, and saw the indexed information for the person, and a link to the record image of the Index:

Note that the "Document Information" in the lower right corner is for the image of the index, not the actual record.  To find the actual record, that information is useless (yes, I went down that circular path).

4)   I clicked the "View the original document" link and saw the list of all of the Elizabeth Richardson persons in the index:

At this point, I had to figure out how to read the column headings.  The FamilySearch Wiki page for the California Death Index, 1905-1939" is helpful!

The names are obvious, there is a middle initial column, then a spouse's initials heading, then an age indicator (a "1" means "years"), the age, the County Code (Los Angeles City is code "70"), the date of death ("month-day-2-digit year"), the year (two-digit) and the state registration number (for the year).

There are only two persons named Elizabeth Richardson who died in Los Angeles City (Code 70) - one in 1916 and one in 1920.

So, for the Elizabeth Richardson I picked in the images above (the one who died in 1916), she is age 70 (so ca. 1846), died 10-27-16 (27 October 1916) and has state registration number 16-31517.

5)  How can I find that record?  I have to find a Family History Library Catalog digital microfilm for Los Angeles City death certificates for 1916 for the name Elizabeth Richardson.  

I searched the Catalog for Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States and saw the list of available records:

Down the list, under "Vital Records," is a list of 13 different collections of Vital Records:

The collection for "Los Angeles City, California, death records 1905-1939"  is what I want (I think).

6)  I clicked on that link, and saw a long list of different sets of digital microfilm.  Here's the top of the list:

And further down the list are sets of death certificates by year:

After investigation, it was clear to me that the records were alphabetical by surname first letter (i.e., all the R's are together) and then by approximate death date.

I want Richardson in 1916.  I picked the "Death certificates no. 4100-6559, 1916; certificates no. 1-400, 1917" set of digital microfilm.

Note the camera icon on the right side of the screen - that means I can review these records at home.  Cool.  [Note: If there had been a camera with a key icon, I would have to go to a FamilySearch Library, or be an LDS church member, to see the record.]

7)  It took awhile, but I browsed until I found the death certificate for this Elizabeth Richardson on image 1137 of 2675. 

This was the person I wanted (I did check the other one first!).  The record provides an address, a full name, a birth date, a death date, an age at death (which is wrong), occupation, birthplace, names of parents, cause of death, informant, disposition, etc.  Just what I needed!!!

8)  Note that the "State Index No." is not filled in on this certificate.  The "Local Index No." is 5197.  So there appears to be no way to "short-circuit" this search using the State Index number.  There is a local death index which may provide the Local Index number, but I didn't check it.  You have to browse to find the actual death certificate.

This process can be used to find the death records for many other (but probably not all) California Counties with entries in the "California, Death Index, 1905-1939" collection. 

9)  Did I mention that I didn't have to go to, or write an email or letter to,  a County or State record office and didn't have to pay a fee to obtain it (it's about $20 now in San Diego County).  So I spent about an hour finding this record and learned how to do it more efficiently.  Cool.  I wonder if I can find a death certificate for some of my relatives or other project relatives?

California researchers:  did you know that these records were available to you on FamilySearch Digital Microfilm?  Enjoy! 


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Kenneth R Marks said...

Randy, I read your posts all the time and THIS is the most helpful so far. I have over 200 tree members who died in CA. I didn't know that I could get to the DC this way. I know what I will be doing this next few days. Thanks

Lisa S. Gorrell said...

I have used this record set and the ones for marriages. However, they are not available for all counties in California. But I appreciate that the Los Angeles ones are. I did check several counties and found that most vital record sets were for births/marriages/deaths before 1905.

Unknown said...

Hi Randy,

I use this unindexed collection often. It's wonderful.

I access this collection (once I learned about it) from the main collection page, clicking on the "Browse through [almost 3 million] images" link under the white search box.

Once you select the locality (for example, "Los Angeles") it displays a list of all of the record collections and years available for that locality. There are index volumes included here. One can quickly scan (we still cannot search) these indexes to find the right volume that holds the digitized record, then find that volume link on the locality page.

I have been able to get death certificates through the 1980s, although the collection claims to have some records up to 1994.

Colleen Greene

Susan said...

Hi Randy,
Catching up on MWM today and heard the segment on this blog post and the mention of Manitowoc Wisconsin. That county does an excellent job collecting records, histories, obits etc. and putting them online. Here are a few links that I have used in the past in case you are still persuing records in this area. The Historical Society and the Genealogical Society are very active also so you might want to email them if you have specific questions.
Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc and

BTW, in the pronunciation of Manitowoc, the accent is on the last syllable. Hope you find this information helpful.
Susan Bleimehl

Randy Seaver said...

Hi Susan,

Thank you for the links. I will follow up on it.

So, is it pronounced Man - ih -toe - wock?

Cheers -- Randy