Thursday, July 21, 2011

Death Records in Indiana

Looking for a death record in Indiana can sometimes be a bit daunting and other times like cutting butter with a hot knife. It all depends on the county you are looking in. First of all, Indiana only started recording deaths as well as births and full marriage information in 1882. So most dates can be found after this year. In the 1930s the WPA was established and one of their better projects was to index Birth, Death, and Marriage Records. Not all counties were indexed by the time the WPA was terminated though. I'll share some of my experiences in several counties.

Let's start in Hamilton county, as usual there's always one book of death records at the local County Health Dept. that always came up missing some years ago and Hamilton county is one of those places, as well as Brown county. What's nice is that when the WPA indexed the death records at least most of these lost books got in the index before they came up missing. Unfortunately Brown County didn't get that lucky, we have no alternate resource for this missing book. Hamilton county is one of those counties though that are very protective of their death records. You have to jump through hoops to get the information. But by the time I had visited their office for the tenth time they had gotten to know me and even let me go in the backroom to look at the books myself. Now Brown county is just the opposite, when you walk in their office they have a card file for visitors to look through which has all the death information on them. Then if you want a copy of a death certificate you can pay for one. The only problem is they won't put the family information on the certificate. You have to photocopy the index card for that. Bartholomew county also has the index card system that visitors can look through. Monroe county is more like Hamilton county, they are very protective of their records and you have to give them your life's history to get a death record. Literally you have to fill a long form for every death record you want a copy of. The only good thing is they don't charge a fee if it is for genealogical purposes. Johnson county is more lenient about visitors viewing their death records if you let them know it is for genealogy. They will give you the book and set you at a table and you can copy off the information yourself. Morgan county is more like Monroe county, they are protective of their records but not overly so. Jefferson county is more like Johnson county, they will let you look through the books yourself if you tell them it is for genealogy.

The last place that I have had problems with is Marion county. I feel like if any of my ancestors died in Indianapolis or thereabouts they fell into a black hole. But there are two resources there that are a little different. The county health dept. is a lot more visitor friendly. They have a special day set aside for genealogical requests. You'll have to check their website for more information. The most daunting was the Indiana State Health Dept. It was just like working with any big corporation, they don't seem to have time for you. I've heard from other researchers about this one too, not just my own experience. They can't seem to find death records in their own files and they ask you to go the the State Library first to find the death record in the index that you are looking for. I hope someday they will become more genealogist friendly.

As for other counties in Indiana you will have to contact them and sort of feel them out before you visit to know what kind of experience to expect. If writing for a death record always give plenty of information about yourself and your ancestors. Send a SASE too so they don't have to mess with that part. Always be courteous and thank them. As the old saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.


Nuts From The Family Tree said...

Hi there! Welcome to the blogging community:)We love blogging abd will be following your blog. Happy blogging.

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

Dr. Bill ;-)
Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories" and family sagas
and "Back to the Homeplace" and "The Homeplace Revisited"