Thursday, September 22, 2016

South African Ancestry Research Q and A 2

Q  What’s the difference between a death certificate and a death notice?

A  The SA death certificate is a civil document usually completed by a doctor. The death notice is a legal document usually, though not invariably, completed by the next-of-kin; it forms part of the deceased estate.

More informative than the death certificate, ideally the death notice should supply the full name of the deceased, birthplace, parents’ names, deceased’s age at death, occupation, place of residence, marital status, place of last marriage, names of surviving and pre-deceased spouses, deceased’s date and place of death and names of children. Assets in the estate are indicated and whether they exceed a certain value; it’s also mentioned if the deceased left a will. The document is signed by the informant, stating if they were present at the death. Note that the accuracy of the information given in a death notice is in direct proportion to the knowledge of the informant. Sometimes parents’ names are not given and reference to birthplace may be vague e.g. England, rather than a town or county. In most cases, though, the death notice will be a rewarding source.

The only fact stated in a death certificate which doesn’t appear in a death notice is the cause of death.

Q  What about census records?

A  This resource, a favourite of those researching UK ancestors, is not an option in SA, where census records are destroyed after statistics are taken. The UK census can be useful in conjunction with SA sources: pinpointing the year an ancestor was last recorded as residing in UK could help establish an approximate time-frame for his emigration.

Emigrants on board the Lady Bruce 1850 voyaging to Natal
under the Byrne Scheme

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