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Arizona Genealogy Research - How to Read Arizona Death Certificates Which Are Free Online

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Type: Article
Prepared by: Diana Hinojosa DeLugan
Word Count: 760 (approx.)
Region: Arizona
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Arizona death records are available online for free by accessing the Arizona Department of Health Services' website. Records are limited to deaths occurring at least 50 years ago. As of 2010, death records through 1959 are available.

Vital statistic records provide essential information to validate or expand your current Arizona genealogy research. They should be read with caution to extrapolate as much information possible, but with a tempered measure of skepticism - since the information is only as good as the informant's base of knowledge. The information listed in Certificates of Death vary by year.

Pre-Statehood and Early (1914) Arizona Death Records

Some (limited) Arizona Territorial Board of Health Death Certificates are available. Occasionally, when some territorial death information is available but not previously recorded on a Territorial record, the information found is placed on a Certificate of Death for the year the information was discovered. Although pre-statehood records have few details, they can nevertheless reveal clues to further your genealogy research.

The first Arizona death certificates by the Arizona State Board of Health are somewhat informal. While they contain most of the same information found in more recent death certificates, there are four major differences. First, the Color or Race category required a selection from certain categories: White, Black, Mexican Indian or Chinese. In some counties, like Pima County, Japanese was also a listed choice. Citizenship, military or social security information are also not available in these early records.

1920-30's Death Records

The 1920's and 1930's death records changed from previous years. They displayed numbered entries instead of blank fields (Early Pima County records contained numbered fields): 1. Place of death, 2. Full Name and Residence of Deceased, 3. Sex, 4. Color or Race (Color or Race, no longer had a "list" of Colors or Race. Instead, it was a blank field which was to be filled out. As a result, persons of Mexican race were often listed as "White"), 5. Marital Status, 6.Date of Birth, 7. Age at Death, 8. Occupation of Deceased, 9. Birthplace, 10-11. Father's Data, 12-13. Mother's Data, 14. Informant's Data, 15-16. local registrar's information, 16-18. Medical Certification and Medical Examiner's Information Certifying Death, 19-20. Funeral Home/Coroner's Information.

1940's Death Records

Again, during the 1940's, death records' numbered entries changed slightly from the prior two decades. The same information was asked. But, it was just numbered slightly different:

1. Place of death, 2. Usual Residence, 3. Name of Deceased, 4. Sex, 5. Color or Race, 6. Marital Status and Information, 7. Date of Birth, 8. Age at Death, 9 Birthplace, 10. Usual Occupation, 11. Industry or Business, 12-13. Father's Data, 14-15. Mother's Data, 16. Informant's Data, 17-18. Funeral Home/Embalmer's Data, 18. Cause of Death, 19. local registrar's information, 20-23. Medical Certification and Medical Examiner's Information Certifying Death.

1950's Death Records

By the 1950's, death certificates asked for more detailed information. They remained in a numbered sequence requesting: 1. Place of death, 2. Usual Residence, 3. Name of Deceased, 4. Sex, 5. Color or Race, 6. Marital Status and Information, 7. Date of Birth, 8. Age at Death, 9 Occupation, 10. Birthplace, 11. Citizenship (New), 12. Military Service (New), 13. Social Security Number (New), 14. Father's Data, 15, Mother's Data, 16. Informant's Data, 17. Date of Death, 18. Cause of Death, 19. Related Operation Causing Death, 20. Autopsy Conducted, 21-22. Medical Examiner's Information Certifying Death, 23. Nature and Cause of Death, 24. Coroner's Information, 25-26. Burial/Funeral Home's Data.

A Word of Caution

In the legal field, there is a concept called Hearsay. In lay terms, when information is passed on by a second or subsequent party and not the actual person who has first hand knowledge, the information conveyed is deemed less reliable. It's like a rumor or gossip whose details can change from person to person. Not everyone has the same capacity to remember details. Sometimes, the person may fully understand the learned details but may have trouble conveying that same information in written or oral forms. As a result, hearsay information may contain errors.

Arizona death record information provided by the informant who reported the death may contain hearsay. Try to validate items listed on the Arizona Death Certificates with other reliable primary sources. To begin your own online Arizona genealogy research using the free online death records, visit http://genealogy.az.gov/.

Author, speaker, and researcher Diana Hinojosa DeLugan, J.D. enjoys many diverse topics especially history, genealogy, law, crime, music, travel and spirituality. For more about DeLugan's current projects or to read her blog, visit http://www.delugan.com/

DeLugan provides additional free Arizona/Hispanic family history/"Genealogy Links" at http://theoteros.com

(c) Copyright. Diana DeLugan, J.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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