Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Celebrating 10 Years of the Online Death Indexes Website

This is the story of how a small list of online death indexes became a website...

My grandfather is missing. He's been missing since 1948, years before I was born. When I first started doing genealogy, finding what happened to him became a priority. In the late 1990s, when he would have been in his mid-90s and likely deceased, I began looking for online death indexes to see if I could find him. There weren't many death indexes on the Internet then. The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) was online, but he's not listed there. I had already checked it numerous times on microfiche at LDS Family History Centers. So I started looking for other death indexes. I believe the first full state index to go online was the Kentucky death index (1911-1992), provided by the University of Kentucky. At the time I wondered who else would put up death indexes. I was hoping for a lot them.

As I went along I made a list of the death indexes I had searched and saved this as a text file on my computer. In June 2000 I converted the list to HTML and added it as a single webpage to my German Roots genealogy website, which first went online in 1998. It quickly became the most popular webpage on the site. It seems a lot of living people are looking for dead people.

The original webpage had about a dozen links to death indexes. By late 2000 Rootsweb had put up death indexes for California, Maine and Texas (plus Kentucky). Michigan and Virginia had historical indexes. I also had links to the SSDI, Find-A-Grave and other resources. And I kept looking for more.

By 2003 the original death indexes webpage was getting really long so I divided it into two pages: Arizona to Mississippi and Missouri to Wyoming. I soon realized I would probably need three pages, then four, so why not fifty? So I decided to develop what was once a small text file of online death indexes into an entire website. I set up deathindexes.com in November of 2003 and made a separate webpage for each state. Then two people emailed me asking for a District of Columbia page, so that got added too. Since then I've gotten a lot of email comments, suggestions for additions, and encouragement from people who use the website, which is nice. I also seek out more death indexes as I work on various genealogy projects. And sometimes I just go bounding around looking for them. I use the death indexes website myself all the time. It think it's quite useful :)

The website includes links to death records indexes, newspaper obituaries, cemetery burials and probate records. A few states and some individual counties now have online digitized death certificates that can be downloaded. Links to these are also listed. Updates to the website are posted right here in this blog, which you can subscribe to using a feed reader or by email -- see the subscription options over on the right side or at the end of this post.

I still haven't found my grandfather. I have searched for him in every index listed on the website. Even the earlier ones I know he wouldn't be in. I test and evaluate each link before it gets added to the website. I might as well use him as my guide. This journey began in 1948, before I was born. It began for me in the late 1980s. And it still continues... Do our ancestors, even the ones we never knew, influence us? I think so. Actually I think their influence is huge. Which is probably why we spend so much time looking for them.

You can find the death indexes website at: Online Searchable Death Indexes, Records, Cemetery Burials and Obituaries. This month (November 2013) marks the website's 10th anniversary.

1 comment:

Suzie Henderson said...

Ten years of THANK YOUs... coming your way, Joe. Your little search for your granddad paid off for the rest of us in spades! What a blessing your site has been for all of us! Thank you!