My big genealogy project of late has been compiling as complete as possible a list of the descendants of my third-great-grandfather, Samuel Moore of Greenville, South Carolina. It is an ambitious undertaking, but the Moores are a primary research focus for me, and I hope this database can serve as a basis for future research to expand the line back in time. The work is certainly familiarizing me with South Carolina state resources as well as Greenville and Anderson County Resources. One of the best tools for working this line is a database that was added to Ancestry relatively recently, South Carolina Death Records, 1821-1955 (or at least the images of death certificates in that database are a new addition).
I stated previously that I would try to use “Lessons Learned Sunday” as a feature to write up what I learn from my mistakes in genealogy. So far I have not exactly had a “Duh!” experience with these records, but there definitely is a learning curve aspect in using them in combination with other tools to the best effect. Some of the other resources I am using are the “usual” Ancestry databases (censuses, etc.), the Greenville County Library System obituary index (an extremely useful and much appreciated tool) combined with a Greenville researcher who will copy and mail obituaries for a reasonable fee, Findagrave and Genweb cemetery listings for South Carolina, and several genealogies provided by other researchers for partial branches of this family.
My approach with the SC Death Records database has been not only to look up individual names (this is done automatically by Ancestry in a search localized for South Carolina), but to use the database separately, varying the items input for searching. Sometimes this means just putting a last name and a county (usually Greenville, but they didn’t always stay there). For the last name Moore, that brings up a lot of names. However, going through all of the hits paid off. The first hits to appear often have only the last name, and most of these are infants. Of course, I also wanted to find any children who died young, but none of these fit that bill. However, one of the death certificates had several items which fit Susan Moore Blakely – parents, dates of birth and death, and the informant was her son, James Moore Blakely. There was only one thing missing – her name! So the people indexing the certificates had simply put in the name of her father, (B. M.) Moore. Had I not looked at all these certificates, I would never have found her death certificate. I have also discovered that sometimes names are input backwards, so that may be a trick to try if I get desperate.
These death certificates can then be used to order copies of obituaries. The Greenville Library obituary index provides names and the date and page of the Greenville News on which the obituary appears. In the case of common names, knowing the date of death helps to narrow down which one is the correct obituary so that I don’t have to order all the obituaries with the name in which I am interested. I also use this obituary index in a similar manner, inputting only the last name or even an unusual first name to make sure that I get as many family members as possible. (Inputting a woman’s maiden name in the first name field will often pull up her obituary under her married name – a convenient way to find out who some of the daughters in a family married!) The obituaries I order based on what I find in this index then often provide additional names to be looked up in the South Carolina Death Records and Greenville Library obituary index, so there is a sort of circular aspect to this method.
Because I am constantly moving back and forth from database to database, I know that I am often missing things as I do this. Therefore, when I am “done”, I plan to go back over the obituaries and the death certificates (I have downloaded the images) and double-check all the information. It’s a lot of work, but the Moores are worth it!
Here is Susan Moore Blakely's death certificate - with no name: