Tuesday’s Tip – Organize Those Death Certificates

My business is composed of two main types of research. Military and Italians in Chicago. I haven’t blogged about the genealogy/Italians in a while so thought I would share my strategy for organizing records. I’m focusing specifically on death certificates.

The bulk of my genealogical client work revolves around Italians from Ricigliano who came to Chicago. If you have done Italian genealogy you know there is a naming pattern and after a while, everyone in the tree looks the same. You also know there are many intermarriages of cousins and it is common to see the same named couples more than once.

Two years ago I was deep into research for the Rigis and pulled all the main surname death certificates from the Illinois State Archives. Serritella, Malpede, Meccia, Catena, Pacelli, DeLeonardis/Leonardis. I pulled over 200 death certificates.

Yes – over 200!

How do you deal with all those death certificates when the names all look the same after a while? The easiest way I found was to create an Excel spreadsheet of the certificates. It looks a little like the image below. For every certificate I was able to place into the tree, I highlighted the line blue.

Death Certs excel

The best things about this arrangement are:

  • I can sort by surname
  • I can sort by address
  • I can sort by father or mother
  • I can sort by informant
  • Or any other sort I desire

Each of these sort options gives me a new perspective. This morning I was digging around the file and was able to place just a few more certificates with the appropriate people. It was fantastic.

Give Excel a try the next time you feel overwhelmed with research files. It is an excellent way to keep track of everyone!

© 2014, Jennifer Holik


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