Eight tips for finding missing deaths
There are inaccuracies in the GRO index, which could mean you fail to find what you are looking for. Use www.ukbmd.org.uk to see if the relevant registration district has put a copy of its own, more accurate, index online. If not, contact the register office to ask if they will conduct a search for you. Certificates ordered from register offices cost £10. For missing deaths and burials from 1858, search the Principal Probate Registry index. If your ancestor features, these indexes will give their date of death and help you locate the correct entry in the GRO index. Your ancestors may not have been members of the Church of England, so check nonconformist burial registers available on thegenealogist.co.uk, findmypast. co.uk or bmdregisters.co.uk. The age at death may be wrong or your ancestor may be recorded under their middle name, while they may have died far from home or even abroad. Check passenger lists and online census returns for America and Canada available on Ancestry and Findmypast. The spelling of surnames did not become standardised until the late 19th/early 20th century. Keep an open mind as to how the name could have been spelled or mis-copied. Mis-transcriptions are common in indexes simply because transcribers mis-read the handwriting. If the initial letter of the surname has been mis-transcribed, search without the surname but adding in other details, such as likely county of death and a rough date. Occasionally people became known by Christian names unrelated to those given to them at birth and they may have been registered under that name at death. Similarly, someone known all his life as ‘Bert’ may have inadvertently been recorded as Albert instead of Herbert, Hubert or Bertram at death. Your assumptions about where and when your ancestor died may be wrong. Your ancestor may appear to be dead because they do not appear on a census return, but check the following census in case they were simply not recorded in the previous one. Similarly, they may not have died in the area that you expect.