Death Date / Birth Date

+6 votes
Good Morning Everyone!

So which dates are more accurate? A death certificate shows one set of birthday/deathday and the gravestone shows the same deathday but a different birthday by 1 day and 1 year. Do you think this was just family error on marking the headstone? Or was the state information wrong?
in WikiTree Help by Matthew LaMunion G2G1 (1.4k points)
recategorized by Steve McCabe

I try to keep it simple and logical, Matthew.

A death certificate gives primary information on a death, just as a birth certificate or record gives primary information on a birth.

Information not related to the primary event should always be considered as secondary and error prone (at least, more error prone than the information for the primary event).

4 Answers

+9 votes
Matthew, my answer is:  YES - I think that it was either a family error on instructions to the engraver of the headstone OR an error in providing the information to the state.  There is no way of knowing which it is.
by Gaile Connolly G2G Astronaut (1.0m points)
+10 votes
Hi Matthew,

I would go with the information on the death certificate. I worked for a gravestone company for awhile and now and than the family would give wrong information or we would mess up at the warehouse. Often family's are given discounts if the error was the manufacturer fault. Although Death Certificates can be wrong also so sometimes it's best to have multiple sources to verify a suspected birth/death date. It's also a good Idea to use research note boxes to clarify why you believe the information you posted to be correct. For entries on birth dates you see a field on the death certificate which says "Informant" often this is a family member but depending on the era they may have not known for sure.
by Steve McCabe G2G6 Pilot (363k points)
+5 votes
It sounds like the death date is okay, but the birth date is in question. I'd suggest that you look for additional birth date sources. You know, people may be pretty upset when they provide information for the death certificate, and sometimes don't even know the correct date (hence the wrong birth year on my father's death certificate, Mom was wrong).

For sources, try census records, marriage records, military records, in the US Social Security records (for which you had to show proof of birth). Also check the birth dates of siblings against the 9 month apart sanity check and the marriage date of the parents (although that could account for a year's difference in the birth date). You could also search for obituaries.
by Kay Knight G2G6 Pilot (489k points)
+5 votes
Always backup a birthdate on a death certificate with other sources. In the case of my great grandfather, his death certificate would have made him 50 when he died -- he had children older than that. In this case, the gravestone was correct and the death certificate very wrong. Turned out, the grandchild who was the informant remembered his third wedding date and not his birthdate. It all depends on the informant in a time of grief.

As Kay Sands said, you need to use census and other information to validate which date may be correct.

So, neither death certificate or gravestone would be inherently more reliable. Both can have errors. Whichever you choose, mark it as uncertain until you actually have data to back it up.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (464k points)
Thank you all for your comments. My problem is that the other sources all vary too like some census data indicates she may be one DOB or the other DOB. I think it is because the area is so rural and their ethnicity may have played into the lack of data collected by state officials.

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