Sunday, December 30, 2007

The California Death Index on RootsWeb

I've been using the California Death Index at RootsWeb a lot this evening to look up Midkiff descendants for my husband's family tree database. A distant cousin is preparing to publish a new book on the Midkiff family, and has asked that we submit updated descendant reports of their primary ancestors, Franklin Preston MIDKIFF and Ellender "Nellie" OLIVER. Of course, any living descendants will not be included, but there is much data in the family tree that needs tidying. I'm particularly looking up death dates and places in the various death indexes online, both state death indexes and the Social Security Death Index, for those descendants that are likely to be deceased (appearing as aged 80 or above in hubby's database).

A couple of things I noticed of which other researchers should also be aware. The first is that the Soundex feature doesn't apply to either the mother's maiden name or father's last name when running a search; only the surname of the deceased that you are searching for will have their name Soundexed. That may be true of the Metaphone feature as well (I haven't checked). So searching for children whose mother's maiden name is Midkiff, and using the Soundex feature will only bring up the exact Midkiff spelling under the category "Mother's Maiden Name," and not Medkiff, Medkeff, Metkeff and other strange varieties that I often see.

Another warning comes with possible errors in the California Death Index where it is linked to the Social Security Death Index, also on RootsWeb. I found that John Leland KIRBY, Sr., who married a Midkiff descendant, had the Social Security number 560-03-5333 linked on his entry in the California Death Index. When I clicked on the link, I was brought to the SSDI page for Louis ESCALLIER ("What the heck?!"). Running John's birth and death year through the SSDI search engine cleared up the matter. His Social Security Number was 560-03-3333. Also, the SSDI states his birthday was 22 Oct 1899, whereas the California Death Index says 22 Sep 1899.

So which is correct? It's hard to say, but my guess is that since the error for the Social Security Number came on the part of the California Death Index, then it's more likely that the CDI's birth date for Kirby is also incorrect. Looks like there was some sloppy data entry here (not that I've ever done that before!).

All that said, the California Death Index is a great help and guide to obtaining original records. I've been able to sort out relationships and find more family members by using this resource. By putting this data on our family trees and then uploading my GEDCOM to RootsWeb's WorldConnect, I've been contacted by many Midkiff descendants over the years and been able to verify the information as well as share with them their family history.


David said...

I've also found a few entries in the California Death Index that were head scratchers. But I've done so little with California research — few people in my database went out there — that it never became a huge issue. And, frankly, because some of the relations are so distant, I'm not going to be ordering vital records any time soon to figure it out.

Miriam Robbins said...

Hi, David,

Few of my husband's direct ancestors died in California. I do have most of their death certificates. I'm not about to spend a small fortune on purchasing certificates on distant relatives, unless I'm certain doing so will benefit the research I'm doing on his direct ancestral lines. The death indexes are just a nice way for me to discover more descendants of the Midkiff Family to add to my database. Adding these individuals helps when their descendants start researching their family trees and then contact me. I've been able to tell them more about their family history, and we've been able to have more attendees at family reunions and participants in our DNA project.

Thanks for your comment!