Family Tree Friday: Death Reports of U.S. Citizens

Have you ever tried to find an obituary or a death certificate for an ancestor, only to run into a brick wall because you don’t know the exact date of death? Well, if your ancestor was a U.S. citizen and died overseas, you might just be in luck.

Overseas deaths of U.S. citizens are reported to the U.S. Consul. The death reports were kept by the Department of State, and records from 1974 and earlier are now part of Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State. These are great records, and can provide a phenomenal amount of information. For example, you can find the full name of the deceased; occupation; nativity; age; date, place and cause of death; the disposition of the remains; and the names of any family members or friends were informed of the death. Sometimes you will also see a copy of the original death certificate issued by a foreign country.

1963 Death Report for James McArdle

1963 Death Report for James McArdle

To request a copy of a death report from 1974 or earlier, you can contact our College Park facility. The records from 1963 to 1974 have recently been digitized by Ancestry.com and are available on their website as “Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad, 1960, 1963-1974” (the database also includes a 1960 investigation into the reported death of Amelia Earhart). Records from 1975 and later are still held by the Department of State.

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11 Responses to Family Tree Friday: Death Reports of U.S. Citizens

  1. John says:

    Unless the US Citizen fell under the category, “Active Military Personnel” — or their US citizenship was unknown.

    http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/vital-records/american-deaths-overseas.html

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    • Katherine says:

      Hi John,

      You brought up something very important – if the individual was considered “Active Military Personnel,” the State Department’s Death Reports will not help. Also, there probably won’t be a record if the individual’s U.S. citizenship couldn’t be determined. These are both very important points to keep in mind when using these records.

      Thanks for pointing this out!

      – Katherine

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  2. rosita judy taylor says:

    my great grandfather was born in 1868 in Louisiana I,m led to believe and came over to Wales where he died on 22 march 1900. I cannot find a death cert and I was wondering if it would be with yourselves because I,m not sure if he was still a us citizen as I also donot have a birth cert. Please could you help.

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    • John says:

      Hi Rosita,

      NARA generally does not hold death certificates or related records since these types of vital statistics are documented at the state level rather than by the federal government. However, if your great-grandfather was still an American citizen when he died in Wales in 1900, then there might be a death report among the records and despatches of the local U.S. consul in Cardiff. Those records are available on microfilm from 1861 to 1906. If you would send your ancestor’s name to us at inquire@nara.gov, we would at least be able to search the film for a possible record.

      Thanks for the good question!
      John

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  3. JGRISWOLD says:

    Hi I see the name of John Arthur Griswold on report of the death of an american citizen when he died in Gleichen Alberta Canada. I am curious about him to get information. Wonder can you find anything more information on John Griswold born 1879 MN. (son of frank and eunice griswold). I heard he went to Canada. I wonder if it was him.
    thank you!

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    • Katherine says:

      Hi Jgriswold,

      Since the Consular report of death doesn’t provide a lot of information, you’ll have to do some research to connect John Arthur Griswold to “your” John Griswold. I would start by looking for your John Griswold on the US Census records. Since he was born in 1879, the first one he would appear on would be 1880 (his parents should be listed as well). You could follow him in the US Census records until he disappears. If you know where he lived in Canada, you can also try the Canadian Library and Archives. See their website at http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/index-e.html But you’ll probably also have to look at more local sources, such as county or church records. This is a good place to get started with this type of research: http://cyndislist.com/

      I hope this gives you some ideas. Feel free to contact us at inquire@nara.gov

      – Katherine

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  4. lynn says:

    Hello, I am trying to obtain information on my
    dad he died July 1977. His name is George Albert Mitchell he serve in the United States Army for 20 years. He died in a VA Hospital. I don’t know how to obtain my dad death certificate. I don’t know none of his family side. Could you help me.

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    • Katherine says:

      Hi Lynn,

      There should be a death certificate on file at the state. See this website for information on who to contact. You can also request a copy of his military record from the St. Louis National Personnel Records Center. Finally, depending on when he was born, you may be able to locate him in the census records. If you can find him as a child, he should be living with his parents. For some general information on what’s available and how to get started, see our website.

      I hope this helps you get started!

      – Katherine

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  5. Thomas Hudson says:

    I know of nothing on my father side except that he was born Feb.8 1898,in Brooklyn, N.Y.
    Vital Records in New York City can not find his Birth Certificate. I was able to get his Baptismal Cert from the church.
    His father was Conrad Hudson,born Est 1841 in Switzerland or Germany. According to my fathers Marriage Lic.
    Q: Can you help me find my fathers Birth Cert

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  6. Nancy says:

    We are trying to find the death certificate for my 1st cousin 1x removed. He was an active duty in the USAF stationed at Ramstein, Germany at the time of his death. Who would I contact to get his death certificate? Thanks.

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  7. Katherine Vollen says:

    Hi Nancy,

    Deaths of active duty military personnel are reported to the Defense Department. For information relating to individual casualty case files, call (703) 325-7960 or write to Army Casualty and Memorial Affairs Operation Center, U.S. Army Total Personnel Command, TAPC-PED, 2461 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22331-0482. You might also want to get a copy of your cousin’s military service record. Depending on when he served, it may not be publically available, but if you can get it, it should have a record of his death. See http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/about-ompfs.html

    – Katherine

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