Charles Henry Russell, III was just 20 years old when he died on October 12, 1964 in Orleans Parish, Louisiana. A valid question is: what happened? How could we find out what the cause of his death was? Was he married? Did he have children? Who were his family members?
The index tells us nothing about these things.
With an approximate birth year of 1944, we wouldn’t find him on the 1940 U.S. Census. So, where could we look for information on someone who died so young?
Indexes are Starting Points
This is a prime example of why you don’t just rely on an index for information. The index on Ancestry does not tell you anything about Charles other than his age, date, and location of death.
While the Louisiana, Orleans Parish Vital Records, 1900-1964 on FamilySearch does give more information, such as an exact date of birth, name and birthplace of Charles’ parents, the name of his spouse, and his death certificate number, it’s still very surface. Sure, we have his parents names so we can begin to trace their parents and ancestry, but 20 year old Charles is our focus. He has a story too, right?
Get Original Documents – ALWAYS
When in doubt ALWAYS get an original document. ALWAYS.
Charles’ death certificate tells us a lot. From it, we learn:
- his exact time of death
- his employer, Delta Pipe and Supply in New Orleans
- his birthplace
- his wife’s approximate age
- his death location and how long he was there
- his address
- that he’s not a veteran
- his exact cause of death was an accident that resulted in several injuries
- that the accident that killed him happened at his job
- his mother was the informant and lived at the same address he lived at with his wife
- that an autopsy was conducted
- when and where he is buried
- the funeral home that handled his services
This is quite a bit of info, right? But what if even the death certificate, an official document, still doesn’t give us a full picture of what happened?
Don’t Stop at the “Golden Ticket” Document
Most researchers would call things a case closed and just stop at Charles’ death certificate, but we’re not most researchers, right? Searching out the local newspaper around Charles’ death clears things up much more.
Questions to answer:
- What do you notice about the newspaper account of the accident? What things stand out to you that differ from what an official document (the death certificate) says?
- What can you surmise when you compare the indexes to the actual death certificate, the newspaper account, and the obituary?
- Should we automatically assume that someone so young has no paper trail?