Whenever I hear of someone complaining about the high prize of subscription genealogy websites such as Ancestry.com, I have to wonder about where their priorities lie. Genealogy as a hobby or passion is no different than anything else one might do with your free time - you willingly pay for what you want to get out it in the way of enjoyment. For me, I would never spend money playing golf or attending concerts, but if that is what you want to spend your money on, who am I to tell you you are wrong.
Recently, Ancestry added three databases relating to Indiana genealogy that has made the annual subscription price worth its weight in gold, so to speak. Because so much of my ancestry has Indiana ties, I was ecstatic when I found out that birth, death and marriage records from the state level were being imaged and would be available in 2016 at Ancestry.
The publication of these databases has kept me busy updating and adding to the information in my database for my direct and collateral lines with Indiana ties. Right now, I working through the death certificates database and finding information regarding spouses, causes of death and residences that I didn't already have.
Having all of these records in one place makes research cheaper because the costs of these long form certificates from the state are $8.00 each. If I went to each county, I could be paying even more for a certificate. Just recently, I paid $10 per certificate for county level death records. It only takes a few of these online images for me to reach the break-even point on the cost of a certificate. In addition, having the long form from the state will give you information not found at the county level, such as who the informant was for the information.
Knowing who the informant was for the information provided can be extremely valuable in evaluating the accuracy of the information given. On the death certificates, information given regarding birth date and names of parents are suspect as clues only - as oftentimes the informant was a son or grandchild who didn't know the maiden names or exact dates of birth. I've recorded the information as I've found it - using as a clue with a bit of skepticism. Informants were under a lot of stress and grief, and it is easy to make errors. I've seen grandmother's maiden names given instead of the deceased's mother's maiden name and I've also seen the birth date of the informant instead of the deceased. In those cases, I'm assuming that the informant simply was too distraught to understand the question they were being asked.
The long form death certificates also give the manner of disposal and the funeral home and cemetery where they were buried, providing additional avenues of research. Far-flung relatives could die in one part of the state and be buried "back home" or next to a first spouse.
The most frustrating piece of information is when you are looking for the names of the parents and the informant states "don't know". Sad to think that they didn't know the names of their grandparents, but with extended families and lots of years between them it is easy to see how a granddaughter or grandson whose elderly grandparent died at their home wouldn't know where they were born or who their parents were when answering the questions of the physician.
The saddest thing I'm finding while researching these Indiana death records are the number of young children dying from measles and pneumonia. We are blessed these days to have antibiotics and access to healthcare. Tragedies do still occur, but they are more rare and shocking today than they were 75 to 100 years ago when it was common for families to lose a child or two.
I look forward to being able to knock down some brick walls and expand my knowledge of extended families through the information gleaned in these databases. I'm only part way through my database on the death certificate database, I can only imagine how many more discoveries I'll make when I begin with the birth and marriage records from Indiana.