Death Certificates of Victims


Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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With the one exception of William Hoyt, all those who died were listed as "Presumed drowned". We know this was not always the case, but that was the usual cause of death given after a sinking.

I'll see if I can dig up the record for Thomas Fay
 
Mar 13, 2008
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Hello, I'm a new user of this forum, after having found this thread via Google. I'm writing a genealogy research guide for tracing Titanic ancestors and was wondering where a family historian would be able to obtain a copy of the 'supposed death of a seaman' certificate. I have contacted the National Archives in Kew and they have directed me to the registers of deaths of seaman held under ref BT 334. They don't appear to hold the actual certificates themselves.

Would these have been issued as a matter of course, or would they be issued at the relatives request when having to claim on estates and life assurance policies? If that's the case then I expect that one was issued for Captain Smith - that would be interesting to see.

Also, I am trying to find out where copies of the death certificates can be obtained. Expecting that this was to be from Nova Scotia, I searched on the database on their website http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/ for a small sample of names of those lost in the disaster, taken from this website, and could not find any listed. Is this because they have yet to be transcribed, or that they're not held there? I have emailed them, but they have yet to respond and my deadline is approaching rapidly!

Many thanks for your help, it's much appreciated
happy.gif
 

Hilary Popple

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May 28, 2003
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I'm pretty sure these certificates weren't issued as a matter of course - I have never found any evidence of one for my great-grandfather (crew member) and my grandfather always said that his father had no death certificate as his body was not found/identified.
 
Mar 13, 2008
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That's great thanks Hilary.

I've been thinking that the only copy of the certificate would have been in the possession of the next of kin, with the details on it taken from the register of the deaths of seaman. So anyone trying to get hold of one of these would have a fruitless search! They would be better off getting a copy of of their ancestor's entry in the deaths of seaman register......

Am I right in my thinking here?

Also, how detailed is the information in the register?

Many thanks again.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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The Index to Marine Deaths (1891-1964) (The BT 334 class you were directed to at the NA) could also be consulted at the Family Records Centre, Rachel, and a certificate ordered (listed by name, age, vessel and page number) - I see that the FRC have transferred their operations to the NA this month. The information contained in the certificate issued includes Name of ship, Official number of vessel, Date of death, Place of death (might be latitude / longitude if lost at sea), Name and surname of deceased: John G Brew, Sex, Age, Rank, profession or occupation, Nationality, Last place of abode, Cause of death,
Passenger or member of crew, remarks.

As I recall, as most of this information was drawn from entries in the crew agreements or passenger lists and the official log, it was not issued in the cases of death during a foundering.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Hallo Rachel, and welcome to the forum. The Board of Trade's Register of Deceased Passengers provided basic details of the ship (name, port of registry etc), the date and place (ie navigational position) of death, basic details of the person from the BoT Passenger List (name, gender, age, occupation, nationality, last place of abode) and cause of death. Where a ship is lost, the latter is generally standardised as 'presumed drowned'. Where a passenger dies of natural causes during a normal voyage, one of the usual range of causes will be entered. If a passenger simply disappears (usually lost overboard) the entry in the 'Cause of Death' column is 'Missing'. The Register for Deceased Seamen presumably contains the same kind of details, and is the document from which the 'certified extracts' are taken.

The death certificates prepared at Halifax would I imagine be of little use for genealogists. They would contain no more detail than the above, being based again on information from the passengers lists. Almost all of the deceased were certified as having died from drowning, and the time and place of death would of course be the same for all.
 

Inger Sheil

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Bob, do you know their location? I know the NA has the "Returns of number of deaths (at Sea or ashore and supposed deaths at sea) notified to the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen. (and attached files)" covering 1941 - 1949 in MT 9/4768, but don't seem to see the previous years in the catalogue. Haven't checked the Maritime Museum of Newfoundland yet, but I would have assumed these records remained in the UK?
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Inger, I couldn't tell you offhand where the registers have ended up now, as it's been years since I was last looking for them. Part of the problem, of course, is that the original titles like 'Register of Deceased Passengers' (which was current in 1912) may be submerged within later and more comprehensive databases with different names. If you have contact with her, Debbie Beavis is very knowledgable in this area, though even she believes it to be 'a tricky subject', especially the distinction between registration and certification of deaths. It's what Lester Mitcham might call a 'Panadol area'! :)
 
Mar 13, 2008
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Thank you Bob & Inger, that certainly answers my question about these supposed death of a seaman certificates.

Even though family historians probably wouldn't glean anymore information from the death certificates then they already know, I think they would like to obtain a copy for purely historical reasons. Am I right in thinking that they can be obtained from https://www.novascotiagenealogy.com/ ?
The reason I ask is because I did a search for Astor, John Jacob, knowing that his body was recovered and identified, and got no results.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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I tried the names of the Canadian victims and couldn't find them either. I imagine the problem is that the search engine looks only at the registers of people who died in Nova Scotia. The Titanic victims were dead on arrival, so likely to be recorded in a special register. But you're probably looking in the right place (they certainly have the original medical examiner's records), so hopefully you'll get a helpful reply from the archivists. Make it clear that you're interested in images of the original documents (if such exist), as a newly typed 'copy' of the data will tell you nothing you don't already know or can easily find elsewhere.
 

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