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Writing Break: Death Records

Research into Wilson family records continues, even though I’ve started drafting Emmett’s story. This morning, I found a new item courtesy of the Church of Latter-Day Saints database,


Hard copies of available death records from the Florida Death Index.

It’s hard to read, but these are all the records of Emmett Wilson’s family members with death records recorded with the Florida Department of Vital Statistics. Not every member of Emmett’s family had a death certificate available on that database; I’ll give the background on that in a minute.

The important thing about checking on death records via this index is that it can save you a lot of money if you want to get an actual death certificate.  For example, if you see your ancestor’s name on this list (which includes record numbers, date of death [but not the cause], and place of death), it will expedite your search.

If you don’t see your ancestor’s name on this list, chances are more likely that a record doesn’t exist, but not always. For example, Emmett’s name is not in this database. Records are sketchy for deaths reported before mid-1920s, when Florida mandated death certificates for all residents. You can request information for records earlier than the 1920s at the Department of Vital Statistics, but know you will get charged, even if they don’t find anything. Luckily, Emmett did have a death certificate, which was signed by his father, Dr. Francis C. Wilson.

Anyway — I check the database periodically for updated records. Here’s what I found today:

These are the two pages at the bottom left of the photo above. It’s hard to read — sorry about that.

Here, we have the death record of Emmett’s youngest brother, Walker Wilson. Walker was born in Chipley Florida, 1884, and died in Duval County, Florida, 1943.

On the next page, is another entry for a Walker Wilson — death listed in 1922. Note that there is a suffix — junior. I knew already from talking to Walker’s descendants of two children (Margaret and John), but this child was not mentioned.

The cemetery records in Hillsborough County, Florida, reveal that Walker and his wife, Jessie Evans Wilson, did indeed have a third child — Walker Wilson, Jr., born 14 September 1920, and died 26 March, 1922. He is buried near his mother. I don’t know how the child died; but infant mortality rates were higher than today. The American Journal of Public Health presented the following statistics for infant mortality for 1920-1926 per 1,000 births:

Source: The American Journal of Public Health, p 922, A Statistical Report of Infant Mortality for 1926.

A research tip: If you request death certificates from the Department of Vital Statistics, it’s a good idea to send/email a copy of the death index report, with the individual’s name and record number circled. It expedites the process.

Also: Local churches/parishes and hospitals often keep burial,  funeral, or death records. Sometimes a cause of death is listed there, if one cannot find a death certificate.


Categories: Family


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