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Barry Russell

Death certs?

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Barry Russell

Were there actual death certs provided for the dead?

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John_Hartley

It is an odd state of affairs, as it is possible to obtain a death certificate for a man killed in action (or died of wounds overseas). It is odd because I do not believe that one was ever issued at the time - although I'm basing that on never having seen one and my recollection, when your question has been asked before, that others had never seen one either. Deaths were, of course, officially registered and there is an index of overseas military and naval deaths for the war. This index gives the reference by which you can order the modern certificate, although there is usually no more information than recording that the man was "killed in action".

 

I've always understood that the official letter from the War Office confirming death, or presumption of death, was sufficient for families to settle a man's estate and, indeed, for a widow to remarry. I have often wondered about the situation where a man had been presumed dead, a woman had remarried and then the man turns up again. We know that there are occasions where the overseas death index is inaccurate and men were not dead, so it seems likely there must have been, erm, family difficulties.

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johntaylor

Hi, death certificates are available but to John's point, I can't say if they were issued at the time.  However I can confirm that they contain very little information.   About the only extra thing you might find out from it is the soldier's age at death, which is useful with one person I'm investigating, but otherwise I don't think you will learn very much.

 

There's an index online if you have a Findmypast subscription (see under Armed Forces Deaths), and you have to send off for the certificate via the General Register Office website, which costs around £10.

 

John

Edited by johntaylor

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ss002d6252

I understood the system along the same lines as John does.

I'm not sure the death certs were issued directly at the time - as far as I'm aware they were sent the official notifications at the time but no death cert was issued. The  details would would however be provided on a death cert by the GRO if an application is later made for the record.

Craig

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John_Hartley

FWIW, the GRO overseas deaths index contains approx 750,000 names. Every one was cross-checked against the War Graves Commission website by volunteers from the In From the Cold Project, as part of our search for men who werenot commemorated. A long, boring but ultimately rewarding task.

 

Then  we did it all over again cross checking Soldiers Died in the Great War.

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Retlaw

I have in my files of service records, where a mans father making enquiry's as to his sons death, was informed a death certificate will NOT be issued. I once had issued with C.W.Graves over a man missing from Thiepval, they demanded a death certificate. So I did a check on a batch of  names from S.D.G.W., against the micro fiche list of certificates in our local library, there ws a good 7% missing. When was  it decided a man was dead, some families didn't get official notification until 12 months after he was killed, even though his mates had buried him, and written home.

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Derek Black
10 hours ago, John_Hartley said:

FWIW, the GRO overseas deaths index contains approx 750,000 names. Every one was cross-checked against the War Graves Commission website by volunteers from the In From the Cold Project, as part of our search for men who werenot commemorated. A long, boring but ultimately rewarding task.

 

Then  we did it all over again cross checking Soldiers Died in the Great War.


It may be worth doing again, just to catch the ones glazed over and weary eyes missed the first time :P

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Indefatigable

In 2012 I obtained from the GRO a death certificate for a man KIA on 30.7.1916 in Mametz Wood according to a sister battalion war diary. The index for place of death shows France or Belgium which what was written on the certificate. The certificate I received was freshly handwritten using a fountain pen and was probably copied from the index unlike most certificates obtained from the GRO where the relevant details are in the form of a pdf scan taken from the original certificate. This to me reinforces the likely-hood that a proper certificate would not have been issued.

 

regards

 

Indefatigable

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ss002d6252

Hansard confirms they were not generally issued by the War Office in 1915.

"asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been drawn to the inconvenience which is caused to the executors of soldiers and sailors killed in action and to companies in which their estates are interested through the present practice of the War Office in issuing certificates of death, consisting of a flimsy slip, of typewritten information of which duplicates cannot be obtained as is the case with certificates obtained in the usual way from registrars..."

http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1915/sep/21/soldiers-and-sailors-death-certificates#S5CV0074P0_19150921_HOC_204


"asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that companies under the supervision of his Department are freely accepting as conclusive evidence of death the certificate of death issued by the War Office in respect of those killed in action, although the Bank of England declines to do so; whether such certificates are regarded by the Board of Trade as final or provisional intimation and certificate of death; whether they merely certify that death appears from the records to have taken place; and whether he can take steps to render limited companies and trustees secure in accepting a certificate so worded as equivalent to a Somerset House or local registrar's certificate in ordinary form?..."
http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1915/sep/30/war-office-certificates-of-death#S5CV0074P0_19150930_HOC_207

 

Craig

Edited by ss002d6252

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John_Hartley
8 hours ago, Derek Black said:


It may be worth doing again, just to catch the ones glazed over and weary eyes missed the first time :P

At the time, Terry & I seriously discusssed whether each batch should be double checked - partly for that reason and partly because some of the pages were very difficult to read and a second pair of eyes could have helped. In the event, it was just too time consuming for what would be very little result. There have been one or two names that we know did slip through the net and popped up again entirely by co-incidence (maybe being mentioned on the forum). I think I recall a couple of batches (each of about 1000 names) where we had concerns that the volunteer may not have been as thorough as others and these were rechecked.

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Maureene

 I recall a discussion of a GRO death certificate or index, where the country of death was not accurate. The man had been taken a prisoner of war and died in Turkey according to the ICRC records,  and I think the CWGC records, yet the GRO record, presumably supplied by the Army had him dying elsewhere. Mesopotamia, if I recall correctly. Perhaps an indication that not much care was taken with these records.

 

Cheers

Maureen

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John_Hartley
2 hours ago, Maureene said:

 Perhaps an indication that not much care was taken with these records.

With so many deaths being recorded, the occasional error is bound to occur.

 

When the In From the Cold Project started, the death certificate was regarded as the prime piece of documentation. You got that, you got your man commemorated, no question. That was until we discovered the occasional case where a certiificate had been issued but the man wasnt dead. Fortunately, by then, almost all of our submissions had been made and porcessed but, with the remaining in service deaths, we now submit at least one additional piece of evidence as well as the death certificate. That additional piece does not need to be official and I think we have submitted newspaper obituaries or evidence of an inscription on a war memorial. It simply goes to corroborate the certificate.

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Magnumbellum

As I have remarked on GWF previously in relation to birth certificates, birth, marriage and death  certificates were are issued by the GRO/Somerset House solely on payment of whatever fee is payable at the time of a specific request for a certificate.

 

Just as many poor families did not pay for a certificate of registration at time of birth (making it difficult to enforce production of a birth certificate as part of the enlistment process), it is likely that many poor families of those KIA never requested a death certificate other than the War Office "slip of paper". 

 

This is mentioned obliquely in the reply by the Under-Secretary of State for War on 21 September 1915, cited in Post 9 above.

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Ellis1918

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Ellis1918

Death cert of my Great Uncle.  Note lack of detail. Also his age at death should be 19.

Arthur enlisted on 28th Aug 1914 aged 17 years and 5 months to the 7th Battalion York & Lancs, a pioneer battalion meaning their main task was the construction of trenches, roadways and light railways.

He was killed by shellfire on 20th Nov 1916 aged 19 while working on the construction of a light railway between Ginchy and Les Boeufs in the Somme region.

img20170827_19144473.jpg

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RaySearching

Effects form 100B

59a328ca2d015_deathcirt2.JPG.bcc0a369733b9b078b2be6974606bacc.JPG

 

Ray

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ss002d6252
1 minute ago, RaySearching said:

Effects form 100B

59a328ca2d015_deathcirt2.JPG.bcc0a369733b9b078b2be6974606bacc.JPG

 

Ray

Thanks for posting that Ray.

Craig

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RaySearching

The Canadians were supplied with an official  death Cirtificate 

59a32b7a7811b_UnthankDeath_Cert_1.thumb.jpg.04423ad20661853a449f58f51fec9db5.jpg

 

Somewhere in my files I have the accompanying letter for the above

will see if I can dig it out

 

Ray

 

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RaySearching

Here it is

 

59a3300960c71_MilitiaDefense001.jpg.2ff4739c9a19447445fb9576ff443692.jpg

 

Ray

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clk

Hi,

 

Never be afraid to ask what might seem to be stupid question. Would the +100k people that died/are commemorated in the UK have been recorded through 'civilian' registration, for which a death cert would have been produced?

 

Regards

Chris

Edited by clk

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Derek Black
13 hours ago, clk said:

Hi,

 

Never be afraid to ask what might seem to be stupid question. Would the +100k people that died/are commemorated in the UK have been recorded through 'civilian' registration, for which a death cert would have been produced?

 

Regards

Chris


No.

 

[edit] i read that as foreign deaths commemorated in the UK :blink: [edit]


Derek.

Edited by Derek Black

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NigelS

I obtained a Death Certificate for my grandfather (see below) back in 2007. The certificate is in the same modern style, as that given by Ellis1918 in Post ID:15  with the personal  data also having been completed by  a  modern hand; at the bottom it states:

CERTIFIED to be a true copy of the certified copy of* an entry in a Service Departments Register.
Given at the General Register office, under the seal of the said Office 
4th day of October 2007

with the marginal note

*If the certificate is given from the original Register the words "the certified copy of" are struck out.

 

Other non war Death Certificates of the time that I've  obtained in the past usually appear to have a digitised copy of  the actual contemporary, hand written taken from the Register of Deaths  pasted into a modern style certificate with this given:

 

CERTIFIED to be a true copy of an entry in the certified copy of a Register of Deaths in the District above mentioned

 

A small point, but the difference in wording between these two certificates - with the cross out of the first example - indicates that the war death entries given in the originals  of the Service Departments Registers from which the information has been transcribed  were never actually certified, whereas those recorded  in the non war death Register of Deaths usually were.  I suspect this probably came about because it just wasn't possible, because of the circumstances in which they were recorded, to certify the validity of the entries for  war deaths.

 

In the case of my Grandfather the place of death is given as France where in fact it was Belgium; I suspect that there are probably more examples of this with 'France' being used as a 'catch all' for that part of the WF. Anybody have further thoughts/examples on this?

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Phil Wood
12 hours ago, clk said:

Hi,

 

Never be afraid to ask what might seem to be stupid question. Would the +100k people that died/are commemorated in the UK have been recorded through 'civilian' registration, for which a death cert would have been produced?

 

Regards

Chris

 

Yes, normal death certificates were produced for those dying in the UK.

 

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Phil Wood
On 8/26/2017 at 15:45, John_Hartley said:

Then  we did it all over again cross checking Soldiers Died in the Great War.

 

As a matter of interest John, did this highlight errors/omissions in Soldiers Died?

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Barry Russell

Thank you all for the replies.

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