Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mortality Schedules

Question from Pat R.
"Could you tell me if there is a way to find cause of death for Elisha Clyde Akins who died in Tuskegee Al 1875 or anyone who died in 1800. I have seen a Mortality site once."

The state of Alabama did not begin filing death certificates until 1908. If you are lucky enough to have an ancestor that died in a census year from 1850 to 1880 then you are in luck. The death had to have occurred between:

  • June 1, 1849 - May 31, 1850 [1850 Mortality Schedule]
  • June 1, 1859 - May 31, 1860 [1860 Mortality Schedule]
  • June 1, 1869 - May 31, 1870 [1870 Mortality Schedule]
  • June 1, 1879 - May 31, 1880 [1880 Mortality Schedule]

However, census takers make mistakes so if your death date is even remotely close to the parameters then it is a good idea to check the mortality schedule. does not have the mortality schedules for Alabama. The 1850 Alabama is available at Family Search . You can also browse the 1850 images by Alabama Counties.

The 1860, 1870, 1880 Alabama mortality schedules are available at the Alabama Department of Archives and History and the National Archives [NARA]. Mortality schedules are great. Here are some entries from my own file:

  • 1850 Abbeville County, South Carolina
    Nancy Martin, age 75, female, widowed, born in South Carolina, died in August, farmer, cause of death - old age
  • 1850 Madison County, Georgia
    Nancy Seegar, age 48, female, white, free, married, born in Georgia, died in January, cause of death - Cronic [?]
  • 1850 Fayette County, Georgia
    Unity Hunt, age 69, female, married, born in Virginia, died in February, farmer, cause of death - typhoid fever, ill for 21 days
  • 1860 Pickens County, South Carolina
    Rebecca Williams, age 78, female, white, free, widowed, born in Maryland, died in July, cause of death - dyspepsia, ill for 5 months
  • 1870 Fayette County, Georgia
    Geo. S. Patton, age 9 months, white, born in Georgia, died in September, cause of death - whooping cough
  • 1880 Perry County, Mississippi
    Elizabeth Garraway, age 36, female, white, widowed, born in Mississippi, housewife, died in November, cause of death - consumption
  • 1880 Columbia County, Georgia
    John Lewis, age 81, male, white, widowed, born in Georgia, both parents born in Georgia, farmer, died in May, cause of death - paralysis, attending physician J. Maddox
  • 1880 Edgefield County, South Carolina
    Mary V. Wood, age 14, female, white, single, born in South Carolina, both parents born in South Carolina, in school, died in July, cause of death - typhoid fever, physician Madison Roberts

When reading mortality schedules and death certificates, you will come across many medical diagnoses that you have never heard of. The terms they used back then isn't necessarily what we use now. I highly recommend the book, A Medical Miscellany for Genealogists. It is a dictionary of archaic medical terms.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. There are a number of deaths in my genealogy which I've been unable to find from the 1870s - 1880s. Are there mortality schedules for those years?

    I found your blog through Geneabloggers. Welcome to Geneabloggers.

    Regards, Jim
    Genealogy Blog at Hidden Genealogy Nuggets

  2. They only recorded deaths that occurred within the census year (give or take a month or two). If they died in 1871-1879 they won't appear on the 1870 or the 1880 mortality schedules and anything past 1880 won't appear either because there is no 1890 mortality schedule. The mortality schedules are great but very limited. The genealogy program I use allows me to search for everyone that died within a census year making it easy for me to know who to try and look up.

    Thank you for taking a look at the blog. Geneabloggers is wonderful :)