Friday, November 16, 2012

Question About Stillborn Deaths

Elaine asks:
"I asked my sister (in PA) about our two siblings: Margaret was stillborn and James only lived a few hours. She couldn't find anything at home on either of them (as in paperwork/documentation). She did look online and found James listed as "Davis, Boy" for a death but no birth record. She couldn't find a birth or death record for Margaret. (Margaret was born 13 Feb 1957 and James was born 20 June 1959.) They are both buried in the same plot with just an "infant marker" (to my knowledge). Unfortunately, that cemetery is not online. (Small church cemetery.) How are stillbirths documented by a hospital (or county/state) - if they are born dead, do they not get a birth or death certificate?

I'm pretty sure the church will have some kind of records. I remember my Mom telling us that because neither one was baptized prior to death that they were not permitted to be buried within the cemetery (Catholic) and had to be buried outside the consecrated grounds. Upset my Mom something terrible. Years later the rules changed and Margaret and James were moved to the family plots within the cemetery. So there should be two sets of burial records from the church. (At least I hope so, I'll have my sister check on that.)

[Names changed since immediate family members are still living]

This can be a little hit or miss. I am not familiar with Pennsylvania records so I had to do a little sleuthing. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health : "The Division implemented a Certificate of Fetal Death in 1950. A Certificate of Fetal Death is filed after delivery of a stillborn fetus when the gestational period is over sixteen weeks and shows no evidence of life." There SHOULD be a Certificate of Fetal Death for Margaret and either a Certificate of Fetal Death or a regular death certificate for James.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has an online index for their death certificates. James is listed in this index but Margaret is not, however, I am not sure if the Certificates of Fetal Death are included in this index. You would need to contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health. I will say that if James has a death certificate he also has a birth certificate. I would want both for my records. I would also request the birth and death certificates for Margaret knowing that they may not exist depending on the circumstances.

The website states that if you are wanting birth or death certificates for genealogical purposes you need only indicate that on the form you send in. The cost is minimal, $9 for a death certificate and $10 for a birth certificate. That is pretty cheap in the grand scheme of things.

Now about the church records. Catholic Churches are famous for the excellent records they keep. I would contact the church. Since this is a small church, it is possible that their records are sent in to their Diocese but that won't be a big deal.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

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