The essential data that should be included in citing a death certificate are:
• Name of decedant, spelled exactly as on the certificate.
• Name of the agency issuing the certificate.
• Certificate number(s).
• Date filed.
• Name of the informant and, if known, their relationship to the deceased and their residence.
This information should be supplied in full, unambigously, and verbatim. Never "interpret" the data on your source. Copy it faithfully and repeat it accurately. If you add to it, make it absolutely clear that you have done so (i.e. that what you supplied was not on the original document).
Here is an example using the actual death certificate of my great-grandfather, George Washington STRAUB (1846-1927):
Certificate of Death: Geo. W. Straub. Filed 24 Oct 1927. State of Ohio, Dept. of Health, Div. of Vital Statistics, Reg. Dist. No. 815, File No. 58943. Informant: Mrs. D.W. Benedict [nee Mary Gale Straub, daughter of deceased], Waldo, Ohio.
The brackets indicate that the enclosed information is being supplied by the researcher and was not on the original certificate.
The citation for the source does not include the data from the source. The data from the certificate (e.g. date of death, place of death, birthplace, parents names, etc.) are in the body of the work. These, too, should be copied accurately and verbatim. Do not guess, do not interpret, do not estimate, and do not add to the data without clearly indicating that you have done so.
The citation is what would appear as a footnote or endnote. The exact
order of information in the citation is not critical, as long the key information is supplied. However, if you are going to put your citations into a single alphabetical list, as when creating a bibliography or list of sources, you need to place the "author" first, followed by the year/date:
Ohio, State of. 1927 (filed 24 Oct). "Certificate of Death: Geo. W. Straub." Dept. of Health, Div. of Vital Statistics, Reg. Dist. No. 815, File No. 58943.
If you can't use italics, then quotation marks will serve to indicate the title of the document. If the name of the informant and their relationship to the deceased are mentioned in your text, they need not be repeated in the citation.
The purpose of fully citing and fully quoting your sources, verbatim. is:
1) to supply enough information about the source that there is no ambiguity whatsoever as to what it is and where it came from — so another researcher can easily find it again; and
2) to supply the data so completely and so accurately that there is no ambiguity whatsoever as to what it is — so another researcher doesn't have to go find it again!
This admonition applies to all source material in genealogy, not just death certificates. In genealogy, there is more repetition of effort, more reinventing of the wheel. than in any other field I've ever researched. If scientists worked this way — not fully sharing or fully documenting our work — we would still be making fire rubbing two sticks together!
©1999 Diana Gale Matthiesen (retired scientist)