Did Ancestry.com Delete Information from Indiana Death Certificates?

Ancestry.com recently released three databases of Indiana vital records:

These certificates were digitized through a project with the Indiana Archives and Records Administration.

The death certificate for my great-uncle Herb contained an interesting bit of white space as shown in the illustration.

uncle-herb-gone

Partial screen shot on Ancestry.com for death certificate of Herbert C. Ufkes (died 7 February 1984–North Judson, Indiana) contained in “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011” and created from records on file with Indiana State Archives and Records Administration

What’s missing? The description for this database does not indicate any information has been excised from the document.

indiana-death-screen-shot-ancestrycomsoruce

I’m conjecturing that the “white space” is where the Social Security number was typed on the document.

It would have been nice if Ancestry.com  had indicated that information had been deleted from the actual record.

Did Ancestry.com reproduce the entire record when they digitized the images and then excise apparently omitted portion? Was it “whited out” before the images were made? This brings to mind a whole series of questions regarding the digital images that we use of records and that we rely on.

It also reminds one of the importance of citing exactly what one uses using the citation guidelines as suggested in  Evidence Explained. My citation to this image should include:

  • name of holder of the actual record
  • name of publisher
  • title of published database in which image appeared
  • date the image and database were accessed
  • name of deceased, death date, etc.

It would have been nice if the description of this database at Ancestry.com had indicated that some information had been excised from the record.

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11 thoughts on “Did Ancestry.com Delete Information from Indiana Death Certificates?

  1. I find this same thing on MANY of my Virginia death certs obtained from Ancestry. I never checked the description of the data base. I figured it was due to privacy issues, or Homeland Security, or the agreement Ancestry has with the Commonwealth of Virginia.

    Point, not the first time this has happened.

    • Connie White says:

      I have also noticed this on several VA certificates but thought it was with with my very slow internet connection. I will pay closer attention when I next log on for more research..

    • mjnrootdig says:

      Point taken.

      [I’ll essentially repost my Facebook comments here for those who don’t see those.]

      It’s happened before, but I feel it’s somewhat professionally irresponsible to publish these modified records without any indication of that modification. And to any others who may comment in this thread, I’m not really interested (at least here) in a discussion of whether the redactions were necessary. My concern is that if I don’t know what’s redacted, then I don’t know what’s redacted and not knowing is the problem.

      I should not have to guess at what sorts of information were removed.

      • M Robertson says:

        You are entirely correct. If anything was removed, it should have be stated that it was removed, for whatever reason. You must be able to trust that you are viewing the “exact” copy of the record, not just what Ancestry wants you to see.

    • The blank spaces on the DC posted above would often be the general area where names of parents are entered. They are noticeably missing on this document.

  2. Kathy Holland says:

    I pulled several death certs this morning and noticed a couple of “empty” spaces where info was deleted. And these are for people w/o SS numbers and died before SS was enacted. Makes one wonder.
    Kathy Holland

  3. Jean Stilwell says:

    Are these gaps only on the online copies? Has anyone gotten copies directly from the state and compared them?

  4. Howland Davis says:

    Randy Seaver has a different Death Certificate in his blog today. Does the elimination of information depend on the form?

  5. Ted Wright says:

    Why am I not surprised? Seems to me that Ancestry.com has always leaned toward the 1984 Big Brother pattern of deciding what is best for its customers. Thanks for bringing this up. I have questioned them a time or two over the years about seemingly capricious deletions or insertions. IF they answered at all, “answers” tended toward haughtiness and vagueness, as if I were too dense to understand. To be fair, some of the responses I have received came from overworked understaffed personnel who were trying their doggondest to process a mountain of data and get it on the internet for people to access. Having worked for a national Corporation I understand how projects are all too often doomed to mediocre results by understaffing, like the butchering job done on USGENWEB records when they were “moving them to better servers.” I know such procedures are fairly common among American businesses. That doesn’t make it right.

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