|In Search Of ...||California Birth and Death Records, Social Security Death Index, Vital Records, Obituaries, Genealogy sites, Gravesites/Burial Locations, Newspapers, more.|
One of the great things about the Internet is locating information sources ... and where that info is archived, and how to obtain that data. A lot of data is available through government agencies that are required to provide that info under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Dennis Landadio, who wrote several Three Mesquiteers film reviews on the Old Corral, is a Bob Livingston fan. Dennis was searching for Livingston info, and found the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) at ancestry.com. That led to a request to the Social Security Administration for a copy of the original application that Livingston prepared and signed on December 4, 1936.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a record of approximately 65 million deaths called the Death Master file and it is in a tape format which is NOT searchable by the public. It is available for purchase by companies and genealogy sites from the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Technical Information Service.
Stephen P. Morse's SSDI in One Step gives you access to multiple free SSDI searches: http://www.stevemorse.org/ssdi/ssdi.html
Family Search SSDI includes records beginning in 1962: https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1202535
Additional search functions at Family Search, including census, birth, death, World War II draft registration, more: http://www.familysearch.org/eng/default.asp
GenealogyBank is a subscription service, but they provide free searches of the SSDI: http://www.genealogybank.com/gbnk/ssdi/
The SSDI searches can be frustrating, and you need to be aware of the limitations. And remember that a person may NOT be in the database IF the family did not file for the Social Security Death Benefit. You also need to know the person's real name. Bob Livingston and Chief Thunder Cloud are two good examples:
Go to one of the SSDI websites, and enter the Social Security number for Livingston/Randall into the "search" box. There should be a record for him. Note that the record is for a "Robert Randall", not Bob Livingston - so if you were searching for the names Robert Livingston or Bob Livingston, you wouldn't find the correct record.
Since Dennis Landadio and I knew the Social Security numbers of both Livingston and Chief Thunder Cloud, it was quite easy to get the above copies of their Social Security applications. If you know the SS Number, you can prepare a simple request letter, enclose a check/money order, and in a few months, the copy should arrive in the mail. You can also do an online order and pay with a credit card. The fee for obtaining copies of Social Security applications are in the $20.00-$30.00 range.
The State of California has an extensive database of birth and death records and that information can be searched for free:
One bit of info relating to this State of California Death Index - on some records, a Social Security number is listed, and if you click on that, you might also find a record on the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). However, you also may get a 'record not found'. The reason for the 'record not found' on the SSDI is that at the time of death 1) no one filed a burial claim with Social Security, or 2) the death occurred long before the SSDI was begun, or 3) there may be an error in the Social Security number in the California Death Index vs. the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). Just remember that the California Death Index database includes MORE people than on the California portion of the SSDI.
The U.S. Veterans Administration has a search to locate burial locations of Military veterans. Their website notes: "Search for burial locations of veterans and their family members in VA National Cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries, various other military and Department of Interior cemeteries, and for veterans buried in private cemeteries when the grave is marked with a government grave marker. The Nationwide Gravesite Locator includes burial records from many sources. These sources provide varied data; some searches may contain less information than others. Information on veterans buried in private cemeteries was collected for the purpose of furnishing government grave markers, and we do not have information available for burials prior to 1997."
VA gravesite locator webpage: http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/
The National Archives has a listing of World War II casualties and the following links are for military personnel from California:
There are many, but following are genealogy sites with links to others:
I know of no free online sources of obituaries covering Hollywood personalities going back 25-75 years ago. You may have some success using the free Google newspaper archive though it is limited as to the quantity of newspapers that are available. Below are several websites which include death and obituary information on 'famous people'.
alt.obituaries newsgroup on Google
There are also several websites which have obituary info or "In Memorium" info on entertainment personalities and other notable persons:
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website
Newspapers have always been a great source of info on people. Alas, the online editions of these papers have several problems: many provide free access to some stories, but require payment for access to their 'archives'; many of their 'archives' only go back five or ten years.
You may want to check the Google Newspaper archives first ... and some of the articles are free: http://news.google.com/newspapers