Searching in a Mortality Schedule on

By Nancy Hendrickson

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Have an ancestor who died just before a federal census? Fear not! Mortality schedules record deaths in the year preceding the federal census, allowing you to learn a little more about ancestors who may not have lived to see the most recent census. These schedules contain information on the name, age and sex of the deceased, as well as the individual’s place and month of birth, cause of death and profession. In addition, the people you find in this index will be linked to the census image on which they appear.

In this quick tutorial from my book, the Unofficial Workbook, I’ll use’s Card Catalog to find information in a mortality schedule about one of my Cave ancestors in Missouri:

Step 1: Find your collection.

Go to the Card Catalog and filter for Census & Voter Lists. Then type mortality in the Keyword(s) box. Of the five resultant collections, I selected “Missouri Mortality Records, 1850 and 1860.”


Step 2: Enter your search terms.

Because I didn’t know which, if any, Cave family members would be on the schedule, I only entered the surname in the search box and left all other search boxes empty.

Step 3: Review your results.

The search resulted in two hits for surname Cave on this Missouri Mortality Schedule. I’m not sure Nancy Cave is one of my family members, but the birthplace of Virginia caught my eye since I know many of the Cave family originated in the Old Dominion. More research is needed. I could stop here, but I wanted to cast a wider net.

Step 4: Search more broadly.

I returned to the original five Mortality Schedule collections and selected “U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850–1885.” But when I noticed Missouri was not a part of this collection, I selected “U.S., Federal Census Mortality Schedules Index, 1850–1880.” According to the information about the collection, the only year Missouri is included is 1860.


Again, I only entered the surname and the location (Missouri) but selected Exact to this place, as I knew from past searches that Cave as a search parameter alone would return too many results.

There were two results, neither of which belonged to my family. But it’s worthwhile noting that although I selected Missouri as Exact, an Iowa death was one of the results. This is because Andrew Cave, who died in Iowa, was born in Missouri.