A Digital Archive of Long-Lost Phillips County, Arkansas Death Certificates

A history class at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has created a new digital index of Phillips County death certificates from 1917 to 1922. This is an index only, not images of the original records.

Dr. Brian Mitchell’s American Urban History Class created the index during the fall 2017 semester and donated the archive to the Arkansas History Commission so it can be made available for public use.

“This project is an important addition to the commission’s collections as it is currently the sole record of African American deaths in the county for that time period,” Mitchell said. “The index would be helpful for future research on public health issues in the region, identifying many of the Elaine Massacre’s victims, and of vital importance to African-American genealogy in the state.”

Details may be found in an article by Angelita Faller in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock web site at: http://ualr.edu/news/2018/02/14/phillips-county-death-certificates/.


Congratulations to the history professor, Dr. Brian Mitchell, for recognizing the need to preserve a record of these deaths in Phillips County. Congrats to the students as well.
I was amazed to learn that the county policy at that time was for the coroner to retain possession of ‘their own records’ when they retired! Amazing… the death record of your loved one belonged to the coroner. Ahh… those allusive death records…


David Paul Davenport February 17, 2018 at 4:00 pm

I read the item on the link and have questions: First, if a researcher uses the index and identifies someone of interest who do they contact to get a copy of the original death Certificate, the funeral home? Second, does the index contain only African-Americans? Third, what if any legislation is professor Mitchell suggesting to the State of Arkansas so that Death Certificates are deposited with the State Archives rather than kept by the county coroner?


Perhaps an Arkansas reader will contact their elected representative to ask about this. At the very least, copies of death certificates issued by the Coroner’s should be transmitted to whatever central office office holds all the other death certificates issued in the jurisdiction, so that people who need to obtain copies will have a clue where to look for them. If they don’t know the person died in circumstances requiring a Coroner’s inquest, how are they supposed to know they need to contact the Coroner’s office instead of the normal repository in order to get a copy of the death certificate.


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