The Ryerson Index is an online database of contemporary death notices and obituaries in Australian newspapers. Why is it useful? For four main reasons:
- The searchable records for deaths in the NSW Births Deaths and Marriages (BDM) are only available for 30 years ago or more i.e. this year (2011) you can search 1980 and older death records. Any deaths more recent than this cannot be searched. So what do you do if you want to find a death more recent than this? Your best option is to use the Ryerson Index. Details of any death record published in a contemporary Australia newspaper included in the index can be found there. How far do the records go back? It depends on the newspaper, but there usually is a good overlap with the deaths in the BDM records.
- The details for deaths contained in the BDM records are not very exact in terms of location because they only list a district. If the death occurred in a city the district listed will not necessarily be the exact suburb where it occurred. If you want greater detail the Ryerson Index may have extra details, including the suburb it occurred in, and often where the person formerly lived.
- The BDM only lists the year a death is registered. Sometimes a death may have been registered late (so the year is actually not the year the death occurred), plus usually you want more detail than just the year. The Ryerson Index lists the exact date of the death.
- The Ryerson Index often lists the age of the deceased. This can be extremely useful if you have no record of the year of the person's birth - you can calculate a vague idea of the year of the person's birth from it.
To give an example, the NSW BDM shows Thomas Joseph English died in 1948 in Concord district. Further information available from the Ryerson Index shows that he died on the 3rd of March 1948, at North Strathfield, but that he lived at Canterbury. He was 80 years old when he died, suggesting he was born about 1868.