Thursday, October 8, 2009

Reports of deaths of American Citizens Abroad, 1963-1974

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

The latest addition to the Ancestry.com arsenal of materials is a database which is surprisingly modern in terms of years covered.  It is entitled “Reports of Deaths of American Citizens Abroad, 1963-1974."  It is quite a unique view of the types of people who died abroad (although they do not contain those members of the military who were on active service at the time of their death). 


The records were collected by the State Department on form FS 192 “Report of the Death of an American Citizen.”  These forms which are typewritten contain the following information:

  • Place and date of record
  • Name of deceased
  • Occupation
  • Nativity
  • Last known address in the U.S.
  • Date of death
  • Age
  • Place of death
  • Cause of death
  • Disposition of the remains and effects
  • Names of friends and family members who were informed of the death, had a copy of the report sent to them, or was traveling or residing abroad with the deceased
  • Remarks
I decided to look up my favorite name Cohen and see what that had to offer in terms of data of a genealogical nature.  For a starter, there were 64 entries for Cohen and they covered countries such as Bahamas, Canada, England, France, Ghana, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Portugal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Switzerland, USSR, as well as those individuals who had died aboard ships at sea such as the MS Europa sailing from St. Maarten to New York.

Many individuals had been on vacation, whilst others had been visiting relatives abroad or had been living or had retired abroad.  One such person was Rabbi Pinchas Dov Cohen in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.  His record provides the names of his widow and sons as well as his legal representative.  Often the records state that the deceased was receiving social security benefits.

A number had been ill with diseases such as cancer and others had been taken suddenly due to heart conditions or other illnesses and accidents such as car crashes.  There was a group of young people too who passed away suddenly who were students or those a bit older.  Some examples are Edward Jeffrey Cohen, age 19, a student attending Antioch College’s program abroad in France and Kallman Cohen, age 25, a journalist in Spain.

Most interesting of all, was the death of Ellen Naomi Cohen aka Cass Elliot or “Mama Cass”.  She was a member of the well-known 1960’s band “The Mamas and the Papas”, who died on July 24, 1974, at the age of 32, in London, of fatty myocardial degeneration due to obesity.


I also decided to look at some other names such as Rosenberg and found a sad record for Philip Rosenberg, a businessman, from Los Angeles, who died on March 5, 1966, on Mt. Fuji, near Gotemba Shi, Shizuoka Ken, Japan.  He was on a BOAC flight which crashed into the mountain.  There was not much in the way of personal information for the deceased or even the names of closest relatives on the first record which I found, but much more was filled in on the subsequent two records which were given.  Often, you may find more than one record for a deceased when the information is updated.  

Due to the fact that these records are more modern ones, it is sometimes easy to locate information about the decedents on the Internet.  An example of this is that following his death, Philip Rosenberg’s wife was involved in a court case regarding his estate which can be found on-line here.

Another crash victim was antiques dealer, Milton Safran, age 49, of Columbia, SC, who was killed at Fontaine-Chaalis, Oise, France, on March 3, 1974, aboard a Turkish Airlines DC-10.  He had two reports in his name.  Of interest, is this site, which gives the history of his family and their antiques business.

It may be noted that, although some of those who passed away in foreign lands were shipped back to their homes, many more were either buried where they died or were cremated.  Particularly, for those who died in Israel, burial in Israel was an option the relatives readily took advantage of.  This was especially the case when the individuals had retired to Israel.

One of those buried in Israel was Morris Rabinowitz.  His list of survivors included his wife who lived with him and his sons in America whose last names were now Robert.  This is an important find for tracing families.  Another Rabinowitz death was that of Annie Rabinowitz whose brother was mentioned as well as her son who was now a Rabin.  Her naturalization certificate was specified with its number which included the names of all those in her family.

Another person buried in Israel was Rabbi Baruch Mordecai Goldman who was born in Jerusalem, came to America and was naturalized.  He last lived in Philadelphia, PA.  Evidently, he then returned to Jerusalem where he died.  His six children are listed in the report.

A final record which shows the diversity of the individuals who died abroad was for Paula Rosenbaum, nee Metzger, who was born in Germany, and was an American citizen who has last lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  She died in an old age home in St. Miguel, Argentina.  One of her children lived in Argentina and the other in Tanzania, Africa.


While this is a tremendously interesting database and full to the brim with fascinating data, there is one small drawback as you cannot search by country unless you first enter a name for the deceased.  Otherwise, it would be possible to find someone who you didn’t really know the correct name of who had died in a particular country.  Despite this, the database is well-worth taking the time to look through as you might something of value regarding your family.

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