Death Certificate Data Visualizations

Using data gathered from 3,405 death certificates, we have built several data visualizations, which consider the effects of race, gender, and occupation on human life expectancy and mortality in Athens-Clarke County. Most but not all deaths within the county were recorded during this era, and this dataset provides a fairly comprehensive accounting of the men, women, and children who died between 1919 and 1927.


Like most southern towns, cemeteries in Athens, Georgia were segregated by race. Oconee Hill Cemetery catered to a primarily wealthy, white clientele. A separate, lesser-section of the cemetery was available for paupers and African-Americans, but, after emancipation, few African Americans chose to be buried at Oconee Cemetery. Founded during the second half of the nineteenth-century, Brooklyn, Gospel Pilgrim, and Spaulding Cemeteries catered to the town’s Blacks residents. Princeton Factory Cemetery, meanwhile, served the white working-class community.

Notice the discrepancies in life expectancy. On average, those buried in Oconee Hill Cemetery died at 47 years of age while those interred in Brooklyn Cemetery died at 37 -- a ten year difference.

Average Age & Place of Burial

Cause of Death

Each death certificate lists official and contributing causes of death. Richard Glenn, for example, died from “acute nephritis” on August 4, 1923; given our classification system, he is included under 'Kidney Disease.' In order to make our death certificate data more meaningful to researchers, we have grouped the cases of death into nineteen, distinctive categories, which are explained here. Unsurprisingly, young children died from birth complications while older Athenians died from natural causes and apoplexy. Pregnancy and abortion claimed the lives of women in their prime childbearing years. 'Unnatural death' -- often suicide or homicide cases -- occurred around 33 years of age.

Cause of Death

Race & Gender

Race and gender both influence longevity and health outcomes. Segregation, poverty, physically demanding jobs, limited access to health care, and systemic inequality can and did shorten the life expectancy of many individuals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In Athens, white women lived on average the longest: 47 years of age. Black women, in turn, died prematurely at only 37 years old. Of course, these numbers must be taken with a grain of salt: infant morality comprises a substantial portion of the data, skewing numbers. Some white and Black Athenians, without a doubt, lived to a ripe of age.

Average Age of Death According to Race and Gender


Our occupation does not directly predict our demise, but where we work and how we live can, in part, determine how we die. Take for example the southerner farmer: long hours spent out of doors, under the blistering sun, takes a toll on the body; heavy machinery and draft animals can easily maim a man; and chemicals designed to fertilize and enrich the soil poison the lungs and skin. To learn more about historic occupations, visit "Life and Labor."

Average Age of Death According to Occupation

NEXT: Death Certificates

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