Cause of Death Decoder

Just as we in the field of genealogy have a friend in Steve Morse and the “One-Step” pages that facilitate effective searches of passenger lists, censuses, vital records, and more, so the scientific, technical, and medical research community have a friend in Wolfbane Cybernetic, a Scotland-based tech firm providing “modern solutions to modern problems.” One of their solutions solves a recurring genealogical problem: understanding the numeric diagnosis codes written in the cause of death sections of death certificates.

Maybe the digital image isn’t quite clear enough to read the words. Maybe the hard copy is damaged. Maybe the doctor’s handwriting is essentially illegible. Maybe the word “flux” is recognizable, but you have no idea what that might mean or refer to. The (usually) more readable numerical code can help.

Among Wolfbane’s “Archives,” is a page dedicated to the International Classification of Diseases.  At the top of that page is the “ICD Decoder,” the page’s simplest and most broadly applicable tool. The Decoder lets you choose from any of the code’s Revisions between the 6th and the 10th (1948–2018). Choose the applicable revision, enter a code, press enter, and the code’s meaning appears.

Should you need to consult earlier revisions, those editions can be searched individually from the dedicated International Classification of Diseases page, going back to Revision 1 in 1900. Wolfbane has not yet created lists from the original publication (1893) or from the most recent 11th Revision (2019).

The page also includes special ICD classifications like “ICD for Oncology” (Morphology of Neoplasms, 1st–3rd Editions, 1975–2000) and “Classification of industrial accidents according to agency” (1962).

Before you forget, visit these pages and bookmark them. Then, perhaps a little later, go back and look at all those death certificates with causes of death that you gave up transcribing before you even started.

Oops. Pardon me. I think I meant that last admonishment for myself. But I have a feeling some of you might have some idea what I’m talking about.

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