After attending Family History Day, I had a list of sources to look for. At the top of this list was checking to see if any of my ancestors would have been listed on a census mortality schedule. My 4th great grandfather, John George Zeapfel died 17 Oct 1879 in Lancaster, Erie County, NY. Searching for him on Ancestry did not yield any results, but reading mortality schedule did:
This shows he died of consumption and that there was not a doctor present at the time of his death. It also gives his birthplace (Alsace, France), occupation (retired farmer) and marital status (widow). Since NY state did not have death certificates this early in most cases, this is the only place to find some of this information.