Friday, July 23, 2010

Docu-Challenge: Charles W. Player death certificate

Death Certificate - Charles W. Player, 18 April 1913,
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah.
NOTE: To view added analysis and the announcement of the winner -- please click here.

DearREADERS,
Death certificates are one of the basic records to collect on an ancestor, particularly those who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century. The US federal government required all jurisdictions to maintain records of birth, marriage and deaths beginning in 1920. However, public vital records created by local or state governments vary in format and content from state to state. Unfortunately there is no universal form or central vital records authority for the entire US. Find out more about who has the records for your ancestor's locality by visiting www.USGenWeb.org


Some places your ancestors lived have records that survive from hundreds of years prior to that 1920 mandate. Vital records of towns in Connecticut come to mind here.

Genealogists jump on a death certificate such as this, and indeed it IS exciting to find any document that mentions an ancestor. But we should remember that no single document tells the complete story of an ancestor. Additional documents from the time period will round out our understanding.

THE CHALLENGE
So, we're going to look at this death certificate, Charles W. PLAYER, a great-grand uncle on my father's side of the family tree. We must train ourselves to look for strengths and weaknesses of the information provided. Click the document to view a larger version of the scanned image. It may help to transcribe the document. (Transcribe means "word for word" and is the opposite of making an abstract.)

1. List the MOST reliable info on the death certificate. Explain your reasoning.
2. List the LEAST reliable info on the death certificate. Explain your reasoning.
3. What conclusions might be drawn by the addresses of the deceased and the informant?
4. List other record groups this death certificate points you to consider in additional research.


FOR FURTHER READING
You'll find assistance in this DocuChallenge by reading Val D. Greenwood's The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy which may be available at your local public library if it has a genealogy section.



THE WINNER
ALL RESPONSES are to be posted as comments to the blog entry, and NOT sent via email to Ol' Myrt here. Entries will be judged 14 August 2010 at midnight. The judge reserves the right to reject entries, and the decision of the judge is final.

The winner of the "Docu-Challenge: Charles W. Player death certificate" will receive a copy of Val Greenwood's book for his or her personal library. The book will be shipped on or about 15 August 2010 from Ol' Myrt's "satellite offices" at Amazon.com to a US address only.

So, DearREADERS, go forth and dissect the death certificate. Let's see what you come up with.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
DearMYRTLE,
Your friend in genealogy.

6 comments:

  1. [Please feel free not to publish mine as I feel slightly like a ringer and I already have Greenwood.]

    Charles W. Player Death Certificate:

    1. The most reliable information would be the date, location, and cause of death as provided by the doctor who signed the certificate.

    2. The least reliable information would be the place of birth of Charles. This is because even Charles (who was 60 at the time of his death) would not remember that specifically. The person relating this information would be the informant (Mrs. Amagina Player) who may have met him decades later.

    3. The deceased and the informant appear to both live at 974 South 2nd [200?] West in Salt Lake City. They may be related by marriage: either Amagina is Charles's wife or the wife of one of his sons. Although some states have a blank for the relationship of the informant to the deceased, that is not present here.

    4. Records to search based on this document:

    My immediate first step would be to find Charles in the U.S. census records to verify some of the information provided on this certificate. I would seek the 1900 census (is the month and year of birth the same? who is the wife? how long have they been married? what is his birthplace? the birthplaces of his parents?). I would expand that search to include all the census information available on Charles.

    City directories for Salt Lake City (who is living with Charles? Is Amagine a wife or a daughter-in-law? Actually, is #975 a residence or a hospital? what was Charles's job? Was he a foreman? Where?).

    Obituaries in Salt Lake newspapers. I'd expand this search to include all of Charles's family members including his own parents.

    Records of the cemetery where the death certificate says he was buried. Is he really there? Does he have a marker stone?

    LDS records for marriages and children (IGI, for example) to see how active he was in the church and what information church records can verify about his origins.

    He looks a little young to have fought in the Civil War, but nonetheless, a check for records on him or on his father is merited. Civil War pensions often include birth information on the wife and children of the pensioners.

    Another useful step is to look for DearMYRT discussions of her ancestors. She identifies this man as a great granduncle and may have entered him into some online database.

    More possibilities: Throwing general queries against Ancestry, Footnote, and Google Books. Stopping by the Salt Lake County record office for all those records such as deeds or marriages or probate settling the dead man's estate.

    ReplyDelete
  2. [Part 1 of 2]
    Most reliable information on death certificate:
    Information related directly to the death (date and place of death, cause of death, date and place of burial).
    This information would be the most reliable because it was recorded at the time the event took place. The certificate was filed the day after the death, so everything was still fresh in their minds. The one thing that could be in error in that respect would be the date of burial because it was done after the certificate was filed, but presumably, the arrangements had already been made and there was very small likelihood of them not being followed through with.

    Least reliable information on death certificate:
    Any of the information that did not revolve directly around the death would be more suspect (name, date and place of birth, parents names and birthplaces, age).
    While his name should be accurate since it was provided by someone with the same last name who presumably knew him well enough to know his name, there’s still a chance that his name is not listed accurately. The information about his birthdate and age would hopefully at least give an accurate birth day with the year still being suspect (assuming he was in the habit of celebrating his birthday in some fashion every year). The information on his birthplace and his parents’ names and birthplaces would be subject to whatever he told the informant and how well she remembered the information. As the information is very specific, I would give more credence to it while keeping in mind that it may not be entirely accurate.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Conclusions drawn by addresses of deceased and informant:
    His residence is listed as Salt Lake City. The address listed at the top is not actually confirmed to be his residence though, since he died there, it is very likely to be his residence. Assuming that it is not his residence, the informant could be a daughter-in-law or close relative (niece, sister-in-law, etc.). If it is his residence, it is very likely that the informant is actually his wife.

    Other record groups this death certificate points to for additional research:
    Since he died in 1913, I would start with the 1910 census and work backwards (1900, 1880, 1870 & 1860). This would verify whether or not the informant is actually his wife or not, and would establish the likelihood of the parent and birth information being correct. Also, once the censuses have been reached in which he is not married, it can be ascertained whether or not he is living in a household in which the parent information conforms to what was given on the death certificate. If the parents can be located in the 1850 census, and if their residence at that time is in Nebraska, that would point to a possible county for the birthplace of the deceased. In looking at the Family History Library Catalog, his birth would have occurred before the beginning of registered births.

    Information from the censuses should point towards a year of marriage, and depending on where they were and where their children were born, a likely place of marriage could be derived as well. In that case, if a marriage record was able to be obtained, the information on the parents should be able to be corroborated as well.

    The cemetery records and checking to see who is buried in the same plot and/or nearby may shed light on additional relatives and his relationship to them. If the funeral home can be located (or at least their records), they may provide additional information (or perhaps just a more detailed look at that snapshot in time). The burial permit number is also listed on the death certificate, so if those records are available, that may be another source of information as well.

    Finding a copy of his obituary (if one was published) would hopefully give names of family members and where they were living at the time of his death as well as information on him and his life that might provide additional clues that would be useful in researching him. Another source that should definitely be checked is his probate record, which would hopefully list his heirs, and would show the allocation of his property, which if relationships aren’t explicitly stated, might give implicit clues to the relationships. If there was any land or property probated, it might be useful to check the land records in Salt Lake County, Utah. If the land was left to someone other than his wife (or transferred later upon her death), she may have had to sign a quit claim. There could be other interesting clues in the land records as well.

    ReplyDelete
  4. [Part 2 of 2]
    Conclusions drawn by addresses of deceased and informant:
    His residence is listed as Salt Lake City. The address listed at the top is not actually confirmed to be his residence though, since he died there, it is very likely to be his residence. Assuming that it is not his residence, the informant could be a daughter-in-law or close relative (niece, sister-in-law, etc.). If it is his residence, it is very likely that the informant is actually his wife.

    Other record groups this death certificate points to for additional research:
    Since he died in 1913, I would start with the 1910 census and work backwards (1900, 1880, 1870 & 1860). This would verify whether or not the informant is actually his wife or not, and would establish the likelihood of the parent and birth information being correct. Also, once the censuses have been reached in which he is not married, it can be ascertained whether or not he is living in a household in which the parent information conforms to what was given on the death certificate. If the parents can be located in the 1850 census, and if their residence at that time is in Nebraska, that would point to a possible county for the birthplace of the deceased. In looking at the Family History Library Catalog, his birth would have occurred before the beginning of registered births.

    Information from the censuses should point towards a year of marriage, and depending on where they were and where their children were born, a likely place of marriage could be derived as well. In that case, if a marriage record was able to be obtained, the information on the parents should be able to be corroborated as well.

    The cemetery records and checking to see who is buried in the same plot and/or nearby may shed light on additional relatives and his relationship to them. If the funeral home can be located (or at least their records), they may provide additional information (or perhaps just a more detailed look at that snapshot in time). The burial permit number is also listed on the death certificate, so if those records are available, that may be another source of information as well.

    Finding a copy of his obituary (if one was published) would hopefully give names of family members and where they were living at the time of his death as well as information on him and his life that might provide additional clues that would be useful in researching him. Another source that should definitely be checked is his probate record, which would hopefully list his heirs, and would show the allocation of his property, which if relationships aren’t explicitly stated, might give implicit clues to the relationships. If there was any land or property probated, it might be useful to check the land records in Salt Lake County, Utah. If the land was left to someone other than his wife (or transferred later upon her death), she may have had to sign a quit claim. There could be other interesting clues in the land records as well.

    ReplyDelete
  5. 1. The most reliable would probably be the place and date of death, as the doctor signed the certificate and the informant was living in the place of death at the time. The birthplace of the deceased ONLY if it was known ahead of time by the researcher.

    2. The least reliable would be his age which was calculated probably from the date of his death and ONLY confirmed IF his exact birthdate was known to the informant.

    3. It can be logically assumed that the informant was his wife because the addresses are the same. But she could've been a daughter-in-law since she's listed as 'MRS.' and he could've been living with one of his children.

    4. Other records I would look for would be an obituary if one could be found to confirm whether the informant is his wife or someone else, again since he could've been living with one of his children. The census records, specifically the 1900 census would help confirm whether the informant was his wife; it might also establish the month of birth, though that isn't always the case. Earlier census records might establish the place of birth of his parents. Finding the cemetery records, and whether or not the cemetery itself is still under the name listed on the certificate, would also confirm his marital status. Probate records and a last will would give names of other relatives including siblings. Finding a marriage record would also help along with a death certificate for his wife.

    ReplyDelete
  6. 1. List the MOST reliable info on the death certificate. Explain your reasoning.
    -Address of informant, date of death, occupation of deceased, place of burial/undertaker, cause of death.


    2. List the LEAST reliable info on the death certificate. Explain your reasoning.
    -date of birth. Often inaccurate. Places of birth for deceased and parents can be inaccurate. Maiden name of mother sometimes is wrong.

    3. What conclusions might be drawn by the addresses of the deceased and the informant?
    --The informant was related to the deceased, possibly the wife of the deceased.

    4. List other record groups this death certificate points you to consider in additional research.
    --Cemetery records (City Cemetery), Undertaker/mortuary records (S M Taylor & Co), Nebraska vital records (birth, marriage), Utah vital records (marriage), Census records from 1850-1910 for both Nebraska and Utah, vital records from England for his parents (marriage index would be a good place to start, and then if fruitful, to other birth, marriage and death records from England), passenger list records for his parents from England (use census to determine immigration date if possible), naturalization records for his father, Mormon church records due to residence in Salt Lake City at the time, newspaper obits, land records, etc.

    ReplyDelete