Monday, November 28, 2005

What I learned from great-grampa's death certificate

On my day off this week, ol' Myrt here naturally gravitated to the Family History Library. I decided to go for a quick fix and obtain an easily-found 1929 death certificate in Salt Lake County before I tackled the mysterious identify of the parents of that ancestor's great-grandparents in parish registers of St. Luke's (Old Street), Middlesex, England circa 1750s.
Here is part of what I already knew about my dad's paternal grandfather, from my grandmother Myrtle's family records.

-- NAME: Alma Oades Player
-- BIRTH: 12 Dec 1862, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah
-- DEATH: 26 Nov 1929, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah

At home in Florida, I have a picture taken just after all of Alma's children attended the funeral. One had been distant from the family for a number of years, but managed to return for the solemn occasion. I also knew that Alma's parents and grandparents were pioneers who made the trek west enduring dire circumstances.

Here's how ol' Myrt located the death certificate
1. I checked the Family History Library Catalog

2. I clicked the "PLACE" search button, and specified "Salt Lake" as part of "Utah" (without the quote marks.) Note I did NOT type COUNTY after Salt Lake, as I had previous experience understanding that designation isn't necessary.

3. I scrolled down and clicked on the topic "VITAL RECORDS."

4. I chose to see the details for the record group titled "Death records of Salt Lake City, Utah, 1848 - Sept. 1950 Salt Lake City (Utah). Office of Vital Statistics" since it covered the time period of my ancestor's 1929 death.

5. I noted that the collection was filmed in 1950 by the Genealogical Society of Utah and that it contained 31 microfilm reels.

6. To determine which film covered 1929, I clicked the grey button in the upper right labeled "VIEW FILM NOTES."

7. I scrolled down to make a note that the Death registers 1928-1929 were located on FHL US/CAN Film 26564.

8. I was already on the US/CAN (US and Canada) film floor, so I merely went to the drawer and pulled film #26564.

What I learned from great-grampa's death certificate
See thumbnail and full-size copy of the certificate online at:

-- My grandfather's name was typed incorrectly as Alma Odds Player.
-- He lived at 522 Grant Street in Salt Lake City.
-- His birth date was listed as Dec 12, 1861. I knew this as 1862.
-- He was listed as 67 years 11 months and 4 days of age, when he was actually 66 years of age at his death according to Grandma Myrtle's records. She was his daughter-in-law and lived across the street from him for many years.
-- Male, white, widower of Mary E. Player; this much I knew.
-- He was a contractor, retired 2 years; this was new to me.
-- His father was Charles Wm. Player, born in England. I had previously only known his father to be Charles Player.
-- His mother was Betsy Odds, known as Betsy Oades to me.
-- The informant was Acel Richardson of 908 West 1st North. I knew of Acel was a son-in-law from my father speaking with his aunts, Alma's sisters Mabel & Nora.
-- Date of death was 26 Nov 1929 as previously known.
-- Cause of death was described as "unknown, but natural" and there was no physician attending.
-- Signed by J. J. Galligan, Assistant Health Commissioner.
-- Deseret Mortuary Co. was in charge of arrangements.
-- The burial permit number was Z-1971.
-- Burial was at the City Cemetery on 12/1/29.
-- There was no number associated with the Salt Lake City death certificates. Fill-in-the plank forms were printed 4 to a page, and completed in rough chronological order.

What's NEXT for ol' Myrt?
-- Check the Salt Lake City birth records in 1861 and 1862 to determine which birth date is accurate.
-- Verify the spelling of his name on the birth certificate.

Just how do we feel about death certificates? Are they reliable? What do you think? Have you also found conflicting info in death certificates? In my opinion, the most reliable bit of information is the death date. Everything else is up to interpretation. After all, although Acel was a much loved son-in-law, he wasn't around to attend his father-in-law's birth, so his report of Alma's birth date is second or third-hand info at best.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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