Saturday, January 07, 2006

READERS' FEEDBACK: What I learned from Great-Grampa's Death Certificate

Myrt had previously asked "Just how do we feel about death certificates? Are they reliable? What do you think? Have you also found conflicting info in death certificates?" See:

From: Terry
The question is not if death certificates are unreliable. The question is "Which is less reliable -- Census Records or death certificates?"

We must remember when that information on a death certificate is gathered, it is at one of the most emotional times in our life. Saddest. Who can think straight or wants to take a lot of time answering those questions at that time? And, you are talking about someone who is ancient. That person who passed was born somewhere, long time ago. Long ago. Check out some of the death certificates of the 1920s in rural parts of Georgia. A whole bunch of "Don't Knows" come up.

When the census are taken, some stranger from the US government comes to invade your private home and ask you some personal questions. Do you think these farmers want that? They are so insecure on their farms, they keep a shotgun by the front door. They want that gentleman out of there as soon as possible. And do you think he would tell his wife's true age? Nahhh. If they had 15 kids, how would they remember the age of the oldest ones. The children didn't need to go to school because they were needed on the farm. Who cares what their age is?

Who knows?

Death certificates are not all reliable.

When I received my Great-Grandfather's death Certificate in the mail I was surprised to see that in the "wife box" it was not my Great-Grandmother's name [Laura], but another name, Mamie. Who in the world was "Mamie"???

I took the Certificate to my Aunt [who was in the hospital w/cancer] in hopes she would know, but she was as shocked as I was. When she showed the certificate to other family members as they came to visit her, they too were surprised, and very upset with me for digging around for family dirt.

We had always been told that Great-Granddaddy [WALTER SCOTT GRIGGS] had divorced our Great-Grandmother [LAURA McCOY GRIGGS] about 1890 and moved to Norfolk, Virginia & live with a sister. My recent research indicates that WALTER married a MAMIE SPARROW GRIMSTEAD [a widow] in June of 1892. I found them together on the 1900 Census w/2 daughters. The girls were listed w/the last name, GRIGGS & listed as daughter, not step-daughter. The birth dates for the girls indicate that they were both born before the marriage!

LAURA used her maiden name after WALTER left her & listed herself as a widow on the Census in Princess Anne Co. WALTER listed himself as a widower on the Marriage Register when he married MAMIE. LAURA died in 1915 & WALTER died in 1926, so they were both lying.

I have not been able to find a divorce decree for LAURA McCoy & WALTER GRIGGS. I have not been able to find Mamie on any other census under Sparrow or Grimsted or Griggs. She is not on the 1910 Census w/Walter. On the 1920 Census he is listed as a widower & living in his sister's home.

Now what makes this all so interesting to me is -- WALTER SCOTT GRIGGS wrote & published [1926] a genealogy book on THE GRIGGS' FAMILIES IN AMERICA. Nowhere in this book does he mention this 2nd family.

I continue searching for divorce papers & Mamie's death. My aunts & uncles are not speaking to me because I won't "let sleeping dogs lie."

NOTE FROM MYRT: Did you notice the double entendre with the last word in that email?

From: Charles Royall
Most of the time the person giving the information was just guessing at a lot of things, especially if they were in laws or grandchildren. They list everything from wrong parents to what have you. One even listed my grandmother's father by name, who was actually her brother, not father!

Because it is an "Official" record, persons that did not know her would accept it as a fact. I knew her father, mother and brother well in real life, so I knew that her brother was certainly not her father.

This goes back to the old adage, never accept one document as a fact.

Get at least 2 or better yet 3 that agree.

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