26 August 2011

When Did They Die?

     Need to know when an ancestor died? Just look up their death certificate, right? Unfortunately, that's often not an option. Government issued death certificates are, for the most part, a more recent concept which became standard practice at different times throughout the United States. For example, South Carolina, Georgia and Connecticut began to require death certificates as of 1915, 1919, and 1897 respectively.

     When a death certificate is not an option, where can you look for a date of death? Here are some suggestions, some of which might be obvious and others which may be new ideas.

  • City or County Records - In some cases, specific localities might have kept death certificates earlier than the state required.  Before you assume that there is no death certificate available, check the area where your ancestors lived (if known) to make sure that there is, in fact, no death certificate.
  • Tombstones - If you know where your ancestor is buried, you might be able to visit the cemetery to find your ancestor's date of death. If the original stone is damaged or otherwise illegible, try and find a previously published transcription.
  • Obituaries - Published in newspapers, obituaries can provide a wealth of information about your ancestor and their entire family. Depending on the era and location in which the obituary was published, the information included may vary. The appearance of an obituary might also be decided by your ancestor's social status. My favorite online source for newspapers in GenealogyBank.com, though I've also gone to many local libraries to look up obituaries on microfilm. 
  • Mortality Census - Along with the population census, a mortality census was taken in 1850-1880. This document records deaths for the 12 months leading up to the census. A few states, Colorado, Florida and Nebraska, took a mortality census in 1885.  These are available on ancestry.com (link)
  • Probate Records - If you don't have an estimated date of death, you might have to spend a lot of time browsing reels of microfilm for probate records. However, if you do find a will or estate record, you'll know that your ancestor died before it was recorded with the court.  If you're lucky, you might be able to find a date of death in testimony given by witnesses. 
  • Church Records - Depending on the type of religion your ancestor was affiliated with, records will vary. Some churches took detailed records, others none at all. My experience is with protestant churches, who seemed to make random membership lists. Check with the church themselves as well as the local historical societies and courthouses - there's no telling where the records might be. Also check with FamilySearch.com, who might have made microfilmed copies of the church's record.
  • Tax Records - Unlike census records, tax records weren't only created every ten years, but were often taken every year. Depending on the location, availability may vary, however they usually list land-owning heads of households (you might also find tax records for other purposes as well).  Try and find a series of years and look for when you ancestor disappears. Does his wife show up in the tax records the next year instead? This method isn't foolproof, but it can work in some situations. 

     Case Study: I had a particularly frustrating ancestor, William Britt, for whom I could not find a date of death. I could not find a local death record, tombstone, obituary, mortality census record, any probate records, or church for him. He was an old man when he appeared in the 1900 census, giving his age as 81 (though I suspect he was actually about 75). By 1910 his (third and much younger) wife, Permelia, was listed as a widow, so I knew that he had died by then. I had a ten year window, but I wasn't happy with it. His son, my great-grandfather, was born in 1901 and I wanted to see if William was still alive at this time. That's when I decided to check the tax records. Luckily, the records were available for his location, Emanuel County, GA, for a number of years between 1900 and 1910.  By checking the records I was able to see that William was listed in the 1902 records, but in 1903 his wife, Permelia, was listed instead.  From this, I now know that he died sometime in 1902 or 1903. I still don't have an exact date, but I have a much better idea than I did. And I know that he died after his youngest child was born. 

18 August 2011

Floor Plans - The Craft House

     My paternal grandparents, Thomas and Sarah Craft (aka Granny and PawPaw), lived in Lilburn, GA. They lived on a curve in the road with a large tree at the end of their driveway. There was an old well in the front yard that had been filled in at some point, though it never occurred to me until later that this meant the house didn't originally have indoor plumbing. As far as I was concerned the house consisted of two craft, valerie, sarah, thomasrooms: the living room and kitchen.

     The living room was where Granny and PawPaw sat in their recliners and Granny painted our nails. They also had lamps that turned on with a touch and a candy dish full of mints. The kitchen was a long room, but the main features were the fridge full of cokes and the drawer with candy bars. When we would visit we would watch rodeos, cooking shows or the Atlanta Braves on tv, or the two VHS tapes they had: "Mrs Doubtfire" and "Dances with Wolves."

     As I said, in my mind the house consisted of the kitchen and living room. After Granny passed away a few years ago, the family emptied the house and I explored the guest bedrooms and the (huge) basement for the first time. Here's a floor plan of the house, that I completed with the help of my parents:

Craft House Floor plan

12 August 2011

Flying The Flag

      There's a new controversy brewing, as seems to happen every few years, over the flying of the Confederate flag in a cemetery. A quick internet search turns up a number of news article where a group is protesting the Confederate flag flying over a Confederate memorial and 400 Confederate soldier graves.

     Here's some background on this story: Westview Cemetery, located in Atlanta, is the largest cemetery in the South East, with more than 100,000 graves on over 528 acres of land. There is a section near the front of the cemetery with a Confederate Memorial, which is controlled by the local Sons of the Confederacy. Two flags are flown there, which appear to be the first and third national flags of the Confederacy. The flags are not flown anywhere else in the cemetery, though small flags can be seen placed at the graves of soldiers throughout the cemetery, as placed by family or other individuals. Recently, during the funeral of a civil rights leader, the Confederate flags were noticed and shocked the mourners. Those who have started to protest the presence of the flags have admit that, though they have visited the graves of relatives buried here often over the years, they had not seen the flags until recently [link].

     In general, my thoughts are that if a word or action legitimately offends someone, folks should try to avoid saying or doing whatever it is that is offensive. HOWEVER, this only goes so far. It is necessary to look at the context of the situation which is causing offense and make a judgement. I don't think it's appropriate to run around town with a Confederate flag flying on your truck or even wear a t-shirt with a battle flag on it - but I do think it's appropriate to display the flag at cemeteries to show respect for those individual's sacrifices. The Confederacy is part of our country's history. It may be gone, but it should not be forgotten - nor should it be glorified. The Confederacy is dead - it is not appropriate to find the flag in cemeteries? It's history, that's all.

     I'm sure there are many this would disagree with my viewpoint, and that's fine. There's a lot of emotion behind these debates, which lead folks to a variety of opinions. Engaging in a dialogue and sharing opinions can only lead to understanding and acceptance between people of differently backgrounds and viewpoints.

09 August 2011

Bethlehem Cemetery: Are You Related To These People?

     I was out with my sister when we saw a small cemetery on a hill in Hoshton, Jackson, Georgia. We pulled in to take some photos of headstones (for FindAGrave.com and BillionGraves.com).  According to the marker, this cemetery was at the former site of the Bethlehem Methodist Church, which burned November 11, 1970. Though the small cemetery is still there, the only part of the church remaining was the front step.

     There were two graves of note that I though I'd share online. The graves of the Edwards family had a sign, which requested contact from family:

The two graves are for:

  • Sarah A Edwards
    • Born: September 20, 1838
    • Died: May 17, 1906
  • Gideon Edwards
    • Born: April 16, 1822
    • Died: May 3, 1904
     If you happen to come across this post while searching for this family, you might call the number in the photo and see why Mickey is looking for you.

06 August 2011

SNGF: Present Photo Challenge

     This week's Genea Musings' Saturday Night Genealogy Fun spotlights the photo challenge at the Family Curator blog (details here). The challenge is to take a photo in the "Dear Photograph" or "Looking into the Past" style.

     I've actually done this before and blogged about it here. The finished photo can be very striking, though it can take a while to find the right photo and to get the technique right. You want to do this with a photo that has people and is in a distinct location. All of the photos I've done so far happen to be of people posing in cemeteries.

     Here's another photo that I've done, but hadn't posted. This is my Grandfather and Great-Uncle Bill visiting my Great-Grandmother Auline's grave in Westview Cemetery in Atlanta, cir 1980.

At Westview

     This photo is somewhat nostalgic, as my grandfather has now passed away.  He's buried in this plot now, but this photo makes it seem as if he's still here.

     This photo's composition is just about perfect, but the arm (my sister's) isn't in the best place, as it blocks most of the left side of the photo.  I do like how you can see my car in the background, which helps to show the modern timeframe.

05 August 2011

Solutions for Hard to Read Headstones

     I spent the last two days on a genealogy trip, mainly visiting cemeteries. I knew that I was going to encounter a number of old, hard to read headstones. I solicited some advise online for solutions for reading these stones and received some great suggestions. Here are my results:

1. Tinfoil
    Tombstone rubbing and chalking are bad for the stones. However, an acceptable method is tinfoil "rubbing." This is where you place a piece of foil over the headstone and use a soft brush to create an impression.  Overall, this technique did work, but it was somewhat frustrating and not worth the effort. It was difficult to get a photo of the shiny foil and shiny side up seemed to create the best results. Here's a photo of John P Quattlebaum's headstone, which isn't impossible to read, but not much easier either:

     Now with foil:

     The technique does work, but the headstone's really not any easier to see, either in the photo or in person. At the same time, I didn't feel like rubbing with the foil and brush was really much better than rubbing with paper and crayons/charcoal.

2. Wetting
     Another suggestion was to wet the stone, which would give it a more even tone. This is the method that I found to work best. We took a spray bottle, as well as a gallon jug of water.  Take this stone for example, which is pretty much impossible to read:

     Now see it what it looks like when wet and from an angle:

     What a difference! Now you can see that this is a stone for Ben and Permelia Ouzts: Together They Dwell In Our Father's House

     Overall, I'd say that wetting the stone worked better. I'll be taking water with my whenever I go out to older cemeteries from now on. I'll probably leave the tinfoil at home.

04 August 2011

Researching the Tornado

     I'm just home from a two day road trip fully of genealogy. I didn't have a lot of time to spend doing any one thing or in any one place, but I was able to drop into the Hart County Public Library in Hartwell, GA. They were supposed to have the local newspaper on microfilm, which they did.

     There were tons of things I could look up in the weekly county newspaper, but I was most interested in a tornado. The tornado was one of many that hit the region on 16 April 1944. This one destroyed the home of my Grandparents, Thomas and Sarah (Britt) Craft. I'd already found the tornado in regional newspapers, but there was no mention of my family. I was hoping that the local paper would mention them. 
I'd heard the story of the tornado from two sources, both of them second-hand. A distant cousin related that the family hid under a bed, which was the only thing left of the house once the tornado passed. Hearing the story, I'm always very thankful the family survived.
"Thomas Craft, home, furnishings, clothing, four outbuildings and contents destroyed; Mr. Craft back injury; Mrs. Craft and two children bruised"

tornado in the montevideo community

"Resume of Damage," The Hartwell Sun, Hart County, GA. 21 Apr 1944.

02 August 2011

$50 off at 23andMe

I received a coupon from 23andMe this morning for $50 off a DNA Test, which I have been encouraged to share. Here are the details:
"Thanks to you we've made some pretty amazing DNA discoveries - from fun findings on curly hair and detached earlobes you can share at parties, to groundbreaking health-related discoveries about DNA and Parkinson's disease. 
We'd like to thank you for your participation in research. Every survey question you answer allows us to push for new discoveries. The more people who participate, the more cool stuff we can find, and the more we can share with you and the rest of the world! 
To show our appreciation and to encourage others to join in this research revolution we are giving you a $50 coupon that you can share with as many people as you like. This coupon expires in 7 days (August 9, 2011) so make sure you get the word out fast. 
Thanks a million! You rock!
The 23andMe Team
To use this coupon, visit our online store and add an order to your cart. Click "I have a discount code" and enter the code below."


Related Posts with Thumbnails