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July Newsletter

      Carol Sanderson, Editor
      Charles Hansen, Technical Advisor

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- by Carol Sanderson

        How many times have you received information to document a death? You have waited patiently for the document to arrive with the information that you néed to document this ancestor's death. It arrives at last and your hopes are devastated, as it does not contain the information for which you were hoping. Where do I look now, you ask. There are many places and this article hopefully will help you with some facts you may not have realized or will be a reminder to those who feel more knowledgeable.

        Think first of your family.

  • Ask family members if they remember this ancestor.

  • Look at the memorabilia that family members have which concern this ancestor. Along these lines check photos that the family members may have that would increase your knowledge of him. Remember to check the back of all photos. Someone may have been kind enough to leave the name or names of those in the photo and also give the year.

  • The family Bible is another place to look for confirmation of facts of this ancestor. Be wary though, of entries that are all written with the same handwriting. That indicates that the facts were all entered at one time. One person may have interpreted some of the information and not all the facts are correct.

  • Get family members to recall stories that may involve this ancestor or others so that you will have them saved any way. Also look at any family letters that are old and other members may have saved that.

  • Diaries might give information of genealogical nature especially births, deaths, and marriages. Along with diaries be on the lookout for "scrapbooks" that might have clippings pertaining to the family that would be of genealogical help. Some people keep clippings of obituaries. You might also find in some of the family scrapbooks "funeral cards" They not only carry information but also quite often have a picture of the person. Just because you are working on the family history doesn't mean that other family members haven't done the same. Ask around and look to see if other descendants on other lines haven't done one.

  • A death certificate is the obvious thing that one looks for. Sometimes all the information is not given. You might want to research the missing items if you don't know them all ready.

  • When people die under questionable circumstances the coroner or medical examiner is called in and has to fill out papers and reports. Those are worth looking at if one feels that this was an unusual death.

        Other types of things to search for that would help are:

  • Obituaries. Today they are usually small "want ad" type notices but still have information that would give you other clues as to where to look. If the person were well know or noted for something there is apt to be a larger one with more information on the person. Papers in the old days would pick up obituaries from the surrounding areas so you might want to check those if your ancestor is from a small town.

  • It was a custom and still is today that people place "memoriam ads" in papers years after their death as a way of remembering these people.

  • Legal notices and estate auctions are other things that would help. Do you feel that we are grasping at straws? Perhaps, but these are all things that would give you information that you may not find anywhere else. They at least give you clues. So look in newspapers.

        Other more obvious places to look would be:

  • Cemetery files. Most cemeteries have their files. These can be of use to you, as can those that have been published by local genealogical and historical societies. Ask around. There are also many being published on the Internet these days.

  • Funeral home keep records and they can be of help in your search. I know of one society that was transcribing records from some old record books that one funeral home had.

  • Monument companies also keep records of whom they made and set monuments. They can be of some help.

        There are a lot of other places that one can look. Some are:

  • Medical records
  • Church records
  • Social Security records
  • Fraternal Organizations
  • City directories. If one is listed one year with a spouse as "wife" and the following year with the spouse as "wid" or "widowed" you would know that there was a death.
  • Census records
  • Military Records
  • Veterans records
  • State, county, and town histories.
  • Tax records
  • Probate records
  • Others that one is more familiar with are the IGI, the Ancestral File, and Pedigree Resource File from the Family History Library and Family History Centers as well as online.
  • There are many online sites too numerous to mention but they are found by doing a search or just surfing.

These are some examples of areas that will help you document an ancestor's death. There are others but I will leave that to you. Use your imagination. Almost anyplace your ancestor has been will have records of him/her.

I would recommend for your reading an article by Donna Potter Phillips. It is "40 Ways to Document a Death," pp 31-33, Family Chronicle, May/June 2002, published by Moorshead Magazines Ltd., 505 Consumers Road, Suite 500, Toronto, ON, M2J 4V8 Canada.

CLUSTER GENEALOGY - by Charles Hansen

        In the May June 2002 issue of the Family Chronicle is an article on "Tracing Female Ancestors" by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack. She mentions a book by Emily Croom called the Sleuth Book for Genealogists 1 , which describes Cluster Genealogy. Why is Cluster Genealogy important when tracing your female ancestors? Your female ancestors are probably the hardest to trace and cluster genealogy may be able to help.

        What is Cluster Genealogy? In the simplest form it is researching the whole family, so if you cannot find information on Jane Doe, check all the brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. When I was looking for the given name for my great grandmother, I found Dony, Done, Dora, Donna and Leydona while looking in various sources, but the obits of a couple of the children said the mother's name was Donna so I have settled on Donna.

        What happens if you still cannot knock a hole in your brick wall? Just as families traveled together, your ancestors had friends, classmates, military buddies and neighbors and they also traveled together. This is why you check the census page before and after your ancestors, you might find these same friends, and later the families of the children as the children got married. Cluster genealogy also works if you have ancestors with very common names so if you are looking for where John Smith moved and his old neighbor was Robert Higgenbothem, look to see if there is a John Smith near Robert Higgenbothem in the new location, they probably moved together.

        Sounds like a lot of work, but knocking a hole in your brick wall may take a lot of work. I have an ancestor Daniel Williams that came to Boonesborough with Daniel Boone. I know he was born in Virginia and served in the Revolutionary War, but I don't know his parents or any of his brothers and sisters. There was another Daniel Williams that came to Boonesborough, so maybe they are related? Were any of the Boonesborough people in the same unit of the Revolution? Did they come from the same area in Virginia? I still have a lot to check out before I find Daniel's parents. The good part is there is quite a lot on Daniel Boone and those that went with him to the wilderness.

1 Group Thinking - By Emily Anne Croom: Birds of a feather flock togetherčand so did your ancestors, leaving valuable clues with their clusters of family, friends and neighbors. Here's how "cluster genealogy" can get your research off the ground...

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