Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Saturday, December 16, 2017
|Kalamazoo County death register showing entry for Baby Boy Holmes|
Some years ago, I spent many hours researching Lucy Theodate Holmes, the daughter of Myrta Z. Belknap and H. H. Holmes, and one of the things I learned was that she gave birth to a son who died on Christmas--a son whose earthly life lasted but 45 minutes.
Baby Boy Hunter died on 25 December 1919. His death was reported to the Kalamazoo County Clerk where he was recorded as the son of "Lucy T. Holmes," born in Illinois, and "James Douglas Hunter," born in Minnesota.  The death record for Baby Boy Hunter can be viewed on FamilySearch but you will need to be logged in to access it:
The cause of death is difficult to read, but it appears to be "Asphyxia due to prolapsed cord and difficult breech extraction following version."
I cannot imagine the pain that Lucy must have endured on that day--and on the many Christmases that followed.
There's a gravestone in the Wildey Cemetery in Paw Paw, Van Buren County, Michigan near the stone for Lucy's mother that reads "Ronald Douglas Hunter."  There are no dates on the stone, but he is almost certainly the infant that died in 1919, perhaps named for his paternal grandfather, Ronald Hunter, and his father. 
I visited the cemetery once, to take photographs and pay my respects. It's out in the country on a quiet road, not too far from a farm that has ties to the family (but that's a story for another day). The thing I remember very clearly is how parched and brown the grass was the time that I was there.
I've misplaced my images of the stones, but there are pictures available on Find A Grave which can be easily found by following these links: Myrta Belknap Holmes | Ronald Douglas Hunter.
I think of Lucy when the holiday season comes around. And I think of her husband and her mother and her infant son. And I think about how this was just one of the many sorrows that she endured.
As far as research stories go, it isn't a happy one to tell, but maybe it's an important one to share.
1. "[Kalamazoo County, Michigan] Death records, 1867-1933; index to deaths, 1867-1997," FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FHSL-JHJ : accessed 16 December 2017) > “Deaths, 1918 (Townships Oshtemo p. 21-end; Villages; Cities) Deaths, 1919 Deaths, 1920 (Townships; Villages; Cities A-Kalamazoo, p. 134),” film 2074997 > image 682, entry for Baby Boy Hunter.
2. Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com : accessed 16 December 2017), memorial page for Ronald Douglas Hunter, Find A Grave Memorial no. 133906544, citing Wildey Cemetery, Paw Paw, Van Buren County, Michigan; accompanying photograph added by Linda Chowns (Johnson). Also Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com : accessed 16 December 2017), memorial page for Myrta Belknap Holmes, Find A Grave Memorial no. 133906380 citing Wildey Cemetery, Paw Paw, Van Buren County, Michigan; accompanying photograph added by Linda Chowns (Johnson).
3. For James Douglas Hunter's parents, see, for example, 1905 Minnesota State Census, St. Louis County, population schedule, Duluth, Hunters Park, ED 2, sheet 7 (penned), "Consecutive Number of Enumeration" entry 266 for Ronald M. Hunter and entry 269 for Douglas J. Hunter; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9Q97-YSBQ-FSR : accessed 16 December 2017), citing
Wednesday, December 06, 2017
I've been working on some Ohio research lately and yesterday's finds led me to Knox County deed book films that haven't been made available online yet.
I recalled reading something about asking FamilySearch to add films to a wish list and a bit of online searching took me to a FamilySearch article titled "UPDATE: FamilySearch Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm." It says "if customers need access to a particular film yet to be digitized, they can express interest to have it added to the priority digitization by contacting FamilySearch Support." 
So, I called the number (1-866-406-1830) and inquired.
The short of it is, I was allowed to ask for up to five films and so I did.
This morning I received an email telling me three things:
- My request was submitted.
- They might not be able to put a film online; it depends on permission from the record owner.
- They can't tell me when the films might be available and can't notify me if/when it happens, so I should just keep checking back. 
Some of the other films in the same catalog entry are available online, so I'm hopeful this will work out. If you want to follow the progress with me, here are the films I requested:
"Deeds (Knox County, Ohio), 1808-1901"
Films: 314030, 314031, 314032, 314056, 314059
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
This is the first in a series of three posts aimed at answering the question, "Where should I look for vital records?"
For marriages, in short, (no matter what an index search may tell you about availability), you can get licenses from 1871 to 1941 online through FamilySearch by visiting a Family History Center or an affiliate library. After that, you'll need to contact the Cook County Clerk's Office for the records.
|Record Groups Accessible from the FamilySearch Catalog
||Indexes to these Records|
|Marriage licenses, 1871-1920; index, 1871-1916
||Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, 1763-1900
Results provide license number
Results provide film number and image number
Results provide film number
|Illinois, Cook County, marriage records, 1920-1950
See https://chicagogenealogy.blogspot.com/2017/11/cook-county-marriage-licenses-creative.html for information on how record groups are arranged in the Family History Library catalog entry.
|Cook County, Illinois Marriage Indexes, 1912-1942
Results provide license number; index is not complete (no “Smith” entries beyond 1933 in search results, for example)
|Illinois, Cook County, marriage records, 1950-1964
||Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960
Results provide “file” number (license number)
Friday, October 27, 2017
Here is an example of an out-of-town death certificate for Flora Smith who died in Kansas City, Missouri. Notice that it's neatly written on a City of Chicago death certificate form. And notice that it only includes basic information: name, sex, color, age, death date, place of death, place of burial, undertaker, cause of death, and a physician’s name and address.
"Out of town deaths, 1909-1915," FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/280109 : accessed 22 October 2017) > series 4, nos. 1-1490, Jan.-Sept. 1912, microfilm 1298897 > digital folder 004005117 > image 51, Flora Smith, no. 45 (11 January 1912).
Now compare the death certificate that was created for Flora in Missouri. The information on this record was recorded in two or more hands and it is more extensive, including an occupation, birth place, parent names, what looks to be the signature of the physician, and the name of an informant who lived in Okla[homa].
"Missouri Death Certificates, 1910-1966," Missouri Digital Heritage https://www.sos.mo.gov/mdh : accessed 21 October 2017) > Missouri Digital Heritage > Quick Links > Missouri Birth > Death Records Database, Pre-1910 > Missouri Death Certificates, 1910 - 1966 > entry for Flora Smith, file no. 1241 (11 January 1912).
I don’t know how the Chicago record was created but my guess is that the information was copied from the Missouri death certificate, a burial permit, and/or a transport document. Compare the physician’s signatures, though. Clearly, the Chicago certificate is a derivative record.
I’m not sure why the Chicago record was created, but because it has minimal information, my sense is that it was intended to document the burial.
Notice how the two records work together to tell the story of Flora’s life, death, and burial. The Missouri death certificate tells us her occupation, lists her parents, provides an exact place of death, indicates the coroner was called, and gives her place of burial or removal as “Chicago Ill.” The Chicago record leaves off many of those details, but it adds an important piece of information—the cemetery name.
How to Locate the Out-of-town Death Certificates
The approach to locating these certificates depends on what you know.
If you have a death certificate from somewhere other than Chicago for a death that occurred between 1909 and August 1915, then you can go directly to the FamilySearch catalog entry for Out of Town Deaths, 1909-1915 and pick the correct film based on the death date. The records are grouped by death date and it shouldn't be too hard to browse the images to see if there's a matching record there.
Locate the Certificate Number
A more direct way to access these records is to locate the matching entry in the Chicago Death Index, 1871-1933 that I discussed in a previous blog post. (The images are available online at FamilySearch if you visit a Family History Center or affiliate library.) These certificates are listed in this index as "OT" (for out-of-town) and the register number matches the records on the films.
Here is the entry for Flora. Note the register number, "45" in the next-to-last column, is the same as the number on the top right corner of her Chicago certificate. The records are arranged in numerical order on the film (or the images created from the film) and this can save time in finding the correct record.
"Indexes to deaths in the city of Chicago during the years 1871 to 1933 : showing name, address and date of death," FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/293534 : accessed 22 October 2017) > Deaths, Sik-Ste 1871-1933, microfilm 1295974 > digital folder 004261177 > image 51, Flora Smith (11 January 1912).
Thursday, October 19, 2017
As I mentioned in the coroners' death certificate post, a coroner was called to investigate deaths that occurred under unusual circumstances. A jury was assembled, witnesses were interviewed, and, together, they tried to determine the cause of death. The findings were recorded as inquest records—short entries in bound volumes—and as the verdict on the coroners' death certificates.
To see a list of situations where today's medical examiner would be called in (Cook County changed from coroner to medical examiner in 1976), visit the Medical Examiner page on the Cook County Government website.
The format of the records changed over time. The first few volumes contain formulaic paragraph-style reports written in a blank ledger. Later volumes contained printed forms. However, the information included seems to be fairly consistent. Entries generally include the name of the deceased, the place of death, the verdict (cause of death), and the names of those who served on the jury. They may also include the names, addresses, and/or occupations of witnesses.
Most volumes are very readable, although the handwriting can be challenging. Some volumes are damaged and some images are of poor quality. For a quick overview of what's available, go to the catalog entry and navigate to > Coroners' inquest records, v. 1-2, case #s 753-3821, Dec. 1872-June 1878, film 2132248 > images 7-10. (Note: These guide sheets suggest the first two volumes are not indexed. It's true—there are no indexes in the books—but the names are included in the Cook County Coroner's Inquest Record Index, 1872-1911.)
The easiest way to get a feel for the inquest records is to read through example pages. I'll post an image below, but you can also view full-size examples by following these links: 1872 | 1890 | 1910
How Can these Inquest Records Help in Your Research?
Here are two ideas and, of course, there are others:
First, note that the inquests date back to 1872. It's possible to get death information from 1871-1877 through the Cook County Clerk's Office (but that's a topic for another blog post), but, to the best of my knowledge, this information isn't available online or at an alternate repository. Easy access to an inquest record can give you quick, inexpensive access to important information about a some early deaths.
And second, notice that some inquest records provide witness names, addresses, and occupations. These people may be family members, co-workers, friends and/or neighbors and the information may suggest productive follow-up research.
Obtaining Copies of Early Inquest Records
Digital copies of the early inquest records can be found on FamilySearch if you visit a Family History Center or an affiliate library and I will explain how to do that below. But, if you can't get to a Family History Center, you can get paper copies through the mail for $1.00 by calling the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU).
How to Find the Inquest Records on FamilySearch
These records are easy to find. Here's how:
1) Search the Cook County Coroner's Inquest Record Index, 1872-1911.
2) Find the match and note the name, the volume, and the page. Let's say we're looking for Nikola Vojvodic, volume 86, page 27.
4) Select the correct film based on the volume number and note the icon at the right.
5) Browse to find the correct page. Just be careful. Notice how film 2132288 includes two volumes? Make sure you're in the right book before you begin looking for the correct page.
Where to Find Later Records
If you are in need of inquest records after November 1911, contact the Cook County Office of the Medical Examiner.
Note: I see both coroners' and coroner's used to refer to the inquest records and death certificates. I guess it just depends how one thinks about it. I've tried to be consistent in keeping whatever spellings I see in the various titles.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
What is a coroner's death certificate?
If a Cook County death occurs under unusual circumstances--homicide, suicide, or accident, for example--or if the cause of death is unknown, the coroner is called in to investigate. Between 1879 and August 1904, two records were created when that happened: a coroner's inquest record and a coroner's death certificate. The records are related, but they're not the same. (If a person died from natural causes, there was no inquest and a "regular" death certificate was created. And, after 1904, the results of the inquest were noted on the "regular" certificates.)
Here's an example of a coroner's death certificate.
|Example of a Coroner's Death Certificate (1)|
Notice it lists the "verdict of the jurors" rather than a "cause of death." The other information is similar to what would be found on a regular death certificate, but it's not as extensive. The undertaker and cemetery names are written in the margin and the death certificate number is written at the bottom. This is typical of these records.
When to Look for a Coroner's Death Certificate
There are two times you would search for a coroner's death certificate:
1) When you have a newspaper article mentioning an accident, homicide, etc.
2) When you look for a "regular" certificate on a FamilySearch film (or the digitized equivalent) and find a gap in certificate numbers or a "Missing" note where the record should be.
How to Look for a Coroner's Death Certificate
If you have a name and a death date, you can go straight to the coroner's death certificate images but I highly recommend taking the time to quickly search the name in the Cook County Coroner's Inquest Index, 1872-1911. If the name is there (for deaths that happened up through August 1904), you can be certain the record you're after is a coroner's certificate, not a regular certificate, and that certainty is important. Why? Because some of the coroner's death certificates are badly out of order on the films (or digitized equivalents) and it's good to know you're searching for something that should exist.
Once you've confirmed you should be looking for a coroner's death certificate, here's what to do:
1) Note the name, death month, and year from an index or newspaper article. If you're using an index, note the certificate number as well.
2) Go to the Family History Library catalog entry for the Cook County coroner's death certificates, 1879-1904 and select the correct film based on the death date. Click on the camera icon to view the digital images. (You will need to be at a Family History Center or an affiliate library to gain access.)
3) Use the high/low number game to locate the section of records that matches the month, year, and first letter of the surname you're looking for. The images may be in reverse chronological order.
4) Once you've found the right section, use the certificate number from the Illinois Statewide Death Index, Pre-1915 to zero in on the right record or browse the images moving forward and/or back to locate the match.
How to Handle Tough Searches
The four steps mentioned above describe the ideal situation but, unfortunately, it's not always that easy. If you browsed through the records on some films, start to finish, you'd notice that clumps of records are out of order--almost like someone dropped a filing drawer and didn't quite put things back in correctly. And you would notice that some individual records are so far out of a logical sequence, they would be nearly impossible to find.
If you bump into a difficult film, you may need to go through the images systematically, perhaps jumping forward 5-10 records at a time, to find records for the correct month, year, and first letter of surname.
What if You Just Can't Find the Matching Record?
With effort, it's likely you'll find the record you're after, but if you can't, try searching the Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994 index at FamilySearch. This index includes entries for individuals who had coroner's death certificates and it includes extracted information. Something--even if it's a derivative record--is better than nothing.
Here's the matching entry for Frank whose certificate is shown above.
Note there is no film number--just a digital folder number and an image number which do not match the digital folder number and image number where the example certificate was found (see below).
I suspect the information in the index was extracted from recently-created images of the original records, not from images scanned from film and I was not able to use the digital folder number from the index to locate the actual records in the FamilySearch catalog. (If you are able to find that folder number in the catalog, please let me know.)
Getting at the Certificates from the FamilySearch Index
So, let's say you searched the Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1994 index, found Frank's name, and wanted to get his death certificate. The digital folder number provided doesn't lead to a catalog entry. There's no film number provided. And, there's no indication that it's a coroner's death certificate. How would you proceed?
1) The death is before August 1904, so quickly check for his name in the Cook County Coroner's Inquest Index, 1872-1911 index.
2) If there's a match (and in this case there will be), go to the Cook County coroner's death certificates, 1879-1904 entry in the FamilySearch catalog and follow the four steps listed under "How to Look for a Coroner's Death Certificate" above.
3) If there isn't a match, you will need to look for a "regular" certificate. Here's how:
a. Find the match in the Illinois Statewide Death Index, Pre-1916. If it says the death happened in Chicago, read on. If it says the death happened in Cook County, email me and I'll give you further guidance.
b. Go to the Wilmette Family History Center's key to pre-1916 Chicago death certificate films and use the death date and certificate number to choose the correct film.
c. Locate the correct film in the FamilySearch catalog (search for the number, click through to the record series, and locate the film number in the film list) and click through to the images. (Again, you will need to be at a Family History Center or an affiliate library.)
d. If you have an image number, use it to go to the right record. If not, browse using the certificate number.
Finding Chicago death records isn't hard, but it is complex. If you have questions, feel free to email me through my chicagogenealogy.com website. I'm always happy to help.
(1) Cook County, Illinois, Coroner's Death Certificates, Frank Cunningham, certificate no. 3257, 17 June 1895; digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/004262153?cat=89876 : accessed 17 October 2017), image 1065 of 1908.
Sunday, October 01, 2017
|Example card from the Lurie Index of People in Chicago in 1937 as well as All of the Voters' Registration for Chicago|
As the title states, this alphabetical card file appears to list registered voters living in Chicago in 1937 and it's important for a number of reasons:
1) It serves as a substitute city directory, filling in the gap between census years. (The last of the early Chicago city directories was published in 1928/1929.)
2) It lists people of the same surname living in the same house and can suggest family groupings.
3) It provides addresses.
These records can be accessed online from a family history center or FamilySearch affiliate library by folowing this path: FamilySearch > Search > Search by Title ("lurie") > Select correct title
Once the catalog entry loads, use the guide names to select the correct film and then click the camera icon on the right to open the digital folder and load the card file images.
At this point, there's something important you need to know.
On the original microfilms, the alphabetized cards run down one side of the film and then continue back up the other side upside down. When the films were digitized, cards from both sides were intermixed in a systematic way.
If the beginning or end of a film had a single row of cards, the digital folder images at the beginning or end of the group will likely be in easy-to-use alphabetical order. But, if you browse through the bulk of the images, you will see a progression that looks something like this:
I've found that it's helpful to quickly create a film key before I dive in to search for a specific card.
Let's say I'm looking for Eloise Smith.
I select the "Simmons, Dave - Stanford, Hamilton" film and see that there are 21295 images.
I type in an image number from the middle of the group, say 10000, view the image, and jot down the number and the surname.
Then, I click the arrow to move one image to the right and record that surname, too.
10000/01 Spencer Skul
Next, moving forward or back, I split the difference in half again, and do the same. Then I repeat.
See how a pattern is developing? Notice how the last two names don't fit it?
10000/01 Spencer Skul
15000/01 Sorock Sluzas
17000/01 Somers Smith, A
19000/01 Smola Sojka
Switch the entries so they do.
10000/01 Spencer Skul
15000/01 Sorock Sluzas
17000/01 Somers Smith, A
19000/01 Sojka Smola
The cards seem to begin with Skul and move down through Smola and then back up through Sojka and Spencer. Eloise Smith should appear between A. Smith and Smola, images 17000-19000. I would look at images 18000/01 and, depending on the name there, I would move on to 17500/01 or 18500/01. And, of course, when I got close, I would begin to go through the images one by one.
Unfortunately, the alphabetical organization is only useful in finding the first names on the cards. If Eloise doesn't appear in that position, and if I don't have a good idea of whose household she might have been living in, I will have to look at every Smith card to know if she appears in the index.
Note the numbers that appear after the address on the card at the top. Every card has a hyphenated pair and I'm thinking they might refer to voter registration district or similar but I haven't explored it. If you have other ideas or know for certain what they are and what use they might be, please share in the comments.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Today I'll focus on the Chicago Delayed Birth Index that's newly available in digital format through the FamilySearch Catalog. You can view the index images if you visit a family history center or FamilySearch affiliate library; you won't be able to view the images from home. And, you may be able to find the matching records online, too.
First, a little bit of background.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with delayed birth registration, it was a way of creating a civil birth record, sometimes long after the birth, when an original wasn't filed at the time of the event. It's particularly relevant to Chicago research because many early births went unreported.
Many of the entries in this index are for records that were recorded in the 1940s. Why? One reason might have been that people who were going to work for the war effort needed to be able to prove their citizenship. 
So, when should you use this index?
Checking this index is a good next step when you've searched the "regular" birth indexes and come up empty-handed. Why? Because an unsuccessful search for a birth certificate can mean two things--the birth wasn't reported or the name, for whatever reason, just isn't popping out of the index. If you find a match in this delayed birth index, then it's likely the birth wasn't reported at the time of the event and you can feel comfortable giving up the search for a record that likely doesn't exist.
And what should you know about searching it?
Just one thing. Surnames aren't listed in strict alphabetical order and it isn't sorted by given name. If you are search "Smith," you will have to look through many pages. The good news is years appear to cluster and you can use that to quickly skim through irrelevant entries. Take a good look at this example page to see what I mean.
In the past, I've suggested people contact the Cook County clerk's office to obtain copies of these record. However, it appears that at least some of the matches are included in the newly-digitized Cook County records that are available on at FamilySearch and their online index may duplicate this delayed birth index meaning--you may not have to use this index at all! For more information and a tutorial on how to find the records on FamilySearch, please watch the video at the top of the post.
 Alfred A. Worzala, "Your Social Security: How to Prove Citizenship," Chicago Tribune, 15 November 1970, sec. 5, p. 11, col. 1; digital image, Chicago Tribune Archives (http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1970/11/15/page/145/article/your-social-security : accessed 13 September 2017).
|Sample Image from the Chicago Death Index, 1871-1933 |
First up is a multi-volume set titled [deep breath] Indexes to deaths in the city of Chicago during the years 1871 to 1933 : showing name, address and date of death. I just call it "the Chicago death index, 1871-1933" or "the CDI" for short. One thing you should know about it right up front is that the title is a bit misleading. It mostly lists Chicago deaths, but it also includes some out-of-town deaths--entries for people who died outside the city but were probably brought to Chicago for burial.
1) When you're looking for deaths 1871-1877. As far as I know, this is the only public index that covers the early deaths. If you find a match, contact the Cook County clerk's office. My husband's ancestor appears and I was able to get the matching death record in that way. Looking at what I received, I'm pretty sure someone copied information from a death register onto a blank form. (As far as I know those death records aren't available anywhere else, but if you know differently, please let me know.)
2) When you can't find a name in any of the online indexes. Two reasons. First, the name might be spelled differently in this index, making it easier to pick out. Second, this index includes entries for people who died outside Chicago but were buried in the city. That Chicago ancestor may have died on vacation in Michigan--seriously--and this index is a good way to work around the unexpected. Out-of-town deaths are indicated by the "OT" in the column just before the date of death. If you find one of those entries, it's best to contact the vital records office where the death took place to see if you can get an original record. However, if the death occurred 1909-1915, the matching Chicago records (likely derivative) are available at FamilySearch. See Out of town deaths, 1909-1915.
3) When you're trying to find a record for someone with a common name. This index includes address of death so, if you know where your John Smith lived and if he died at home, which was often the case, it will be very easy to pick him out.
4) When you're looking for mention of a stillbirth. Stillbirths are indicated by the "SB" in the column just before the date of death. I haven't explored how to find the matching records, but I can tell you two things: 1) some stillbirths are recorded in the birth registers at the end of each alphabetical section; 2) many new stillbirth certificates appear to be online at FamilySearch, accessible through the catalog.
5) When you're looking for children who died but you don't know their names. Sometimes it's possible to pick out possible matches based on a known family address. So, when should you use this index? If you find matches, for deaths 1878-1933, follow the usual steps for finding those certificates. And, if you find yourself stumped, feel free to email me for help: firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Chicago Board of Health, Deaths in City of Chicago During the Years 1871-1933 Inc. Showing Name, Address, and Date of Death, Volume 27, Rid-Rzy ([no publishing information]); digital image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/004261176?cat=293534 : accessed 12 September 2017); Indexes to deaths in the city of Chicago during the years 1871 to 1933 : showing name, address and date of death > Deaths, Rep-Sik 1871-1933 > Image 54 of 929; citing FHL microfilm 1295973.
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