Sunday, August 22, 2010

Certificate of Death: finding and using

Finding the death certificate can be very helpful for discovering the names of parents and of the cemetery. I have been disappointed many times when reading the parents' names as "Unknown." Also, the place of burial may have been changed after the death certificate was written, as I have discovered after a few wild goose chases.  But I have quite a few gems.  It is important to remember that the death certificate is written, by definition, after the subject has died and is not able to offer input.  The informant may not know the correct information or may give inaccurate information for lots of reasons.  Thus, the death certificate is a primary source for the date of death, but not the rest of the information found on the certificate.

This week, I received the death certificate of Calvin Cook.  He died 20 October 1889 in Jersey City, Hudson County, New Jersey.  Kudos to the Division of Archives for the fast- under two weeks- turnaround time.

Finding a date of death and then the death certificate in New Jersey is sometimes easy, sometimes impossible.  Calvin's acquisition proceeded like so:

1-  Calvin Cook, wife, and three children found in the 1880 federal census living on "Meadows" in Kearney, Hudson County, New Jersey.
2-  Neither he nor the wife found in the 1900 federal census.  Target death:  between 1880 and 1900.
3-  Found a potential match in an online family tree- died 20 October 1889.  Needed additional confirmation.  Emailed the creator.
4-  No matches found in a search of newspapers at  Performed a paper to paper search of the Jersey Journal at this website and find the obit on page 1 of the 22 October 1889 edition; died in Jersey City; buried in Dover, New Jersey.
5-  Mailed $10 and completed form to the New Jersey Division of Archives.

In the meantime, the creator of the online tree contacted me.  We discovered that we are third cousins, once removed.  I visited two cemeteries in Dover with no luck.  The office was closed at Locust Hill Cemetery, but I emailed them through their website.  The other cemetery, Orchard Street Cemetery, seemed older and more likely to be the one.  I walked around but did not see a Cook stone.

Two weeks later, I have the death certificate.  Parents of Calvin are listed as Stephen and Elizabeth.  This is great for researching the previous generation.  The place of burial was Dover, New Jersey.  No cemetery listed.

Game plan:  find death of Calvin's wife, Mary, and hope her obituary and death certificate lists an actual cemetery.

Eventual goal:  link this line to the Cooke line of the Mayflower.

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