Sunday, July 14, 2013

Killed by Death

Abraham Lent Brewer was born in 1826 in Greenburgh, Westchester County, New York, to James Brewer and Mary Lent.  His sister, Rene Brewer, was my 4X great grandmother.  Abraham married Fannie Duryea.  She was a sister of Stephen Duryea, my 3X great grandfather.  (We'll save that story for another day.)

Because Abraham predeceased his wife, Fannie, their entire estate passed to her family, which helped me immensely in identifying her siblings and their children.  [This is why you need to follow siblings and not just your direct line!]  In researching this couple, I discovered that Abraham Brewer was the source of the naming of the Brewer Fire Engine Company of the Monsey Fire Department.

Yet the exact dates of death for Abraham and Fannie eluded me.

They died within hours of each other in April of 1901, according to newspaper articles.

Their gravestone at Brick Church Cemetery in Spring Valley, Rockland County, New York, listed the year of death, 1901, without a month and day.  Only the International Genealogical Index ("IGI") gave a month and day:  April 28.  Below are copies of the actual paper submissions that the IGI is based upon.  Sources are not provided!

Family Group Sheet submitted for IGI
Abraham Lent Brewer- "died 28 Apr 1901"

Family Group Record for Abraham Lent Brewer, his parents, and some siblings
Today's online version of the IGI

I ordered the death certificate for Abraham Brewer from the New York State Department of Health.  In return I received the death certificate for Fannie Brewer, his wife, with a date of death April 28, 1901 at 3 am.  This is the same date in the IGI for Abraham's death.  If the date in the IGI were correct, Abraham would have died between midnight and 3 am on April 28th in order for Fannie to have survived him, enabling her family to collect the entire estate.

New York State death certificate for Fanny M Brewer, died April 28, 1901 in Ramapo, Rockland County.

When I was in Albany, New York last year, I checked the index of deaths myself and took another shot at ordering Abraham Brewer's death certificate.  (Unlike neighboring New Jersey records, you cannot search yourself for the certificates.)  After several months, the death certificate arrived.  His date of death as per the death certificate is April 27, 1901 at 3 pm.

New York State death certificate for Abram L Brewer, died April 27, 1901 in Ramapo, Rockland County.

Now that we have Abraham Brewer's death certificate, we can form a picture of what happened, using the newspaper articles.  Abraham died in the afternoon of April 27th.  After caring for him for at least a week, his wife, Fanny, retired to her bed and died.  Her 3 am time of death is probably an estimate after neighbors checked on her the following morning and found her dead, but reflects that the deaths were within hours of each other.  Their deaths were not on the same day/date, but rather within the same 24 hour timeframe.

The date in the IGI is incorrect by one day and further illustrates why you should be leery of certain databases as well as all unsourced information.


  1. My grandfather was Earl J. Brower, born in New City, NY in 1888. His father, my great grandfather, was James H. Brewer, born Westchester County, 1856. James H moved to Rockland County before 1875 and married Emma three years later. They lived in Spring Valley the rest of their lives. The family changed names from Brewer to Brower after 1880 according to my grandfather, because Brewer sounded too much like "brewery." I'm pretty sure James' father is the James Brewer, b: 1828 listed on the Family Group sheet in your blog, but have not been able to prove it.
    I would love to know if you have any additional information on this branch of the family, but I don't know how to communicate with you. I have been unable to find an email address on your blog.
    John Wright
    Ocala, FL

  2. Hi John. You may reach me at
    James Brewer and wife (Mary) Jane Malcomb were living in New York City for the 1855 New York State census. With them were three children, Charles, age 4, Mary, age 2, and Abraham, age 4 months.