Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Family Tree Repair

John R Winterton was born around 1831 to Samuel Winterton and Sally Ann Johnson in New York City and died February 18, 1890 in Keyport, Monmouth County, New Jersey.

Here are the possible matches at Ancestry through Family Tree Maker:
Entries with a green arrow are dates of death consistent with the death certificate.

These are all derivative sources.

With the prior date of death from Find A Grave, 13 February 1896, I searched for a death certificate at the New Jersey State Archives and found none.

The memorial page for John R Winterton shows a side view of a stone that is not easy to read.  This is why you should transcribe a stone while physically accessible, and not later by looking at a picture of the stone.  The font shapes all of the numbers the same and differentiates them with a small piece missing.  It is very easy to mistake one number for another.

I visited Green Grove Cemetery in Keyport and took frontal pictures of the stone.  The date of death is etched as Feb. 18, 1890.  The lettering is not easy to read in the best of the pictures.

This date led me to a death certificate an an obituary in the Red Bank Register.

The death certificate is not easy to read.  The "body was found" on February 18, 1890.  This must have been an unwitnessed death, likely a heart attack.  He was 58 years old.  It may be possible that John died the previous day, did not come home, so a search party was sent out at daybreak on February 18th.  None of this is stated on the death certificate or newspaper obituary, so we'll go with a date of death on February 18th- when the body was found.

John R Winterton, a farmer living near Matawan, was found dead beside the railroad track near that place on Tuesday of last week.  He had fallen dead from heart disease.

I contacted the person managing John R Winterton's memorial page at Find A Grave.  The date of death was corrected.  I contacted the owners of the family trees who used the erroneous date.  So far, only one changed the date.  The other two continue to use the incorrect date of death.

The collection at Family Search -  New Jersey, Deaths and Burials Index, 1798-1971 - has the correct month and day, but the year is off by one.  This is an ongoing issue with this particular index and serves as a reminder that indexes are not primary sources.

An index for deaths is being created at the Archives.  Their index has the correct date of John R Winterton's death.

You need to be very cautious when straying from primary sources.

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