Monday, October 23, 2017

Death Certificate Provides Range of Dates for Death

Andrew Newcomb met a sad death in the winter of 1928-1929. He became lost and froze to death. He was missing for over five weeks.

Andrew and my third grand aunt, Emma Newcomb (1855-1890) had at least four children before she died. They lived in Matawan, Monmouth County, New Jersey. After Emma's death, Andrew married Annie McKee in Brooklyn in 1892 and they resided in New York.

I previously wrote about Andrew when the lack of a specific date of death was brought to my attention via Find A Grave.

Ironically, Emma's date of death is also questionable.

Andrew's tombstone reads 1851-1929.

Green Grove Cemetery, Keyport, Monmouth County, New Jersey

Newspaper accounts explained that Andrew left home from Westbury on Long Island, New York in December. His body was found in January of 1929 in Laurence Harbor, Middlesex County, New Jersey. He may have been trying to visit family in nearby Keyport or Matawan, Monmouth County.

The next piece of evidence needed was Andrew's death certificate from the New Jersey State Archives.

Madison in Middlesex County is now called Old Bridge.
(Not to be confused with Madison in Morris County.)

The death certificate explains, "left home Dec 15, 1928 and found Jan 21, 1929."
"Left home Dec 15, 1928 found in the woods Jan 21, 1929. Died from exposure."

This is the (modern-day) map of Andrew Newcomb's starting and ending points. This is not an easy trip to make today because of traffic.

Andrew may have been traveling by train and got off at the wrong stop, Laurence Harbor, which is near his probable destination of Keyport or Matawan. He may have become disoriented. When he left home on December 15th, this time of year is the least amount of daylight. If he did not have a place to stay by early darkness, he was left to the elements.

I have two questions.

First, how would someone likely travel from Long Island to the coastline of the Raritan Bay in the late 1920s? Would Andrew have taken a train and then a boat? Was he dropped off at the wrong port? Or could he have taken a train through the shore points and exited at the wrong stop? (See this link for old maps of the area, including the train routes.)

Second, what date of death is to be used in a situation like this, when the person was missing for over five weeks? The date the body was found? He did not die that day- he was already frozen. The time frame overlaps two calendar years, so neither year is definitely the year of death.


  1. I'd guess the official date of death is the date the medical examiner declared him dead.

    1. Hmmm. Wonder if there was a Coroner's Inquest.