Documents accompanying the will can include a date of death. If you are unable to easily locate a death certificate, probate records are another source to try to uncover a date of death. Remember that a date of death recorded on a death certificate is a primary source, while a date of death recorded in the estate file is secondary information at the most.
I used this resource in hopes of uncovering more information about a pair of siblings, Mary and George Hawkins, born in the late 1880s in Brooklyn. Fortunately, all four of their grandparents have records in this collection. Their maternal grandparents, Georgianna and Smith Nostrand, could be considered collateral lines, but I find such lines to be worth researching for at least a few generations. Georgianna's records were most interesting. We were provided with a date of death of 15 May 1917, which will greatly assist in locating a death certificate and obituary. The witnesses to the will were what intrigued me. Marguerite Stewart, formerly Hawkins, was one witness. This provided a married name and made Marguerite easier to trace. The other witness was Walter Phelps. He was a cousin of Marguerite, but on the Hawkins side, not the Nostrand side. So why did Walter bear witness? We do not know. He may have simply been available when Georgianna was creating her will. Or his signature could indicate a deeper relationship among these families that has not yet been uncovered. It is something to bear in mind as research continues on these lines.
|Portion of estate papers of Georgianna Nostrand, 1917.|
|1900 federal census|
Georgianna and Smith Nostrand with their daughter and her family
914 Greene Avenue, Brooklyn
|Miniature family tree diagram illustrating relationship between testator, Georgianna Nostrand,|
and witnesses, Walter Phelps and Marguerite Hawkins