Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Field Notes: I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

In my last Field Notes I made the confession of my haste to win genealogy {again} and the embarrassing error of my ways. It happens. Even to the best of us.

If people never did silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done. - Ludwig Wittgenstein

But today I would like to share with you how that plan ultimately came together, and I found more information in an afternoon of ease, that hours and hours of struggle.

Once I realized the error of my ways I was able to search intelligently. I was looking for my grandmother's marriage information and her death information. I knew when and where she died, but I did not have a death certificate or an obituary. I only knew a timeframe for her wedding and had no idea where, so that was a bit more of a challenge.

First stop: FamilySearch where I input the correct information and easily obtained an indexed record of her death certificate. (No photo) It didn't tell me anything I did not already know, but I found it. (No marriage information to be found, however)

On to cyberdriveillinois and the Illinois death certificates database. Entering her name and the county where she died (obtained from the indexed record on FamilySearch) I found the entry and was able to learn the official death certificate number. (Made a note to order a copy)

Next stop: my local library online remote access to the historical Chicago Tribune to search for an obituary. I entered my grandmother's name and the year of her death and received 97 results. Scrolling down to the obituary with the correct date, I opened it to learn of the church where her funeral was held. This was brand new information! And, to be quite honest, a little eerie for some reason - this was the first time I had ever laid eyes on it. It made her death all that more real. (Quick backstory, I never knew her, she died when my dad was 15 and my grandfather had already remarried by the time I arrived)

I need to say at this point, I tried the Chicago Tribune archives first with no success. After finding the obituary on the ProQuest site I was then able to return to the Tribune archives site and simply by adding yyyy/mm/dd after the url successfully found the paper, and the obituary, but I did need to "read" the paper to find the obituary section.

From her obituary I learned the church where her funeral was held, and on a hunch I googled it to get an email address. I sent an email inquiring after my grandmother, if she was a church member, and wondering if she may have been married or even baptized there. (Another aside: Before emailing, I checked the FamilySearch non-indexed database on this church, but it stopped a year short of when she might have gotten married - and there was no record of her baptism .....)

The following morning there was a reply to my email from the church pastor!

YES! She had been married there!

He gave me the date, the witnesses and the church where she had been baptized (gotta love the Catholic Church for their record keeping!) Her baptism record had been destroyed by fire, but there was an affidavit from her parents attesting to her baptism.

I FINALLY had an answer to the mystery of her marriage! And her baptism.

**Thorough researcher that I am, I went back to those non-indexed church records on FamilySearch and browsed the baptism records from the correct church - indeed there had been a fire, and the record books noted it! I was able to find her brother's baptism 5 years later, so I felt a bit of consolation.**

Happy ending to an afternoon of armchair research.



  1. Fun!

    "Gotta Love the Catholic Church for their record keeping."

    Hopefully this will be my experience too!

    I recently learned that my third great grandparents had been residents of Pottstown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and members of the St. Aloysius Catholic Church for 32+ years. Both of their obits noted that they were buried in the church cemetery and I also learned that at least two of their sons (they had 8 children) were buried there as well.

    I googled the church and emailed them, in the interest of them having a successful search of their records I provided as much detail and information as I possibly could. I noted that my specific interest was in my third great grandparents, however I provided as much detail about their children as I knew as well. I noted that while the specific information I was seeking was about the third greats, I'd be most interested in anything they could find on the family. L

    Less than 4 hours later I had a reply waiting for me in my inbox. The church Deacon noted that they had archived church records onsite, however they were not digitized and it would require some time and effort to go through the records as not all the records are kept together. He noted that the research and copy fee would be $100.00 (and, they hadn't even searched yet!). Yes, you read that correctly $100.00. After picking my jaw up from the floor . . .

    I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the quick response from the church - in my 16 years of research no one or archive has ever responded that quickly to an inquiry. And, I also understood that while initially that fee was a bit of a shock, to travel from Virginia to Pennsylvania, lodge in a hotel and pay for 3 "hots" per day, etc., etc. would have cost me well over that. So, I replied to the email and said the check was in the mail; the immediate reply was we are searching are records now!

    I am eagerly anticipating what they find. And, I just hope for that fee that they find more than just a paper with dates! But, in this hobby you never know.

    1. Wow! $100.00! Yikes. But, you're right, it would cost so much more than that to travel there yourself. Here's hoping you get a wealth of information for your investment! Fingers crossed!