Monday, June 23, 2008

Texas Death Records at Family Search Redux

Two months ago I wrote about finding a few Texas death records at FamilySearch's new record search. In particular, Everett Van Every's, a first cousin to my mother who died at age 17. I had begun to question the family story that my grandmother's brother had had a child, but it turned out his marriage had been brief, and the child had remained with the mother, which is why Uncle Sam was single on all the censuses.

The death records at FamilySearch didn't have the images associated with them. I emailed FamilySearch and their response was a reminder they were in pilot stage, they would enter beta testing later in the year, and then even later fully release the project. I wasn't upset by the response, and completely understood. (I expected them to direct me to the LDS microfilm available at FamilyHistory sites, actually, which they didn't, though I suspect most if not all of the records they are scanning in and indexing are available that way.)

Realizing I could be waiting awhile for the images, I searched for other sources. I found someone at RAOGK willing to look up and copy Everett's death certificate, as well as one for my great Aunt Minnie. I paid them a minimal copying fee. (I asked them to look for the death certificate for another great-aunt, Willa, who died in 1916, but they were unable to find her in the state archives.)

I noticed a couple weeks ago that the Texas death records at FamilySearch now have images. If it had taken 6 months I'd have been fine with my impatience, but 6 weeks I feel a little silly. Still, I didn't spend much.

Everett did drown, as family records had indicated, and the death certificate names the creek (Barton Creek near Austin, which appears to be a popular local swimming area.)

I have a lot of relatives in the FamilySearch database, and have spent some time looking at various certificates I wouldn't likely have actively pursued.

George William Foster was the son of Sarah Ann Hartley and George Foster. Sarah was my second great grandmother, through her prior marriage to Ebenezer Denyer. The informant on George William's death certificate was Sarah Ann McCarty. I knew from some Rootsweb forum posts he had a sister named Sarah Ann, so I suspected this was her. I found Sarah Ann McCarty's death certificate easily, and it says she was born in 1887 to George Foster and Sallie Unknown.

I then wondered if the informant didn't know Sarah McCarty was named after her mother, and got the name wrong, or whether my great great grandmother had died and this was a new wife for George.

I'm pretty certain it's the former. It would mean that Sarah Hartley, who according to the 1860-1880 censuses was born about 1836, would have been 51 years old when her last child was born. However, while unusual, that's not impossible. My Aunt Minnie wrote about her grandmother Sarah as someone she remembered, and Minnie was born in 1884. Sarah had to have lived at least until the early 1890s for Minnie to have her recollections.

My only complaint with the database is a complaint I have with Texas history. They apparently started requiring death certificates in 1903, which is actually seven years earlier than Missouri, but they weren't completely successful at enforcing this until the 1930s. I'm not sure if the index at FamilySearch is 'complete', but they indicate that most deaths between 1890-1903 were not recorded, as well as many deaths between 1903 and 1930.

The death certificate for Aunt Willa who died in 1916 might not exist. However, I and my mother have recently made contact via letters and email with some of her cousins in Texas and California, and I am sure they will have more information on Aunt Willa, cousin Everett, and perhaps they may even know when and where Sarah Hartley died.

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