The Grandma database said that my great-great-grandmother, Katharina Bergman #7126 (1834-1916) died in Jansen, Nebraska. She was a member of the Kleine Gemeinde church, which had lived there until 1908, when they moved to Meade, Kansas. Since the church moved en masse, I doubted that she would have stayed behind, especially since she was an elderly lady of 74 when they moved. So I was skeptical of her death location in Grandma. On the other hand, she could have been on a trip back to Jansen to visit relatives when she died, so you never know.
|Katharina Bergman, Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry, CD-ROM, version 6 (Fresno: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2013), individual #7126.|
My grandmother also kept a family register in which she recorded the death of Katharina Bergman, who was her grandmother. The entry (original below) says, “1916 25 Nov ist Groszmutter gestorben bei Jak. Reimers Meade Kan (25 Nov 1916 Grandmother died at Jacob Reimers, Meade, Kansas).”
|Margaretha H. Reimer, Freundschaft Register Buch [Relatives Register Book], (Fowler, Kansas: unpublished, begun in 1923) 6. Original held by Anna (Siemens) Fast, Hillsboro, Kansas.|
Since my grandmother was 21 years old at the time and since her grandmother died at Jacob Reimers, her uncle’s house, she surely knew where it had happened. But I wanted some more proof. So I ordered her death certificate from the State of Kansas.
And here is the death certificate from Logan Township, Meade County, Kansas:
|Katherina Barkmann death certificate, died 25 November 1916, dated 27 November 1916, no. 60219, Office of Vital Statistics, Topeka, Kansas.|
It’s pretty hard to dispute the location of death on a contemporary death certificate. So my grandmother’s family register was right – Katharina Bergman did die near Meade, Kansas, and NOT near Jansen, Nebraska. I have no idea how the wrong death place got into Grandma.
Some lessons to draw from this -
1) It is critical to check the original source.
2) We need to evaluate the likely accuracy of sources. A secondary database such as Grandma is only as accurate as the unknown person who supplied the information. My grandmother's family register - since she was likely a witness of the event - is a good source. But a contemporary death certificate signed by a doctor and an informant is a very strong source.
3) It pays to think about whether a piece of information is reasonable or not - in this case it was unlikely that an elderly widow would have stayed behind when the whole church moved.