If you pay attention, almost any document can tell you a lot. Let’s continue with the death certificate of my great-great-grandmother Katharina Bergman #7126 (1834-1916), about which I posted here and here.
|Katherina Barkmann death certificate, died 25 November 1916, dated 27 November 1916, no. 60219, Office of Vital Statistics, Topeka, Kansas.|
Date of Birth.
First, her date of birth is only given as 28 December – no year. But if we calculate her birth date by subtracting her age at death from her death date, we get a birth year of 1834. Her granddaughter, Margaretha H. Reimer, recorded her birth date as 28 December 1834, in her family register, so that agrees. But it sure would have been nice if the doctor had not failed to write the year. Also, if you go back to the 1835 census in the previous post, you see that she was ¼ year old when the census was taken on 11 February 1835, which roughly agrees with a 28 December 1834 birth date.
Notice that the doctor attended her only on 22 November 1916, and that she died on 25 November 1916. That means that she did not visit this doctor in the eight years that she lived in Meade from 1908 to 1916. She was likely reasonably healthy for an elderly person and did not need to go to the doctor. Very likely she had a stroke (the cause of death is “paralysis due to cerebral hemorrhage”) on the 22nd, so they called the doctor to come out, and he told them that it was hopeless and that there was nothing he could do. Otherwise, he would likely have attended her in the three days before she died.
Next, notice that she was buried on the 27th, two days after her death. There was no undertaker, so relatives would have prepared the body, just as had been done for thousands of years by nearly everyone.
The burial location is “Mennonite burying ground.” There is no cemetery with that name today, but if I didn’t know where she was buried, that at least tells me her grave is in one of the Mennonite cemeteries in Meade County. Since I have visited her grave previously, I know that she was buried in the Emmanuel Mennonite Cemetery.
|Tombstone of Katharina Barkman, Emmanuel Mennonite north cemetery, at S Road and 22nd Road, near Meade, Kansas, accessed at www.findagrave.com, memorial #25017516, on 29 June 2016.|
Death certificates almost always list the informant who provided the non-medical information. It is interesting to think about why this particular person was chosen as the informant. In this case, it seems strange to me that Johann F. Bartel was the one. She died at the home of her son-in-law, Jacob F. Reimer (according to my grandmother’s family register), so it would seem he should be the one who would talk to the doctor. He was also the oldest among the sons and sons-in-law, so he would be the natural candidate. But this required communicating in English with an outsider, a non-Mennonite, so perhaps Jacob F. Reimer did not feel comfortable doing that. Or perhaps it was something as simple as Jacob F. Reimer being out in the barn when the doctor came. I don’t have an answer, but it seems that Jacob F. Reimer would have been the natural one to be the informant, but he was not.
Don’t forget to milk a document for every bit of information that it can give you.