Questions Instead of Answers…

Usually, you may think that vital records are accurate.  They do, after all, record important events.  But sometimes they can create more questions than answers.  Samuel’s death certificate falls under the “more questions than answers” category for me.

Of course some answers are given.  The doctor, Lewis M. Johnson, certified Samuel’s death on June 20, 1931 at what looks like 4:40pm.  Samuel had turned 92 years old a week prior.  He must have been fairly healthy up to that time since the only cause of death is “Senility.”

Some of the information on a death certificate is usually given by an informant.  From Samuel’s death certificate shown below, we know that the informant was W.E. Parmer who lived on S. Shippen St.  That was Samuel’s son, William, who was 61 years old at the time.

When researching family history, a death certificate can provide valuable information, particularly the names of the deceased’s mother and father.  William declared Samuel’s father to be “John Parmer.”  But look who is listed as Samuel’s mother.  Does that name sound familiar?  That is actually Samuel’s wife!  William gave his own mother’s name instead of Samuel’s mother’s name.  So that leaves open the question–Who is Samuel’s mother?  If only William hadn’t made that error, we could be confident of Samuel’s parents.  Instead, the other information provided poses yet more questions.

Samuel M Parmer death cert

via – Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963

Where does the record show Samuel’s father was born?  Germany.  And where was Samuel born?   Witmer, PA.  So John Parmer was an immigrant.  Why should that pose more questions?  By itself, it doesn’t.  But when combined with census records, the birth place of Samuel’s father is uncertain.

The 1880 census asks for the birth place of each individual’s mother and father.  Again, an informant gave the information, so it is possible that the wrong information is recorded. For Samuel, the informant stated his mother and father were both born in Pennsylvania. The same is true of the 1910 census.  However, the 1900 census states that both Samuel’s mother and father were born in Germany.  So which was it–Germany or Pennsylvania?

That is a question for another day!


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