Saturday, November 2, 2013

What Became of John Brown?

When searching for family history information on someone with a name as common as John Brown, you know you have to do a thorough search—and likely will unearth several men with the same name, even in a town as small as Logansport, Indiana. But finding several different dates of death for the same man? Well, you only die once, they say—but apparently county officials seemed to think our John Brown died on two different dates.

When I checked on the Cass County records, years ago, to figure out what might have happened to the first husband of Emma Carle Brown Kelly, my only online resource was an index of available death records. Keeping in mind there might be more than one man named John Brown—incidentally, there were two John Browns in town at that time—I was careful to look for all entries under that name.

Setting my parameters for possible dates of death—before Emma’s second marriage to Patrick Kelly in Fort Wayne in 1900 and after her first marriage with John in April, 1897—I tiptoed my way very carefully through all the entries for the name Brown in the Cass County death index.

Here’s what I found for John Brown:
  • age 26, died July 19, 1897, book 8, page 123
  • age 26, died July 21, 1897, book 8, page 132
  • age 26, died July 19, 1897, book CH-1, page 86.

Of course, being an index, it presented the possibility that any of these entries could contain errors. The second entry, for instance, could just be a clerical error in the transposition of the digits in the page number given. But how would that explain the differing dates of death?

To complicate matters, the same details were also presented under a name entered as “Jonathan Brown.”

Without being able to view the actual documentation myself, it would be hard to tell what was going on here. After all, John Brown is a fairly common name. But two different dates of death—only two days apart—for two men by the same name in the same small town? That goes far beyond a mere case of common names.

Heading to the cemetery, I hoped to find a clue to straighten out this puzzle. The most likely burial place for our John Brown in Logansport was at what is now called Mount Hope Cemetery. Mount Hope is a sizeable place, claiming over thirty three thousand interments. I’ve been delighted to discover that—now—an active volunteer program has insured that burial records are accessible online in more than one resource.

When I first was ferreting out this mystery, however, all I had at my fingertips was the good old fashioned telephone.

According to the sexton I spoke with at Mount Hope Cemetery, there was a John Brown buried there on July 24, 1897—a date roughly lining up with the death dates I had already discovered. As a confirmation, his age was given as twenty six—the same as that provided by the county’s death index.

A puzzling addition was the fact that this John Brown was buried in a plot alongside someone named David Bentley. No cause for alarm there, though; owner for both plots was listed as Emma Brown.

Of course, now, as I mentioned, John Brown’s entry may be found through several online resources. First discovery is via Find A Grave, as you may have presumed. What you may not know about Cass County resources, though, is that owing to a well-conceived collaborative effort, cemetery records may be found both at the Cass County, Indiana GenWeb project and the City of Logansport’s cemetery inquiry page. In fact, scrolling down the GenWeb page for the “B” entries, you may see for yourself just how many entries there were for Brown burials—including five John Browns and one John Browne. An added encouraging observation is that the city’s database includes details for each individual’s burial record under the heading, “Genealogy Information.”

No matter how well-coordinated the current local online burial records may be, I’m still left wondering about those two differing dates of death in 1897 for John Brown. My next step needs to be a thorough search through a database of historic newspapers for the Logansport area, where hopefully an obituary will shed some light on the correct details.

1 comment:

  1. I am left with this image of one of those "old fashioned" "one day at a time" calender and thinking someone must have missed his/her turn to tear off the old day for a day or three....


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