Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Coming to a Consensus
I'm never quite sure of the information I find on death certificates, so what do I do? Look for other death certificates to verify the details of the earlier ones.
While this doesn't seem to make sense, there is a certain comfort in finding agreement between records that otherwise would have no connection—at least by sequence or by location, for instance. The only connection would be that the two people mentioned in these disparate documents would be linked by common parents.
Remembering that our Kate Seegar Smith-Allen Hopkins (phew, what a mouthful!) had an older brother, that is exactly who I went looking up next. Since the detail I wanted to confirm was that Kate's parents were Charles L. Allen and his wife, Elizabeth—not Addie—her brother William, four years her senior, should likely display the same names for his parents. Right?
We already saw from the 1880 census—provided, of course, that we found the right household of their father Charles Allen—that Kate's brother William was born in Kentucky around 1876. However, when we rush to the other end of brother William's life, we find that his death certificate is of no help in confirming the names of the siblings' parents. For William's father, we do find a reassuring confirmation of his middle initial, if nothing else—L, not A—but perhaps since his mother died when he was so young, it is not surprising to learn that there was nothing on that line for the form, other than "not known."
Ah, the dreaded unknown. I have faced off with that foe before. I'm not ready to quit yet.
And so it was that, poking through every other document I could find, I eventually came across a December 28, 1897, marriage record for young William and his bride, Martha B. Tillman. Listing himself as W. H. Allen, the twenty one year old merchant, by then living in Oldham County, Kentucky, revealed that his father was indeed Charles Allen, and his mother was Elizabeth Smith—yes, Smith without that awkward Smidth spelling that had appeared in his sister Kate's death certificate so many years later.
Just to make sure I really, really, did have the right family named, I swung by the Find A Grave record for Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, where I found there was really no doubt who the parents were for Kate and her older brother. Though the memorial for Charles had a note inserted which explained that his wife's name was "Adelaine," if you look closely at the impressive monument erected in the family plot, it is quite clear which wife was acknowledged there. It was "Lizzie, wife of C. L. Allen."