Tuesday, January 9, 2018

On the Far End of a Short Life

Now that we've found a baby Kate Allen in the 1880 Louisville household of one Charles Allenand discovered his wife's name, at least at that time, was ElizabethI wanted to rush to the other end of Kate's life to see whether our Kate, the one now married to William Bernard Hopkins, was the same Kate who claimed these parents. Perhaps I've attended one too many lectures on exhaustive searches, but somehow the research paranoia has become ingrained in me.

It wasn't too far into Kate's future that it took to find my document goal. Kate apparently suffered from hypertensive heart disease and had suffered two bouts of cerebral hemorrhage. The second attack took her life.

She was laid to rest in an unidentified cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky, shortly after her passing on March 28, 1928. She was forty eight years of age.

Fortunately for our search, Kate's death certificate was easily located on Ancestry.com, showing that the informant was her husband, William B. Hopkins. Even so, I've found that the closest of relatives can often make the greatest of mistakes in completing the information to be used in a death certificatehence, my drive to find additional confirmation of any detail noted in such a record. While I am certainly willing to concede that family members are often under the greatest of emotional stress at the timeand understandably can make mistakesI still prefer to find supporting records for each assertion built into my tree.

As it turns out, the report on Kate's death certificate provided the mother's maiden name we are seekingand it wasn't Addie's, as we suspected, but Elizabeth's name. While Kate's mother's maiden name may explain the source of Kate's own hyphenated (or at least appended) maiden name of Smith-Allen, the odd thing was that the certificate provided an unusual spelling: Smidth.

Now I know spelling was not the big deal it is today, and that prior centuries certainly took their liberties with spelling creativity. But Smidth? Really? I mean, after all, what more common surname could you come up with than Smith?!

That may have tipped my concern when I looked up to the previous line and realized that Kate's father wasn't Charles L. Allen, as we had been told in other records, but Charles A. Allen. Frustrating. My future research path was now sealed: I had to look for another confirmation of Kate's parentsjust in case I had the wrong Kate or Charles Allen.

Above: Excerpt from Kate Smith-Allen Hopkins' Pike County, Kentucky, 1928 death certificate showing the curious spelling of her mother's maiden name, and the small discrepancy of her father's middle initial; image courtesy Ancestry.com.


  1. So the search continues:) Darn middle initials and that spelling of Smith:)

    1. I totally get that census enumerators sometimes mistook what they heard reported for middle initials, but that spelling of "Smidth" did throw me off.

  2. I take it all with a grain of salt since my own mother could not remember my father's middle name nor his birth date while being informant for his death certificate. And the ever confounding 1844 letter that I keep trying to unravel, had several major mistranscriptions in the listing when placed for sale. I really enjoy reading your stories and learning from the process.Thanks.

    1. True, I've found information gleaned from that most stressful of life circumstances is often incorrect. Your mother's experience has been repeated by many. Still, that serves as a prompt to confirm, given such a common name, that the one I am pursuing is indeed the right person.

      And yes, that 1844 letter! Hope you can figure out those conflicting details.


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