Sunday, June 29, 2014


Robert L. Bowden is my great grandfather on my mother’s side.  I wrote about locating his death certificate (after having looked for over 10 years) on Saturday, June 14, 2014 in this post EVALUATING A RECORD – IN HONOR OF FATHER’S DAY (click on the link to read the post).

At the end of that post I wrote about what I would do next.  One of the things on my list was to find out if there was a Coroner’s Report for his death.  

The following items led me to conclude that there may have been an autopsy or investigation into his death:
  • The death certificate was signed by the Coroner.
  • His death was “sudden.”
  • The burial date & date of death were 17 days apart.
I sent an email and received a reply back from the Allegheny County Coroner Case Files office that they did have a file and I could submit my request.  I downloaded the form and did just that.

Here is the request I submitted. I enclosed a check for $12, and kept a copy of the request and my check in my Evernote Notebook for the Bowden surname. 

The request was mailed on 16 Jun 2014 and I received his Coroner Case File on 28 Jun 2014.  That’s a great turnaround time!

Here is a copy of the six page report.  I have indicated the items on each page that I took notice of.  

Page 1 & 2    (Click on any image to enlarge it)
BOWDEN_Robert L_Coroner Case Report_Oct 1906_page 1_McKeesRocksPA_annotated   BOWDEN_Robert L_Coroner Case Report_Oct 1906_page 2_McKeesRocksPA_annotated

Page 3 & 4
BOWDEN_Robert L_Coroner Case Report_Oct 1906_page 3_McKeesRocksPA_annotated   BOWDEN_Robert L_Coroner Case Report_Oct 1906_page 4_McKeesRocksPA_annotated

Page 5 & 6
BOWDEN_Robert L_Coroner Case Report_Oct 1906_page 5_McKeesRocksPA_annotated   BOWDEN_Robert L_Coroner Case Report_Oct 1906_page 6_McKeesRocksPA_annotated

  • Further confirmation for the date of death of Robert L. Bowden.
  • Page 1 estimates his age at about 48 yrs., page 3 estimates about 40 yrs. Based on various documents we have his age was about 43-45 yrs. in 1906.
  • The time he was actually found on the floor of the hotel & the name of the hotel.
  • Who found him on the floor of the hotel.
  • Others who were present shortly after his death.
  • The names of the officer and doctor who declared him dead.
  • The name of a friend who had known him for 16 years.
  • That his friend stated he had a wife and two daughters.  We know he and our great grandmother were divorced in 1899 and that they had two daughters.  Had he remarried since then?
  • That his friend did not know the location of his wife & daughters or the cause of his death.
  • His occupation as a Railroader which matches other records we have on him.
  • That he wasn’t known by the clerk at the hotel.
  • That the jury’s verdict agreed with the Coroner & the Doctor that this man died from heart disease.
  • Had Robert L. Bowden been sick prior to his death?
  • Had he been to any doctors or hospitals?
  • On page 4  (and I didn’t underline this) the clerk said that Mr. Bowden’s friend “took” him to his room about noon.  Does that mean the friend accompanied him?  Or was Mr. Bowden in such a condition to have to be “taken” to the room?
  • Since there is no statement of an autopsy being performed on the body, how did they come to the conclusion that he died of heart disease?
  • Did one of the witnesses, his friend perhaps, know of a history of heart disease?
  • Could he have died of foul play?  Did he fall & hit his head? Was there some other method or cause of death? 
  • Is this the way all Coroner’s Case Files looked back in 1906? 
This was the first time I have ever sent for a coroner’s report on any of my ancestors.  I find it interesting and informative.  However, I obviously still have questions.  Will I ever learn the answers to those questions?  I don’t know.

I do know that I have learned more about the circumstances of my great grandfather’s death and I’m extremely happy to have this information.  

I don’t consider this case closed just yet.  I will still be trying to answer some of the outstanding questions about his life.  

I’d love to hear if you have ever reviewed a Coroner’s Case for any of your ancestor’s?  And, if so, what year it was and how was the report presented?  Did it contain more information than this report?


Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl 

Copyright ©  2014   Diane Gould Hall

Monday, June 23, 2014




I have learned to be patient when I submit record requests.  However, after about a week to ten days, I start looking through our mail with greater anticipation.  Let’s just call it “hope.”  Having no idea when the records will appear or even if they will, makes the anticipation all the more fun.

Imagine my excitement when I got the mail on June 20th and saw that envelope I had addressed to myself.  Could this be a response, so soon?  I only mailed my requests on June 10th.  You can nearly always tell by the feel of the envelope whether you have a record copy or a piece of paper/letterhead with the disappointing “sorry no record located.”  Most copies of vital records are printed on a different, heavier type of stock than letter paper.  

In this case when I felt the envelope I was hopeful because it was pretty thick. 
When I opened it, I did in fact receive ALL FOUR records I had requested.  Two birth records and two death records.  

    Time for the genealogy happy dance! One girl dancing for joy

Let’s look a the birth records first.  These are for my husband’s grandparents, Henry August Fink and Freada Emma Meta Doller.  

NOTE: If at all possible it is always a good idea to get every vital record available for a person’s life.  Every piece of evidence we gather and cite makes our identification of this person and their link to the family more concrete.

HENRY AUGUST FINK or as his birth record states BABY FINK

FINK_Henry August_birth record_14 Jan 1954_BuffaloErieNew York
State of New York, County of Erie, City of Buffalo    ______Ward


1.  Name of child – Baby Fink
2.  Sex – Male
3.  Color or Race if other than white – left blank
4.  Date of birth – January 14th 1893
5.  Place of birth – Buffalo Gen’l Hospital
6.  Name of father – Geo. Fink
7.  Maiden and full name of mother – Barbara Ludwick
8.  Birthplace or country of father – U.S.   Age 32     Occupation – Coachman
9.  Birthplace or country of mother – Ger  (Germany?)   Age  31
10. Number of this mother’s previous children – 2   How many of them now living – 1
11. Name & address of medical attendant or authorized person in own handwriting – John V. Woodruff (there is an address under the signature which is not completely readable)
12. Date of this return – January 15th 1893

This confirms some information I already had, such as his parent’s names and his date & the city of birth.  That information came from his descendants and from other sources such as marriage, death and census records.  What this does give me is further verification for what I already know, plus some new information such as:
  • the occupation of his father at the time of his birth 
  • how many previous children were born to his mother and how many are now living. 
  • his place of birth at the Buffalo General Hospital
Since Henry Fink and his wife Freada had four children and all of those children were confirmed, I suspect that perhaps Henry was too. 

Would the confirmation record give evidence of his name? 
How do I find out when he was named? 
Good questions.

Now let’s take a look at Henry Fink’s future wife’s birth record.

FREADA EMMA META DOLLER or as her birth record states META FRIDA DOLLER

DOLLER_Meta Freada_birth record_24 Aug 1895_BuffaloErieNew York_enhanced & made darker

State of New York, County of Erie, City of Buffalo   ________Ward


1.  Name of child – Meta Frida
2.  Sex - Girl
3.  Color or race of other than white – left blank
4.  Date of birth – August 24, 1895
5.  Place of birth – No. 73 Harmonia St.
6.  Name of father – John Doller
7.  Maiden & full name of mother – Bartha Killer or Bartha Koller
8.  Birthplace or country of father – Germany    Age  35   Occupation – Labor
9.  Birthplace or country of mother –     “        Age 30
10. Number of this mother’s previous children – 6     How many of them now living – 1
11. Name and address of medical attendant or authorized person in own handwriting – Mrs. N. S. Smith, 286 Bowen St.
12. Date of this return – 8/26/95

These birth records are two years apart.  The forms appear to be the same.  Although I cannot read some of the information pre-printed on the second record for Meta Frida Doller, I am using the first record as a template.  

Like the first record, this one verifies information that I already have such as date of birth and parent’s names.  Here though, the name of the child is slightly different from the name she went by in all the other records I have for her.
Certainly Meta Frida  is not a common name.  Her marriage record, obituary and cemetery headstone all give her name as Freada M. Fink or Freada M. Doller.  The first time I see evidence of the name Freda E. is the 1925 New York state census.  In reviewing the other documents I have for her, I see no other reference to the name Freada Emma.  
I am married to her grandson and friends with another of her grandchildren.  Both of them have always told me she was called Freada Emma Meta Fink aka Doller.  This now makes me question the validity of that second name of Emma. 

Where did that name originate? 
Did she ever use it in any legal capacity or on any records?
Good questions.

Another note about Freda’s birth record.   Her parents John Doller & Bertha Keller are believed to have been married in Germany about 1884.  They came to the United States about 1885 or 1886 (I still need to get further evidence for their immigration).  Freda’s older brother, Irven Doller was born in Germany.  Note that on the birth record it states that there were 6 children previously born to the mother, Bertha, and only 1 of them was still living.  Family lore tells that one child died on the ship on the way to the United States.
Will I ever find proof of birth for the other children?

All of the information on these birth records has been sourced and cited into my Legacy database.  As well as adding an image of the document to the record for both Henry Fink and Meta Frida Doller. 

More questions have been raised by looking at these documents.  But, we have also added further evidence to facts we already knew.
I was going to write about the two death records I received along with these birth returns, but I’m going to save that for another day.

Please share the experiences you’ve had, both good or bad, when you've sent for records. 

Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2014   Diane Gould Hall

Saturday, June 21, 2014



Let’s take a look at how I go about requesting vital records and my process for recording what I’ve requested.

I was looking for two birth records and two death records.  I believed these to be located in the City of Buffalo, New York.  This was based on information from direct descendants, census records and cemetery information.

I began by using a search engine (I use Google) and finding a site for the City of Buffalo, Vital Records.  

(Click on any image to enlarge it)

Buffalo website

As you can see they tell you exactly what years they have available for all the records.  

I knew I wanted birth records for 1893 and 1895 and death records for 1935 and 1950.  Looks like I’m in luck according to their website.

Next, I downloaded the application.  It looks like I will be able to submit all four record requests on this one page.  Here is my filled out form, redacted to exclude my personal information.

NOTE:  I always indicate my method of payment (in this case they wanted a money order) and the date that I mail my requests.  I scan & save a copy digitally in Evernote.  I used to save paper copies, but now do it all digitally.  Another thing I have always done is keep track of the records I send for on an Excel spreadsheet.  Mine dates back to 2000.

DOLLER_John & Bertha_death cert and DOLLER_Freada birth & FINK_redacted

Here is a screenshot of my Excel spreadsheet for my records requests.  This sheet has 131 entries on it.  You can see that I can keep track of the cost and whether or not the record was received.  I highlight in green if I did receive it and use red font if I don’t. 

The title of the columns are:
  • Date Requested  
  • Name/s   
  • Type of record   
  • Requested from 
  • Date Rec’d 
  • Questions/Problems or not rec’d  
  • Cost   
  • Notes
Excel screenshot of records requested

TIP: Sometimes the city, county or state will want you to include a self addressed, stamped envelope.  In the case of the City of Buffalo, they did want one.  I always put an extra stamp on the return envelope and my own return address label.  If the record is large it could exceed the 1 oz. limit for a single stamp.  With my own return address label on it,  even if there is postage due, it will come to me.  

The cost of these records vary greatly from state to state.  I’ve paid as little as $5 for a Florida death record and as much as $36 recently for a death certificate from Michigan.  It’s a whole lot cheaper if we can find what we want online.  I will always exhaust an online search first.  However, we all know there are millions of records not currently online and millions that may never be.  I also take into consideration that sending for a record is much less expensive than flying or driving to a courthouse to get it. 

Your other option is to find the microfilm that would have these records on it and order it from your local Family History Center.  

So what have I paid over the years?  Since 2000 I have spent $2,107.  That’s $150.50 per year.  

More records are online now than back in 2000.  Let’s just look at the most recent 5 year span.  

2010 = $42
2011 = $125
2012 = $146
2013 = $32.65
2014 = 95 (so far this year)

This cost certainly varies from year to year, depending on what I’m looking for.

Now, we wait.  How long?  I have no idea.  I have waited days, weeks, months for a reply.  Sometimes the reply is “no record found.”  Always disappointing.  And other times it’s like opening a Christmas present.  You get exactly what you asked for.

I’ll tell you about the records I received from this request in my next post.  

Church Records - How they can help you with your research
SURPRISE - A birth record where it wasn't supposed to be

Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl

 Copyright ©  2014   Diane Gould Hall

Saturday, June 14, 2014


Today is a very happy day.  I have located (to the best of my belief as a genealogist) the death record for my Great Grandfather, Robert L. Bowden.  He may not have been a model father, but I still want to know about his life. 

I have been trying to locate this record for over 10 years.  My grandmother, Florence Bowden Milne was Robert L. Bowden’s daughter.  She was also a genealogist who left me a lot of records about her family.  One of those records was a date of death for her father, Robert, on 9 Oct 1906.  No place of death was given.


Robert L. Bowden was born 8 Feb 1863 in White Sulphur Springs, Greenbrier, West Virginia.  We do not know who his parents were……yet.

He married Florence Hunter on 10 Mar 1887 in Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio.  They had two daughters – Florence L. Bowden (my grandmother) and Edna “Denny” Mabel Bowden.  He and Florence divorced on 17 Jul 1899.

(Click on any image to enlarge it)
HUNTER_Florence to BOWDEN_Robert_Ohio_1887
Marriage Record for Robert L. Bowden and Florence Hunter - 1887

BOWDEN_Robert & Florence Hunter_Divorce_papers_1899_KY_Page_1
First page of divorce record for Robert Bowden & Florence Hunter - 1899
The next record I have for Robert Bowden is a 1900 census that matches close enough for me to believe it is him.

1900_BOWDEN_Robert and wife Bertie_Credo WVA

I have never located a record beyond this 1900 census, that I believe to be my Robert L. Bowden.  

Since my grandmother, Florence Bowden, has seldom been wrong on her names & dates about family, I trusted that she would know at least the year of her father’s death.  

Today, I decided to try once more, searching for a death record for Robert L. Bowden.  I conducted search after search on the Family Search site. I varied the name, I used an asterisk after Bow* so I would get more hits.  I searched under Bou* Bor*, you name it, I searched.  Having found nothing on that site I decided, with little hope, to search Ancestry.  I have a tree on Ancestry and I’ve searched a LOT and looked for any hints for Robert L. Bowden.  Never to find anything substantial.  

We all know that new records are added all the time.  Today I searched on Ancestry for Robert L. Bowden with a death year of 1906, no location in my search.

Here is what I got!!!!

BOWDEN search results
Pennsylvania Death Certificates on

That first record looks promising to me.  To even find a Robert L. Bowden who died in 1906, let alone the exact month my grandmother had said, and only one day different than her record.  I clicked on it with great anticipation. 
  • Would this be him?
  • Would it list his parents’ names?
  • Had I finally found his death record?
I clicked on the record and here is what came up.

Bowden PA death

What is correct on the index?
  • His name
  • His gender and race
  • The month & year of his death
What is off a little bit?
  • His age & year of birth (I have his year of birth as 1863-65) which would make him 41-43 years old.
Now let’s take a look at the actual death certificate.

BOWDEN_Robert L_death cert_9 Oct 1906_McKees Rock Allegheny Pennsylvania_B&W copy

Evaluating what you see on a record with what you know.

1.  His name is a match
2.  I notice he died at a hotel, the Victoria Hotel.  As a railroad employee I know the men traveled all the time.
3.  I see the same information listed on the index page.  He is a white, male.  He died on 8 Oct 1906.  My grandmother gave his date of death as 9 Oct 1906.
4.  He is listed as married.  The last record I have that I believe to be him is a 1900 census showing him married to a woman named Bertie.
5.  His occupation is R R Man.  That’s pretty big, as he is known to have worked for the railroad in every record I have for him.
6.  He died suddenly of heart disease.  This isn’t anything I had known before.  However, the record is signed by a Coroner on 23 Oct 1906.  He is listed as having been buried until 25 Oct 1906.  This tells me that there was probably an autopsy performed.


I believe I have found my great grandfather, Robert’s, death record.  I am going to try to find more evidence to substantiate this conclusion. 

As genealogists we have to gather our evidence and put things together.  What we know with what we don’t know.  What we have with what we don’t have.  

Every piece of the puzzle won’t always be a match.


Since I suspect there was an autopsy, I will try to find that report.  I looked online and found a website for Allegheny County Coroner Case Files.  They allow you to send an email request and they will do a look up for free.  If they find a file, they let you know and you can then submit a request for the record.  I have already sent the email this afternoon and received an auto reply back stating they have my request.  

The death certificate lists his place of burial as Highwood Cemetery.  I have placed a memorial on FindAGrave - Robert L. Bowden Memorial for him.  

I will contact the cemetery, if they have an office that is still operating, and try to find out more information from their records.  Who ordered the burial?  Is there a headstone?

I still need to know who Robert Bowden’s parents were.  

This has been a wonderful day.  Finding a record after looking for 10 years is very rewarding.  Be able to answer those questions about our ancestors is why we do what we do.  I especially want those answers if it is a direct line, like this is. 

Keep looking.  NEVER GIVE UP!  Those walls will fall……one day.


Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2014   Diane Gould Hall

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Monday, June 9, 2014

CHURCH RECORDS - How they can help you with your research.

Were any of  your ancestors Reverends or Ministers or some kind of clergy? Or were they married to someone who was?

I’ve found quite a few in my family.  This has led to some great discoveries in various publications.  

These records can give dates of birth & death and locations, family member’s names, places an ancestor lived and sometimes even physical descriptions.

Probably my first discovery was for my 3rd Great Grandfather, Rev. Isaac C. Hunter.  He was born in 1798 in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania and died 27 Jun 1842 in Gallia County, Ohio.  Certainly a time when there weren’t very many vital records we could try to locate.

I was able to find records about him by using a search engine (such as Google or Bing).  This is a method I use frequently when I am searching for information about an ancestor.  Let’s try this method and see what I come up with.

I entered “Isaac C. Hunter” + reverend into the Google search box.  I got several hits on the first page and continued to check on the following pages.  In fact, today as I was writing this I found some articles that I had not previously seen.  

Examples of what I found:
screenshot rev isaac c hunter

Isaac C. Hunter and Harvey Camp
Isaac C. Hunter and P. Nation

Google Books - Foot Prints of an ItinerantHere is an excerpt from the book.  This article in the book about Rev. Isaac C. Hunter goes from page 301-308.

Hunter - from dying bed of itinerant

From the Western Christian Advocate 15 Jul 1842:

Hunter - western christ advocate

From the Minutes of the Annual Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the years 1839-1845, Volume III, page 349.

HUNTER_Isaac C_obiturary from Minutes of MethEpis Conf 1843

Now, let’s find more information about another ancestor.

My husband’s 2nd Great Grandfather – Rev. George Hall born 4 Jun 1804 in Keene, Cheshire, New Hampshire, died 4 Sep 1878 in Port Gibson, Claiborne, Mississippi.  He is listed as a Minister of the Gospel in the 1870 census in Fayette, Jefferson Mississippi.
I found this online in the Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, page 289.  I only wish the picture on this page was the Rev. George Hall.

HALL_George F_page 289 from Encyclopedia of Presb Church WITH HIGHLIGHTS

Let’s try one more ancestor.  William Gillen.  He wasn’t a Reverend or Minister, but it was his daughter who married the Rev. Isaac C. Hunter, mentioned at the beginning of this post. 

I located his obituary in the Western Christian Advocate. 


NOTE:  I cannot find the excerpt (above) from the Western Christian Advocate online today.  That is why it is imperative that you save the items, pictures, documents etc. that you find, when you find them.  They may not be there later.  Even if you save them to a generic folder on your computer, just save them.

These are just some of the records available to you.  If you find out which denomination your ancestor was in service to, you can find pages online for their historical societies.  I have also made phone calls & written letters with inquiries about my ancestors. 

Here’s a couple of sites I found today:

The Historical Society of the United Methodist Church
Presbyterian Historical Society

I began writing this post yesterday afternoon.  Coincidentally, I received an email from late last night.  The subject of that email was how to use religious records in your research.   Click on the link below and learn even more about how to use religious records to help you find information about your ancestors.  There are many good tips in the article.

How to Use Religious Records in Family History Research

So go and see what you can find.  I would love to hear from you if you make some good discoveries.

A Great Discovery - Ask for Help and You May Get it
Name Lists - How to Use Them (including church records)

Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2014   Diane Gould Hall

Thursday, June 5, 2014


I'm sure most of you have used this at one time or another

It was a dark & stormy night.  Or was it a bright and sunny day?  I can’t recall.

When I began this wonderful journey of finding out more about my ancestors I had little information on my paternal side and some information on my maternal side.  I wanted to learn more.  Who were my great grandparents?  Where did they come from?  How did they live?  There was just so much I didn’t know.  I began with what I did know.

I had some names & dates from conversations with my parents.  And I had a family tree for my mother’s family, handwritten by my maternal grandmother.  

If we go back to the very beginning, we would be in the year 2000.  I had a hunger to learn more about my family.  I talked to some friends and they suggested I go to the (FHC) Family History Center here in San Diego and look at census records on microfilm.  That’s exactly what I did.  I honestly can’t tell you all the details about that first visit.  What I can tell you is that I was assisted by some very nice ladies at the center who helped this novice learn how to operate a microfilm reader.  

I began with the 1900 census, which I knew, should contain all my grandparents.  I scrolled and scrolled through those pages.  Then suddenly……there she was!!

My grandmother, Florence Bowden, 12 years old, living with her mother & sister.  I was so excited.  It seemed surreal to me to think of my grandma as a young girl.  I know that was when I did my first genealogy happy dance (I just didn’t know it).

I went back to the FHC again and found more census records.  The ladies at the center also told me about ordering SS-5 (social security applications) records for my grandparents.  They said those forms may have their parent’s names on them and provide more proof of identity. 

Here are the handwritten notes from those first two visits.  Don't laugh. 
Notes from FHC in 2000  Notes from FHC in 2000-2

How different are the research methods we use now?  

Here are just a few of the things we didn’t have, or had little of in 2000, just 14 years ago:
  • Digital cameras to photograph books or documents.  Yes, you could use a film camera, but few people did.  And yes, there were digital cameras, but the majority of people were still using film. 
  • Hand held scanners/wands to save those book or document pages.
  • Computers and laptops in nearly every home.  I had purchased my first computer in 1986 and was a decade or more ahead of most of my friends. 
  • Flash drives to save documents that we find online while researching at a library or courthouse or family history center.
  • The large variety of software databases that we now have available.
  • Facebook to connect with family, friends and genealogy groups.
  • Evernote to save & organize what we find.
  • Google Earth to zoom in to places our ancestors lived.
  • Online data was nearly non-existent.  It wasn’t until August of 2000 that began to add actual images of Federal census records to it’s site.  Here is a screenshot of some of the history of  To learn more about the history of their site go to
Ancestry screenshot

There's a LOT more that wasn't available to us back in 2000 and before, but you get the general idea.
I did go ahead and order those Social Security Application forms for all 4 of my grandparents.  Turns out only three of them had applied.  Let me just say that those applications provided me with information that I didn’t have, and got me well under way to becoming a dedicated (some would say addicted) genealogist.  Stay tuned for another post covering Social Security Applications.

I was well on my way, when about 6 months later I changed my working status from part time to full time.  My research came to a screeching halt. But only for 2 years.  Then my husband and I met a couple on a cruise and when we began talking with them, the wife, Debbie, told me she was doing some genealogy research.  I was all ears.  She told me that lots of information was coming online now and she filled me in on all the details.  I was excited to get back home and see what I could find. 

NOTE: I purchased my first computer in 1986 and upgraded frequently.  I have always had a zeal for technology.  

The rest, as they say, is history.  That couple we met became close friends, even though we live in California & they live in Texas.  Debbie and I began exchanging information about how to research, what we found, who we found, etc.  Just ask our husbands how much time we spent together during visits and on the phone.  

Genealogy has come a long way in those 14 years.  I know that many of you out there began your research decades ago.  I would love to hear how long ago you started and how you think our research methods have improved or maybe not improved during that time.

Surname Saturday - Milne - More about my Grandmother 
My Interview on Geneabloggers

Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl 

Copyright ©  2014   Diane Gould Hall