Aboyne Kirkyard in Scotland

Aboyne Kirkyard in Scotland
ABOYNE KIRKYARD, ABOYNE, ABERDEENSHIRE, SCOTLAND

Saturday, June 14, 2014

EVALUATING A RECORD FOUND – IN HONOR OF FATHER’S DAY



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.

A LITTLE BACKGROUND ABOUT MY GREAT GRANDFATHER

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 Ancestry.com


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.

MY CONCLUSION

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.

WHAT I WILL DO NEXT

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.

OTHER POSTS THAT MAY BE OF INTEREST
HOW I FOLLOW A TRAIL OF RECORDS & ANALYZE WHAT I FIND - Part 1  
HOW I FOLLOW A TRAIL OF RECORDS & ANALYZE WHAT I FIND - Part 2

Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl


Copyright ©  2014   Diane Gould Hall
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  NO USE WITHOUT PERMISSION

6 comments:

  1. You could try here http://www.library.pitt.edu/archives-service-center They have some records of the Allegheny County Coroners Reports.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Claudia. I did locate that site and have sent them a request. I really appreciate your input. This was a big find for me. I hope that the Coroner's report has new information.
      Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. Oh Happy Day, indeed. You've made a good point about the value of "looking again" because new records are coming online all the time, and new researchers are contributing.

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    Replies
    1. Wendy,
      I can't tell you how many times looking again has paid off for me.
      Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. Congrats! That's a great find! I would've never thought about the possibility of an autopsy & I didn't know you'd be able to get those kinds of records. Interesting! And, I didn't know you could contact a cemetery to get more information. Well, I did it once at a really big cemetery that has a "genealogy" area on its site, but that's it. Thanks for the tip! And, any suggestions about how to go about asking for these records if the cemetery does have an office? What kinds of things would I be asking for?

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    Replies
    1. Dana,
      I have already received a response back from Univ. of Pittsburgh and they have found the autopsy file. I am mailing the request for the record today. Have never ordered one before and I'm anxious to see it. You know I will be writing about it, once it's here.
      As for cemetery records and what to ask. I actually did a blog post about that very subject in January of this year. Here is the link to that post http://www.michiganfamilytrails.com/2014/01/cemetery-recordswhat-can-they-tell-you.html It should answer most of your questions.
      Thanks for stopping by.

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I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.