Can a City Directory entry confirm a death date?
Let’s take a look at one case where the death date was attributed to the father instead of the son and there was no way of confirming the information.
Paul J. and Catherine Hungerford had a son in 1846 who they named Paul J. Hungerford.
Now Paul the father was born in 1809 and he appears on several trees. All the trees had his death date as Dec 1875 and they had an “Official” record to prove it.
The record was:
Ancestry.com. Reading, Pennsylvania Deaths, 1873-1905 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1999.
Original data: Berks County Pennsylvania Register of Wills. City of Reading PA Death Records 1873-1905. Reading, PA, USA. Berksregofwills.com.
City of Reading PA Death Records 1873-1905
The problem was that it only gave this information:
Name: Paul J. Hungerford
Death Date: 4 Dec 1875
File Number: 782
Source: City of Reading, Pennsylvania Death Records
There was no way of knowing if this was the father or the son.
I found an obituary for Dec 1875:
Paul J Hungerford
age (looks like 30)
Address: 620 Pine St
interment: Charles Evans Cemetery
This too did not give a confirmation because the age for this Paul could be 60 or 30.
I contacted the other tree owners and asked them for help to see if they had other records which would confirm the age. In the mean time I went to the City Directory collection and started looking for the name Paul Hungerford with an address of 620 Pine St and after doing a page by page search of several Reading Pennsylvania City Directories I was able to find the name and the address in the 1871 Reading, Pennsylvania City Directory.
In that same directory I also found a Catherine Hungerford, living at the same address and she was a widow. On all the Family trees, Paul the father’s wife is named Catherine and there are records to prove it, so this Paul who is living with her at 620 Pine St has to be the son. It also proved that Paul the father could not have died in 1875 because Catherine is listed as being a widow in 1871.
I contacted the other tree owners and told them that the obituary for Paul can now be confirmed to be for the son and not the father, based on the address given in the City Directory and in obituary and the fact that Catherine is a widow by 1871.
The obituary that I found was not highlighted to be picked up in a search so it would not have been found by people searching for it. Only by doing a physical page by page search in the Google News Archive old Reading, Pennsylvania newspapers was I able to find it and I only found it because I had a date for the death and a location of the death.
Once I fixed the tree and put the death date on Paul the son’s profile page I started getting a new hint which matched the information birth of 1846 and death of 1875. That record was not coming up before when the death date of 1875 was on the profile of Paul the father because his birth date of 1809 conflicted with the birth date on the official record.
This is the transcript of the official death record:
Name: Paul J Hungerford
Birth Date: 14 Feb 1846
Death Date: 4 Dec 1875
Military Branch: Army
Veteran of Which War: U.S. Civil War
Cemetery Name: Charles Evans Cemetery
Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania
This death record also confirms the obituary because it has the same cemetery name as given in the obituary.
So if you have a situation where you need to confirm a date, consider looking at the City Directories for possible clues.
Jose from Clarkston, Michigan
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