Saturday, December 6, 2008

Death Certificate Challenge- John W. Davis

My sister hosted Thanksgiving this year and with my brother and his family visiting from out of state I was able to force the conversation to genealogy, if only briefly. My brother-in-law, Ron did some research into his family history a few years back and actually had great luck tracing back many lines to early New England. Living on a farm out in the country, he has only recently been able to get high speed internet at an affordable price so he doesn't have very much experience searching online and does not have any subscriptions to any pay genealogy sites. So we logged onto Ancestry and played around a bit but there were people to visit with and food to eat so we didn't get very far.

There is one line that he has been stuck on. He has a death certificate for his 2nd great-grandfather but had not been able to go back further on that line. Before I left he gave me a copy and asked me to see what I could find. We didn't have time for him to fill me in on what else he knew about the line and his tree is not online - all I had was the information on the death certificate. Being in a funk due to being housebound for weeks and not making any progress on my family, a new challenge was just what I needed.

Death certificate information

John W. Davis died in Springboro, Crawford, PA, 17 December 1942 and had lived in that community 2 yrs, 4 mo.

His age at death was 92 yrs, 2 mo, 3 days and his birth date 14 October 1850, Crawford County, PA

The box giving his marital status is illegible however the box for spouse age simply has a check mark and her name is given as Clara Sheldon.

Parents are listed as John W. Davis, born Crawford Co, PA and Cerena Whipple born Crawford Co, PA.

Informant was Thomas W. Davis, Cambridge, Spring, PA.

Burial was 20 December 1942, Springboro Cemetery.

What I found

John and Clara were easy enough to find on the 1920 and 1930 censuses but I could not find them (together) prior to that so I started looking for cemetery records. The Conneaut Valley Area Historical Society has a transcription of Spring Cemetery that also has the plot number and John and Clara are interred in different plots! So I started looking for other buried near them.

Clara is in plot #240:

240-1; Shaver, Arminda Irvin; 7 Aug 1827 - 20 Sept 1902, age 73, W of Phillip; M of Mrs. Edgar Sheldon; D of Thomas and Clara Irvin

240-2; Shaver, Phillip; 10 Jan 1822/1823 - 3 Nov 1896, age 73, S of William; H of Arminda Irwin

240-3; Sheldon, Edgar C; 1844 - 19 Nov 1910, age 66; H of Clara Shaver

240-4; Davis, Clara E; __ - 26 Apr 1931, age 82; (no further info)

240-5; Sheldon, Clyde E; 1872 - 20 Apr 1937, age 64; S of Edgar and Clara Shaver Sheldon

So it appears that John W Davis' wife as listed on his death certificate was actually Clara Shaver Sheldon Davis. This would be a later marriage for John and Clara is not Ron's ancestor.

John is in plot #246 and these are the others I located in that plot:

246-1; Whipple, James S; 5 Jan 1874 - 4 Jun 1878, age 4; S of Robert and Matilda

246-2; Quimby, Cerena; (no further info)

246-3; Whipple, Matilda Davis, 9 May 1848 - 16 Aug 1875, age 27; D of Isaac Davis, W of Robert

246-4; no record found

246-5; no record found

246-6; Davis, Berthonia Haney; 1 Jul 1847 - 8 Dec 1897; W of John W

246-7; Nicolls, Lizzie R; ___ - 15 Apr 1916, age 53; ( no further info)

246-8; Nichols, William J; ___ - 6 Mar 1925, age 61; H of Lizzie Joslin Stancliff, H of Anna Slade

246-9; no record found

246-10; Davis, John W; 1852 - 17 Dec 1942, age 92; H of Berthey Haney

Cerena is actually named on the cemetery transcription twice.
250-6; Quinby, Serena Caroline Nicholes; 1830 - 1869; W of Amos M.
250-?; Quinby, Amos M; 1808 - 1888; H of Serenea Caroline

Once I started looking for all the people buried in this plot I was able to start putting some of the family history together using census and other records. It appears that John W. Davis was the son of Isaac Davis. So this was another mistake on the death certificate. I believe that Cerena was John's mother and that Whipple was probably her maiden name.

I think Cerena married 1st, Isaac Davis abt 1847-1848, most likely in Crawford Co. but possibly Erie Co, PA. In 1850 they are listed in Cussewago, Crawford, PA with daughters Matilda b abt 1848 and Nancy age 6/12.

Isaac Davis apparently died between 1854 and 1860 when I find Wm D and Serena C Nichols in Elk Creek, Erie Co, PA along with John W. Davis, age 8.

By 1870 it appears that Cerena is a widow once again. She is found in Cussewago Twp, Crawford, PA. The hand writing is very difficult to make out but she seems to be listed as Syrenne Nichols. With her are children Lydia C Nichols, age 12; Willie C Nichols, age 6; Hattie M (W) age 3. I believe that Wiilie C is the William J Nichols in plot 246-8. On this census Cerena's household is listed just after the family of Francis Whipple, born about 1819 NY. I'm not sure if he was an older brother or perhaps an uncle but it leads me to believe that the death certificate did in fact record Cerena Whipple correctly as the mother of John W. Davis.


So, the death certificate has John W Davis' correct name, death date and mother's maiden name.
Incorrect information was John's date of birth (which should have been 1851 based on census records or 1852 based on cemetery records), his father's name was Isaac rather than John W. and his last wife's maiden name was Clara Shaver and Sheldon her name from her previous marriage. The informant, Thomas W. Davis was John's oldest son.

Even though some of the information on the death certificate was incorrect there was enough information to allow me to fill in many blanks for Ron. He still has much work to do to verify what I have found but I think I have given a good foundation.


Randy Seaver said...

This looks like an exdcellent piece of research, Apple. Well done!

The lives of our ancestors are always a bit more complicated than just born, married, had kids, died, left a will.

Thanks for the read - a good one!

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Thanks Randy. Love your new look! There was a lot more that I found and Ron seems quite pleased.


So much better when you have other
family members who are willing to
help out even if it is just a little.
Great searching!

CountryGirl said...

Ron is in awe of you Apple! He is thrilled with all the info you found! All his genology papers are out and he has that spark again to keep digging. Thanks for taking so much time and working your majic to solve the mystery.

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

I was happy to have something new to work on. Maybe I can get Ron to work on a couple of my brickwalls. LOL

I somehow think you won't still be thanking me when Ron becomes totally consumed and tries to hog the computer! LOL Now we just have to turn him into a blogger!

my Heritage Happens said...

I enjoyed your post! Great job! I am sure Ron is more than thrilled! Your post gives me enthusiasm, ah if now I had more time! I know you are tired of being house bound, but how I wish I could help you out and use some of that time you have on your hands! ;-) hope you are healing well!

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Hi Msteri,


I'm actually out of the walking boot and doing much better. Being laid up was a mixed blessing. I was able to get a lot done on the computer but I'm way behind on soooo many things. I'm certain that in January I'll get behind here again as I catch up on everything else.