Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Death Certificate Conundrum

As noted previously in my genealogy happy dance post about John Pemberton, my 3rd great-grandfather, I ordered his Civil War pension record from the National Archives. In the pension record file was a certified death record.

As one can clearly see, his parents are listed as Jeremiah Pemberton born in Pennsylvania (though I think this was really New York) and Susanna Jermyn born in Ireland.

I've been perusing the new Seeking Michigan site containing death records from the state of Michigan for 1897-1920 and happened upon one for John Pemberton. I knew I already had his death record from his pension file but thought I would check the state copy out. I figured it would be what I already had, but I had to check it out anyway. Good thing I did.

This record says John's parents were John Pemberton born in Canada and Mary Smith born in Canada. What?????

Everything else looks exactly the same. Even the informant is the same (his daughter, Myrtle).

Not knowing which agency issued the one from the pension file, I looked up the registrar, James E. Hull, in the 1910 U.S. census. He lived in Macomb County, Michigan, where John died, and was the county treasurer in 1910. Therefore, I'm assuming the death record from the pension file is the one on file with the Macomb County Clerk. I know that deaths in Michigan were recorded at the county clerk before a copy was filed with the state department of vital records. In fact, as I'm typing this, I'm actually even wondering if the copy from the pension file was from the township of Lenox, where John lived and died, and where James E. Hull lived in 1910. I believe that Michigan townships recorded deaths first before filing a copy with the county clerk.

I think it is safe to say that some serious transcription error happened when transferring the information from one clerk to another.

I'm 99.9% certain that Jeremiah and Susanna are my 4th great-grandparents because there was only one John Pemberton in the Wayne/Macomb/St. Clair County areas in his lifetime, and he was enumerated with Jeremiah and Susanna in the 1860 U.S. census. He even mentioned Jeremiah and Susanna as his parents in his pension file. He named my great-great-grandfather, Lovell, as his son in the pension file. Numerous associates and his children's associates were also children and grandchildren of Susanna and Jeremiah. I'm just glad I didn't find the state copy of the death record first and stop there. I think I will be ordering the Macomb County death records through my local FHC to see what they have on file.

1 comment:

  1. I just found out from cousin Steve that Mary Smith is actually Mary Coombs. I re-examined the document, and sure enough, this is what the document says. This makes more sense because Mary Coombs was the wife of John Pemberton. Again, this is a case where the informant, Myrtle Pemberton Finkle, put the names of her parents instead of the names of her father's parents. The copy of the death record from the pension file, which seems to have come from the County Clerk's Office, has John Pemberton's parents' names, Jeremiah Pemberton and Susanna Jermyn. Myrtle must have gone back and corrected the copy at the county level, but perhaps the state never got a corrected copy. Or maybe the corrected copy is part of a different collection that is not currently being filmed by the Library of Michigan at it's Seeking Michigan site. Or perhaps the corrected copy just hasn't been filmed yet.