I keep vital records in individual plastic sleeves in a green notebook. Even though I’ve had some of the birth, marriage and death certificates, and Bible records for the 35 years that I’ve been researching my family history, I’m still noticing new things — or maybe finally giving some thought to bits of information I knew were a little bit off.
Take the death certificates of my Moore grandparents, for example. Each is listed as “widowed.” Common sense tells us they couldn’t both be widowed, at least not from each other.
Gayland A. Moore Sr., who died in 1972, in point of fact was widowed. His second wife, Sarah (Sack) Moore, had died in 1946 when they had been married seven years. I never knew her, since I wasn’t born yet.
My dad was the informant for Gayland Sr.’s death certificate, which was correct.
Ione (Bennett) Moore died in 1978. She and Gayland Sr. were divorced in the early 1930s. She never remarried, and had been divorced for more than 40 years when she died.
Her daughter with whom she had lived for more than 20 years, Mary (Moore) Campbell, was the informant on the 1978 death certificate, which listed Ione Moore as “widowed.” The reason for that designation puzzled me and would have been a good question for me to ask my aunt, but I never did.
My grandmother had died unexpectedly, which easily can be a factor when a relative is trying to provide accurate information in a time of great stress. But I’m also remembering that when my grandfather died, my grandmother had sat in the front row at the funeral, in the chair where the spouse often sits. I didn’t ask about that, either, but I think that in some sense, she did feel widowed.
Of course, sometimes a mistake turns up because the informant for the death certificate isn’t even a relative, or doesn’t have all the pertinent information because he or she is related by marriage. And sometimes the mind makes a little leap, whether deliberately or unconsciously.
When my dad died in 2002, I had actually met with the funeral director several days earlier, concerned that I might not have my wits about me once my father passed away. Further, the funeral director was a classmate of mine, Peter Neal, so I felt comfortable sharing information with the understanding that it was all subject to my mother’s approval.
My parents were married 53 years when my dad died, so marital status was easy to get right. But I, the genealogist, did get a bit creative when it came to his occupation.
My dad was working at Guilford Industries when he retired. But his main occupation had been as an electrician (and millwright) for 27 years at Hardwood Products, and that’s what we put on the death certificate because I believed it’s what he would have chosen to say. It was his identity.
Back to my grandparents, for a moment. Although I never knew my step-grandmother, Sarah Moore, I did obtain a copy of her death certificate 30 years ago. It listed Sarah as being born in 1901 to Isaac and Annie (Cope) Sack of Nova Scotia.
The informant on the death certificate was not a name I knew, but turned out to be one of three children by Sarah’s first husband. I had never heard any of my Moore relatives mention that Sarah had any children, and so never pursued that angle.
Sarah’s color was listed as “white” on her 1946 death certificate, for which one of her children was the informant. I wondered about that, because I remembered someone from my family saying that Sarah was Indian.
I checked the 1891 and 1901 Nova Scotia censuses for Isaac and Anne Sack, and in both cases found them listed as Micmac Indian.
But Sarah was listed as white in the Maine censuses that include her.
In the 1930 Census, Sarah was listed as living with her second husband. Her three children were listed as one daughter-in-law and two sons-in-law, even though they were more accurately stepchildren to the head of household.
The 1940 Census, during which Sarah was the wife of my grandfather, her two sons living with them were listed as “stepsons” to the head of household.
When Sarah Moore died, she was buried in Lawn Cemetery in Guilford and has a small graniite headstone. My grandfather, buried in the same lot, had only a little metal marker because there wasn’t money for a stone by the time the children got together the money to bury him.
Some years ago, I decided Gayland Moore Sr. should have a stone, especially while his children were alive to appreciate it. It was a project of some of the grandchildren, and I’m glad we did it.
Attending the recent memorial service for Frank Coombs Jr., I was very impressed with the military presentation of the U.S. flag, which included the formal unfolding and display of the flag, then the formal refolding of it by two servicemen present.
My dad’s 2002 burial was in the Abbot Village Cemetery, next to the ballfield where he used to play baseball. The presentation of the U.S. flag was handled by five members of the American Legion in Guilford, which also performed a gun salute. My dad was a lifelong member of the American Legion, and that ceremony was exactly what he would have wanted.
For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.