15 December 2010

16 Civil War Veterans Identified!

One of my reasons for starting this pre-1920 Oklahoma Death Index was to help in identifying Civil War veterans' graves. As a member of the Sons of Union Veterans (SUVCW) National Graves Registration Committee, and as the Graves Registration Officer for the Department of Oklahoma, it is my job to locate and identify the graves of Civil War veterans.

So this past weekend I spent about an hour scrolling through the index in the file that covers surnames A through E. Starting at the end of the file and scrolling upwards, I was able to identify 16 men as veterans of the Civil War. Now these are men NOT among the 13,000+ already identified (all buried in Oklahoma).

They are:

- Dougherty, William B. Capt 33 OH Inf Hennessey Cemetery, Kingfisher Co.
- Doutheit, Levi Pvt E 2 AR Inf Cummings Cemetery, Pottawatomie Co.
- Dowling, Finton Pvt A 18 IA Inf Arlington Cemetery, Lincoln Co.
- Doyle, William Pvt F 18 IA Inf Vaughn Cemetery, LeFlore Co.
- Doyle, John B. Pvt K 18 IA Inf Green Hill Cemetery Muskogee Co.
- Dukes, John F. Pvt E 16 MO Cav & E 6 MO PEM New Mellette Cemetery, McIntosh Co.
- Dunlap, Robert W. Pvt A 6 MO Inf CSA Woodland Cemetery, Cleveland, Pawnee Co.
- Derr, John J. Transport Service QM Dept US Vols Cashion Cemetery, Kingfisher Co.
- Easley, John T. Pvt E,G 9 TN Cav Retrop Cemetery, Washita Co.
- Echols, Charles E. Pvt E 59 USC Inf Lewisville Cemetery, Haskell Co.
- Edgar, Sylvester C. Pvt F 17 KY Cav Canute Cemetery, Washita Co.
- Elder, Thomas Confederate Army Old Canute Cemetery, Washita Co.
- Eschler, John Pvt F 5 MO Cav & Pvt F Benton Hussars MO Cav Independence Cemetery, Custer Co.
- Evans, Haiden W. Pvt H 14 MO Cav & Pvt D 76 MO EM Oakley Cemetery, Dewey Co.
- Evans, William M. Pvt C 23 IA Inf Carnegie/Oak Grove Cemetery, Caddo Co.
- Ewing, William Pvt D 145 IL Inf Rossville, Lincoln Co.

I can't imagine how many "new" veterans I'll find when I finish the entire alphabet. The one that really excites me is William M. Evans. He served in the same regiment as my ancestor, Sylvester Gridley Beckwith.

09 December 2010

"Col." equals Colonel???

In copying some cemetery records and also some info from obit indices, I came across several people whose names, depending on the arrangement of given names and surnames, were preceded or followed by the abbreviation "Col."

To anyone with any experience in genealogy, and especially with military history, this abbreviation has one specific meaning. "Col." stands for the rank of Colonel.

HOWEVER... "Col." did usually mean Colonel, but it did not always indicate a rank. A military veteran who had achieved prominence later in civilian life was often referred to "Colonel". This was often the case even for men who served in the military at the rank of private.

There is another possibility, though. "Col." might be an abbreviation for "colored". This term was often used for blacks. Negroes were often called "colored". The term "Adrican-American" had not yet surfaced.

So if you see an entry in an index preceded or followed by "Col.", do not assume it refers to military rank. It may be an indication of the person's race!

08 December 2010

Infant Death Statistics

It's been eye-opening going through cemetery records and finding out how many infants/children never made it to adulthood.

In some rural cemeteries, infants comprise up to 90% of the burials. An average of urban and rural cemeteries, from my data collection the past two years, is in the 40% to 50% range. And if you look at unmarked graves, infants are the large majority.

Most people ignore the infant siblings/children of their ancestors. BUT...they can often place a couple/family in a location between census years, which helps identify their migrations across the US. So many infants are buried in cemeteries that their parents are not buried in.

I'm thankful for the medical care and vaccinations available today!

05 December 2010

NEW TOTAL: 200,204 Entries!!!!

I started the year with a goal of reaching 150,000 entries by the end of 2010. In about July I revised that to 175,000, and in September to 200,000. Well, as of yesterday, my database of deaths in Oklahoma up to 31 Dec 1919 is now 200,204 entries!

I get easily bored just sitting down watching sports these days (in my old age). So while I watched OU and Nebraska beat on each other, I had my computer on my lap and did "data entry". It's amazing how many entries I was able to type in while watching the game. Over 400 new additions from the Cleveland County probate index are now in the index.

Some call this multitasking. Others blame such actions on ADD or hyperactivity. It's also been referred to as "work-aholism". But I simply love "doing genealogy". And I'm at my best when compiling records and information.

So by the end of 2010, I expect to have 210,000 entries in my Pre-1920 Oklahoma Death Index. If you need me to check the index for you, email me and I'll do a quick check for free. If it proves useful, a donation would be greatly appreciated. It will help with the cost of gas to go to cemeteries, court houses and libraries around Oklahoma.

03 December 2010

The #1 Oklahoma Genealogy Periodical

In my opinion, from the perspective of the purpose of this blog, my pick for the #1 genealogy periodical for all of Oklahoma is The Tree Tracers. This periodical is published by the Southwest Oklahoma Genealogical Society (SWOGS) out of Lawton OK.

Each issue is packed full of plenty of information on deaths in SW Oklahoma. In the issues at the Stillwater Publc Library (volumes 19 through 27) are SO MANY records. These include obituaries from Cotton, Jefferson and Comanche Counties; cemetery transcriptions from Cotton, Jefferson, Stephens and Comanche counties; Bible records; queries, pedigree charts and family group sheets; Indian deaths; and many more records.

Don't forget to check out the local genealogical society newsletters. They often include records unique to that locality. If you have ancestors in SW Oklahoma, you are truly blessed to have such a great resource as The Tree Tracers available! It gets my vote for the best genealogy periodical in Oklahoma!

01 December 2010

NEW TOTAL: 194,890 entries!!!

The total number of entries in the pre1920 Oklahoma Death Index has broken the 190,000 entries mark. And since last Saturday I have nearly 4,000 more in my temporary files to add. So sometime in the next two weeks the total will surpass 200,000 entries.

Many entries are from southeastern Oklahoma counties. And nearly 6,000 are from the Indian Pioneer History Papers interviews. My plans for the near future are to finish most of Pittsburg County and finish Garfield County.

Once I finish Pittsburg and Garfield Counties, I plan to take a break and catch up on my Civil War veteran research. As the Graves Registration Officer for the Department of Oklahoma, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), I locate and document graves of both Union and Confederate veterans in Oklahoma. I have entered many men of the right age to have served, and will spend a week or so comparing their entries to entries from the federal Civil War pension index.

If you have questions, please contact me at okdeathindex@hotmail.com!

28 November 2010

I have been looking through some published cemetery records and noticed why, several years ago, I made some mistakes in identifying cemeteries and the counties in which they are located.

The six volumes in the Pittsburg County OK Cemetery Records series each deal with an area in Pittsburg County. When I was identifying Civil War veteran burials back in the 1990s, I identified all the veterans in the series as buried in Pittsburg County. I just today found out why I received several letters stating that I was right about the cemetery but wrong about the county where several veterans were buried!

Once again I had ASSUMED a book title told it all. But today I noticed the line at the top of each page. That line listed the name of the cemetery AND the county the cemetery is in. Included in one book were cemeteries across the county lines in Latimer and Atoka counties.

So my advice to genealogists everywhere...NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING when it comes to genealogy records and compilations. ALWAYS look at the following:

- Table of Contents
- Preface (introductory comments and explanations)
- Subtitles
- Headers and footers for each page
- Footnotes
- and any other explanatory notes and paragraphs.

Checking all parts of a book or document will prevent mistakes and misconceptions and perhaps enhance you research with additional and more detailed information that would normally be missed.

10 September 2010

NEW TOTAL: 170,309 Entries!!!!

Lots of new entries mainly from Beckham, Kiowa, Bryan and Major Counties. I hate just sitting and watching sports on TV. BUT...I enjoy working on the computer while listening to the games, and watching a little. So welcome football season!

In the next few months I will be posting some lists of my top 5 or top 10 favorite sources and sites for death information research.

Think I can enter another 30,000 records by the end of the year? That's now my goal: 200,000 entries by Dec 31st...

28 August 2010

Misspelled Names

Yesterday I blogged about a conversation I overheard at the Oklahoma History Center by a man who refused to listen to any suggestions or advice about the man he was researching.

Well, today I was checking for some Civil War veterans buried in Rose Hill Cemetery at Chickasha, Grady Co. OK. A Joseph P. Gross was listed as a CSA vet. His dates were listed as 1 Feb 1834-5 Feb 1994. Now there is now way this could correct. So I checked the 1910 census, but was unable to find him. His wife died in 1903, so I decided to check the 1900 census. Again no luck. I tried several combinations of names and dates, but still no luck.

Then it dawned on me! I checked the 1900 census again, but this time typed in Cross as the last name. There he was with wife Martha and two daughters and a grandchild. Then I checked my database of Civil War veterans buried in Oklahoma. NO Joseph Gross, but a hit on Joseph Cross.

This is the problem with cemetery listings. You have to rely on another person's ability to read different fonts and scripts correctly. I should have realied right of the C vs. G issue. But I, like the researcher at the Oklahoma History Center, failed to consider the obvious. Glad I finally did!

So in my Oklahoma Death Index to 1920 database, I have two entries each for Martha and Joseph. And each entry states that the cemetery list has the surname as Gross, whereas the 1900 census has it as Cross.

27 August 2010

NEW TOTAL: 164,420 Entries

August has been a GREAT month so far. The database is up to 164,420 entries. I pick a county to work on at home, a county to work on at work (before and during lunch), and a source to work on on Saturday mornings before picking my daughter up from school at OSSM.

I have been fairly diligent, but I also have responsibilities as a member of the graves registration committee for the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. I add entries for Oklahoma. I also verify entries submitted to the database before they are entered in the database. Add to that yard work, house work, family life, etc. and it is amazing, at least to me, that over 10,000 entries were added in 3 weeks!

My goal for the year was to reach 150,000. Hmmmm...maybe I should revise my goal. I can just hear Leroy Jethro Gibbs saying "....Ya think!" (and then slapping me on the back of the head).

Verifying Sources of Information

I was at the Oklahoma History Center this afternoon entering info into my Oklahoma Death Index to 1920. It must be the teacher in me, but I always seem to hear or register the conversations that go on around me. I overheard a man mention to one of the workers that he was looking for a man name Alonzo Drew. For some reason that sounded familiar. He then stated something about Logan County.

So I went up and "peeked" at the document they were discussing- the 1910 census of South Cimarron Twp., Logan County OK. On it were Alonzo Drew, his wife Maude and two children including a son Roy. I then went back to my computer and clicked on the A-E section of my database. Lo and Behold, there was Allonzo Drew (note spelling of given name) born 1874 and died 16 Apr 1911. I went up to the researcher and asked him if he new the man he was looking for was buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Logan County. He proceeded to hem and haw about two Pleasant Hill Cemeteries, one north of Meridian being overgrown and unable to find the stone.

I then went back to my computer to check my source of information (I type in the source for EVERY entry)- it was the tombstone. I had visited the cemetery in the early 1980s during my big time "cemeterying" years. He came over to me and showed me the death certificate (he hadn't told us he had one) for J.A. Smith born 1851 who died in Logan County on 15 Apr 1911. The man buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery couldn't possibly be his ancestor! I pointed out that the tombstone had the birth year as 1874, the same as the 1910 census. But the informant for the death certificate was the wife! So the man in Pleasant Hill Cemetery couldn't be the man he was looking for.

I pointed out that the man in question most likely would not have given the information for the tombstone or the death certificate. He had it in his mind that 1851 was the correct birth year, despite preponderance of evidence. He then stated he had seen the tombstone....from a picture on-line.

The point of all this: consider ALL the evidence available. Keep looking for more. Trust, to a certain extent, the experts from the area. DON"T assume family tradition is correct- it rarely is (in entirety).

The researcher left the library disappointed with his experience. If only he would have considered the possibilities. Differences in name usage (Alonzo, Joseph, J.A.), differences in death day (15 or 16), differences in birth year (1851 or 1874); and differences in sources (death certificate from 1911; 1910 census, tombstone inscription).

What would you have done? Which source(s) do you think are most reliable? What further avenues does the research (presented above) bring to mind? What strategies could you use to track down Joseph Alonzo Smith on the 1900 census?

Good luck with your OWN research. Just remember, keep your mind open to different possibilities!

30 July 2010

NEW TOTAL: 152,934

New grand total as of 31 July 2010:

152,934 entries in my pre-1920 Oklahoma Death Index.

I've been trying to add 5,000 entries each month. Some months are better than others. Lots depends on other obligations, when my kids are home from school, and what other projects I have going on. But I still try to type in records at least an hour each day.

I can usually get about 100 entries in an hour. But that rate drops when I check one source against another. For example, when I canvass a cemetery, I check my transcription against pictures on findagrave.com and okcemeteries.net. I also try to check against cemetery books at the Oklahoma History Center. Lots of duplication, but I get additional entries for stones I missed or for people whose tombstones no longer exist.

I look forward to Saturday mornings when I get a couple of hours at the Oklahoma History Center. So many records...so little time. Oh well, I intended this to be a long term project in the first place.

21 July 2010

Reader BEWARE!

I was looking through the Okfuskee County GenWeb cemetery listings and made an interesting and possible major discovery. I found in the A through E surnames almost 200 children that died within about 3 months of each other in 1902, if I remember right.

The trend continued in the F surname listing and I started getting suspicious. So I checked against some of the photos on Findagrave.com. Only a handful actually died during what I thought was the "epidemic" time period. Most lived to be adults and died in the mid to late 1900s.

Apparently the person inputting data/setting up the database either intentionally put in wrong information to mess up people copying data, or unintentionally made some kind of input or programming error.

The point here is to corroborate information! Don't settle for the first source you come across. Whenever possible, verify information with a different source. You will save yourself time, trouble and embarassment!

16 July 2010

NEW TOTAL: 149,432 entries

The first two weeks of July have been, as they said on the Saturday Night Live of my youth, "Very, very good to me"! Almost to me end of the year goal of 150,000 pre-1920 death records in Oklahoma. PLEASE...realize that is not 150,000 individuals, but 150,000 individual records. Some individuals have 5 to 10 entries, depending on how "popular" or "famous" they were in their community. Lots more counties to go. I'll shoot for 175,000 by the end of the year!

12 July 2010

NEW TOTAL: 142,905 entries

As of 1 July 2010, the Oklahoma Death Index to 1920 is now up to 142,905 entries! Considering I was hoping to hit 150,000 by the end of 2010, it looks like I may need to revise that to 175,000! I keep adding info from cemetery records/listings, funeral home records, obituaries, etc. So if you are looking for someone who died in Oklahoma prior to 1920, e-mail me and let me check for you. Results are only $1 per name.


Best wishes,

Mahlon Erickson

24 May 2010

Civil War Deaths

I was looking through some old emails and found a set from 4 or so years ago. I had corresponded with a man who had a newspaper account of casualties from the Battle of Honey Springs/Elk Horn Tavern. The article listed Confederate casualties only. The majority were for men of the 20th and 29th Texas Cavalries.

It amazed that 63 deaths (if I counted correctly) in east central Indian Territory were reported in a Texas newspaper. And along with the deaths were included names of those injured mortally, severely, and slightly. The list was by Regiment and then by company within the regiment. Within the company, casualties were divided by rank.

This just goes to show that sometimes you have to look elsewhere for records from "here". I doubt that ANY Indian Territory newspaper listed deaths from the battle. And the list in this newspaper article is more complete than I have seen in the Official Records.

And even better, my correspondent in a separate email included in brackets the full name of the soldiers as listed in Broadstreet's Index of Confederate Soldiers from Texas. Nearly all names in the newspaper article are initials only. So to have the full names is especially pleasing.

15 May 2010

132,557 entries

My Oklahoma Death Index is now up to 132,557 entries. I have added many more cemetery records, some probate records, a few funeral home records and some obits. My current plans are to continue entering records as available with the hope of adding 1000 per week. Initially my goal was for 150,000 by the end of 2010. And it looks like I'm on schedule!
My goal with this blog is now to post an article regarding records (availability, problems with, inferences when using, etc.) on Wednesdays and Saturdays. At the end of each month I'll post a running total for number of entries.
Until Wednesday....

07 February 2010

114,000 Entries

The total number of entries in my Oklahoma Death Index to 1920 is now at 114,135. For all the work I've put in the past 18 months, that sure doesn't sound like much. But it far exceeds my goal of 1000 entries per week!

I took a break during the month of January 2010 to catch up on a graves registration project for the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW). But am now back at entering data. I have entered deaths from my Payne County OK Cemetery Index for pages 265 through 604. Just 264 pages more to go! At lunch at the office I've been entering deaths from Indian Territory, Oklahoma Territory and Oklahoma from the Civil War pension index. Oddly enough, I've found several men who served in the Indian Wars, Spanish American War, Mexican War, and in peace time; all in the Civil War Pension Index. I've worked my way through the first 600 of about 16,500 records. Slow going....

I will try to post twice a week. One post will be an "article" about a specific record type or record location. The other post will be an update on where I am in the database creation process: number of entries, sources working on, etc.

Next post will be next weekend. I'll be in Houston TX on business til then.

30 January 2010

Logan County Record of Poor Persons

I just finished entering records from the Logan County Commissioners Record of Poor Persons. This is a single volume of records of poor people whose care was under the auspices of the Logan County Commissioners. From this book I extracted information on individuals for whom Logan County paid for coffins, burial services, cemetery lots, etc. In all there are 125 entries. Not a "major" source of pre-1920 burials, but an important one none the less.

The oldest record is for Edward Taylor who died 11 Jan 1892. John Cheatham was paid for providing a coffin. The last record is for Mrs. Dan Daniels age 74 who died 11 Mar 1903. Mr. West was paid for providing a pauper's grave. Unfortunately, there are gaps in the records from 1896 to 1900 and from 1900 to 1903. Most of the entries are for Blacks. And many of these were buried at the Cimarron River Bridge Cemetery (north of Guthrie). Others were buried in the Winsor/Windsor Graveyard. From what I've been able to determine, neither of these cemeteries are still in existence.

So here we have 125 entries for people who died in early Oklahoma Territory, but for whom it is unlikely there is any other record of their deaths. Nor is it likely that there is a marker for their grave anywhere. How many other county court houses have records like this sitting on a top shelf, in a corner, or in the basement, and no one knows about them?

I am always on the look out for burials of Civil War veterans. As a member of the Nation Graves Registration Committee for the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), I enter information on any Civil War veterans graves that I come across. From this record of Logan County Poor Persons I found Andrew Hendricks, male, age 62, Black, died 2 Oct 1894; his coffin was provided by Mr. Porter. A subsequent check of the Civil War Pension Index resulted in finding Andrew Hendricks whose wife filed an application for pension dated 12 Nov 1894. His service was as Private in Company H 3rd US Colored Troops Heavy Artillery. His pension was #64142 and his widow's was #411840. Although the cemetery of burial is unknown, it is likely it was in the Cimarron River Bridge graveyard, along with many of the other Blacks identified in this Poor Persons book.

Moral of this story: Don't overlook the "unlikely" records. Check out your local court house for unusual records. Record information they contain. Publish on your own, on the internet, or in a genealogical journal! So many records are overlooked. So many records are unused because no one is aware they exist!

10 January 2010

Problems With Indexes

Overheard at the Oklahoma Genealogical Society meeting last summer:

" I just can't find my ancestor in the census anywhere!"
"Did you try the soundex listing?"
" yes, and it didn't turn him up either!"
" Did you try any other variations of the name?"
"I tried a couple and didn't find anything...besides, he ALWAYS spelled his name the same way. I've given up on finding him in that census!"

When I heard this I just had to shake my head. Too many of us research as if we were the ones who created the records. Just think of one of your ancestors' more unusual surnames. If you heard that name how would you have spelled it? Did the family move into the area from a different area with a different accent? What kind of education did your ancestor have? What kind of education did the census taker have? Did other families of the same surname live in the area but spell the name differently? Did your ancestor speak with a lisp? Or with a guttural voice? Or did he mumble/garble his words?

There are so many reasons a surname may NOT show up in an initial census search. For nearly 20 years I published the "Beckwith Newsletter". I would spend hours abstracting Beckwith families from census and other records. Some of the variations of the name Beckwith showed up on the census as: Beckwith, Beckwirth, Beckworth, Buckwith, Becketh, Beckett, Brickwith, Brickworth, Bockwith, Bockweth, Peckwith, Deckwith, Beckurth, etc.

Notice that some of the Beckwith variations based on typos. Others are simple spelling errors. Others are transcription errors (the loop at the end of a cursive "B" looking like an "r", for example). An yet others are regional variations based on accent (try saying Beckwith with a southern accent- the soft with coming out as worth).

My point here is that you have to think outside the box when you get stumped. I spent an hour yesterday checking my Oklahoma Death index of over 100,000 entries for certain spelling variations:

cemetery: cemetry, cemeterey, cemertery, cemetey, cemetety.
buried: bruied
grace: grce
ordered: orderd
Thomas: Thoams

As you can see, most of the mistakes that I catch myself making are typographical errors. That's what happens when you get someone who "hunts and pecks". Imagine yourself as a menially paid indexer. How careful would you be? How diligent would you be? How tired would you get reading and typing hour after hour.

Think outside the box. Try typing your ancestor's last name but intentionally type a wrong letter (the same letter you often "miss" when typing). Try a search in THAT name and see what turns up.

PLEASE....remember that indexes are research aides ONLY...ALWAYS check out the sources your self to verify. As my football coach taught in Jr. High...never ASSUME...It just makes an ASS out of U and ME. In real estate they talk about Location, Location, Location. I guess in genealogy we need to talk about Verify, Verify, Verify!

Until next time.....