Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Death Certificates In My Mail Make Me Happy

It's true, genealogist's love death certificates!!

So, you poor souls who are loyal readers know that sometime last winter I sent away to the New York Department of Health for death certificates. Silly me!

Although I read this text:

It never occurred to me that they were telling the TRUTH? How is it possible for anything to take that long anymore? Yes, I realize that I'm totally ruined for patience and all that thanks to immediate gratification in every other area of my life, but really????? I had only a general idea where the one death took place, and no idea where the other, but from now on I'm totally going through the local clerk! I learned my lesson!

And sure enough, mid-March I sent the letter, mid-June they cashed my check, and here we are, the beginning of September and I get my certificates. Five AND A HALF months. The "half" hurts. I'm just sayin'.

Don't get me wrong now, I'm happy that New York makes these available and I know they are understaffed and under-budgeted. Oh well. One day it will be better!!!


Love yoooou NY Department of Health! :-)

So anyway, back to my wonderful new certificates!

1. Hattie Allen

She's my maternal great-great-grandmother. I was looking to see how her parents were filled out because Hattie was the offspring of Laura Kirby and Laura's sister's husband. Yes, sad but true. At least according to family lore.

Hattie's daughter Cornelia was the informant and she listed Hattie's parents as "Samuel Kirby" and "Laura Kirby".

So, a couple things from this. Samuel Kirby is Laura Kirby's dad. Laura died not long after Hattie was born (she was still quite young), and Hattie was raised by her grandparents (Laura's parents), Samuel and Lucinda Kirby. I have Hattie in census records living with her grandparent's.

Looks like Cornelia was being discreet when asked about her mom's parents and listed mom's mother (Laura Kirby, no married name), and the man who raised Hattie, Samuel.

Oh well. Back to the drawing board to get some proof of this family legend!

2. Charles Francis Akins

This is Hattie's son Charles. He died at a relatively young age, only 39. A story has come down through the family that (allegedly) his wife might have had something to do with his early death. They say soon after Charley died, she had taken up with a man. Certainly these are all just allegations, I had no idea of his wife's name much less whether she might have encouraged an early demise for Great-Uncle Charley. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the hurt and grief the family of Charley felt that caused them to think not-so-nice things about Charley's widow.

Well, the good news is that homicide is not listed on the death certificate. In fact, they did not even perform an autopsy, so there must not have been anything suspicious to the authorities about Charley's early demise. His death is listed as being due to "cholycystitis". This is a mis-spelling of "cholecystitis" which is inflammation of the gall bladder. I read up on it, and it could be that maybe he had gallstones that blocked the bile from getting out of the gall bladder and maybe it got inflamed and burst, like an appendix. Of course, now I'm the person guessing, but it's a possibility.

The doctor who signed the death certificate attended Great-Uncle Charley from Nov. 1 through Nov. 13, 1928, so he was sick for two weeks before he died.

Also, now I have the name of his wife! Yay! Her name was Ethel Mae. AND, for some reason he was way up in Wayne County NY when he passed. My family typically stuck to the south in Tioga, Tompkins and sometimes Seneca counties, so that was new to me.

So anyway, what a relief to finally receive these, I'm so happy!

I have to admit, I hesitated about sharing the family lore about Charley's wife. But I decided to share as part of the process of debunking it and showing the natural cause of Great-Uncle Charley's death.

When I look at my ancestors during my research, I always hope that they had a happy life, filled with people they loved and who loved them back. I know that realistically, that is not always the case; children die, spouses divorce, natural and man-made disasters happen. But that still doesn't stop my hope that while they were alive, they had happiness in some form.

So no matter what happened between Charley and Ethel, I like to believe there was some point when they grinned at each other over a shared joke, held each other in a hug, or felt joy over their baby's first step.

And that's what keeps us all going, isn't it?



  1. Congratulations! I hope you found it worth the wait for the information you received. It was interesting to read the family lore about your family members.

  2. What a long wait, but it did pay off in the end. I'm so glad they did their job. Sometimes you wonder who is on the other end. I don't know how much it cost you, but sometimes it might be worthwhile to find a local researcher (maybe contact local library there), they wouldn't take as long. I've gone that route. Happy Dance for sure.

  3. Hello, so I must say my mother and I are having a blast reading about your family history, especially because it pertains to us... I am actually the great granddaughter of Edwin Akins, son of Charles and Ethel Mae Akins, and brother to Charles Tilford Akins (He just usually goes by Tilford or Til). We have been reading everything that you have posted but this post pertaining to Ethel Mae really struck a cord with me (in a good way of course!) I know a lot more on Ethel Mae and Tilford than I do on any of the other family members (but no where near as much as you do!) I've yet to find much on Charles so all the information you have provided is absolutely amazing. I do know that Ethel Mae was convicted to Willard State Hospital sometime before 1934 and I'm actually working on getting her medical records from there (they don't make it easy). My grandmother, Betty Helen Akins Rusin, just recently passed away on November 27, 2010 and unfortunately she never knew her father (Edwin). My whole family and especially me have been looking everywhere for information on his family but especially him. What you have done here is absolutely amazing and keep up the great work! I would love to share what information I have about Charles' family. My contact information is and my mother (Edwin's granddaughter) is if you would like to also contact her.