The Value of Coronersâ€™ Records
Over the past two years I have found all of the relatives on both sides of my family who were missing. For some reason, my parents kept their relatives a secret from me and my sister. But the one relative I really wanted to find was my half-sister, a woman born of my father and a woman of mystery.
My father was fifty-two years old when I was born and was married several times before he married my mother in 1936. When I was twelve, he died of a heart attack and I saw my half-sister, Vivian, at his funeral. It was the only time I saw her; my mother didn’t like her and wouldn’t share any information about her with my sister and me. All we knew was that Vivian lived in Florida in 1963.
I finally found her today. Unfortunately, she is deceased, which wasn’t a big surprise because I knew she had probably been born in the 1920s. I sent a request to the coroner’s office in the county where my father died, hoping they would have information on his next of kin. It did show that my mother was called at the time of his death, and the information I had been seeking for so long was at the bottom of one of the pages–my half-sister’s signature, address, and phone number in 1963. She had a fairly common name, but I finally knew the city in Florida where she lived which gave me something to go on.
One thing about coronersâ€™ offices is that they keep information for a long time. It was relatively expensive getting the death investigation report on my father; I knew he died alone of a heart attack, and even though there wasn’t an autopsy, they did have a record of the investigation into his death. That report alone cost me $68 because they had to go to another location to obtain the actual record.
I was very lucky because the county in which my half-sister lived in Florida had online records, with PDFs of all of the original documents–riches!! I found four women with her name and looked at original documents for each one. I finally found a document with the exact same signature as the one on my documents from the coroner.
Even though Vivian died two years ago, I was able to find an obituary for her, so now I have the names of her children. The rest of my search will be fairly easy.
I just thought I’d write in and tell you about my saga, and suggest that even though the subject may be unpleasant, coroner’s records may hold useful clues. The Los Angeles County Coroner sure did help me in time of need, and I am going to write a thank you note to express my gratitude.
I have six file drawers for my genealogy organized according to sources (birth record, gravestone, obituary, census, other researchers, etc.). Each source is divided into states, and then into counties. Like everyone else, having a huge amount of papers gathering in the “to file” tray can pose a big problem. Here are two things that help me with this problem:
1) I realized that I never got the Iowa censuses out of the “to-be-filed” tray because I hated working with the three-inch-thick folder holding all of my Iowa censuses. Making a separate folder for each of my Iowa counties, even if there were only five sheets in that folder, made it so much easier to file that I actually get the papers into the folders now. I pull out the county folder and all I have to worry about is putting it in date order. (Even breaking a big file down into Counties A-D, E-H, etc., will help.)
2) Each file drawer only holds a few types of sources. (For instance, one drawer contains only censuses.) I put a plain green hanging file folder at the front of each drawer and label it “to file.” When I’m done with a census page, it is placed in the “to file” folder at the front of the census drawer. If I need it later, I can find it in either its correct folder or at the front of the drawer…no endless searching for it. The twelve-inch “to file” stack in the tray is avoided and already divided into six manageable batches (one at the front of each drawer).
(These “to file” folders are also portable. Know you’re going to have to wait somewhere today? Take the census folder with you so that you can pull out all the Kansas pages, put them in order, and be able to file them away when you get home. No time to do Iowa and Illinois? That’s fine, just leave them in the “to file” folder and put it back at the front of the census drawer.)
Check for Similar Initials
For twenty years I came up against a brick wall every time I looked for my great-great grandfather, John Linzy Vaughan. I tried and tried. About three months ago, I purchased Family Tree Maker with the nine-month free subscription to Ancestry. I continued to search for this ancestor and his father. I became frustrated and was about to give up when I decided to check names with different initials. I happened to hit John “S” Vaughan. I looked at the online record and noticed that John S. was really John L. The father listed was T. E. (actually was J. E.) and his wife Vina along with another son William. We had always though James Edwardâ€™s wife was named Melvina. It turns out her name was Levina and I found her back farther. I still haven’t had much luck finding James Edward and his ancestors but it did open a few doors for me. Encourage everyone to search for initials. Sometimes you have the Lord with you to open doors for you.
Cynthia Vaughn Reed
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