Category: Death Certificates

Her Demise Was Not Entirely Unexpected: The Death of Agnette Roberg

Her Demise Was Not Entirely Unexpected: The Death of Agnette Roberg

On this day 105 years ago, my great-great-grandmother Agnette (Lien) Roberg died in Boone County, Nebraska. Hers was in many ways the quintessential immigrant story. Born 30 November 1844 in Biri, Oppland, Norway, she was the daughter of Evan Olsen Lien and his wife Karen Larsdatter Onsrud. According to sources at the University of Tromsø, in 1865 both she and her sister Oline were employed as maids.

On 12 January 1871 Agnette gave birth to a son, listed on the record of his 7 May 1871 baptism in Ostre Toten, Oppland as Emil Marthinus, son of Marthinus Juliussen. He would later go by the name Emil Martin. I need to further investigate the relationship between Agnette and Marthinus, as it appears Marthinus was still alive and living in Oppland long after Agnette and Emil emigrated to America.

Agnette and 7-year-old Emil emigrated in 1878 on the S. S. Angelo. On 3 December of that year, Agnette, then 34, married a 23-year-old bachelor, Anders Mathis Roberg, in Rushford, Minnesota. In May of the following year, the family of three left Minnesota for Nebraska in a covered wagon. Less than a year after their move, on 17 February 1880, Agnette would give birth to her second child, Severin Andrew. Severin was followed on 5 November 1881 by Sophie Christine (the only great-grandparent I ever met, and only because she lived to be 97), and on 2 June 1884 by Sena.

The family appears in the 1880 census in Shell Creek, Boone County, Nebraska, and in the 1900 and 1910 censuses in Midland Precinct, Boone County. Tragedy had struck the family in 1908 with the gruesome death of Sena’s husband, Charlie Johnson, which was followed by various legal entanglements and Sena’s eventual mysterious disappearance. In addition, Sophie and her husband Carl Ozro Wilson had lost two small children: Anders Clarence Wilson died on his 2nd birthday, 13 August 1909, and Woodrow Wilson died at two days old on 23 July 1917.

These events must have made the later years of Agnette’s life sad ones. Sometime around 1917 Agnette was diagnosed with liver cancer, and on 18 February 1919 she succumbed to the disease at the age of 74 years, 2 months, and 19 days. According to her death certificate, she was buried two days later in the South Branch Cemetery in Newman Grove, Nebraska. I have visited this beautiful windswept cemetery and seen where Agnette was buried that day, and where Anders was buried following his death 24 years later. Grandson Anders Clarence is buried near them; baby Woodrow Wilson is buried near his own parents in the Winner, South Dakota, cemetery.

Agnette’s obituary appeared in the Newman Grove Reporter of 19 February 1919. It mentions her failing health and not unexpected demise. Enumerating Agnette’s survivors, the writer refers to Emil “Roeberg” living near Bradish, “Severn” northwest of Newman Grove, “Mrs. Sina Johnson, whose place of residence we did not learn,” and “Mrs. Carl Wilson,” living in Dakota. The writer notes that Agnette was survived by thirteen of her fifteen grandchildren.

Finally, the writer captures much of Agnette’s life in one succinct paragraph: “Mr. and Mrs. Roeberg [sic] were among the oldest settlers in this county coming here forty years ago they bravely endured the hardships incident to pioneer life. They are well and favorably known throughout the entire community.” A fitting epitaph.

Sophie, Anders, Severin, Emil, Agnette, Sena
Dark as a Dungeon: Coal Miner Zina Flanigan

Dark as a Dungeon: Coal Miner Zina Flanigan

This week’s snapshot of family history centers around the untimely death of Zina Edward Flanigan, my fifth cousin twice removed. He was a descendant of “Bottom Billy” Davis, mentioned here previously. The fifth of twelve children of William T. and Lydia Jane (Greene) Flanigan, he was born 16 December 1895 in the Coal district of Harrison County, West Virginia. This is not to be confused with Coal City, West Virginia, which is farther south in the state, in Raleigh County. Many of our relatives were from the Seventh Day Baptist strongholds of Harrison and Doddridge Counties.

In the 1900 census Zina’s father is listed as a coal dig[g]er, supporting his growing family in one of the many coal mines throughout that region. In 1910 Zina, now 15, is still listed as attending school and not employed. An interesting photograph from the West Virginia History OnView website shows a boy of 15 at work in the coal mines in 1908, so it would not have been unheard of for Zina to have been working by this time.

This reliance on the coal mines for the family’s livelihood can be readily seen throughout their census records. By 1920 Zina had married, but his siblings still at home were beginning to find employment to help out; his sister May, 24, is listed as “working out,” and Lester, 17, as a “laborer, coal mines.” In 1930 Zina’s father’s occupation had changed to “quarry man, stone quarry,” but Howard, 24, was a “loader, coal mines.” In 1940 William, Lydia, and Howard were living with Zina’s youngest sibling Glen, though Glen is a carpenter. William, now 72, is still employed in the coal mines, now as a coal loader, while Howard is listed as a “machinist, coal mine.”

Meanwhile Zina, no longer under his father’s roof, continued down the coal mining path. On 2 July 1917 21-year-old Zina married Bessie Arthelia Ash, 20 years old, at her father’s residence. At about the same time, Zina registered for the draft and noted his employer was the Clark Coal Company. In 1918 Bessie gave birth to their first child, Kenneth Bute Flanigan, but Kenneth died in 1920. His cause of death (along with that of 5 others on the same page) is listed helpfully as “complications.” Three more sons followed (in 1921, 1924, and 1931), all of whom lived to adulthood and can be found in later censuses.

Zina can be found in 1930 but not 1940, as he died 84 years ago today at the age of 44. Unlike the death certificate for baby Kenneth, Zina’s provides a bit more detail on both his life and death. His occupation is listed as Coal Miner at Katherine Mines. His parentage, birth date, and marriage to Bessie are confirmed. And according to the information supplied by his attending physician, Zina died at the Union Protestant Hospital in Clarksburg at 4:30 a.m. on the 28th, having been attending by Dr. Williams starting on the 26th. Dr. Williams indicates Zina’s cause of death as “meningitis (strep)” and then adds “A history of a head injury while working in the Mines – (a possible cause).” I didn’t realize meningitis could be caused by head injury, but a quick Google search confirmed this is a possibility. One thinks of mining accidents and black lung, but less so about injuries from which one recovers only to have them prove fatal in a circuitous way later on. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find further details about Zina’s head injury history.

The newly-widowed Bessie appears in the 1940 census as head of the household, along with her sons, then 19, 15, and 8. None are listed as having employment. According to the Find a Grave website, Bessie remarried in 1944, but that marriage soon ended in divorce. In 1954 she married again, to Harvey Kyle in Frederick County, Virginia. That marriage lasted 21 years until Harvey’s death. Bessie herself would die in 1990 in Baltimore at the age of 93, having outlived Zina by more than half a century.

Death Certificate of Zina Flanigan

Wednesday’s Child: Enfant de Hoffmann Jacob

Wednesday’s Child: Enfant de Hoffmann Jacob

Much of our Hoffmann family history came originally from the “green pamphlet” written by my great-granduncle Joseph Hoffman regarding his father Jacob’s life in Europe and the family’s emigration to the U.S. in 1883. This pamphlet lists Joseph’s siblings and half-siblings: ten children Jacob had with his first wife Annette Meyer and the seven additional children Jacob had with his second wife Christine Schmidt. Joseph’s list would suggest that he was the youngest of the first set of children, but there is at least one child unaccounted for.

Anna or Annette (Meyer) Hoffmann, Jacob’s first wife, was born 13 December 1827 in Grostenquin, France, and died 26 June 1874 in Renaucourt, France, aged 46. I had previously seen a cropped photograph of just her death record, but when I found the website for the Departmental Archives of Haute-Saône and looked more closely, I noticed another record just above Annette’s.

Death record of Hoffmann Infant
Civil records from Renaucourt, France, 1873-1882

Using my rusty high school French, I was able to determine that entry number 6 was for an “Enfant de Hoffmann Jacob présenté sans vie.” The “présenté sans vie” label was used to define those children who died before a birth registration could be drawn up. No name is given for the Hoffmann infant, but the record confirms he was de sexe masculin and was born 7 June 1874 at 9 p.m. Only 19 days later, Annette Meyer died as well; it seems likely her death resulted in some way from the birth of this last unnamed child.

I know nothing else about this baby who died too young, but at least finding his death record has given him a voice and has allowed me to give him his rightful place in the family tree.

Jacob Hoffmann Family Group Sheet

Sympathy Saturday – Typhoid Fever

Albert Swing, Sr. Death Certificate

If one’s ancestors have to die, they may as well succumb to interesting diseases. Typhoid fever is one of those causes of death that has an antiquated ring to it. My only prior association with it was from reading the Catherine Marshall novel Christy. But apparently my great-great-grandfather, Albert Carl Swing, was one of its victims. Or was he really Albert Charles Swing, as indicated on his death certificate?  Hmm.

Albert died 10 days shy of his 63rd birthday in Francesville, Indiana. He had been born 24 October 1859 in Akron, Ohio, the son of Carl/Karl Schwing and Saloma Bollinger. The family appears in both the 1860 and 1870 censuses in Akron. In 1877 they moved to Livingston County, Illinois, where they appear in the 1880 census in Chatsworth. On 17 February 1884 in Fairbury, Illinois, Albert married Catherine Marie Hoffmann. Together they had 13 children, including my great-grandfather, Albert Carl Swing, Jr. In 1900 they appear in Ash Grove, Illinois, then in 1905 moved near Wolcott, Indiana. In the 1910 census they were enumerated in Salem, Indiana, then in 1920 in Hanging Grove, Indiana. Two years later Albert died. Albert was buried three days after his death, in the Francesville (Roseland) cemetery.

Albert and Catherine Swing

Typhoid or enteric fever is a specific infectious fever characterized mainly by its insidious onset, by a peculiar course of the temperature, by marked abdominal symptoms occurring in connection with a specific lesion of the bowels, by an eruption upon the skin, by its uncertain duration, and by a liability to relapses. This fever has received various names, such as gastric fever, abdominal typhus, infantile remittent fever, slow fever, nervous fever, pythogenic fever, etc. The name of ” typhoid ” was given by Louis in 1829, as a derivative from typhus. Until a comparatively recent period typhoid was not distinguished from typhus. For, although it had been noticed that the course of the disease and its morbid anatomy were different from those of ordinary cases of typhus, it was believed that they merely represented a variety of that malady. The distinction between the two diseases appears to have been first accurately made in 1836. [Britannica1911].

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Sympathy Saturday – Childbed Fever…Or Not

It’s interesting how setting out to write a simple blog post can result in confusion and/or changes to the information I already  have on file. I searched my family tree data for “childbirth” for today’s post; after all, what could be more suitable for Sympathy Saturday than a death in childbirth? However, after latching on to Emily Jane Sweeney Fogle, my second cousin 5 times removed, it appears that though sympathy is called for – it cannot be targeted at death in childbirth.

Emily was born in 1821 in Liberty, Casey County, Kentucky, the daughter of Joel and Obedience (Edwards) Sweeney and great-granddaughter of Moses Sweeney. The second of eight children, she married William McDowell Fogle on 17 February 1841 in Casey County. Emily died, still in Liberty, Kentucky, on 14 October 1852. This much does match the information I already had on file from the Descendants of Moses Sweeney CD compiled by Harvey J. Sweeney. From there, though, a few facts begin to differ.

The Sweeney compilation indicates that Emily Jane was born 4 January 1821 and probably died in childbirth, and lists a total of six children of the couple, including an unnamed daughter who was born and died in Liberty in October 1852. The 1896 Kentucky Biographical Dictionary, as well as the image of Emily’s grave in Liberty’s Napier Cemetery from the Find-a-Grave website, however, however, indicates a birthdate of 4 June 1821. The story of the infant who died also appears to have come originally from the Kentucky Biographical Dictionary, which indicates Emily “was the mother of six children: Marietta, Isabelle, Sarah Frances, Jesse Edwin, William McDowell, and a daughter who died in infancy, a few days preceding the death of its mother.”

However, Ancestry.com has now digitized Kentucky Death Records from 1852-1953 (which incidentally also provided the catalyst for my investigation into the murder of Emily’s second cousin three times removed). Here we find Emily’s death listed, but the cause of death appears not as “childbed fever” (unlike two others on the same page) but as asthmaI thought perhaps somehow this was still a complication from childbirth, but the Kentucky Death Records don’t indicate any other Fogle child who was born around October 1852 and died then or later. So it seems possible the Biographical Dictionary, written some forty years later, may have provided erroneous information. Two other interesting points are revealed by the Kentucky Death Records source – Emily’s occupation (after much scrutiny) appears to be listed as “Innstress,” and the Clerk of Casey County, whose name appears on the death notices, was none other than Emily’s own father, Joel Sweeney.

Sympathy Saturday – Death by Senility

Charles Wilson, my 3G-grandfather, was born August 13, 1831 in Louisville, New York, the son of John Wilder Wilson and his (as yet unknown) first wife. By 1850, 18-year-old Charles was living in the household of Charles Willard, an innkeeper.

About 1857 Charles married Lucy Bridges Taylor, also from Louisville. They were enumerated in Louisville in the 1860 census, along with their 1-year-old son, Wellington David (“David W.”) Wilson, who had been born November 27, 1859.

By January 1867 the family had begun its slow progress westward; in that month a second son, Oric Edward, was born in West Union, Iowa. Enumerated in the 1870 census in Madison Township in Buchanan County, (about 33 miles from West Union), the family added another son, Samuel Warner Wilson, on January 6, 1873.

Charles, Lucy, and their two younger sons were still in West Union in 1880, where Charles was working as a butcher; Wellington David, my 2G-grandfather, had married in 1879 and was enumerated in Eden Township (18 miles distant). He continued to migrate in tandem with his parents and brothers, though they never again lived in the same household. By 1885, Charles and family had moved to Knox County, Nebraska; in June of that year they were enumerated in Niobrara Precinct in the 1885 Nebraska State Census. In another 10 years the family had moved some 270 miles north, to Roberts County, South Dakota. There the family was enumerated in 1900 in Long Hollow Township. About a year later Lucy died.

In April 1910 Charles was enumerated in the home of his son Samuel, by now married and with a son of his own. Charles lived only another three months after the census enumeration, dying on July 18. On his death certificate his doctor indicated he had been attending Charles since June 1. Charles was just shy of his 79th birthday, but his cause of death is listed as “senility,” one of many age-related causes found on old death certificates.  At least it wasn’t “decrepitude” or “senile gangrene.”

Sympathy Saturday – Grandma Wilson

Of my 8 great-grandparents, the only one I ever met was Grandma Wilson: Sophie Christine (Roberg) Wilson. Had she not lived to the age of 97, I might not have met her either. As it was, I only met her once, when I was three. I have dim memories of that meeting, of visiting the nursing home where she lived, and the fact that she gave me a dollar.

Sophie was born November 5, 1881 in Boone County, Nebraska, the daughter of Anders and Agnette (Lien) Roberg, who were both born in Norway. On March 13, 1907 Sophie married Carl Ozro Wilson in Boone County, and they had a total of 10 children: Anders Clarence, Blanche Agnes (my grandma), Ozro Willie, Pearl Jeanette, Clarence Salmer, Woodrow, Mildred Genevieve, Irene Sophie, Maude Lucille, and Lester Laverne.

About 1915 the family moved from Nebraska to South Dakota; in 1920 they were enumerated in Cody, Mellette County. By 1930 Sophie and Carl had separated; that year’s census finds Carl living as a boarder in a hotel in Wood, South Dakota, and Sophie and her children in Witten, South Dakota, where she is employed taking in washing. Carl died in 1939, and in 1940 Sophie and those children still left at home are again in Witten, though the information she provided indicates that five years earlier she had been living in rural Tripp County.

Beginning in 1964 Grandma Wilson resided at the Winner Nursing Home in Winner, South Dakota; she suffered from diabetes. She died at McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls on September 24, 1979, a little more than a month shy of her 98th birthday. She was buried September 27 in the Winner Cemetery, near her estranged husband as well as her infant son Woodrow, who had died more than 60 years earlier.

Carl and Sophie Wilson and Family

Wednesday’s Child – the Second Wilson Loss

Recently I wrote about the death of my Grandma Montgomery’s older brother Anders Clarence. She was less than a year old when he died, so of course would have no memories of this particular loss. Tragedy struck again eight years later, and this loss Grandma would certainly remember.

In July 1917 Grandma was 8 1/2 years old. After the death of Anders, three more children had been born: Ozro Willie, born June 9, 1911; Pearl Jeanette, born November 15, 1912; and Clarence Salmer, born August 29, 1915. On July 21, 1917, another son was born to Carl Ozro and Sophie Christine (Roberg) Wilson in Wood, South Dakota. He was named Woodrow Wilson after the current president. Eventually four more children were added to the family: Mildred Genevieve, born April 16, 1919; Irene Sophie, born June 2, 1921; Maude Lucille, born June 23, 1923; and Lester Laverne, born June 11, 1925. Baby Woodrow, however, would live only two days. His death certificate lists his cause of death as “colick.”  He was buried in the Winner Cemetery in Winner, South Dakota. Many years later his parents were laid to rest beside him.

Wednesday’s Child – Anders Clarence Wilson

Anders Clarence Wilson, my grandma Blanche (Wilson) Montgomery’s older brother, was born August 13, 1907 in Boone County, Nebraska. He was the oldest child of Carl Ozro and Sophie Christine (Roberg) Wilson. My grandma, Blanche, was born a little over a year later, on December 17, 1908.  Eight months later, on his second birthday, Anders died.  According to his death certificate, his cause of death was cholera infantum. This disease, also known as “summer complaint,” was apparently a form of dysentery affecting children that was more prevalent in the hot summer months. Anders was laid to rest in the South Branch Lutheran Church Cemetery in Boone County. Ten years later his grandmother, Agnette (Lien) Roberg was buried beside him, and his grandfather and namesake another twenty-five years after that.

A Life in Census (Almost)

Charles William Montgomery, my great-grandfather, was born January 17, 1861 in Lynchburg, Ohio, the son of John and Belinda (Simmons) Montgomery.  By 1870 his family had moved to Denver Township, Richland County, Illinois, where they were enumerated that year in June.  In the household that year are John, age 40; Belinda, age 31; Hattie, age 10; Charles, age 8; Franklin, age 7; Thomas, age 6; Harry, age 4; and Edward, age 2. John’s birthplace is listed as New Jersey, Belinda’s and the first three children’s as Ohio, and the youngest three children’s as Illinois.

In 1880, Charles, age 19, is still living at home with his parents in Richland County, but more children have been added to the family.  It now consists of John, age 50; Belinda, age 42; Hattie F., age 20; Chas W., age 19; Samuel F., age 18; Thos. M., age 16; Silas H., age 14; James E., age 12; Joseph T., age 8; John W., age 6; and Emma L., age 4.  The five oldest boys are all listed as “working on farm.”

Most of the 1890 census was destroyed by fire, so the next time we find Charles is in the 1900 census. By this time Charles has been married to Laura Maud Walker for 17 years and has moved to Holdrege, Nebraska.  Charles and Laura are the parents of six children; their youngest, my grandfather Lawrence, will be born the following year.  The household consists of Charles W., born January 1861; Laura, born July 1862; Myrtle P., born February 1884; Mamie E., born October 1886; Bessie B., born December 1888; Alta G., born August 1889; Walter D., born March 1898; and John W., born October 1899. Charles’s occupation is listed as butcher.

There is another 20-year gap in the census records before we find Charles again. Several of his children appear in various locations in the 1910 census, but to date I have yet to locate either Charles or Lawrence.  Between 1900 and 1920 the family underwent a number of changes. In December 1904 Charles’s wife, Laura, entered the Pueblo State Hospital in Colorado, where she remained for the rest of her life.  Myrtle, Mamie, Bessie, and Elta/Alta all married before 1910.  According to Grandpa (Lawrence), his father spent some of the intervening years “riding the range with Buffalo Bill.”  I have yet to determine what kernel of truth (if any) is to be found in that story!

In 1920 Charles finally reappears, now living in Fort Collins, Colorado.  He is one of many “roomers” living at 224 Linden Street, his family now dispersed.  He is listed as C. W. Montgomery, age 57, with “farm laborer” his occupation. It appears that this residence was known as Antler’s Hotel and still stands in Fort Collins.

By April 1930, Charles is still living in Fort Collins but has moved about two blocks away, to 326 Walnut Street.  He is now a lodger in the home of Charles and Minnie Reingold, Russian immigrants and proprietors of a junk store.  Charles is listed as age 69, paying $10 a month in rent.  He is employed as watchman at the G. W. (Great Western) Sugar Factory.

Charles’s wife Laura died in the Pueblo State Hospital in 1933.  Seven years later Charles has returned to Linden Street, though his street number is now 222. He is paying $10 rent again and is now listed as age 72 and unable to work.  Details provided by Charles indicate the highest educational level he completed was the eighth grade. The proprietors of Antler’s Hotel are Charles and Mary Bohnke.

About a year after this final census, Charles married a woman named Lyle who was born about 1884. In January 1942, Charles died at age 80 of a coronary occlusion.  He was buried on January 16 in Grandview Cemetery in Fort Collins.