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From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill - 12/1/2004

One Piece at a Time

Genealogists are always excited when a new record has been located. Before the information is entered into a database and the copy filed away, the details contained within the new document should be analyzed to determine if:
- The record is on the right person
- Additional record searches are suggested by the document.

Hastily researching without first comparing and contemplating may cause us to waste research time and money.

This week we look at a 1910 death certificate from Chicago, Illinois. Some of the information on this record is consistent with details already located and some of the facts are "new." Our integration of the new information into our database should not begin until we are as certain as we can be that the document's subject is the correct person. If the name of our focus individual had been more common (such as Thomas Smith instead of Thomas Frame) determining that we had the "right" person would have been more difficult.

In this case, the age, place of birth, residence, and occupation matched what was already known about this individual. Based upon these identifying factors, I was reasonably certain I had the "right" person. Our analysis of the record is done one piece at a time.

Thomas's address and place of death is listed on the death certificate as 110 West 112 Place, Chicago, Illinois.

Additionally it is indicated that Thomas had lived at that address for twenty-five years. One should always take these lengths of time with a grain of salt, particularly when the time period ends in a "0" or a "5." It's been my experience that time spans such as twenty or thirty-five years are more likely to be estimates than are other periods such as thirty-eight years or seventeen years.

Even if the certificate is correct and Thomas never moved for the last twenty-five years of his life, his address did change during that time period. In 1909, there was a renumbering of Chicago addresses. A check of the Chicago Historical Society website (see the section on "Address Conversion Guides") and a post to the Cook County, Illinois, genealogy mailing list indicated the pre-change address was very likely 210 West 112 Place.

Geography Does Provide Clues
The residential address provided for Thomas Frame on his death certificate was in the same neighborhood where most of his known children lived at the time. It is also the same address where Thomas Frame is enumerated in the 1910 census a few months before his death. This residence was also a few blocks from the home of the girl who married one of Thomas' sons in late 1909. While residential clues are circumstantial, they do place the Thomas listed on the death certificate where it seems he should be.

There is one additional clue from the length of Thomas's residence in that he likely owned the property. The 1910 census enumeration indicates the home is owned and not rented. Based upon this information, deeds for the property should be accessed at some point in the research process.

Length of Residence in the United States
Thomas had lived in the United States for forty-six years and in Chicago and the state of Illinois for forty-one years. Again, these time spans could be incorrect, but our initial premise will be that they are reasonably correct. This implies that Thomas should be listed in United States census records from 1870 through 1910 in the Chicago area.

Thomas's residence in the United States is listed as five years longer than his residence in Illinois indicating his initial settlement location was not Chicago. Census work on Thomas should begin with 1910 and proceed backwards before speculation is made regarding Thomas's original place of settlement in the United States.

The Informant
Frank Vanderlinden provides the information on the death certificate. A search of the 1910 census indicate that there are two separate families living on 110 West 112 Place in 1910: the family of Thomas Frame and the family of Frank Vanderlinden. Frank's wife Margaret indicates she was born in Illinois, but that her parents were born in England, which is where Thomas Frame and his wife were born. A connection between the Vanderlindens and the Frames is hinted at here. In this case, Margaret Vanderlinden is actually the daughter of Thomas Frame, making the informant on the death certificate Thomas's son-in-law.

The date of burial listed on the certificate appears to be 14 April 1910, clearly amiss given that Thomas died in August of 1910. (One typically is not buried before one is dead.) The month is the only part of the date that is clearly written. It appears doubtful that the date is intended to be 14 April 1911, more than six months after Thomas' death. In this case, the cemetery was contacted to ascertain the date and to determine who was buried near to Thomas (remember relatives sometimes spend life and eternity as neighbors).

The cemetery confirmed Thomas's burial date was actually 14 August 1910 and that Mrs. Thomas Frame was the lot owner. An Elizabeth Frame (also known as "Mrs. Thomas Frame") was buried on 31 December 1919 in the lot adjacent to Thomas. Locating Elizabeth's approximate death date via the cemetery made obtaining her death certificate much easier. Had the last name been more common, this method would have saved significant time (and perhaps expense) in locating Elizabeth's death certificate.

The death record indicates that Thomas died on 8 August 1910 at the age of 72 years, 3 months, and 18 days. It is also stated that Thomas was born in England on 21 April 1838. The date calculator in my genealogy software program indicated that there really is 72 years, 3 months, and 18 days between those two dates.

The age can also be checked the old fashioned way as well. Thomas was born on 21 April 1838. Adding 18 days, 3 months, and 72 years to 21 April 1838 results in the 39th day of July 1910. There are not 39 days in July. Consequently we are 8 days into the next month (August), bringing us to 8 August 1910. The fact that the age, date of birth, and date of death are consistent does not mean they are all correct. It just means that whoever did the calculation did that correctly. Thomas's date of birth could still be incorrect and will need to be confirmed with records in England.

The last thing I did was to construct a chronology for Thomas based upon the information in his death certificate:
- 1838 Thomas Frame born in England.
- About 1864 Thomas immigrates to the United States
- About 1869 Thomas arrives in Chicago, Illinois
- About 1885 Thomas moves to 110 West 112 Place, Chicago
- June 1910 Thomas develops pneumonia
- 8 August 1910 Thomas dies
- 14 August 1910 Thomas buried Mt. Greenwood Cemetery

Hopefully I will be able to add to this chronology as my work on Thomas progresses.

Points worth remembering when a new record is located:
- Determine if the information fits with information already located.
- Determine if there are reasonable reasons for any discrepancies in the information.
- All information may not be correct.

Michael John Neill is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at or visit his website at, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Copyright 2004,

Used by the author on his website with permission.
Other Genealogy Articles by Michael John Neill