My great great grandfather, Lyman Henry Mapes, lived in Alma, Michigan from about 1865 to 1920. His mother, who was Emily Cohoon before she married Seth Mapes, was MIA after 1880. She had married Amasa Allen after Seth left her and Lyman not long after his birth in 1846. (That is a whole different story for another time!) I had followed Amasa and Emily through the 1880 census. But I was unable to locate her in the 1900 census, in the Michigan death records 1867-1897 at Familysearch, in the Michigan death records 1897-1920 at Seeking Michigan and pretty much anywhere else. Neither did my distant cousin, who had researched for years, locate her.
So maybe she is one of those lost people, you can never find? I'll have to admit, I did not do an exhaustive search. I would certainly have done that before ever giving up! But here is how I found her death record completely by chance:
I had a 2 week trial subscription to Genealogy Bank. They have a pretty good digitized newspaper collection, so you should check out if they have any newspapers for your areas of interest. They do not have anything for Gratiot County Michigan, where Alma is located. However....they do have some early Saginaw Michigan newspapers digitized. Saginaw is about 30 miles east of Alma.
Well, to get the most out of my free subscription at Genealogy Bank, I started searching all of my Gratiot families in the Saginaw newspapers. I soon realized that they had an Alma column for news from that area. I then came across this little gem:
In the May 4, 1900 Saginaw Evening News, reported in the Alma column from May 3, 1900
L.H. Mapes returned from Wayne Monday night where he went the latter part of last week to attend the death bed of his mother, who died on Saturday.
So I knew from the newspaper that May 4 (the day it was published) was Friday. The Saturday before would therefore be April 28, 1900. That would be when Emily Cohoon Mapes Allen died.
Of course this isn't proof. But it was pretty good at the time. From there I went to Seeking Michigan to search the death records, where deaths in the year 1900 would be found. They don't have a terrific search, no soundex or anything, so once again, I didn't find her. I resorted to searching for "Allen" in Last Name and "Wayne County" in county of death. That brought up 319 results. So I narrowed it down and added another search term, year of death "1900."
Allen Emley 1900 Wayne
So the name was indexed as "Emley," but that is also how it looks on her death certificate. You can see it here. Died April 28, 1900. The informant was L.H. Mapes of Alma, Michigan.
Golden. Now I just need to order an obituary.
What is the take away from this research story? You can find what you are looking for in places you never thought to look and at times you weren't even considering it. So keep your eyes open to all possibilities. And as for my lack of exhaustive research on Emily's death....well....let me make the excuse that I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. But I will be more careful in the future.
Copyright © 2013 Matt Mapes