Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How Can I Resolve This Evidence Conflict?

I was so happy last month when I found the Find A Grave memorial pages for Samuel Vaux and Mary Ann (Underhill) Vaux because they provide birth and death dates.  I wrote about it in Tombstone Tuesday - Samuel and Mary Ann Vaux.  The Find A Grave memorial for Samuel Vaux looks like this:

Because there was no image of the gravestone, I requested one through Find A Grave.  I have not heard back from them.  

I figured that the Find A Grave entry might be from some sort of catalog or list of burials housed at a cemetery, so I checked the Family History Library Catalog for Concordia, Cloud county, Kansas, and found this entry:

As I surmised, the Pleasant Hill Cemetery burial index cards were on microfilm, FHL US/CAN Film 182,799 Item 1.  When I was at the Family History Library last week, I checked out this microfilm and found the index cards for both Mary Ann and Samuel Vaux:

Wait a minute!!  The death date for Samuel Vaux on the cemetery card says 9 October 1890, while the death date on the Find A Grave memorial says 9 October 1880.  Concordia, we have a conflict!  

The Find A Grave information was probably derived from the index card, but we don't know when the index card was created.  Was it immediately after the death, or was it sometime later?  The handwriting on the two index cards above looks to be identical, so the cards were probably made out well after the deaths.  They may have been made at some time before 1958, when the GSU filmed them.  Where did the information on the cards come from?  They may have come from a careful transcription of gravestones, or they may have come from contracts or forms in the cemetery office.

From what I know, both pieces of evidence are Derivative Source, Secondary Information, Direct Evidence, so they are equally weighted.  But the Find A Grave entry is probably derived from the index cards, so, to me, that makes the index cards the more authoritative source.

What can I do to find additional information about the date of the death of Samuel Vaux?  Here are my ideas:

*  A gravestone photo will probably help - if there is a gravestone.

*  A newspaper article in a Concordia area newspaper may provide an obituary and a death date.

*  There is a book in the FHLC listings:

Marilyn Johnston, Louise Ganstrom, and Cloud County Genealogical Society, Early Deaths, Cloud County, Kansas, before 1903 (Concordia, Kan. : Cloud County Genealogical Society, 1994)

It's on the shelf at the FHL, and also available on microfiche.  I'll add this to the To-Do list for my next FHL visit!

The Notes for this item in the FHL Catalog says:

"Information taken from county records, funeral homes, newspapers, and cemeteries."

If the record for Samuel Vaux in this book is from the cemetery index cards, then it may say 1890.  But there may be other records that corroborate one date or another.

*  A probate record for Samuel Vaux would probably clear this up quickly.  Unfortunately, the Cloud County, Kansas entries in the FHLC indicate that no probate records (or land records) are available on microfilm from Cloud County.

An 1885 Kansas State census search for Samuel Vaux (or a Sam* born 1816 +/- 2 years in England) yields no record.  D.J. and Abbie (Vaux) Smith resided in Clyde, Cloud County, Kansas in the 1885 Kansas State Census and the household does not include Samuel Vaux.

I have an interesting conflict - does any reader have another idea for finding the actual date of Samuel Vaux's death?

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Nanakat said...

Have you contacted Judy Mayfield, the person credited with creating the Find a Grave information? There's a link on her name, so it might be possible to contact her and find out what she knows. She may even have seen the headstone.

Rita A. said...

I would go to Chronicaling American Newspapers or other newspaper sources and try both years to get an obituary. I would go with the card over find-a-grave but everybody makes mistakes.
Good luck.

Susan Park said...

Even though the probate records aren't on micro film you could still call--on the telephone--the county court and ask them to help you. In some of the less populated Kansas counties you can get great help this way. I once listened to a clerk climb a step ladder to retrieve the box that held the probate file I wanted. She came back and said, "Got it!" just like that.

Sharon said...

Pleasant Hill is the city cemetery for Concordia. Here is their website.

You can search their info using Cemetery P-Z. Both Vaux are listed, but only Mary Ann has a death date. The plot was owned by D J. Smith. You could call the office there and see if there is additional info in their records.

Lisa S. Gorrell said...

It is quite possible that the Find-a-Grave transcriber entered the date incorrectly and it's just a typo.

Marshall said...

I suspect that you'll get a picture from a local FindAGrave volunteer once the snow melts.

(I'm waiting for a couple photo requests for Roland, Manitoba - which I expect someone will fill before, say, June)

Calling the cemetery sounds like a good idea, too.

Colleen G. Brown Pasquale said...

Randy, I am a Find A Grave member. I have never looked at grave cards or other records. I just walk the cemetery, find & photograph tombstones. Most of the cemeteries have no 'office' of any kind in sight. said...

"It's on the shelf at the FHL, and also available on microfiche. I'll add this to the To-Do list for my next FHL visit!"

Why wait until you are in SLC again. The research firm Rootsonomy provides lookups of film, fiche, books, and magazines at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Get the result via email in 2 days.

Submit requests via and clicking the button "Request Research or a Lookup".

Or at:

Angela Kraft said...

Unfortunately not all of the memorials on Find A rave are put together by cemetery walkers/researchers. I have found some are put in by people who are researching someone who they "know" is buried at such and such a place and they add in the information they have without mentioning any source citations at all.

I always call the cemetery and see what they have on file the check other sources for backup.