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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Can't Find Ancestor's Death Record - Now What?

Cliff asked Olive Tree Genealogy for help finding an ancestor's death:

I've been looking for my great great grandfather's death date for the past 20 years, and I have been noteably unsuccessful :-(
- Robert "Red Robin" Johnston, b. ca. 1807-1808, Ireland,
- came to Upper Canada ca. 1822-1832, married Mary Francis McQueen in 1833 - marriage bond issued on July 22, 1833,
- farmed just NW of Pendleton, N. Plantagenet Twp., Prescott Co., Ontario, CANADA, died ca. 1895-96 - estimated by the activity on the land record of the farm. [large portions of email edited by Lorine]
Any help that you can give me before I die - I will appreciate it very much :-)  I would like to place a tombstone on his grave site - there is none there currently.  The cemetery has no record of his death date - just where he is buried among family.
Olive Tree Genealogy's Answer

Clff  - Since you know where your great-great-grandfather is buried, you might want to think about  erecting a tombstone that  simply bears his name, place of birth and death and perhaps that he was the husband of Mary Francis. I would add her years of birth and death if you know them just to give some idea of Robert's time period for future historians and genealogists.

The sad fact is that not all deaths were registered! If he died in the winter and it was a difficult trip to the registry office, the family might not have bothered. And if it were registered in the Church records (which you noted burned) they could have felt they'd done enough.

Have you seen the Ancestor Death Record Finder? You may want to have a look as it gives many other sources for finding an ancestor's death date.

You provided me with a nice list of where you've searched - thank you! But you didn't tell me what names you searched under. His surname can be recorded as Johnstone, Johnston, and Johnson and it can be mis-recorded many ways! If you didn't use wildcards in your searching, you should. Also his first name and nickname. Perhaps he was record as Rob, Robbie or Robert. Perhaps as Robin or Red. Hopefully you checked under all variants including just initals (R. Johnstone)

A little caveat - be careful narrowing that estimate of his death only based on the land record activity unless it states the land was going to his heirs! Otherwise you might want to stick to 1891 census (if you found him there) as the last record for him and note that he does not appear in the 1901 census (if that is the case)

I think it's wonderful that you want to erect a tombstone to honour him. I'd do that right away and put as much information on it as you know. You can always add to it later if you find an exact date of death.

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