Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday's Tip - Verify You Have The Right Vital Record

Yesterday I was so excited to see an envelope in the mail with my handwriting on it.  Self addressed envelopes always get opened first!  I tore open the envelope with excitement at what new information may be waiting inside for me.

Due to budget constraints, sending off for vital records is not an everyday occurrence in my house.  This makes them even more special.  I am always very careful to fill out request forms with all of the information I have about my ancestor.  I have found that sometimes even with the information listed, I receive a record that is NOT my ancestor. 

Last year, in preparation for my genealogy vacation to Kansas, I followed up on missing information.  I ordered several vital records and updated my searches on Internet sites.  I received a death certificate for Mary Switzer.  I had used a date range for her death in my request using dates my grandma vaguely remembered.  When the certificate arrived I was so excited and immediately jumped onto the Internet to see what else I could find using the new data.  After about an hour of finding lots of new information, I realized there were also lots of inconsistencies.  After some analysis, I found that there are two Mary Switzers who were married to a Frank Switzer around the same time and same area of Kansas.  The death certificate was not my 2nd great grandmother.  Thankfully, I was able to obtain the correct death certificate before my trip.  The correct death certificate led me to the cemetery in Halstead, Kansas.

I learned an important lesson that day - always take a moment to check your records and see if the vital record you received is really the ancestor you are looking for.

Yesterday, that self addressed envelope was a bright light on a difficult day with my almost 3 year old.  I have been waiting about 3 months for a response from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.  After opening the death certificate for Edward D Lahey, I went to my computer to verify that it was my Edward.  Almost immediately my spirits fell.  This was obviously not my Edward.  This Edward died in 1973.  My Edward died between 1910-1920.  I am going to see if I can find any further information narrowing down the date of death before attempting to order this death certificate again. 

After some irritation at the Department of Heath for not looking the details listed in my request, I poured myself a glass of wine and got over it.  I decided instead that the next time I go to Northern Virginia to visit my parents, we will just have to take a mini genealogy vacation to Pittsburgh.  We still have some relatives living there to visit, cemeteries to document, and prove the parents of Edward if we can.


  1. Where did the live? The Carnegie Library (Main) is in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh which is in Allegheny County.

    They have a lot of microfilms and death records, there are really is a lot of information.

    You can call the Pennsylvania Department and they could help you find what you need or know where to get it. The Carnegie Library has a web site too, check the Pennsylvania Department.

    I live in Allegheny Count and do a lot of work there myself.

  2. Claudia - Thank you for the tip!