Both. No question. Both. Why? Because sometimes one way into the records will have a hint or a clue, or maybe even an index that’s not available when approaching the records from another direction.
Take for example the Saskatchewan Provincial Records. If you go into FamilySearch through the Search page, click on the map for Canada and select “Saskatchewan” you can scroll to the bottom of the page to see the “Unindexed Records.” These are browseable records. There are thousands of images of records, maybe even the homestead record of your ancestor, but unless you have the date the homestead claim was recorded, or better yet the claim number, good luck. You will find yourself searching through file after file looking for a needle in an entire province of haystacks if you start your search using the map.
But if you click on FamilySearch.org/Catalog/Search, type “Saskatchewan, Canada” into the search box, and scroll down to “Land and property,” you’ll find “Saskatchewan homestead records, 1870-1930, and index.” An index! Yes, it’s an external index that will take you out to http://www.saskhomesteads.com/search.asp. But that index will lead you to the file number for your ancestor’s homestead record. The Saskhomesteads website provides a link where you can purchase a copy of the file, but once you know the file number, just go back into the “Land and property” in the Saskatchewan page in the FamilySearch catalog and browse through the records for that file number.
Here's a partial list of results from my search. The numbers to the left of the names refer to the homestead file numbers. I can go back to that list of Saskatchewan Provincial Records we saw earlier and see if FamilySearch has the file I'm looking for. If not, I can order it from the Saskatchewan Homestead Records site.
The map search is quick and easy to get into, just “point and shoot,” but sometimes it doesn’t have all the tools. Be willing to explore the catalog and its PlaceName search to see if that might offer a more helpful way into the millions of unindexed records on FamilySearch.
Last week saw the “final” blog post on the always-fascinating Julia Achard. (Final???!!! Don’t you believe it! I doubt I’ll ever be done with my obsession with her exploits.)
But...as I search for more stories of my ancestors, their families, friends, associates, neighbors, and those random people I find mention of in old newspapers to share on the blog, let me report on a picturesque incident – a cautionary tale for beachcombers and fisherfolk even today.
Before I wrapped up my Julia saga, I just had to do one more newspaper search and I found a brief mention of her in the Berkeley Daily Gazette of July 26, 1909. “Miss D. Wright and Mrs. J. A. Achard will open a dancing academy, Native Sons’ hall, Saturday evening, July 31st at 8:30. Juvenile class Wednesday, August 4th, at 2:30. Ballroom, fancy and stage dancing, physical and grace culture. Songs with gestures taught by the quickest methods.”[i] Gotta hand it to Julia, at nearly 70 years old, she’s opening a dancing academy. Quite a go-getter.
I need to see if I can find out a bit more about Miss D. Wright, but newspaper-rubbernecker that I am, I was captivated by many stories on that page, (a bigamist!, an embezzler! a leather dog-valise!), none so much as the tale of poor little Millicent Leary. “Timidly knocking at the door of the emergency hospital, two little girls appealed to the matron for aid. One of the youngsters was holding a blood-soaked handkerchief to her nose. ‘The crab did it – the nasty thing,’ sobbed the poor sufferer. ‘I’m not going to fish any more. It hurts my nose.’”[ii] It seems Millicent and her friend caught two small crabs and put them in a box. Curious Millicent insisted on peeking in the box at the angry crustaceans, one of whom showed his displeasure by pinching her on the nose. The doctor and nurses fixed her up and she was able to go home, a bit wiser for the experience.
Next time you go beachcombing, picture Millicent and remember to keep your schnozzle a safe distance from the crabs!
[i] Berkeley Daily Gazette, 26 July 1909, page 5, col 2 untitled article, from California Digital Newspaper Collection, cndc.ucr.edu : accessed 12 March 2017.
[ii] Berkeley Daily Gazette, 26 July 1909, page 5, col 3 “Crab Bites Little Girl on the Nose,” from California Digital Newspaper Collection, c
Sometimes when you look at a census you get lucky. The census enumerator wrote the street names down the left side of the census page and filled in the house numbers so 100 years later, you can see exactly where your ancestor lived. But other times you get pages like the ones W. G. Campbell wrote for the Gardenspot Precinct of Stevens County, Washington in 1910 – no street names and no numbers to pinpoint the position of any of the 30-some households he enumerated. With no street names or numbers, is there any way to zero in on the location?
Yes! Land records may be the key. Look at the census to find which households owned property. Track down the locations of the property using the grantee index to find when those owners bought their properties and the book and page where the deed can be found. Using the property descriptions, map the property location. Though some people may have rented and not owned, if you have enough owners, you can probably determine the enumerator’s route and extrapolate where the renters’ homes were located.
Start by looking in the FamilySearch catalog for your county and state of interest and selecting land records. If you’re lucky, FamilySearch will have digitized images of the indexes and deed. If not, you may need to either request the microfilms of the indexes and deeds be sent to your local Family History Center or contact the county in question to get copies of the deeds.
For some locations and time frames, you may find information on the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records website (https://glorecords.blm.gov/search/). Search for your ancestor and his neighbors. If they received their land directly from the federal government, perhaps by a homestead application or a cash sale, they will be listed on this site. Look for all the neighbors, and find their Township, Range and Section numbers. People near one another on the census are likely to be in the same Township and Range, and if they are not in the same section, they will be in adjacent sections. There are 36 sections in each Township and Range combination, in a six-by-six grid. (Jacksonville State University has a webpage illustrating and explaining the Township and Range system at http://www.jsu.edu/dept/geography/mhill/phygeogone/trprac.html).
A researcher recently posted a query on a facebook group about one of W. G. Campbell’s Stevens County no-address-listed 1910 census pages. She wanted to know how to find where her ancestor lived. I couldn’t find Stevens county deeds on FamilySearch, but I looked at the BLM-GLO site and started searching for names. On the 1910 census I found household visitation numbers for various households, including neighbors Abbott (151), Tinnell (153), Fowell (154), and Belton (155)..[i]
The table below identifies a property location for each household:
Visit # Surname Township Range Sect Description
151 Abbott 030N 042E 32 NW ¼ NE ¼[ii]
153 Tinnell 030N 042E 32 NW ¼ SE ¼ and S ½ SE ¼[iii]
154 Fowell (Bailey) 030N 042E 34 NW ¼[iv]
155 Belton 030N 042E 28 SE ¼[v]
The facebook researcher’s family of interest was Neafus, visitation number 157. Though Neafus is shown on the 1910 census as owning property, he is not listed on the BLM site. It is likely that Neafus purchased the property from the original government grantee. In order to find Neafus’ deed, one would need to look in the deed books for Stevens County to get the exact property description, but it is likely to be in Section 28 or an adjacent section.
A couple of map sites will help. The BLM-GLO website has maps of the properties. Once you identify the property you are researching, you can click on the Map box in the center of the page, and a map will appear showing the township and range, the various sections, highlighting the location of the property of interest. You can continue to zoom in and see the roads. This will enable you to map the properties and look at the roads to see the path the enumerator took to reach his or her assigned households.
In the case of the facebook question, I’ve mapped out that the enumerator traveled southeast on Garden Spot Road to interview Abbott and Tinnell and then took a left on Keenan Road, heading north, first meeting Fowell and then Belton. Neafus is two households after Belton, and is likely in an adjacent parcel. Securing of copy of Neafus’ deed will identify exactly which parcel is his, but even with what I’ve researched here, I’ve identified pretty good idea of where Neafus lived, even without an address listed on the census.
Try using maps along with the census. They can be helpful to learn more about your ancestors and their world. And they might even pinpoint just where your ancestor lived.
[i] "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MGVH-9JQ : accessed 14 March 2017), Arvilla Fowell in household of James Fowell, Gardensport, Stevens, Washington, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 230, sheet 9A, family 154, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1672; FHL microfilm 1,375,685.
[ii] Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch : accessed 14 March 2017), Abbott, Andrew P. (Stevens County, Washington), document number WASP 0003009.
[iii] Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch : accessed 14 March 2017), Tinnell, James G (Stevens County, Washington), document number WASP 0001270.
[iv] Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch : accessed 14 March 2017), Fowell, Arvilla – Bailey, Arvilla (Stevens County, Washington), document number WASPAA 009268. Arvilla Bailey, a widow, married James Fowell. The property on which they are enumerated in the census is recorded under Arvilla's name. James Fowell does appear to own property elsewhere in Stevens County acording to the land records.
[v] Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch : accessed 14 March 2017), Belton, James (Stevens County, Washington), document number WASPAA 009324.
It is unclear what became of the marriage of James Shiland and Julia Achard. They were married 9 March 1901, but in the 1902 city directory for San Francisco there is no listing for James Shiland, only a listing for “Achard J.A. Mrs., widow, midwife, 415A, 3d.” As I mentioned earlier, even while she was married to Edward Matthews she appears in public records under the name Achard which she appears to have uses in her midwifery practice. James Shiland died 24 August 1905 in the City and County Almshouse in San Francisco. There is no mention of Julia in his obituary.
Julia lived in San Francisco for a few more years, moving to Oakland perhaps after the 1906 earthquake. In August 1904 her son, Louis passed away in Oakland at the home of his brother, David Monroe. In 1907 she hosted an anniversary dinner party for the first anniversary of David and his wife, Henriette.
Julia returned to Lodi where she was married to husband number six, Allen Denison, on 30 May 1908. Her son, Fred Wermuth, was one of the witnesses at the wedding. In the 1909 city directory Julia is listed under the name Julia Denison with both a residence listing and a business listing under MIDWIVES. She is living at 853 Center and Allen is listed at 865 Center in 1909. By 1910, Julia is living as Julia A. Achard again at 865 Center and Allen does not appear in the directory. For the 1910 census, Julia goes by Julia A. Achard and is listed as head of household with no mention of Allen Denison.
For the next two years Julia appears in the directories as a midwife in Oakland, widow of Milton. From 1913 to 1916 she resides in Lodi, and appears to live near David and Henriette Monroe. By late 1917 Julia has moved back to Oakland, where she is listed as a physician in the 1918 Oakland city directory. She passed away at Oakland Central Hospital 26 January 1918. As much as was printed about the events in the lives of Julia and her family in the newspapers, her death went entirely unnoticed. I have found no obituary in Oakland, San Francisco or Stockton.
 Fold3.com, City Directories for San Francisco, California, 1902, H S Crocker Company, page 164, accessed 5 March 2013
 San Francisco Chronicle, 26 August 1905, page 13, col 7 “Deaths”
 Oakland Tribune 2 August 1904, page 3, “Death of Louis Monroe”; Husted's Oakland, Alameda and Berkeley Directory, 1904, page 328, listing for Monroe, David H.
 Oakland Tribune 23 May 1907, page 7, “Society Gossip”
 Familysearch.org, California, County Marriages, 1850-1952, 005686492, Image of 699 event date: 30 May 1908, event place: San Joaquin, California, United States, film number: 1411586, digital folder number: 005698097, image number: 01653
 Husted's Oakland, Alameda and Berkeley Directory, 1909, page 301, listing for Denison, Mrs Julia, and page 1498
 Husted's Oakland, Alameda and Berkeley Directory, 1910, page 55
 US Census, 1910, Year: 1910; Census Place: Oakland Ward 4, Alameda, California; Roll: T624_70; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 0112; FHL microfilm: 1374083, line 87. Author’s note – I question this census as far as Julia Achard’s marital status is concerned. It says she has been married 6 years in the current marriage (an identical number to the man and woman immediately below her on the census page) but the person above her, a 1-year-old girl is listed as W(idowed). I suspect the W(idowed) designation should refer to Julia Achard.
In my latest post on the Julia Achard story, “Julia Achard and the Death of Sarah Ahern,” I quoted from some coroner’s inquest records. Are you using coroner’s inquests to fill in your family history? If not, maybe you should be.
If a decedent’s death was under “suspicious” circumstances, a coroner may have been called in to investigate. “Suspicious” could mean some sort of accident, a suicide, or an unattended or unexpected death. The coroner may eventually deem that the unexpected death was due to natural causes, but if the decedent had not been under a doctor’s care, or recently seen by a physician, there might be some question as to the cause of death and require a coroner’s investigation in the matter.
Where can you find coroners’ records? You can contact the county where the death occurred to see if there was an inquest. The coroner might be a branch of the sheriff’s department or might have an office unto itself. When in doubt, do a little digging on the internet, or contact the county sheriff and they can point you in the right direction.
Some coroner’s records are available on FamilySearch. Do a “Place search” in the catalog for the county and state of interest https://familysearch.org/catalog/search). In the catalog section under “Vital records” for that county, you might find “Coroner’s records” listed. Stark County, Ohio is one place that FamilySearch has made the coroner’s records available (https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/1922540?availability=Family%20History%20Library).
When looking at on-line records, you may find that some of the pages have been blacked out due to privacy restrictions.
What might prompt a researcher to look at coroner’s records? Sometimes the death certificate might indicate if there was an autopsy done. A coroner’s report might provide more details. Or maybe you found a newspaper article about the death which hints at an accident, a suicide or something otherwise suspicious. A newspaper article might even mention that a coroner's inquest would be held. Or maybe the only death “certificate” you can locate is a line item in a death register, where the “Cause of Death” column notes “blood poisoning” or “RR accident.”
Though the term "R.R. Accident" might seem self-explanatory following up with a coroner’s report can give you many more details of just what happened. And if you find a young woman died of blood poisoning, you'll definitely want to look for coroner's records - many of these cases, were similar to the story of Sarah Ahern, the result of an illegal operation to terminate a pregnancy.
Some coroner’s reports are more extensive than others. I’ve seen some one-page pre-printed, fill-in-the-blank forms and at the other end of the spectrum, some six-page or longer reports which include transcriptions of the testimonies of several witnesses. But with each one, I came away with more details about the death I was researching.
Here’s one example… I found a brief article on Newspapers.com in The Akron Beacon Journal of 27 January 1896 indicating Andrew McGowan and George Thorn were killed by a train on the Fort Wayne road near Massillon, Ohio.[i] I was able to find their death records on FamilySearch.[ii] For each man, the ledger-style death record showed the cause of death as “R. R. Accident.”
But from the coroner’s records, many more details come to light regarding the death of “George Thorn, whose dead body was found at Newmans Creek Crossing alonth The P. Ft. W. Railway track on the 26th day of January A.D. 1896…” Coroner T. C. McQuate states that after examining the body and heard the evidence “I do find the deceased…George Thorn in company with his friend McGugan were killed while intoxicated and trespassing on the P. Ft. W. R. track. Said Thorn and McGugan were on their way home, going westward on The P. Ft. W. Ry track. Said Thorn got close to a curve in the track about 100 yards above Newmans Crossing, he was struck and killed, said curve hiding view so they could not see east bout train, till it struck and accidentally killed him.”[iii] McQuate reports much the same regarding the death of “Auda McGugan.”[iv]
As you can see, the coroner’s report provides significantly more detail than the “R.R. Accident” noted in the death register. If you haven’t used coroner’s records in your genealogy research, it might be time to have a look at some!
[i] “Miners Killed,” The Akron Beacon Journal, 27 January 1896, page 3, col 1, from Newspapers.com, accessed 5 March 2017
[ii] "Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001," database with images, FamilySearch.org. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89ZR-VGKJ?mode=g&cc=2128172 : accessed 5 March 2017), Thornton, Geo. W, 26 Jan 1896; citing Death, Newman, Lawrence Township, Stark, Ohio, United States, source ID v 3 p 534, County courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 897,621 AND "Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F665-QQS : accessed 5 March 2017), Andrew Mcgougan, 26 Jan 1896; citing Death, Newman, Lawrence Township, Stark, Ohio, United States, source ID v 3 p 376, County courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 897,621.
[iii] "Ohio, Stark County Coroner's Records, 1890-2002," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9GKR-X9N?cc=1922540&wc=SNB8-SPJ%3A218158301 : 21 May 2014), > image 172 of 209; County Records Center, Canton.
[iv] "Ohio, Stark County Coroner's Records, 1890-2002," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GGKR-X51?cc=1922540&wc=SNB8-SPJ%3A218158301 : 21 May 2014), > image 174 of 209; County Records Center, Canton.
If Rose de la Fontaine was the first patient who died in the care of Julia Achard, she was not the last.
On 11 May 1901 a coroner’s inquest met in Tiburon over the remains of Sarah Ahern who had died under peculiar circumstances. Several newspapers reported of the tragic death of Mrs. Ahern.
"(Sarah Ahern) was taken in on Friday of last week and Dr. Florence Scott and Dr. Collichon of Belvedere were called in attendance. They stated their belief that she was suffering from the effect of medicine given her by a malpractitioner. Mrs. Ahern refused to give the name of the physician who gave her the medicine and died on Thursday. After her death Dr. Collichon found a box of pills with the name of Mrs. J. A. Achard written on them. The woman was called as a witness at the inquest yesterday but denied ever having seen Mrs. Ahern or giving her the medicine.[i]
Several witnesses testified at the inquest, including Dr. Scott, who testified, “She (Sarah) told me that she had taken some pills on and off for about 2 months, and that they were given to her by a party who she refused to name. After the death Mr. Ahern found some cards in a box on the bureau bearing the name of Mrs. J. A. Achard of 415 A 3rd St. San Francisco. I was not present at the birth of the child. I think the cause of death was septicemia caused by a mis-carriage.”[ii]
Shortly before Sarah’s death, Julia Achard had married her fifth husband, James Shiland, a 67- year old carpenter.[iii] Her testimony at the inquest on the remains of Sarah Ahern is as follows:
"Julia Shiland being duly sworn deposes and says My names is Julia Shiland. I live at 415 A 3rd St. S.F. I have lived there about 1 year. I am a midwife. I knew Mrs. Sarah E. Ahern. I have known her about 2 years. I made her a visit the day before yesterday. I came over on her invitation. I did not see or give her any pills. I gave her no advice. She told me that she had her menses on while I was here. I am the lady that you telephoned this morning. I have been over here twice to see her. I am acquainted with Mr. Ahern. I did not see him that day. The wife has called to see me in the city and I did not ask her any questions. I came up the other day as a friend. I am positive that I did not prescribe or send her any pills.
"I was called before a Coroner’s jury one time before. It is about 3 years.
"She invited me over to get some chow chow and chili sauce.
"She did not tell me that any one sent her pills when I called upon her last Wednesday.
"All that I have testified to happened at Tiburon May 8th. When I came the other day I did not perform any operations. I have some patent rights for my medicines and use them for such cases as they are patented for.
"I correct myself that I do not know Mr. Ahern. My medicines are used for rheumatism and liver trouble.
"The case I was called before the Coroner before on was a case where a lady died of chirohsis [sic] of the liver.
Julia A. Shiland"[iv]
Given that the box of pills on Sarah Ahern’s bureau had the name and address of Julia Achard on it, it seems unlikely that they came from anyone other than the midwife, herself. But the coroner’s jury determined:
"In the matter of the Inquisition upon the body of Sarah E. Ahern deceased before Edward Eden, Coroner.
"We the undersigned the Jurors summoned to appear before Edward Eden, the Coroner of the County of Marin at Tiburon on the 10 day of May 1901 to inquire into the cause of the death of Sarah E. Ahern having been duly sworn according to law, and having made such inquisition, after inspecting the body and hearing the testimony adduced upon our oaths each and all do say, that we find the deceased was names Sarah E. Ahern, was a native of California aged 31 years; that she came to her death on the 10 day of May 1901 in this county by blood poising [sic] following miscarriage from causes unknown to this jury."[v]
Julia Achard Shiland faced no charges in connection with the death of Sarah Ahern.
More next week.
[i] San Francisco Chronicle, 12 May 1901, page 11 “Verdict Rendered by a Coroner’s Jury at Tiburon”
[ii] Testimony of Coroner’s inquest held May 10,1901 at Tiburon Marin Co upon the remains of Mrs. Sarah Elizabeth Ahern, Edward Eden Coroner. Filed in the Office of the County Clerk of the County of Marin State of California this 6 day of June 1901, Rob E. Graham, County Clerk by F S Holland, Deputy, transcribed by Mary E Roddy.
[iii] Marriage date - Familysearch.org, California, County Marriages, 1850-1952, 005686492, Image of 699 event date: 09 Mar 1901, event place: Santa Clara, California, United States, page: 465, film number: 1302028, digital folder number: 005686492, image number: 00237; James Shiland’s age and occupation - US Census, 1900, Year: 1900; Census Place: San Francisco, San Francisco, California; Roll: 103; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 0139; FHL microfilm: 1240103, line 67
[iv] Testimony of Coroner’s inquest held May 10,1901 at Tiburon Marin Co upon the remains of Mrs. Sarah Elizabeth Ahern
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.