Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Great-bubbe Nachama's death record confirmed

Almost a year ago, I stumbled upon an entry for a death record that may or may not have been my great-grandmother's (the last name was not quite correct, but close enough to make me strongly suspect that it was her).

So I ordered the record, figuring that once it arrived I could see if it was actually my great-grandmother's or not.  It was only $3 for a non-certified copy, after all, and would certainly be worth it.

It wasn't until January of 2013-- five months!-- that a photocopy of the death record finally arrived.



But looking at the record, I still could not be sure this was my great-grandmother's. The handwriting was hard to read, for one thing. For another, a lot of information was missing, and some of the information provided was wrong.

For example, the record gives the deceased's age as 60, when I knew she died much older than that (about 73 to 75). It is also stated that she was married, when I knew she was very unlikely to have left her husband (he didn't come with her) and was therefore almost certainly widowed. I also didn't recognize the name of the informant-- that is, the person who furnished the information on the record.

All of this cast doubt on the death record as being my great-grandmother's, and although I've hung onto it, I didn't post it to my family tree. I was waiting for evidence to either prove or disprove the record as being Nachama's.

This weekend, I pulled out the record, and finally found this evidence.

Nachama's address at the time of death (25 May 1929) was listed, and I searched the 1930 Philadelphia city directory to see if I could find her known relatives, but no such luck. Note to Ancestry.com, by the way: please instruct whomever you have scanning documents to scan only one page of your city directories at a time and not two-- with two, the writing is much less legible, and in some cases not able to be read at all-- and zooming it only makes it blurry. I know it's faster and less work, but it does no one any good if they can't read it or get migraines trying to. Thank you.

Then I tried searching in the 1930 U.S. census for the married surname of Nachama's granddaughter, with whom she was living when she died, according to a short family history written by Nachama's granddaughter Rose. Nothing came up, so then I tried the surname of her sisters, who were also living with her: Zagerman.

With that I found Rebecca Kootchick (I had not spelled the surname correctly), with her husband and children, and her sisters Anna and Rose Zagerman. Rebecca, Anna, and Rose were daughters of Nachama's deceased daughter Shirley Millstein Zagerman.

Then, I noticed their address: it matched the deceased's last address on the death record. This was indeed the death record for my great-grandmother Nachama.




Questions remain, however: who was "M. Schrage", the informant? Whoever he/she was had to have known my great-grandmother, but apparently not that well-- he/she got her age wildly wrong and didn't know her parents' names.

And why wasn't Nachama's place of burial given? Under place of burial, what was scrawled looks like "Not [illegible]", yet the burial date is given. How is it that you know when someone was just buried, but not where?

There's a particular reason why I would like to find this out: Jewish gravestones traditionally-- though not always-- give the name of the deceased's father, because that is part of one's Hebrew name. If you are Joshua, and your father was Abraham, you are "Joshua ben (son of) Abraham."