Sometimes it takes a lot of work to find a death certificate or just the listing of a death in a ledger. For my maternal 3rd great-grandfather I was easily able to find a copy of William’s death certificate on-line.
Now that I have a copy I wanted to really look at the certificate and see what information there is on this certificate. Does the information match what I have already learned and what is new information?
I already knew: William lived in a rural area and he was a chairmaker. William’s date of birth and death, occupation, father’s name and birthplace. When I look at the mother’s information I see there is an error. William’s son who gave the information (E.I. Browning) gave the name of William’s wife Amanda (son’s mother) instead of William’s mother (Lucy Welles Weaver).
What I learned: the death certificate number, cause of death, duration of illness, who gave the information about William for the death certificate, the address where William lived with his son, date of burial and the Undertaker’s name. Interesting that William was buried 10 days after he died. That seems like a long time in 1908.
Frequently, in genealogical research, we get sidetracked with something that takes us down a path that we commonly refer to as a ‘rabbit hole’ and we may get lost there for hours. I wanted to learn more about William’s cause of death and went down a new rabbit hole but it gave me some interesting information.
On the death certificate it looks like the cause of death is ‘Urae’… something? Hmm? As I googled and searched and reviewed the spelling I decided it must say ‘Uraemia’. Well, what exactly does that mean?
- “Uraemia" is a dangerous condition that occurs when the kidneys no longer filter properly. It's likely to occur when a person is in the final stage of chronic kidney disease.
So, William was 92 years old and had chronic kidney disease lasting for 10 days as well as Arterio Sclerosis which he’d had for about 10 months. Well, as I was researching ‘uraemia’ I had looked at common listings of death in 1908 hoping that would tell me something about ‘uraemia’ and before I knew it…I went down the rabbit hole and learned about death rates and causes in 1908. How did William’s death fit into the statistics?
- In 1908 life expectancy for men was just 49.5 years. Wow, William had lived 43.5 years longer than the average life expectancy for a man of his time.
- “The year 1908 was a year of remarkably low mortality throughout the United States," according to a comprehensive report called the "Bulletin" from the U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor titled Mortality Statistics: 1908.
I wondered what the Mortality Statistics were and if they would add something additional to William’s story?
- According to the Mortality Statistics (for the states that supplied information) the top 5 causes of death for males were: All other and unknown causes, Tuberculosis of the lungs, Other diseases of the digestive system, Other accidents and injuries, and heart disease. I am thinking based on the list that William’s cause of death would fall in the first category of ‘All other and unknown causes’.
Looking at the deaths in Bradford County, Pennsylvania (#410) in the age group 90-94
I see there is only one reported death. That one must be William. He was the oldest person to die that year in Bradford County. He truly lived a very long life as compared to the general public. Very interesting. There were a total of 93 people that died in the county that year that were above the 50 years of age expectancy for men. Did the rural life or genetics or lifestyles of the residents add to their high rate of longevity?
I would definitely use the Mortality Statistics again, especially to see how my ancestor’s cause of death compared to the general population. This would also show deaths due to epidemics. In 1908 the country was starting to look at occupations of those that died to determine if there was a correlation between occupation and cause of death. Looking beyond the general information in a record can tell us so much more about the times in which our ancestor’s lived.
To learn more about William see posts Celebrating the Life of William Way Browning and The Joys of a Comprehensive Obituary – William Way Browning.
If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,