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Posts Tagged ‘women’s history’

Last week, for Women’s History Month, I shared the death certificates of my 2 grandmothers and 4 great-grandmothers. I then searched for death certificates for my eight 2x great grandmothers. All eight were born in other countries: Netherlands, Germany, and Alsace (now France).

MATERNAL SIDE

This one is for Alice Paak DeKorn, who died 5 May 1908 in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The cause of death is heart disease. Since she was only 55, that seems somewhat unusual. She is the woman who survived a terrible fire. Could that have caused permanent damage to her heart?

Next up is Jennie Bomhoff Zuidweg who passed away 13 December 1924 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, at age 86 of senility.


That cause of death as senility is a bit mystifying to me. Grandma remembered his grandmother. After all, he was born in 1908, so when she died he would have been 16 years old. He never said anything about her having dementia at all when he talked about her, and I have to believe he would have mentioned it. She looks pretty old in this photo, and she looks like she knows her own mind, so to speak.

But can I quibble with a death certificate when I wasn’t there at the time?

Alwine Noffke Waldeck died 9 June 1912 in Caledonia, Kent County, Michigan. She was 65 years old.

The cause of death is “interstitial nephritis” and dropsy. Dropsy means edema, a subject close to my thoughts because I have lymphedema. Hmm, here is another kidney disease death, like the two in last week’s post. Only this one is on my mother’s side and not my father’s.

Alwine is the mother seated in the middle.

My fourth maternal 2x great grandmother was Nellie Gorsse Mulder who died in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on 12 October 1932. Cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis, which she had had for 15 years. She also had had diabetes for 5 years.

This is Nellie who died at age 63.

PATERNAL SIDE

I’ll be darned, but I don’t have a single death certificate or death record for these four women. Note that my maternal 2x greats all passed away in the United States, but the paternals did not (to my knowledge).

Elisabetha Adelseck Wendel and Elisabetha Wink Klein were both born in Budesheim, Germany. Presumably they both died there. I wrote for records, but have not received a response. I am not sure how to obtain these records on my own if I can’t get responses to my emails.

Same problem with the other two.

Anne Reihr Schirmer from Leumschwiller, France, and Madeline Groll Scholler from Muespach, France. Again, I think they both died there. But nobody has responded to my requests.

Until I can get those records, it’s hard to feel that they are “real.”  I have no photos of these women either, but feel very lucky to have the four above.

As to the 3x great grandmothers and beyond, I do have some records of many of the Dutch ones because the Dutch records are so easily available online. They makes things so much easier for me! Of course, none of these have causes of death listed.

Any ideas on how to move forward on finding death records for the women from Germany and France?

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Because of Women’s History Month, I thought I would pull together information on how the women who came before me passed away. I wanted to put all my grandmothers together in one post and thought by sharing their deaths it would shed some light on their lives, at least at the end. I also have a ghoulish fascination with looking them over for the variety of ways I might die myself. After all, their deaths could be a form of inheritance.

But what I discovered made me pretty mad at myself. I have so neglected death certificates. I think it’s because a death certificate in Michigan tends to be a document that I have to pay for that I have relied on social security death info, as well as burial info and death registry dates. I haven’t been assertive about going after the certificates themselves. This is why I don’t call myself a genealogist, but a family historian. I’m more of a storyteller than a rock solid researcher.

Here are my grandmothers and great-grandmothers and how they died.

My maternal grandmother, Lucille Edna Mulder Zuidweg, passed away on 21 September 2000 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, at age 88. After the death of my grandfather three months earlier, she was ill and living at a nursing home for round the clock care. The real round the clock care came from my aunt who slept in a chair in Grandma’s room. She was with her most of the time. What my aunt did is wonderful because Grandma hated being in an institutional place. She was like me about that, and it must have been horrible for her there. Thank goodness, she had her daughter with her.

Grandma on our left

I didn’t have her death certificate, so I had to order it from Kalamazoo County. It arrived without a hitch. I see that the cause of death was congestive heart failure. The documentation gives no evidence of all she went through with the cancers that she had. The congestive heart failure might be explained by science in one way, but my explanation is that she died of a broken heart after losing my grandfather.

My paternal grandmother, Marie Klein (Kline) Wakefield, passed away on 25 April, 1974, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She had been living in the Upjohn Nursing Home, which at the time was the premier nursing home in Kalamazoo. Her ex-neighbor and friend, Shirley Kulp, was the head nurse so there was always someone to watch over Grandma. Grandma was 82.

The above photo is my grandmother, Marie. In case you’re wondering about the difference in styles between the one of my grandmother, Edna, Marie was fully 20 years older than Edna.

I didn’t have Marie’s death certificate either, so I had to order it from Kalamazoo County.

Are you noticing the pattern here? [Knocking head against wall]

Luckily, it came in the mail with my other grandmother’s certificate.

Grandma passed away from uremia. I did remember that cause of death, although I had heard of it as a diagnosis while she was still alive, but dying in the hospital. This grandmother is who I inherited my congenital primary lymphedema from.

Then there are my four great-grandmothers.

Margarethe Wendel Klein died 24 May 1932 in Elmhurst, Illinois. I have her death certificate (woohoo!). I also have a corrected certificate. The only thing corrected is her birth date, and guess what? Both documents are wrong! According to the Catholic church books in Budesheim, Margarethe was born on June 25, 1869, NOT May 30, 1869 as it says on the death certificate and NOT June 24, 1870 as it says on the corrected copy.

She died of a diabetic coma and also had nephritis and myocarditis. Her health had obviously been poor, although she was only 62–the age I am now. She had also already lost two of her five children, so she had been through a lot. When Margarethe died, her body lay in a casket in their house in Elmhurst. My father told me that there was a thunderstorm during the time it was there, and that the grandchildren were terrified at the combination of events and hid under the huge picnic table style dining room table. She was buried on May 27, but it looks like (from historical rainfall records) the storm most likely occurred the day after her death, on May 25.

Francoise Schirmer (Schermer) Scholler died 22 October 1914 in Duluth, Minnesota.


Cause of death at age 71: chronic nephritis and arterioschlerosis.

Cora DeKorn Zuidweg died at age 57 on 16 September 1932 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I have posted about this one in the past.

Cause of death: Exhaustion – debility from gen – metastatic sarcoma spindle cell – primary in left thigh, followed injury was removed 9-16-29 – had existed there 5 years.

Clara Waldeck Mulder died on 6 September 1953 in Kent County, Michigan, at age 69. I did not have her death certificate and ordered it from Kent County.  I knew that she died of cancer, but I had eagerly awaited the actual cause of death on the certificate. When I received the document, I saw that cause of death was carcinoma of the uterus. That is what I had been told.

Don’t tell me it doesn’t unnerve you a little when you see that your ancestors died too young, even if they were older people. Since my grandmothers were 82 and 88, I figured that was a normal lifetime. But when I add in the great-grandmothers’ ages at death the average goes way down. The average of the age at death of all six ladies is 71.5. The average age for the 4 greats is 64.75. I feel blessed that they were all old enough when they died to see their children grow up. Every woman doesn’t have that opportunity, obviously. And look at the pattern. All four greats died much younger than my grandmothers, so things are improving, probably from better healthcare.

Of six grandmothers, I had three death certificates and was able to order the other three. Can I take it back another generation to the 2x greats? There will be eight women. How many certificates will I produce? A future post, peeps!

 

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