I’m currently working on a post about how I deal with negative searches from repositories. Today, I’d like to shine a spotlight on the New Jersey State Archives. Recently I ordered 3 records from them. Two were birth certificates and one was a death record.
A Little Background
The death record is connected to the William Wallace Love and Jane Menzies thing from 1890. No one that I’ve talked to has been able to find her death record yet. One of the reasons seems to be confusion surrounding her actual day of death. The family record that was passed down to me gives the date as September 17th, 1890.
However, from the Newark Evening News article, published September 23, 1890:
Mrs. Love died yesterday from the effects of her injuries.
That would put her date of death as September 22nd, 1890. Thinking about the circumstances surrounding her death and the trauma that the children must have experienced, I can understand the confusions over the date. I can’t even imagine what those children were going through.
Another perspective to factor in is the date of my family record. The most recent death on that record is my 2x Great Grandmother Jennie Love-Thorward in 1960. According to my previous family tree, the next death would have been Agnes Love-Wambough in 1966. That means my family record was written between 1960 and 1966, almost eighty years after the event. Agnes would have been 11 and Belle only 2 years old when their mother died.
Technically, this isn’t a recent find. I actually saw this a few years back and decided I’d look into it later. However, I was already ordering from the Archives and I was kind of comfort-spending anyway, so I decided to look at this again and see if it warranted a record order. I decided that it did! The date is the right time. The husband’s name fits. I even told myself that because the coroner was involved, the death certificate just might have been filed in Trenton and that’s why it has been so hard to find! Without any other thought, I sent off a record request and made a note to them that I had found an index entry on FamilySearch for Mrs. Love but that it might be Jane or Jennie Love.
My results took a little under a month to come back. The envelope came pretty thick, I didn’t know what to think. All 3 record responses came in the same envelope. Only one of requests was found in the archive. When a repository can’t find a record you’ve requested, they send you a form showing what they searched. I keep those “Not Found” responses for my records so I can keep track of what I’ve already paid for.
As you can see from the scan above, the Archives tried really hard to find what I was looking for. They checked their internal sources and the online sources. Searching the online index didn’t help me either, which should have been my first hint. The surprising part comes when I got to the comment section. You’ll remember I mentioned in my record request that I found Mrs. Love on a death index on Family Search. Until I got back this response, I had forgot to even look to see what the index was for. It was listed as a collection of New Jersey Deaths, so I just assumed it was some sort of Death database.
What It Actually Was
Turns out that my Mrs. Love actually appeared in a Trenton, NJ newspaper announcing her death. It seems the person fulfilling my request looked up which FamilySearch index I was talking about and found it for me. They ended up sending me a copy of the article, the front page of the newspaper, and gave me specifics on where my article appeared in that paper. How is that for genealogy kindness?
Can we all just hug an archivist employee today? Thank you for being so kind as to go above and beyond for us genealogists who sometimes just send a request off without much thought.