As I was riding the mower yesterday, I finished our yard and moved to our neighbors, a young couple who both work. We often mow their front yard. Moving to their yard sparked a memory of my mom. We lived in the country with an acre lot between us and our neighbor. We took turns mowing that lot.

One day mom looked outside and noticed a moving truck at the house next door. She knew they were not moving. Mom watched a few minutes to see if the workers were delivering furniture, but they were carrying things out of the house.

Mom called the sheriff, but a deputy was far away. So, mom decided to mow the grass. She jumped on our riding lawn mower, mowed our front yard and nonchalantly started on the lot between the houses, going around the outer edge first.

Mom got the license plate of the truck and a good look at the 'movers'. She finished the lot and went inside to await the deputy. The movers were long gone by the time law enforcement arrived, but thanks to mom they had some leads.

I do not remember if the crooks were found, but it made for a great story. And showed Mom's resourcefulness and bravery.

Isn't it odd how an everyday event can spark a memory?

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When genealogists start researching, they find vital records (birth, marriage, death records) online and may look no further for other supporting documents. You can trust the government record, right? The thrill of the hunt takes over as a researcher quickly gathers documents that used to take days or weeks to find.

I came across a perfect example of why we need to read EVERY item on a document and look for other independent sources to support the claims on the "official" document.

My Research Question - When did Chester Fern Strong of Pine Village, Indiana die?

Indiana State Board of Health, Medical Certificate of Death 87-047724 (1987), Chester Fern Strong, researcher’s personal files

Do you see it? When did Chester die? His date of death is typed 14 Nov 1977. 1977 - 1894 (his birth year) is 83, so the dates work. Did Chester die in 1977? Did you note this in your tree and move on because it is an 'official' document? Is Chester a collateral line that you are just documenting because the death certificate popped up in your hints?

Look at the top. There are two numbers that begin with '87'. You may not know how Indiana numbered certificates through the years, but this looks like a code with the year of death or year the certificate was created used as part of the numbering system.

Let's look further down the document...

Death Certificate Bottom Portion - Chester Strong

What's with this? He was buried in 1987? Could this be a reburial? Would they issue a 2nd certificate for a reburial? No, they would not. When did Dr. Schleck sign the certificate? 1987! The Health Officer received it in 1987!

Did Chester lay unnoticed, but dead for 10 years?

Reasonably exhaustive research will give us the verifiable answer and provide the two or more pieces of independent evidence for Chester's death date.

My first action was to call the Death Certificate Desk at the Indiana State Board of Health. I wanted to know if those numbers at the top of the form designated the year, and if there was anything 'funny' I needed to know in their files. Ruth, the very nice clerk, verified that yes, those were date designations and checked for other information. Chester's death certificate was indeed filed in 1987 and she confirmed 1977 was a mistake. There is no easy process to have the certificate changed, and we left it at that. While enlightening, I do not consider this really independent information. I now have a corrected year, but need to find other independent information to contribute to my claim that Chester died in 1987.

Because this is a 'modern' death, I was quickly able to locate Chester's Obituary in the 15 November, 1987 Journal and Courier (the local newspaper). This confirmed the day, month and year. His death is also listed as Nov 1987 in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) - confirming the month and year.

The informant on the death certificate may have been the same person who submitted the obituary. Who submitted the SSDI information is unknown. It may have been the informant, the doctor, the funeral director, or the State of Indiana. Who submitted the information is not important to my research question. I will assume it is someone with primary knowledge of Chester's demise.

The death certificate, obituary and SSDI listing all support a death year of 1987. The conflicting date on the certificate was addressed. Three independent sources provide evidence that Chester died on 14 November 1987.

The answer to my research question - When did Chester Fern Strong of Pine Village, Indiana die? - 14 November 1987.

I did search for an obituary and death in 1977, just in case there was another story, but he was not listed. Reasonably exhaustive research made me check, just in case.

It's important to read and analyse all the information on a document, even an 'official' one. Slow down, develop proofs for all your research, you'll be a more confident Genealogist.

Let's DO Genealogy!

You can take this literally. IGHR is intense. It's a week of genealogy by firehose. Sessions start at 0800 and go until 1700, then there is dinner and evening sessions at 1900. Then homework, or play time to apply things you learned in class. It is also a week of interacting with others who share your hobby. It's exchanging ideas and having philosophical discussions. It's finding out about certification and getting to meet the "Rock Stars" of the industry.

IGHR is also about finding new topics and workshop ideas to take back to my Society and a peek into the offerings of the leaders of the industry.

We drove up Friday (we being me and two others from this area). After circling Andalusia with Google as our slightly - very - confused guide, we were on our way by noon. My friend and I found a great restaurant in Athens called the Porterhouse Grill. By Monday we realized how smart we were to have a good meal on Friday night.

Saturday was the Family History Expo and a chance to check out the conference center. Sunday was a hint of the days to come with registration after lunch, mingling, and the ProGen meetup. 26 people RSVP'd - 48 came!

The BCG portfolios were available for review for three short periods on three evenings, but I had volunteered to collect meal tickets or be a door guard for evening sessions, so my time was limited with the portfolios. Many of the BCG representatives told me "you can do this, Cindy". They were all very supportive. Being able to look at the actual portfolios was a great help. I looked at two and the judges comments (the comments are not linked to a specific portfolio). Months ago, I set a deadline for myself to decide if I want to 'go on the clock' during IGHR. I am too exhausted to make that decision right now.

By Wednesday we were exhausted, but it was a great day with a visit to the manuscript library to break classroom work up. Friday was bittersweet - I was glad I survived, but sorry to leave. The IGHR food was very good (even though it was very carb heavy). The Savannah Room was reasonably priced with excellent service, a well stocked bar and good food. The cafe was a good breakfast option for those who did not have breakfast with their room.

Final thoughts - I decided not to stay at the conference hotels. I am glad I did. Not only was it less expensive, but I had breakfast and an offsite place to 'separate' from IGHR. The conference hotel and overflow hotel did not include breakfast. It would be nice to have more time to explore Athens and the gardens at the campus. I had initially decided to stay in Athens Friday night and drive home the seven hours on Saturday, but I went with friends and they wanted to get home. Next time I will stay Friday night. This will give me the afternoon to relax and take in a library or check out the gardens.

If you have never been to a conference, plan to attend at least one. The opportunity to meet others who are passionate about your hobby is priceless.

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