JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen errors in death certificates. A biggie! #general

Martha Lev-Zion <martha@...>

A few days ago, I wrote asking for ideas about finding information on
Frieda Wolfschlager, nee HIMMELHOCH according to her death certificate.
Since Him[m]elhoch is a one family name, I was astounded to find a new
cousin I had not yet researched. If you will recall, I could not find
any relevant census or immigration information. To the rescue came Nicki,
David and his wife, and a couple of other people who were willing to
look things up or who had excellent advice. Based on a census that Nicki
was able to find, she suggested that perhaps someone had a speech
impediment and that the real maiden name was not Himmelhoch, but rather
HIMMELREICH. David and his wife came to the conclusion that Himmelreich
was correct as well, since they were able to find the immigration information
on this family, under the name of Himmelreich.

So here is a case where the maiden name was clearly written and the
information given was by the mother of the deceased. You would think
she would know her own name! So why such a severe error? This is what
I think, if, indeed, this was not a case of speech impediment: in German,
hoch refers to "on high" and reich refers to "kingdom", so Himmelhoch
meaning "heaven high" and Himmelreich, meaning "the kingdom of heaven"
might be a bit confusing under the circumstances of an unexpected death of
a young mother and become confused in the recorder's mind.

What do you think? Is that possible? I do not believe the endings -
hoch and -reich are interchangeable. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Just to make this even stranger, HIMMELREICH is also a family in my
direct ancestry, but it was clear after I contacted the cemetery, that
this particular family was not Jewish and therefore was not my family.

Bottom line? Death certificates should be taken with a big grain of

Martha Lev-Zion

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