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
salt!

Martha Lev-Zion
IGS-Negev


Ira Leviton
 

Dear Cousins,

Martha Lev-Zion's message is a useful reminder that anything is possible -
there can be errors in almost any kind of document, and that corroborating
evidence should be sought whenever possible. Just because it's written,
even in dark ink or in stone, doesn't mean that it's so, or was so.

We've all heard stories about people who've had a million dollars
mistakenly deposited into their bank account or billed to their credit card.
So why can't an error occur in a document? Although life, death,
and genealogy are far more important than a million dollars, mistakes
still occur in birth and death certificates. Throw in the human factor,
and the errors sometimes seem more clever than if they were made
deliberately by artists, scientists, or teenagers.

If we all think about it for a few moments, there's no reason that
names on deaths certificate can't be wrong - their initial purpose was
primarily statistical, not to record the individual, and I'm sure that
I'm not the only one on this list with a death certificate that has the
wrong name but still clearly identifies the right person, or a birth
certificate with the wrong date of birth.

That reminds me - one of these days I'm going to correct the error on
my mother's death certificate - the error that I made when I gave
information to the funeral director.

Happy hunting (and verifying)!

Ira
Ira Leviton
New York, N.Y.


Meredith Hoffman / GenerationsWeb <mhoffman@...>
 

I've had several encounters with death certificates where the maiden
name has been butchered to one extent or another. I assume -- at least
in the cases I've seen -- that it's because the informant, who knew
the name and spoke it correctly, was dictating the name to someone who
was not familiar with the family and probably not familiar with the
speaker's dialect/accent.

My paternal grandfather's mother's name was Ida GERSCHKOWITZ. On his
Boston death certificate, her name appears as Ida GERSKILL. I've
always assumed that the informant spoke the name correctly, but with a
heavy Yiddish accent, and not being literate in English wasn't able to
correct the misheard transcription of the name.

Maiden names on death certificates are especially dicey and are often
a bit suspect, especially if they contradict other more robust
evidence; they're always secondary information in terms of what the
original name of record might have been. And the say-it-right/hear-it-
differently phenomenon compounds the issue. In my experience with late
19th and early 20th century US death records of Yiddish-speaking
immigrants, a good percentage of them are slightly-to-mind-boggling-ly
wrong on the mother's original name.

Meredith Hoffman (Plymouth MA)
mhoffman@...

BLACK, BLOOM, POLISHOOK, HERSCHCOWITZ/GERSCHKOWITZ/HIRSCH, BARISHMAN,
KOKOL, JANOFSKY, NIS(S)ONOFF, Berezno (Ukraine); ADLER, KOTCHUK (aka
SAMUELS), ROCHAVEN/RACHAWIN, Janow Sokolski (Poland) & Liverpool;
HODOSH/CHODASH/CHODOSCH, KAPALOVITZ/KAPLOVITCH, ALPEROV(ITCH),
GOLEMBA, GORDON, Myadel, Dokshitsy, Glubokie, Smorgon & Providence RI;
KROLL, ARASHAM, SANDLER/SENTLER, CLARCH/CLARCK, Vishnevets (Ukraine);


David Rubin
 

iraleviton@... >writes:

Martha Lev-Zion's message is a useful reminder that anything is possible -
there can be errors in almost any kind of document, and that corroborating
evidence should be sought whenever possible. Just because it's written,
even in dark ink or in stone, doesn't mean that it's so, or was so.
That reminds me - one of these days I'm going to correct the error on
my mother's death certificate - the error that I made when I gave
information to the funeral director.
Hello all,

We think Martha and Ira made their point very clear. When one is
questioned about the death of a close relative, they are grieving, and
not concerned or focused on facts that might be on documents stored
away. And this is of greater importance when relating to Jewish Genealogy.

Death certificates for immigrants along with grave markers, are some
of the least accurate sources of information. If there are other
recorded sources they should override the above sources.

There are always exceptions.

Sincerely,
David Rubin and Mrs. Rubin


Mary B
 

Martha Lev-Zion wrote:
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?
Martha, my father died five years ago. I went to the Chevra Kadisha to give all
the information for the death certificate. The gentleman was seated with a desk
between himself and me and he asked all the questions and filled out the
certificate himself. Even though I gave all correct answers and spelling, the
certificate arrived with my mother's maiden name spelled wrongly. In your case it
may have been the same, where someone filled it out for the mother even though she
was written as the informant.

Mary Blumenstein
Melbourne, Australia

Researching: BAUM/Svidnik, Satoraljaujhely, Hungary. BERNER/KATZ/Beregovo,Ukraine.
BLUMENSTEIN/IvanoFrankovsk,Ukraine.GOLDFARB/MONCIASZ Parczew,Poland. HELLINGER/
Michalovce,Kosice,Slovakia.NEUMAN/NEUMANN/Kvakovce,Michalovce, Slovakia


MBernet@...
 

martha@... writes:
"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. . . .a census suggested that perhaps someone had a speech impediment
and that the real maiden name was not Himmelhoch, but rather HIMMELREICH. This is
what I think: in German, hoch refers to "on high" and reich refers to "kingdom",
so immelhoch meaning "heaven high" and Himmelreich, meaning"the kingdom of heaven"


I have just checked out Lars Menk's Dictionary of German Jewish Surnames, which is
usually highly accurate and comprehensive. Lars mentions Himmel Reich but no
Himmelhoch, which suggests he was unable to locate a Jewish family in Germany in
the 19th century that bore the name Himmelhoch. He does mention a Jewish family
Himmelreich in Frensdorf, Bavaria, after 1800, and in Reichmansdorf Bavaria in
1832 "possibly >from Bavaria." He also mentions that the family >from Frensdorf later
changed its name to Heavenrich.

Michael Bernet, New York