Sunday, January 10, 2010

Update on James W. BARBER's Death Certificate

Despite the fact that I haven't written anything lately about my brickwall ancestor, James W. BARBER, I really have been working on his "case" since I posted my Madness Monday post featuring his death certificate.  My first attempt to learn more about James and to possibly find some siblings or other relatives that might yield information on his parents was to look for a newspaper article describing his debilitating fall which occurred c. 1909 and eventually led to his death. In 1910 when he was enumerated on the federal census, he was living in Montrose Township, Genesee County, Michigan, so I turned to the Library of Congress's Chronicling America website to see what I could find on local newspapers. Besides the great collection of digitized newspapers being placed online (for free!) at Chronicling America, you can also look up nearly every newspaper ever published in the United States, to determine publication location, dates, and where and how it is archived, using the Newspaper Directory. Inputting Michigan, Genesee County, and Montrose yielded one newspaper, the Montrose Mirror, which was published from 1939 to 1941, too late for my needs. Entering Michigan and Genesee County and using the year filters of 1900 to 1910, I came up with 50 results! Ugh! Since none of these papers are online (to my knowledge), and I am not certain exactly when James's accident occurred, this is too big of a haystack for me to find my needle. In fact, I'm not even sure James lived in Montrose Township at the time of his fall. He lived for many years in neighboring Lapeer and Oakland Counties, and it's possible he moved to Montrose Township after his accident. This is one resource I've decided to put aside for now.

Next, I had several kind readers submit their opinions as to the name of the undertaker on James's death certificate. The consensus was "LaFURGEY", and there was census data to back it up. I attempted to find a modern LaFurgey funeral home without success in Genesee County, especially in Mount Morris Township. Failing that, I then did a simple search for any funeral home in Mount Morris Township, and came across the Martin Funeral Home, which began business in 1929. Knowing that many times a new funeral home will buy out one going out of business and archive its records, I e-mailed the contact person, Tom Merritt on the website with my query as to whether they had any of the LaFurgey undertaker or funeral home records in their possession. I received a very nice e-mail the following day:

I wanted to follow up with your email. As you know we started in 1929. However we did not purchase the funeral home from Mr. LaFurgey. There were actually 2 funeral homes in Mt. Morris in the 1900’s us being the second one. Mr. LaFurgey’s funeral home eventually closed. With that information I called the City of Mt. Morris to see if they have any information on him or maybe even a grave location and he is not listed on the records there at the Mt. Morris Cemetery. There records do have an Alice LaFurgey (1915) Jacob LaFurgey (1916) and a Jane LaFurgey (1917) other than those dates and location that is all the information they have since it is from so long ago. ‘Im sorry that I was not able to help you out as much as I was hoping for. If you have any further questions please feel free to send me an email or give me a call at toll free at....

My next stop was to contact the City of Mount Morris to see if they had any of the LaFurgey undertaker records. It was difficult to find the website, not knowing if the official city site was listed as "Mount" or "Mt." Morris. Eventually I did, and when I clicked on the Contact page, I was delighted to see that the e-mail address was to a person with the surname LaFurgey! Again, I sent off an e-mail and received this prompt reply:

I will try to answer your questions. I’m not surprised that Martin Funeral Home in Mt. Morris has no records from Mart Lefurgey (Note the spelling) Mart was a first cousin to my father, Fay LaFurgey. He had his funeral home here in Mt. Morris until 1929 at which time Miles Martin purchased the business. Mart had a wife (second) named Gustine and he had a son Paul they are all deceased. I am the city manager of the City of Mt Morris and we do own the Mt. Morris Cemetery. I’m sorry to say we have no records of Marshall Lefurgey however we have all the burial records and the records of ownership of lots in the cemetery. I may be of further help to you and please fell free to call me at any time. My phone number here at city hall is....

Needless to say, I was thrilled to discover that I could get copies of cemetery records from this contact, even though I was disappointed that I could not access the funeral home records (I wonder what became of them in the Lefurgey - Martin transaction? The Martin funeral home contact says they did not purchase the Lefurgey funeral home, but the cousin says they did...hmmm.).

My next step was to respond to Mr. LaFurgey in Mount Morris with my cemetery record request. But I will leave the results of that until after we discuss James's tombstone records at Find A Grave.

My next Monday Madness post will feature James's obituary. Stay tuned!

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