For a genealogist, happiness is sometimes finding an obituary, especially for people who died before official records were kept. Newspaper archives such as Newspapers.com and Genealogybank.com (both require paid accounts) are great sources. Actually finding the person you look for can take a lot of time and creativity in spelling and truncation, but older papers (and older issues) are being digitized and added all the time, even for smaller jurisdictions, and I periodically continue to search for people in my direct line that have holes in their history.
A few weeks ago I wrote about finally finding an obituary for my g-g-grandfather Lemuel S. Goodwin, who died in 1907 in Suffolk, Virginia. I’d been trying to find that information for 45 years. His wife Mary Jane Thach Goodwin (well, his second wife – he had three) was my g-g-grandmother and she was another who died without any records that I could find. He was listed as a widower in the 1900 census, living with his daughter Beulah. Nope, couldn’t find her either, although I did find unsourced family trees at Ancestry that indicated she died in 1901.
Until this week. First I found Mary Jane’s obituary (above) which told me her maiden name and that, though she lived on Market Street with her husband of 42 years, her funeral would be at Bethel Church in Perquimans County, NC. I already knew that both she and her husband Lemuel were born in Perquimans County and had lived there for at least half of their married life. I knew that they had two married daughters living in that county at the time she died. But it was a big surprise to see that the funeral was there, and gave me a clue to look for burial also in the county, probably in a family cemetery (because I haven’t found it yet).
Then I found Beulah’s obituary in a different paper but also from Norfolk, VA. This one made me so sad because it described Beulah as a consistent member of her church, “bright and winsome, young and pretty and had many friends.” She died of consumption, which today we know as tuberculosis. It was was the leading cause of death in the United States, and one of the most feared diseases in the world. It was also the cause of death for Beulah’s brother William, who died in 1899. I still can’t find Beulah’s burial information but am hoping that eventually I’ll find her with her parents somewhere in Perquimans County, NC. For now, I’m happy to know where they died and to give them some closure, at least on my tree.