Confirmation with a bit of mystery…isn’t that always the way?
Analyzing evidence is an art as much as it is a science. Not every thing is a slam dunk because we are always dealing with information provided by human beings. Information with bias or best guess affected by faulty memory. And then there is the challenge of reading unfamiliar handwriting. Graphologists nod here!
I just received two death certificates from New York State in today’s mail….for my paternal 3rd great grandparents, Jonathan Bowker (1798-1891) and his wife Emeline Powers Bowker (1806-1888) of Lansing, Tompkins County, NY. Through past research I pretty much proved my Bowker and Powers lineage, but since the Bowkers died after New York State began to require death certificates, I thought it worth spending the $22 each to secure an official document. Names. Check. Dates. Check. Places…almost check. And parents…Check with a mystery.
Jonathan’s father, John Bowker (1771-1855), was purported to be born in Ulster County, New York, but his son’s death certificate states his father’s birthplace was “Mass”. Both make sense as John’s father and mother (Silas Bowker and Esther Hobbs) were from Massachusetts and migrated to Ulster County where Silas was a scout in the Revolutionary War. So…this is one of those toss of the coin at this point.
As for Emeline’s death certificate…everything checks out with my research evidence. Except I cannot read the handwriting that states her mother’s first name. My research shows that her mother was Ruth Roberts, second wife of Jacob Powers. And everything points to it. Jacob’s first wife, Rhoba Tabor, bore him ten children, but she died in 1804 and is buried in Sharon, Connecticut. He then married Ruth and fathered at least five children with her…including Emeline.
But! (isn’t there ALWAYS a ‘but’) Emeline’s death certificate isn’t clear and it even looks like it says “Phebe” which I know isn’t right…could it say Rhoba? Ruth?…it just doesn’t look like it. Not even close and I am pretty good at this. I take into account that my 2nd great grandmother, Sarah D. Bowker Case Johnson, cared for them in their elder years in her home and so I assume she would know these family details. But then…could Phebe be Ruth’s real name and she chose Ruth as her ‘familiar’ name? After all, the Powers were Palatine immigrants to the Hudson Valley who were originally Pauer. Her grandfather was Joest Power with no “s” and he was often called Justus in Dutchess County records. Or could the good doctor have interviewed Sarah and in the midst of the bureaucratic necessity of paperwork forgotten and guessed a name to get the chore done and over?
As line number 10 reminds us…
I hereby report this Death, and certify that the foregoing statements are true according to the best of my knowledge. (signed by George Beckwith, M.D.)
Oh my…a genealogist’s challenge….but then we love a challenge, don’t we???
To keep my sense of humor and stay on track, I bow to Mark Twain.
The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.
Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher
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