Postmortem Records

Undertaker Bill for Chris Miller, Wichita Falls, Texas, 1911

There were often documents created after an individual’s death that may help you with your family research. Don’t overlook these postmortem items. These records may include undertaker’s bills and cemetery monument orders. You may find these records in probate packets, among family papers, in local historical society museums, or among the books and papers of these types of businesses.

Recently I featured Chris Miller in a Tombstone Tuesday blog. Chris was the son of my great grandfather, Jacob Miller and his second wife. After reading the blog my dad sent me copies of two original funeral-related bills from our family.

Chris Miller died of typhoid in Texas in 1911 and this is a copy of the undertaker’s bill. The bill is dated Oct 25, 1911, the day after Chris died. The undertaker was E G Hill. His office and parlors were located at 900 Scott Avenue, Wichita Falls, Texas. Their phone number was 225. Apparently there weren’t many phones in 1911 if their phone number was simply a three-digit number.

The itemized bill from EG Hill:
Casket, $40
Embalming, $25
Suit, $22.50
Shaving, bathing, etc, $5
Transportation to station, $5
Undertaker and Tax [total of above], $97.50 + $1.25 [tx] = $98.75
E G Hill [his signature]
The bill was marked paid on 25 Oct 1911.

It is interesting to see what funeral charges were 100 years ago. But postmortem bills may also contain valuable information when a tombstone no longer exists, as in the example below.

The grave marker of Landon Bennett, Joe’s great-great-grandfather, no longer exists. The tombstone was located in Ellis Cemetery, south of Montezuma, in Franklin Township, Mercer County, Ohio.  The tombstone of Elizabeth (Grant) Bennett, wife of Landon, is still in row 11 in Ellis Cemetery. Landon and Elizabeth’s stones were originally side by side. Here is a transcription of the original order for their tombstones, dated 15 June 1871:

The undersigned has bought of Joseph Flanery a set of grave stones about 2
[hand written between the lines]: Cap  6 feet   6 in Sqr   6 in   Marble    Clasped Hands on Cap
Feet high, 6 inches wide, 6 inches thick, of Italian Marble with
Two inscriptions Book in Hand & Bird and inscribed, Landon
Bennett. Died May 31 1866 Aged 57 Yr 6 M
15 Days and Elizabeth wife of Landon Bennett
Died Feb 4 1871 Aged 64 Yr 8 M 19 Days
With such extensions or abbreviations as may be necessary, which he agrees to receive
In Elis [sic] G Y Mercer County, any time when
Delivered after the Dec 1 next, at Nintyfive [sic] Dollars Balance in
Three months from date of delivery.
H B Bennett, adm. [his signature]

Landon & Elizabeth (Grant) Bennett gravestone order, 1871

H B [Henry Brandenburg] Bennett was Landon and Elizabeth’s son and the administrator of their estates. The copy of this document was given to me by another Bennett researcher, Juanita Kellerman. I am not sure where the original was located but I suspect it was in Landon’s probate packet. Unfortunately, Landon’s probate packet cannot be found today and his tombstone no longer exists. There is no probate record of his death because Ohio started recording deaths in 1867, the year after he died. So this one document is a very important one. It is the only document that I know of that records Landon’s date of death and his age at the time of his death. This record would be considered both a primary and secondary source of information. A primary source because Henry B. would have known when his parents died and a secondary source because Henry would have known their birth dates second-hand.

Another example of a record created after death is this original monument order. This order is from Dabbelt & Birkmeier Marble and Granite Works, Delphos, Ohio. It was for Maria R. Muller, daughter of J & C Muller [Jakob & Christena Muller]. Maria died 10 March 1905, aged 21 years, 17 days. The grave marker was to be made of Blue Marble and the order gives the size and details of the stone and base. It was 4 feet, 6 inches high. The name “Muller” was to be on the west side in large letters. It was to be delivered to Zion’s Cemetery on or before September 1905.  The cost was $55 and it was signed Jakob Muller, RFD #1, Willshire, O. My dad is in possession of this original record. This would be considered a primary source of information because Maria’s father, Jakob Muller, the informant, would have known when his daughter was born and when she died.

Maria R. Muller gravestone order, 1905

We can also see the handwritten signatures of our ancestors on these records. So remember to look through those old papers you may find during your research. You never know what little piece of information they may contain.


Tombstone Tuesday–Jacob Miller (Jr)

Jacob Miller Jr (1886-1913), Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Chattanooga, Ohio

This is the tombstone of Jacob Miller Jr, located in row 7 of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Chattanooga, Liberty Township, Mercer County, Ohio. The stone is inscribed Jacob Miller, 1886-1913. MILLER is also carved on the top of the stone.

Jacob Miller Jr was the second child of Jacob Miller and his third wife, Christena Rueck. Jacob and Christena were my great-grandparents.

ObituaryYoung Man Killed in Oil Field—The body of Jacob Miller Jr, who was killed in the Oklahoma oil fields, was brought back to the home of his parents, who live south of town. The corpse came in over the Clover Leaf Sunday and was met by undertaker H. B. Cowan who removed the body to the parents’ home preparatory to the services which were held Monday afternoon.

The young man was about 25 years old, well known and respected here. The nature of the accident which caused his death has not been reported. The accident causing the young man’s death was that of a falling oil derrick which, though he was at some distance, struck him killing him instantly. (source: The Willshire Herald, 17 Apr 1913, page 1)

Jacob Miller Jr (1886-1913)

ObituaryExplosion of Shale Gas Brought Death to Young Man of this County who was Working in Oil Fields in California. The body of Jacob Miller Jr, who was killed by falling timber following an explosion of shale gas, was brought to Willshire Sunday and removed to the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Miller near Chattanooga. Young Miller was drilling in the oil fields in California when he met his untimely death. He was a young man of twenty-eight years and has been in the west for three years.

Funeral services were held Monday morning at the Lutheran church at Chattanooga, followed by interment at that place. Accompanying the body of Mr. Miller was Christ Brier, who had gone west with the young man. (source: The Daily Standard, 18 April 1913, page 7)

The two above sources disagree on where Jacob Miller Jr died, so I also checked the death and burial records at Zion Lutheran, Chattanooga. Their records indicate that he was killed by a falling oil derrick in Oklahoma. (source: records of Zion Lutheran, Chattanooga, Book II:344)

Jacob Miller Jr never married.


This week, some updates of past blogs.

Re:  Bluetooth Blues, 1 February blog. In the world of technology there is nothing more frustrating than a renegade mobile device. Bluetooth has now ceased communications with my Droid entirely. A few weeks ago I dialed a phone number on my Droid but no sound came from the Bluetooth in my ear. However, I could tell by looking at my phone that the other party’s phone was ringing. I talked, but they could not hear me and I could not hear them. I redialed the number but the results were the same. Then I made the mistake of pressing on Bluetooth in an effort to end the attempted call. Bluetooth took it upon itself to dial one lucky person from my Contact List. In the past Bluetooth usually liked to dial Janet H when it got the chance, but this time the special person was Robin C. I could not hear anything coming from my earpiece. So how did I know Bluetooth had dialed Robin? I heard a little voice coming from my purse, “Hello. Hello.” (My phone was in my purse.) I called Robin back immediately, but how do you explain that your mobile device has a mind of its own and is out of control? A simple apology was best.  At least Bluetooth didn’t call her early in the morning. No more Bluetooth Blues for me. Bluetooth has been relegated to silence in a drawer.

Re: Tombstone Tuesday–Jacob Miller, 29 March. Jacob Miller was my great-grandfather and in this blog I transcribed his lengthy obituary. At the time I did not know where that obituary came from. On a recent research trip to the Brumback Library in Van Wert I discovered that his obituary was in the 5 July 1918 edition of The Willshire Herald. I also learned that there was a short obituary published in the 21 June 1918 edition of the same paper: Jacob Miller, aged 75 Years, residing 5 miles south of town, died Saturday afternoon, June 15. He leaves a wife and five children to mourn his loss. Burial took place at the Chattanooga mausoleum.

Re: I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, Part 2, 10 March. This blog was about Joe’s grandfather, Ed Roesner. The 27 April 1917 issue of The Daily Standard reported that Ed Roesner was married when he lost his arm in the railroad accident. I believe this was a reporting error. I searched the Van Wert probate court marriage records and Ed Roesner was not married in Van Wert County before his accident in 1917. I also found reports of his railroad accident in several Van Wert newspapers, but none mentioned a wife. On his WWI Draft Registration card, dated June 1917, and on his marriage license to Goldie Helen Lee, in 1921, Ed stated that he had never been married.

Re: We Are For the Birds, 24 June. In this blog I told about seeing hundreds of Dickcissels in a neighboring field. This was a type of bird that we had never seen before. About a week after I wrote that blog the little birds were evicted when the farmer mowed the field. Hopefully the Dickcissels were able to relocate to another alfalfa field. On happier note, we recently saw another bird that was new to us and to our lot. A Summer Tanager visited one of our bird baths and perched in a tree long enough for me to get a photo. We usually see some Scarlet Tanagers every spring but we have never seen this Tanager variety.

Summer Tanager, July 2011

Re: Ten Tech Tools and Tips, 13 May. So far the portable scanners have worked very well. I took my Flip Pal Scanner to my Aunt Amy’s a few weeks ago and scanned some Schumm photos. I visited with her while I scanned photos. The nice thing was that her photos didn’t have to leave her house. I haven’t used the Magic Wand Scanner a lot, but some color pages that I scanned turned out great. I will be using both devices this weekend at the Miller reunion. I have asked family members to bring photos and I will be able to scan them right there at the reunion. I just need to remember to take extra batteries.

Re: What I’m Reading Now, 30 January. I have since finished the Hallows series of books by Kim Harrison. There are 9 books in the series so far and I hope Kim continues the series with several more books. I really like the characters and Kim’s imagination. Then I went back to the Southern Vampires/Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris and read Dead Reckoning, the 11th book in that series. It was published in May of this year. The HBO True Blood TV series is based on these books.  I enjoy these books almost as much as the Hallows books. I started a new series a couple weeks ago—Kate Daniels/Magic series by Ilona Andrews. The first book is Magic Bites and I couldn’t put it down. Like the other books I have been reading, these also feature a female lead character, our heroine, who lives in a fantasy world and fights all sorts of evil creatures. These books are set in an alternate Atlanta and they combine fantasy and mystery. Ilona doesn’t come right out and give you all the details of who or what Kate actually is or the circumstances of the setting. You feel your way through and I like that. So far there are 5 books in this series. For me this summer’s reading will include more vampires, shapeshifters, wares, witches and magic.

Tombstone Tuesday–Christian Miller

Christian Miller (1880-1911), Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Chattanooga, Mercer County, Ohio

This is the tombstone of Christian Miller. It is located in row 7 of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Chattanooga, Liberty Township, Mercer County, Ohio. The stone is inscribed Christian Miller, 1880-1911. MILLER is also carved on the top of the stone.

Christian was the second son of my great grandfather, Jacob Miller and Jacob’s second wife, Margaretha Strabel/Strobel. I descend from Jacob and Christena Rueck, Jacob’s third wife.

Obituary: Christian Miller, son of Jacob and Margaretha Miller, nee Strabel, was born Sept. 5, 1880; was baptized in infancy, confirmed as a full member of Zion’s Evangelical church, at Chattanooga, April 21, 1895, by Rev. Sollar. The next eleven years of his life were spent in and near the parental home, where he endeared himself to all who knew him. Since then he had labored in various oil fields in Oregon, California, Oklahoma and recently in Texas. He was a Christian young man, was industrious and saved his money, investing it in properties. There is no doubt that he cherished fond dreams of occupying a home of his own at some future time after his years of sojourning in different States. But God meant that instead of this he should occupy a more abiding home than this could have been—a building not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

After only about ten days’ residence in Texas he was taken sick with typhoid fever. He was taken to the hospital at Wichita Falls, Texas, where two nurses and skilled physicians did their utmost to care for him; but after only twelve days’ sickness he was summoned from these earthly scenes. Realizing the seriousness of his condition, he asked for a pastor of his own faith and when one came he partook of the Lord’s Supper. He also desired to see his father, who was telegraphed for and with his brother, John, hastened to his bedside, but they were disappointed to find him no longer among mortals. He died Oct. 24, aged 31 years, one month and 20 days. Father and brother returned Friday night with the remains and the funeral took place at the Lutheran church, Saturday, conducted by the pastor, Rev. L. Loehr. Interment in the Lutheran cemetery. (source: The Willshire Herald, 2 Nov 1911, page 8 )

Chris Miller (1880-1911) by oil drums

Last Rites: The funeral of Christ Miller, whose death occurred at Wichita, Texas, was held here Sunday at the Lutheran church in Liberty township. The young man was the son of Jacob Miller of Blackcreek township, and was thirty-one years old at the time of his death. He had been working in the oil fields in Oklahoma and three weeks ago went to Wichita, Texas, where he contracted typhoid fever and died in the hospital there. His father and one brother, Pete, Miller, of California, when appraised of his illness started for his bedside, but his death occurred before either reached him. His father brought the remains here where his funeral occurred Sunday. (source: The Daily Standard, 3 Nov 1911, page 3)

Christian Miller never married.

Morrison Photography, Chattanooga, Ohio

Unidentified photo by Morrison, Chattanooga, Ohio

I am not sure how I acquired this photo nor do I know who the gentleman in the photo is. There is nothing written on the back of the photo to identify him. I do not know when the photo was taken either. Basically, I don’t know a whole lot about this photo.

However, there is something very interesting about this photograph–its inscription. The lower right corner of the cardboard frame is inscribed, “Morrison, Chattanooga, O”. Evidently Chattanooga had a photography business at one time.

There have been many businesses in Chattanooga over the years. In a blog a few months ago I listed the Chattanooga businesses that were included in the 1916 Mercer County, Ohio, Farm Journal Directory. Morrison Photography was not among them.

I searched through a number of other Mercer County sources that listed businesses in Chattanooga: the 1882, 1907, and 1978 Mercer County Histories; the 1888 and 1900 Mercer County Combined Atlases; and the Liberty Township Passport, by Joyce Alig of the Mercer County Historical Society, 2008. This little booklet gives quite a long list of businesses that were in Chatt over the years. Morrison Photography was not listed in any of these sources.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s there were several Morrison families living within 2-3 miles of Chattanooga, in Black Creek Township. Chatt is in northern Liberty Township and the Liberty-Black Creek Township line is on the north end of the village.

I also looked through census enumerations for the years 1900-1920 in Mercer County. The Morrisons were farmers then. There were no photographers listed among them.

Morrison, Chattanooga, O

The Morrison photographer could have been from Adams County, Indiana, since Chattanooga is only a mile from the state line.

I would appreciate hearing from anyone that can identify the gentleman in this photo or from anyone that has information about Morrison Photography in Chattanooga, Ohio.