My 3rd great grandfather, William L. Peters, died 6 Feb 1887 in Pickaway County, Ohio, but his death record had long eluded being found in popular online resources. I learned that it became an Ohio statewide law to record deaths in 1867 and that each county’s probate court was responsible for recording the death as a single line entry in a register between 1867-1908. Deaths that occurred after December 19, 1908 are recorded by the Ohio Department of Health in a certificate format.¹ So, William’s death should have been recorded at the courthouse. I wrote to the probate clerk to see if it was there. In February, I received an email and was told it was not there. How depressing.
Still, it bugged me and sat in the back of my mind for months. I knew it just had to exist! I had found multiple news articles online detailing his sickness, the doctor being called in from another bigger city, and his sons being called to his side in his final days. I even found his obituary but I desperately wanted his actual death record in hopes that it would give me more clues to solving where the Peters originated from.
I am not an advocate of buying genealogy CD’s online and I’ve even written an article about it for AncestorCloud before they become a part of ProGenealogists. However, knowing that I wouldn’t be back in Ohio any time soon to go to the courthouse in person to look, I got desperate and bought a CD off eBay of Pickaway County Deaths 1887-1908. I hated myself for doing it because I know I could go get the info myself, or pay someone to go to the courthouse, but this was cheaper than paying a genealogist to go find it for me. Eh, in the end, I justified that it was only $15.00 even it was a total bust.
The disk came and well, it was as bad as feared. The disk was a PDF filled with photographs of the probate book pages but they were not searchable. No one had bothered to transcribe them even; it was just raw photographs. Immediately dismayed, I still flipped through each page looking for my grandfather but it was for naught. Even though he died in 1887, his death was not there. Goodbye $15.00!
Then one night, I had a really strange, random thought while drifting off to sleep. What if by chance, it was recorded in an earlier book? I mean, it shouldn’t be but what if it was? So I went back to the same vendor and reluctantly bought an earlier book for deaths between 1879-1886. I received this CD and sat at my PC with the same dread feeling it wasn’t going to be there… but IT WAS! Right there on pages 220-221… a single line entry for William L. Peters who died of “stomach troubles”.
And then despite being overjoyed that I found a very long sought after record, I got quite annoyed at having wasted $30 on two CD’s when the clerk’s office had the very same info in their office. I sent the clerk a note to politely tell her what page and book it was found on along with informing her that I saw several other 1887 death entries in the 1879-1886 book. Perhaps nobody even noticed that before…but they should have. How many other researchers were told a record wasn’t there when it actually was but just in the wrong book? In any event, I hope the clerk takes notice and is able to help more people who are looking for their ancestor’s records.
So, be tenacious, be persistent, and be thorough in your search for records. More so, go with your gut feeling. I just knew it was there and it was!
¹ Ohio History.org