Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I found my grandma's baby at the Library of Michigan.

Recently I was looking through some papers that belonged to my grandparents, Rosmer and Evelyn Kerr, and I found this little birth announcement for their daughter Mary June. I'd heard my grandmother speak of Mary June many times. Evelyn had given birth to four daughters, but raised only two, my aunt Bonnie and my mother. In telling the story of how my mother was named, Evelyn explained that she'd promised God she would name her child after the Blessed Virgin, if only he would let her live. She did not want to lose another child. She'd given birth to a stillborn baby already, and she'd also given birth to Mary June.

This birth announcement is filled out in my grandfather's handwriting. Mary June weighed seven pounds at the time of her birth on 21 March 1918. Evelyn later added the birth time, 1:30 a.m. She may have done so only a couple days later, when she added a sad notation on the back of the card. Mary June had died on March 23rd, having lived only two days and four hours.

Thanks to the Library of Michigan, death record images from 1897-1920 are available online. Wondering exactly what had caused Mary June's death, I typed her name into the search engine at Seeking Michigan. Hundreds of results came up, so I narrowed the search from All Collections to Death Records 1897-1920. Because the search engine pulls up every Mary, every June, and every Kerr in the records, there were still hundreds of results. An Advanced Search option is offered, and I took it.

The Advanced Search is a pretty awesome tool. You can construct your own search criteria. Because Mary is such a common name, I tried searching for a death record listing the father's given name as Rosmer. Using that as my only search criteria produced the record I wanted, which had been incorrectly indexed as Mary Jane Kerr even though the handwriting on the certificate very clearly says Mary June.

Death Certificate of Mary June Kerr
The above link will take you to a printable version of the document.
Detroit, Michigan - 23 March 1918

According to this record, Mary June died due to non-closure of the foramen ovale. This raises as many questions as it answers, in my mind. Since this is a common abnormality and it's quite possible to live with it and never even know you have it, was it merely a contributing factor in her death? Did it cause her to have a stroke or something? Did the doctor come to this conclusion after an autopsy or was it just a guess? If she'd been born now instead of then, could her life have been saved?

The death certificate raises another question too. If Mary June was born at 1:30 a.m. and lived two days and four hours, the time of her death would have been 5:30 a.m., but the death certificate says 11 a.m. (at least I think that's an A). Which is correct: the birth time according to the mother, or the time of death according to the certificate, or both?

I wonder if there's a birth certificate in that box of papers.


Don't forget! Wednesday, August 5th: Hands Around the Library. Join us if you can!

1 comment:

Apple said...

How sad that she lost not one, but two babies!

I'll be with you in spirit tomorrow!

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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