ancestryink fisherman

Friday, May 25, 2012

"Of William...decoding the death record further"

Once again scouring the death records, this time for the Tobin family of Boston during the mid-late 1800's:

Ellen (Sheehan) Tobin, age 76, died in Boston, Mass. on 29 Jan 1873, according to her death record.* The Ellen Tobin I was researching was married to Robert Tobin, both born in Ireland.  Records show that they immigrated to Boston in 1852 during the peak period of Irish immigration, became established, had family - and passed away there.  Later, their daughter Anne T. Tobin would marry Timothy Connolley of another Irish immigrant family in Boston, and the couple would give birth to Mary Louise Connolley.  This daughter Mary would soon meet William Manning Connell and be married, continuing the Manning/Connell line in Boston - a family whose wealth sprung originally from William Manning, one of the first undertakers in the city of Boston in the mid-late 1800's.

And that is the path of research that led me to Ellen Tobin's death record.  There is nothing particularly remarkable or different about her family or her death, however her death record brings to light an interesting detail worth noticing while analyzing the information from these records.

When a male deceased is listed,  his "occupation" (or lack thereof) is generally listed in one of the descending columns.  A woman will show no occupation but instead, as in the case of Ellen Tobin, will have listed there: "of William."  Females were listed as being "of" their husbands.  It was unusual for a woman to have an occupation outside of the home in the 1800's, and though the reason for this description is probably simply a practical means of identity,  something in my modern female heart still balks at the implication that a woman's occupation in life was listed as being simply the consort, partner, relict, wife, heir-producer, of her husband. 
Ellen Tobin, age 76, "of William"
But let me push aside my mild feminist sentiments regarding a woman's identity in the interests of our genealogical research.

The importance of this detail on the death record, other than the notable change in women's status in our community (and mindsets!)  that has taken place in the last hundred years or so - is the clue provided by this one little description: "of William."   In the case of Ellen Tobin where all other elements of the death record provided credible information for the person I was researching, that one little detail alerted me to the fact that this was indeed the wrong Ellen Tobin.  She was not the wife of Robert Tobin.

So, though we women may somewhat recoil at the reading, even if well over a hundred years ago,  as defined as being "of" our husbands, the information in that one narrow descending column is very valuable in determining true identity.

*[Source Information: Massachusetts, Town Vital Collections, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Vital and Town Records. Provo, UT: Holbrook Research Institute (Jay and Delene Holbrook).]

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