Death Certificate Tells Unknown's Fatal Story
By Jan Edwards
Let’s take this death certificate I found today (located at the bottom of this post) while searching in South Carolina. It seems to be pretty disappointing if you found it, no name, no parents, but it does tell a story.
The date was August 28, 1915 in a city called Mullins in Marion County, South Carolina.
To the best of his knowledge the Section Master W. P. Martin informed the county that a negro man, a tramp, no known family, and not known in the community, died today in a tragic accident.
The victim lived long enough to tell his story, “about 1 am I took refuge under a box car to get out of the weather.” He then fell asleep. This act ended up being the cause of death as he was crushed by a freight train while he slept.
He didn’t die right away from his injuries. His suffering lasted 3 hours. His final resting place was the Atlantic Coast Line right of way the very day of death. Learn to “GLEAN” all of the data from your documents. Take time to read each column to see what the marks, numbers, letters, or dates mean.
“RE-GLEAN” documents you have had for years seeing what you missed. So many times when we find a document our eyes SEE what we are SEEKING at the time. A name, a date, a place. We miss out on a lot of great information, maybe a hint or a tip.
Take time to find out what words mean, like tramp. It makes the story better (a person who travels from place to place on foot in search of work or as a vagrant or beggar;
synonyms: vagrant, vagabond, street person, hobo, homeless person, down and out).
I like to take the document and make a copy of it, then take a highlighter and as I “GLEAN” the information highlight what I have added to my database. The information you miss will stand out!
Find your documents! Write your stories!
Ancestry.com. South Carolina, Death Records, 1821-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: South Carolina. South Carolina death records. Columbia, SC, USA: South Carolina Department of Archives and History.