One of my favorite genealogy finds is the death record for my great-great-grandmother. I had researched the paternal branch of my ancestors for several years before I found it. It was not at all hard to find, so why had I not found it earlier? I did not look for it, because I had been told that she did not immigrate to Denmark with her husband Jacob Söderlund and their daughter Anna Maria Söderlund, who was my great-grandmother. Per family tradition, the mother stayed behind in Finland, and no one knew why, because Anna Maria allegedly did not want to talk about her mother.
Per the 1901 census of Denmark, Jacob Söderlund was then a widower after his spouse had died in 1900.1 After noticing that piece of information, I looked through the parish register for a death record for his wife, whose name I did not know yet - and I found it within minutes. Glassmaker Söderlund's wife Marie Sofie Wikstedt died on 8 May 1900 in Odense, Denmark.2
The death record is one of my favorite finds, because it made me realize three things, which are essential for doing reliable genealogy:
- A church-issued certificate is a derivate record, and it does not necessarily list all the details available in the original record: I have a copy of Anna Maria Söderlund's confirmation certificate, which does not state her mother's name.3 The parish register, which I did not consult until after I found the death record, states her mother's name "Marie Sophie Vigstedt."4
- Family stories are not necessarily true: My great-great-grandmother Maria Sofia Wikstedt did not stay in Finland, because she died in Denmark.
- Even the smallest piece of information is a clue, which should be examined: Jacob Söderlund's marital status in the 1901 census helped me solve this mystery.
Do you have a favorite find in your family history? Share it in the comments below!
- 1901 Census of Denmark, Odense Market Town, Lille Glasvej 5: family 14, head Jakob Søderlund; image copy, The Danish National Archives, Arkivalieronline (https://www.sa.dk/ao-soegesider/da/billedviser?bsid=22797#22797,2666497 : accessed 8 January 2022) > image 15 of 43.
- Sankt Knuds Parish (Odense, Denmark), Parish Register of Deaths 1900-1905, the clerk's copy, page 161, Female Deaths, 1900: entry 123; image copy, The Danish National Archives, Arkivalieronline (https://www.sa.dk/ao-soegesider/da/billedviser?bsid=180646#180646,30661695 : accessed 8 January 2022) > image 164 of 307.
- Anna Marie Søderlund confirmation certificate, citing the parish register for St Knuds Kirke, confirmation on 30 September 1894, issued 8 September 1903 by St Knuds Parish; photocopy privately held by Lene Dræby Kottal, Odense, Denmark. The certificate was passed to her son Erik Kottal (1908-1972) to his widow Marie Kathrine Beierholm (1914-2002), who held the certificate when the photocopy was made about 1999 by Lene Dræby Kottal.
- Sankt Knuds Parish, Parish Register of Confirmations 1892-1901, the clerk's copy, page 241, Confirmed Girls, 1894: entry 144; image copy, The Danish National Archives, Arkivalieronline (https://www.sa.dk/ao-soegesider/da/billedviser?bsid=180642#180642,30660166 : accessed 8 January 2022) > image 240 of 389.