Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Value of Obituaries

Obituaries memorializing people in newspapers can be valuable sources of information.  Unfortunately not all ancestors will have obituaries published.  I think the most frustrating ones are the short ones, such as the one I found for my great-grandfather Alexander M. Thatcher, for whom I doubt I will ever document parents.  Uncharacteristically I don’t have his obituary entered into my computer program, but I believe it was two sentences long, stating that he had died and had worked for Owen Paper Company for twenty years.  No birth date, no birth place, no parents, let alone survivors.

I decided to research a branch of my Winchell family, the family of Rachel A. Winchell who married William Francis Boyes 2 October 1860 in the town of Great Barrington, Berkshire County, Mass.  William was 21 at the time and had been born in Hillsdale, Columbia Co., N.Y.  Rachel was a year older and her birthplace was Great Barrington.  I used the census records to find them living in North Egremont, next door to Rachel’s sister Samantha and her husband Isaac Strong.  William was then working as a carpenter.  In 1880 the family is living in Liberty, Susquehanna Co., Pa., and William was a Methodist minister.  In 1900 they were living in Herrick Township in the same county.  His wife Rachel died in 1906.  By 1910 William was living with his daughter Georgiana and her husband George Vanderpool in Queens, N.Y.  The obituaries confirm that William and Rachel only had two children:  Georgiana Boyes born 28 Sep 1865 and Frank E. Boyces, born 3 May 1869, both in Great Barrington.

Mr. Boyce Buried

The body of the Rev. William F. Boyce a retired Methodist clergyman who died on Tuesday at the home of his daughter, Mrs. George V. Vanderpool, of North Eighth avenue, Whitestone, was buried on Saturday morning at Housatonic, Mass.  The Rev. E. E. Beauchamp, pastor of the Whitestone M. E. Church, accompanied the friends and relatives to Massachusetts and conducted the burial service.

Brooklyn Daily Star, 9 Aug 1915

From the above obituary we learn that William’s surname has undergone a change from “Boyes” to “Boyce”.  We also learn when and where William died and that he was buried in Housatonic, Mass.  His daughter Georgiana married a man named George V. Vanderpool and was living in Whitestone, Queens Co., N.Y.

The Rev. William F. Boyce.

The Rev. William F. Boyce, 76, died yesterday at the home of his daughter, Mrs. George V. Vanderpool of North Eighth avenue, Whitestone, Queens.  Mr. Boyce was born in Hilldale, N.Y.  He was a member of the Wyoming Methodist Conference for thirty-five years, retiring from the active ministry eight years ago.  Besides his daughter a son, Frank Boyce of Sidney, N.Y., survives him.

New York Sun

We learn a little more about William’s career as a clergyman.  He belonged to the Wyoming Methodist Conference for thirty-years, so he was ordained by 1877, and retired in 1907.  His son Frank was living in Sidney, Delaware Co., N.Y. at the time of his death.

This next obituary is the type a researcher hopes to find.  It’s got just about everything in there:  date, place and time of death; place and date of birth; parents; early life; career and its pinnacle; marriages; offspring; religion; social ties. 

Frank E. Boyce

After many months of ill health, Frank E. Boyce, seventy-two, editor and publisher of the Hartwick Reporter for the past twelve years, died at his home, at 9:30 Friday evening.
Funeral services were held from the Maxwell Funeral Home at 1 o’clock Monday afternoon with the Rev. Wilfred Lyon, pastor of the Methodist church officiating, assisted by the Rev. L. L. MacClain, pastor of the Baptist church.  Interment was made in Prospect Hill cemetery at Sidney.
Mr. Boyce was born in Housatonic, Mass., May 3, 1869, the son of William F. and Rachel (Winchell) Boyce.  When he was four years of age, he moved with his parents to New York State.
Most of his childhood and young manhood was spent in Oneonta, where he attended High school and afterwards learned the printer’s trade in the Oneonta Herald office. For over fifty years he followed his trade in various communities including Cobleskill, Cooperstown and Sidney.
Following the death of Editor Charles Hitchcock, he became editor and publisher of the Hartwick Reporter in 1929.
March 25, 1896, he married Miss La Sira O. Drake of Bainbridge, who died December 9, 1927.  On October 14, 1929, he married Miss Grace E. Jones of Oneonta, who survives.  The only other survivor is a daughter, Miss Ethel M. Boyce of Hartwick.
Mr. Boyce was a member of the Hartwick Methodist church, I.O.O.F. in Hartwick, Sidney Lodge, F. & A. M., The Royal Arch Masonic Chapter of Unadilla, Hartwick Rod and Gun club and Hartwick Townsend Club No. 1.
Aside from business, Mr. Boyce’s chief interest was hs home, to which he was deeply devoted and in which he will be greatly missed.
The bearers were S. S. Backus, Charles Phillips, H. D. Bilderbeck and William Peterson.
The flowers were from the W.S.C.S. of the Methodist church, the Baptist church, Business men, I.O.O.F., Hartwck Rod and Gun club.  The Hartwick Townsend club, friends and relatives.

The Otsego Farmer and Republican, Cooperstown, NY, 12 Dec 1941

It seems as though William F. Boyce and his family lived in central New York State in the 1870s, moved to Pennsylvania, came back again for the 1880s and 1890s while Frank was growing up, and then moved to Pennsylvania again by the time the census was taken in 1900. Frank became a printer and found steady employment in the area.  He married his first wife in 1896 and they had only one daughter, Ethel.  He became the editor and publisher of the Hartwick Reporter in 1929.  That same year he married his second wife. He was active in the community, belonging to five organizations including the local Methodist church.  He seemed to be popular since two ministers conducted the funeral service.

Mrs. Georgia Vanderpool
Services for Mrs. Georgia B. Vanderpool of Whitestone, will be conducted at 8 P. M. today in Harper’s Funeral Home, 15-35 149th street, Whitestone, by the Rev. Ralph Grieser of the Epworth Methodist Church of Whitestone.
Burial will be in the family plot in Greenlawn Cemetery, Great Barrington, Mass.
Mrs. Vanderpool, resident of Whitestone many years, died Wednesday in the Metropolitan Hospital after a brief illness.  She lived at 3-24 150th street.  She was 75.
She leaves a brother, Frank E. Boyce of Hartwick, N. Y.  Her father, the late William Boyce, was a Methodist minister at Great Barrington.

Long Island Star-Journal, 17 Jan 1941

Georgianna also went by the name of Georgia.  Not only do we know the street address of the funeral home, but also the address of her residence.  We’re also told the name of the cemetery where she was buried.

Deaths in the O-D Parish
Miss Ethel Boyce
Hartwick—Miss Ethel Boyce, 38, 110 Chestnut, Oneonta, formerly of Hartwick, died Mar. 11, 1943, in Fox Memorial Hospital of a heart ailment.
Funeral was conducted Saturday from the Carr and Landers Funeral Home in Sidney.
Miss Boyce was born in Masonville, daughter of Frank E. and La Sira Drake Boyce.  She attended school in Sidney, and after graduating from high school there in 1922, she became associated with her father in his work as editor of the Hartwick Reporter.  After his death, she continued to publish the paper as long as health permitted.  She moved to Oneonta a few months ago.
Surviving is her stepmother, Mrs. Grace Boyce, Oneonta.

Utica Observer Dispatch, 14 March 1943

It’s sad to find an obituary for a woman still young who died early from a chronic disease.  She was also the last member of her branch of the family.  The obituaries document that  her grandparents only had two children, Georgianna and Frank.  Georgianna and her husband had no children since there were none listed in her obituary.  Her niece wasn’t listed either.  Frank only had one child, Ethel.  She never married nor had a child.  However, it seems she had supportive and enlightened parents and stepmother, since she worked with her father at the newspaper after high school graduation and tried to continue on with the Hartwick Reporter in an era that didn’t encourage young women to be ambitious and independent.

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