Monday, September 27, 2010

Mystery Monday-Estate Papers of Margaret A. Mitchell

© 2010, copyright Michelle Goodrum  Recently I blogged about the Homestead Certificate of my great great grandfather's that I discovered in the Archival Closet. Also among those Mitchell papers were the Final Settlement papers for the estate of his wife, my gg grandmother, Margaret A. Mitchell. This was another of those woohoo moments!

Years ago, I was given a copy of a page from the Mitchell/McDonald Family Bible (whose provenance is completely unknown to me). It said Margaret died 26 March 1911 in Tum Tum, Stevens County, Washington. I have never been able to locate a death certificate for Margaret, even though according to the information I had, she died after death certificates began to be required in the State of Washington (that was in 1907). The Final Settlement papers sort of corroborate the information I already had (they say Margaret died on or about March 1st, 1911 near Tum Tum).

With this new discovery, I decided to take another look and I've noticed something rather interesting. I'd love to know what you think. The Washington Digital Archives has a death record for a Margaret Mitchell who died 19 March 1914 in Spokane.

A couple of points:
  • I find it a little odd that Margaret's estate wasn't settled for over 3 years after she died (that's if you use the March 1911 DOD)
  • The March 1914 DOD of the woman who died in Spokane fits into the timeline of the estate of "my" Margaret Mitchell
  • I was told (this is family lore, if you will) that "my" Margaret's maiden name was McConnell.
  • My Margaret Mitchell's first husband was a McDonald.
  • The Margaret who died in Spokane apparently was the daughter of a Michael Ryan.
  • A copy of a Washington State Death Certificate currently costs $31.50.
I've definitely got some conflicting information. What would you recommend doing next? I'd love to hear your ideas.

Finally, if you happened here because you're researching Mitchells and you know anything about that Bible, please email me at turningofgenerations at cox dot net. I'd love to hear from you!

(Coincidentally, Carol over at Reflections From The Fence wrote a post on finding a marriage record that she had been searching for forever at about the same time these papers appeared. Her story reminded me that tenacity pays off. I found myself rejuvenated after reading her post).


  1. I'd do some research based on what you can see online (is there an obit? Is the Ryan family in a census somewhere prior to this Margaret's marriage? Are there probate notices in the paper that support the 1911 death?)

    But if that didn't crack the case, and I had the $31.50 to spare, I'd order the certificate. I'd definitely want to to get a look at who the informant was in particular...more than once that piece of info has set me on the right track.

  2. Michelle, if you order the City of Spokane death certificate from the Spokane Regional Health District, it will only cost you $20.00.

    If you order the Stevens County death record, it too, will only cost you $20.00, if you order it from the Northeast Tri County Health District.

    Tip: Always see if you can obtain a record at the local level. It nearly always is cheaper than obtaining it at the state level.

  3. A puzzler, for sure. My first step would be to check the census records in 1910 and 1900 (state census, as well if it exists) to see if you could find two Margaret Mitchells. After that I'd probably search for obituary notices, again looking for evidence of two women.

  4. Kerry, Miriam and Nolichucky Roots

    Thank you so much for your suggestions!

    I first did the obvious (thank you Nolichucky Roots) and checked the 1910 census for two Margaret Mitchells. Sure enough there is a second one in Spokane who was born in Canada about the same year as my Margaret. So I'm cooling off on the death certificate for now.

    Miriam, I did not know about the Northeast Tri County Health District. I will give them a call and see what years they have records for.

    Kerry and Nolichucky Roots, you are absolute right on about checking for probate notices in the newspapers. I have to double check my notes but I believe I have looked for obits in the past.

    In addition, I'm thinking I should check for the original probate file with the county (although that is not looking very promising from what I can see. Also, the land records.

    I'll keep you posted. Thank you again for your help!