Death certificates can add depth to a family tree, but when the parent names for the deceased are documented incorrectly, it can lead research down the wrong path—especially when contending with a common Irish surname.
The only source with direct evidence naming my great-grandmother Margaret’s parents was a death record from Brooklyn, New York, in 1936, listing her father’s name as Patrick Morrissey and her mother’s name as Margaret Powers. The informant for this death record was Margaret’s daughter Marion (Mary Ann) Lilley. Marion would have been an unreliable source to supply the names of Margaret’s parents, since they had died long before Marion was born.2 No birth record for Margaret A. Morrissey, born around 1870 in Pennsylvania, was found to exist. Official Pennsylvania vital records (birth, death, and marriage) registrations were not enacted in Pennsylvania until 1906, and 1896 at the county level.3 Continue reading Finding Clues in Unexpected Places