Focusing too intently on finding “vital” information, such as birth and death dates and places or the names of parents, can cause one to treat ancillary facts as “white noise.” If I had rigorously examined such facts on her mother’s death record, I might have discovered Caroline Jane QUESNELL much sooner.
As it was, I only learned of her existence and that of her older sister from the baptism records of St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Cape Town (see earlier post). She would have been too young to have married before her father, Richard John QUESNELL, moved his family to Port Nolloth sometime before November 1877. Ancestry24.com had published records for four of her siblings who had married in Port Nolloth, including my husband’s grandfather, Joseph Robert. I assumed those records were complete and that Caroline Jane had probably died before the move.
However, just as I was preparing a post based on this assumption, Christine in England e-mailed several documents, one of which showed that Caroline Jane had married a man named Henry Josiah COOPER. This led me to re-examine the records.
It turns out that I had unknowingly encountered Henry Josiah as the informant on the death registration for his wife’s mother, Caroline Jane MCGARRY, who died 14 Dec 1914.
When I first found the record several years ago, I thought that the situation was odd. The death was not reported by the widowed husband, but by someone named H. HOOPER, an “occupier” of the house. A boarder who happened to be present at the time of death? I shrugged and quickly moved on to more exciting and seemingly germane facts.
Experienced genealogists are undoubtedly shaking their heads at my shortcomings in analyzing this record. The surname might look like HOOPER with a flourish on both legs of the H. However, the first letter of the signature is also an H, but with no flourish on the second leg. Hence, the last name does not begin with H. Two visible periods separate initials, indicating that the informant had two given names. Now that I know those two names, the signature quickly resolves itself into “H. J. COOPER” (although I think Henry’s teachers should have drilled him on making a more definite curve for the letter C).
Whatever the informant’s name, it was one I hadn’t seen in my research, which should have led me to investigate further. I did not even ask myself the obvious question: Who is the most logical person other than the widowed spouse to report a death? A child, a child’s spouse, or some other close relative. My assumption about the three known married daughters in the QUESNELL family, none of whose husbands was named COOPER, blinded me to the possibility that another daughter existed and that she and her husband lived with her elderly parents.
Too often we grumble about not having all of the information we’d like about a family we’re researching. If we scrutinized every bit of data in their file, might we not find that we have enough to keep us busy for many hours? At the very least, I shall now be training a magnifying glass on every signature I find.