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Coles County Deaths: Found and Not Found

Common genealogical wisdom tells us that even though governments outside New England began registering births and deaths in the 1800’s, compliance with the registration requirement was spotty in the early years. This week I looked at Coles County, Illinois death records for 1877-1905. My Reed family pioneered near Ashmore about 1830, and three generations of my ancestors lived there. Cousins have done a lot of research on the family, but holes or undocumented facts remain on the family group sheets. As I looked at the LDS microfilm of the death register book, I found that the Reeds were as haphazard as anyone about reporting deaths. I found just 4 records out of a list of sixteen family members who passed away in Coles County during the time period I searched: Nancy Jane Dudley, George Robert Reed, Caleb Reed, and William Riley Galbreath. Despite this dismal registration percentage, at least these people actually were named in the record. Scrolling through the film, I noticed records of many unnamed babies who died shortly after birth in Coles County. Were any of them Reed babies? Often not even a surname appeared for the child, nor were the parents’ names listed. Not much of genealogical value there although I suppose the county was more interested in documenting causes of death and burial sites. I will add the information I found on Nancy, George, Caleb, and William to my database. Deaths of the other twelve known Reeds, and names of any who may have died young, will remain undocumented for now.

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