Proving Death

Do you have civil war era ancestors? If so, have you tried to obtain a military or pension file? Over the years, I acquired quite a few. Unfortunately, it was only AFTER I had sent off for most of them that I heard that one should be sure to request the ENTIRE file. Apparently, requests by mail were sometimes filled with only parts of the files — and the person fulfilling the request made the decisions about what parts of the file were returned.

Well, I can tell you that you definitely need to request the entire file! I requested the military and pension file for Albert Hutchinson early in my days or research. Since the pension application involved his son by a second marriage, most of what I received involved affidavits about his second marriage. After retirement, I again requested this file. This time, I used researchers at American Civil War Ancestor to obtain digital copies of each page of the file.

Buried in the over 80 images from the file were two affidavits from Peter Miller of Wathena. According to the affidavits, Peter Miller sold coffins to Albert Hutchison for his mother and then for his father.

Image 78
County of Doniphan
State of Kansas

I Peter Miller of the County of Doniphan, State of Kansas
being first duly sworn do state upon my oath, that I have been act-
ively engaged in the undertaking business in Wathena Kansas, for the
past Twenty years, And on Jan 4th 1892 Albert Hutchinson Jr. sonof
Albert Hutchinson purchased from me a a coffin in which to bury his
Mother, Julia Hutchison, wife of Albert Hutchison.

Peter Miller

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 10th Day of August 1911

Commission expires Sept 5th 1911 [? Bent]
Notary Public


Image 76

County of Doniphan
State of Kansas

I Peter Miller of the County of Doniphan State of
Kansas, bing first duly sworn do state upon my oath that I have
been actively engaged in the undertaking business in Wathena Kansas,
for the past Twenty years; and on July 22nd 1896 Albert Hutchison Jr
Son of Albert Hutchison purchased from me a coffin in which to bury
his father

Peter Miller

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 10th day of August 1911
[?]
Notary Public

Commission expires Sept 5th 1911

Based on my experience, it is obvious that my request thru the mail did not return the entire file. Thankfully, I requested a digital copy thru American Civil War Ancestor! Otherwise, I doubt I would have ever found documentation for these deaths.

Duplicate or Different

Do you ever check out someone else’s tree to see if they have something that disagrees with what you have? I know I’m usually looking for confirmation, but I appreciate seeing conflicting information. That conflicting information makes me re-look at what I have and to look harder for additional sources to support what I have.

That’s likely one of the reasons I work with the tree on FamilySearch. On this tree, I can look at the changes made to an individual. If those changes differ from information I have compiled, I can message the user making the changes and/or post a discussion about the change.

Thus, I utilize the ‘watch’ button to mark individuals I’m researching. Not only have I marked my ancestors to ‘watch’ but I’ve also marked other individuals in my research that I’m having trouble finding sources. Each week, I get notified of changes to those ‘watched’ individuals.

This morning’s notification list included Eliza Honor Van Valkenburg, the second wife of my ancestor, Albert J Hutchinson. That’s when I discovered that there are TWO of them in the Family Search tree.

Since I haven’t found birth or death information for her, I have no idea which  Honor Van Valkenburg is the correct one. However, I do believe that these are the same women and that they are the same person I have in my database as Eliza Honor Van Valkenberg.

Unfortunately, Eliza (or Honor Eliza) may have been married multiple times. Thus, it becomes difficult to locate information for her since her name changes constantly.

Eliza Phay applied for a pension for her minor son, Elmer E. Hutchinson, based on the service of Albert Hutchinson. This file contains information that helps in identifying some of these marriages. In an affidavit by Eliza Phay dated July, 17, 1913, Eliza Phay states she was married to Henry Nouland prior to her marriage to Albert Hutchinson.

Honor L Vanvolkenberg was married to Henry H Nolen on 25 March 1885 in Doniphan County, Kansas.

In 1893, Miss Eliza Valkenburgh married Albert Hutchinson. The marriage took place August 8, 1893 in Buchanan County, Missouri.

The 1895 Kansas census for Doniphan County shows the family of Albert Hutchinson. Listed in the household are Eliza Hutchison, Howard Noland and Peter Noland.

In 1898, Mrs. Honor E Hutchens married Samuel King in Buchanan County, Missouri.

On 7 August 1900, Mrs. Eliza Nolan was married to John McColgin.

On 23 May 1906, Mrs Eliza McColgin married Osceola Phay.

In 1910, Eliza Phay was listed in the household of Osceola Phay on the census for Buchanan County, Missouri. Also listed in the household was 13 year old Elmer Hutchinson along with Howard Nolan and Peter Nolan.

The family of Osceola Phay and Eliza, his wife is found on the 1920 census living in St. Joseph, Buchanan County, Missouri. Also listed in the household was a son, —– Elmer. 

In the fall of 1923, Oceola Phay petitioned for divorce from his wife,  Eliza. According to the 6 Oct 1923 issue of the St. Joseph Gazette (St. Joseph, Missouri), the divorce was granted by Judge Utz.

The divorce of Oceola and Eliza would explain why records for Eliza are difficult to find after 1923. Since no one has shared a source for her death, it is difficult to determine when she died and thus difficult to determine which Eliza Van Valkenberg is the correct one.