Wells Family Genealogy

The study of my Family Tree

17 Dec 2016: Don’t believe everything you read … on a death certificate. December 17, 2016

As part of my research for my new genealogy “how to” book, I ordered copies of my great grandparents (John and Amalia Kranz) death certificates from the City of New York Department of Records.  What I received in the mail, quite frankly, shocked me.  Amalia’s wasn’t surprising but what was listed on John’s is nothing short of baffling.

Death Certificate of John Kranz

Death Certificate of John Kranz

What is so disturbing is the names listed for his parents, Safaya Kranz and Elizabeth Schmidt.  These are not the names of John’s parents.  His parents were Francisci Xaverii Kranz and Elizabeth Hahn.  Yes, this is the correct death certificate for John.  It has his correct dates of birth and death, has his place of birth and profession correct.  It even has his correct address.

So who are this Safaya and wife?

I can only think that at the time of his death, no family was around to provide the correct information to the doctor about John’s parents. We know that John and his wife, Amalia, were estranged and didn’t have contact for long periods of time.  The back of the certificate says that his daughter (my grandmother) Elsie was the one who hired the undertaker to take his body.  His wife was still alive at this time so I have to assume that if she left that task to her daughter to handle, she was not on speaking terms with her husband when he died. I’m thinking the names of his parents on this certificate are nothing more than the result of the doctor wanting to fill in the blanks.

I really wish I was able to make out his cause of death. There is a family story that John died from the result of injuries he suffered while falling out of a cherry tree while picking cherries to make wine.  I heard he hit his head, but the certificate says that he was admitted to Kings County Hospital on June 28th 1920 and died there on September 13th.  That’s a long stay for a head injury.

Here’s John’s wife Amalia’s death certificate:

Death Certificate of Amalia Kranz

Death Certificate of Amalia Kranz

Nothing too surprising here.  Says she died of stomach cancer, sadly that seems to run on both sides of my family.

If anyone is able to decipher the cause of death on John’s certificate, I’d love to hear from you!

-Jennifer

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10 Responses to “17 Dec 2016: Don’t believe everything you read … on a death certificate.”

  1. Erica Says:

    I think it says myocarditis

  2. Luanne Henthorn Says:

    It looks like myocarditis, or heart attack. If he did fall out of a tree, it could have been because of that.

    • jgeoghan Says:

      Thanks Luanne, You could be right. Since he was in the hospital for a considerable amount of time, he may have survived the heart attack that may have caused him to fall out of the tree, but perhaps other injuries resulting from the fall also lead to his long term stay at the hospital prior to his death.

  3. Catherine Nielsen Says:

    Hi, I’m a doctor, and it looks like chronic myocarditis to me. With chronic arthritis as a contributory factor. It is hard to see, so that may be wrong.

    • jgeoghan Says:

      Thanks Catherine, Sadly I have no living relatives that knew John so I have no one to give me any clues as to his health. I’ll always wonder about that cherry tree story. Back in Germany where he grew up, the family worked in the local vineyards so they all knew now to make wine. I was told by a cousin that John’s cousin used to grow his own grapes to make wine.

  4. bakitgul Says:

    If you could send me a high resolution scan of the death certificate I could try but these pictures are too poor to read.

  5. Luanne @ TFK Says:

    Very frustrating. Could he have been in a coma for all that time?

  6. My untrained translation is chronic arthritis – do not understand how that could be the cause of death unless it relates to a fall from a tree in relation to arthritis. By the way – I have finished transposing John Cortland Crandall’s “Elder John Crandall….” to Family Tree Worksheet with additions from FindaGrave – totaling 60,000 entries. Went down some long branches of upstate NYers who converted to the Morman faith that were quite extensive. Frequently ran across the Wells family connections.


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