Revisiting Emma

As I travel I-95 for work every day, I often listen to genealogy webinars or podcasts to make the miles go by a little faster. This week I heard Angela Packer McGhie, CG talk about document analysis on the BCG monthly webinar from Legacy Family Tree. It may not be the sexiest topic in genealogy, but it’s essential in making sure the work we do is correct.

I decided to take a closer look at a document for my 2x great-grandmother, Emma Caroline Welty Stabley. She was the mother of Eli Bernard Stabley, the subject of a blog post a few weeks back. I love this picture of Emma and her husband Frederick W. Stabley.

photo of Frederick W. Stabley and Emma Caroline Welty Stabley

I’m guessing it was taken around 1930 in York County, Pennsylvania, their home. I can see my dad in Frederick…just a bit. I’m the only one in my family that thinks so, but that’s ok.

The document I chose to analyze was her death certificate:1

Emma's death certificate

Initially, you would want to note why this record was created, is the handwriting legible, etc. It is a digital image of an original record and for this blog, I’m interested in what information is contained in this source to see if I have missed anything. It’s always a good idea when you haven’t worked on an ancestor in a while to go back and review what you already have.

Information is only as good as the informant supplying it. The informant for the personal information was Ralph R. Stabley, Emma’s son. He would have had first-hand knowledge of her name, her husband’s name, and where she lived. The rest of the information would be classified as secondary as he was not present at her birth, etc. He would have been told this information at some point.

On the medical side, the doctor who signed the death certificate was the informant. He would have provided primary information regarding her death date and cause of death, which was old age and cerebral apoplexy (a hemorrhage, or a stroke).

close-up of medical portion of Emma's death certificate.

But then there are codes written in blue that I never paid too much attention to. The codes are 82a and 162. What are they? These are called ICD numbers, which stand for International Classification of Diseases. You can find them yourself at

Code 82a
Code 162

Since Emma died in 1937 the list in effect was the one from 1929. Click on the link and you’ll find the exact entries I included above. These codes come in handy when you can’t read the doctor’s handwriting.

Are there ancestors you haven’t researched in a while? If so, go back and revisit what you already have. With fresh eyes and more experience, you may see clues in the records that help with your research.

Genealogy tip: Many podcasts and webinars are free. Legacy Family Tree webinars are free for the week after they originally air. There are many ways to learn that won’t cost you a dime.

1 “Pennsylvania U.S., Death Certificates, 1906-1968,” database with images,  Ancestry ( accessed 21 Apr 2019), certificate 90494, Emma C. Stabley, died York County, 2 September 1937, image 1752; citing Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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