Is the Death Index a proof of being deceased?

29 Aug

I know, it does sound like a silly question but bear with me for a moment. From what I have learned, death indexes are pretty much useless if you don’t look at the original record but there’s always other ways of verifying information from the indexes. So here’s my little mystery:

Frank Albert Volz was born 8 August, 1885 in Genesee County, New York. His father was a real estate man (a very busy one), Albert Joseph Volz (1853-1937) from New York to Kansas and finally Oklahoma, with the “1889ers” who made the first land run. Frank (or Frank A) followed his father and the rest of his family there.

He founded his first company “Volz & Horigan Undertaking” with his half-brother, Lawrence Timmons Volz, in 1911, then quickly moving on to clerk positions in labor unions in Oklahoma City and accounting in oil corporations.

Volz Horigan Undertaking

Volz-Horigan Undertaking in The Evening Free Press, January 27, 1911, p. 3
Source: http://gateway.okhistory.org

In 1920-1921, he went to San Francisco, presumably as a clerk again. I had found him in the city directories and there was an article in 1921 (Daily News, Batavia, New York. Tuesday Evening, July 12, 1921, p.4. Source: fultonhistory.com) that mentioned him being in California.

He didn’t go to San Francisco for nothing, he met this lovely young lady : Katherine Louise Mcgurk (1891-1981). Now Louise (she wore this name in records for most of her life) was a secretary by trade, and she liked to travel a lot. I didn’t quite know how she got from Malden, MA (her place of birth) to San Francisco and THEN to Tulsa, Oklahoma in the house of Frank Volz. I started backtracking my research and found a record of her in the Simmons College Review (Boston) that told of her departure for California.

Simmons College Review

The Simmons college review. v. 3 (Nov. 1920- June 1921).
Source: Hathitrust.org. p. 365

Then I found her also in San Francisco directories, with her mother Alexina Louise Genereux (1861-1941) living at the same address as Frank Volz in 1923! So this was definitely love: Frank Volz and Louise McGurk got married on the 25th of September 1929, in San Francisco. They left the Golden State and went to live in Tulsa, Oklahoma where I found records of them for 1930 and 1940 in US Censuses.

Thanks to Ancestry.com hint features (when you have a paid subscription), I managed to track them both down again in 1956. They were living in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California (source: California Voter Registration 1900-1968). Now according to the California Death Index (I have double-checked on every site that hosts the database): Frank A Volz died April 6, 1961 in Orange County. His mother’s maiden name is Bissell, which concurs with my data. His wife, Louise M Volz died herself in January 1981, Long Beach. She is buried in the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, in Orange County. Her maiden and parent’s name (Genereux & McGurk) also concur with my data.

Since I had only the death index to rely on for Frank and Louise, I cross-referenced the Social Security Numbers I discovered in the records. First, I had to eliminate a result for Louise; on some databases the SSN for her is that of her husband. I have tracked down hers (using reverse search engines) and using Steve’s Morse Five-Digit Decoder, I now knew that her SSN (565-26-****) was issued in California from 1936-1950.

Then there’s a Social Security Number attached to Frank Volz, it begins with 443-03-****. Still using the decoder, I found that it was issued in Oklahoma from 1936-1950. I tried reverse search on this number but I came up with no results, zip, nada, nothing… Most the time using SSDI or SSN search, it provides me with proof of my initial information: what I don’t understand is how can one database, in this instance the California Death index, give me a SSN that’s seems to be false?! I tried wildcards, switching Frank’s name and surname around, even his birth date and I still have no result for him. Online obituary search has yielded no results as well.

So, what’s your take on this? Can a Death Index database be wrong? Can a SSN be “reused” (if somebody died some time ago)? Do you have any tips or tricks that I have missed?

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3 Responses to “Is the Death Index a proof of being deceased?”

  1. Pierre Lagacé August 29, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    Hard to stop isn’t…

    • Pierre Lagacé August 29, 2014 at 11:48 am #

      Read tomorrow’s post.

    • Marylene August 29, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

      Yes it is!

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