Delilah Ann (Jones) Pfouts | 1826(?)-1904(?)
This blog series explores the lives of Foutz ancestors as revealed in their obituaries. Much of this information was gathered during a March 2011 research trip to Tuscarawas and Harrison counties in Ohio.
When it comes to uncovering the key dates and facts in the lives of our ancestors, the circumstances that resulted in Great-great-great Grandmother Delilah Pfouts dying some seven years before her husband actually throw a suprising share of wrinkles into setting the record straight.
And I bet being a female in the 19th century didn’t help, either.
Even so, we are armed with information from five censuses, a birth record and a death record to help narrow things down. Trouble is, the amount of conflicting information is multiplied by those multiple sources.
Could tracking down her actual obituary, in a helpful binder in the Puskarich library in Cadiz, Ohio, provide a definitive answer?
Well… mostly yes. But let me explain.
My early research into Delilah almost three years ago turned up a birth certificate in the international database at familysearch.org that lists her birth — in Harrison County, to boot — as July 8, 1824. No parents or anything helpful like that to corroborate, but hey. Something.
Trouble is, census records in 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880 and 1900 all peg her age at some five years younger than Great-great-great Grandpa Gideon Pfouts, who is firmly established as being born in January 1822. Which would make Delilah’s birthday sometime in late 1826 or early 1827.
The 1900 census goes so far (thank you, Feds) as to actually ask our dear third great grandma her birth month and year. To which, she, or a helpful household member, happily supplied “December 1826”. Which fits!
But again, the trouble is that the only definitive death record I’ve turned up compounds the errors with supposedly concrete information. That certificate — to which I have only gained access to a transcript, not the actual document: only those between 1908 and 1953 from Ohio are scanned — records the death of a Lilah Ann Pfouts, of Monroe Twp. in Harrison County, on Nov. 26, 1905. It records her birth year as 1824, making her 81 years old at the time of her passing.
Pay attention to the above because some well-meaning soul with the brainpower to grip a pencil got several details dead wrong.
An Obit to Set the Official Record
So, you can imagine my eagerness to pore over the details revealed in the article devoted to Delilah’s death — probably printed in the Cadiz Republican, which used a similar typeface and format to record her husband’s passing several years later.
But alas. Whereas this reporter was once trained as a cub filling in for Saturday obits to follow a strict style guide, which researchers years from now will no doubt praise for its thoroughness, the newspapers of more than 100 years ago were scattershot at best in how they reported the particulars.
That’s on first inspection, anyway. It’s an elegant write-up, which you’ll find recorded below and available in scanned form. But the at-times absurd convention, back then, of recording the years… months… and days… of a life, on second glance and after a routine dip into today’s technology, proves eminently useful. Observe.
The obit reports Delilah’s age as 77 years, 11 months and 13 days, and says she dies on a Saturday, the month and day at least matching the death record I’d found.
Well, every PC these days comes equipped with a calendar, that after clicking around a bit you can set to any date in the 20th or 21st centuries — and use to look up days of old.
Nov. 26 was a Saturday in 1904, document-recorders and blind wastrels. And the whole 77, 11 and 13 bit (provided tedious-days-lived recorders allotted 31 days for the final month) puts Delilah’s birthdate as Dec. 15, 1826. Which matches the census records, matches the obituary and at least justifies that minor byte of memory your PC calendar eats up.
Read all about it:
Died, at her home, Saturday, Nov. 26, Mrs. Lilia Foutz, wife of Gideon Foutz, at the age of 77 years, 11 months, and 13 days.
She had been a patient and uncomplaining sufferer for many years, and yet her death was unexpected.
She leaves to mourn her loss her husband and four sons, one son and a daughter having preceded her to the great beyond.
Mrs. Foutz was a member of the Lutheran Church of Bowerston, and the funeral services were conducted by her pastor.
Her remains were laid to rest in Conotton Cemetery, Monday, Nov. 28.
FADE A WAY.
It may also help that the person who clipped out Delilah’s obit and pasted it into the library binder also scribbled 1904 beneath it. Bless ’em!
As a further key to interpreting the above obituary — the deceased children are daughter Tabitha (died in 1874 at 26 and is buried in Conotton Cemetery next to her grandfather and grandmother Pfouts) and my great-great grandfather, Jonathan Foutz; and the survivors are sons John, David, Nathaniel and Nelson.
So what else was going on in November 1904? Los Angeles took an early crack at lighting its streets at night. Just days earlier, the United States paid $10 million to gain control of the Panama Canal zone. (Construction would begin in March.) In January, the distress signal CQD is established — it would change, two years later, to SOS.