Sunday, January 12, 2014

When did he die?

I hope you aren’t getting too tired of obituaries because I have another one.  Normally a death certificate is the best source for a date of death.  They are created shortly after the death for the expressed purpose of recording the death.  I don’t think this one is right though.

David Maddox’s death certificate states that he died on 22 Dec 1925 and was buried that same day in the family cemetery.[1] It isn’t all that unusual for someone to be buried the same day as they died but when you see this your radar should still go up telling you that you might need to investigate further, just to be doubly sure. 

Next stop, one of my favorites sources, the newspaper.  I had no problem finding David’s obituary on GenealogyBank and the information in it conflicts with the death certificate as I thought it might.

David Maddox, 40, died suddenly at 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon in front of 2840 Walton Way while enroute to his home, which is about eigth [sic] miles from Augusta on the Wheeler road, in a wagon, accompanied by his son, James Maddox, Jr.  Mr. Maddox and his son, according to police reports, had been in the city selling holly for Christmas decorating purposes, and were going home when Mr. Maddox died.  Funeral services will be held from the residence this afternoon at 3 o'clock, Rev. Robert Keel, pastor of Marks Baptist church, officiating.  Interment will follow in the Maddox family cemetery.  Mr. Maddox is survived by one son, James Maddox; and two daughters, Mrs. Walters Clyatt and Mrs. David Widner, all of Richmond county.[2]

The obituary’s timeline makes much more sense.  One thing that stands out is that he died at 5:00 pm.  If he had died this late in the day it would be even less likely that he would have been buried the same day.  Either his date of death is wrong on the death certificate or his date of burial.  I opt for the date of death.  It appears in this case the the death certificate is wrong and the obituary is right. 


Maddox, David death certificate 1925

[2] "David Maddox dies suddenly in Augusta," The Augusta Chronicle, 22 Dec 1925, p. 5, col. 6.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Very interesting. I agree that the death date on the certificate is wrong. Maybe you can find the funeral home records that will agree with the newspaper article.

  2. Good sleuthing. Just because we find it on an official document doesn't mean it's correct.