I recently received the death certificate for my second great-grandfather, William Monroe. This is a significant find for me, as no one in the family had any idea of when or where he died.
William Monroe was born about 1850 in Scotland and came to the U.S. sometime before 1888, the first year I have been able to find any record for him in the U.S. William’s son, William Hart Monroe, my great-grandfather, was born in Scotland in 1880. He first appears in the 1900 LaSalle County, Illinois census, as does his brother, James, and his mother, Annie. Everyone in the family had always assumed that William Monroe came to the U.S. and went directly to LaSalle County. However, that was not the case.
To find out when he died, I searched in indexes for LaSalle County and for the state of Illinois. I knew he died sometime between 1881 (when he appeared in the Scotland census) and 1910, when his wife Annie appeared as a widow in the LaSalle County census. The search through LaSalle County records turned up nothing. The search at the state of Illinois’ online database turned up too many William Monroes (and Munros) to be of any help. In addition, none of the Williams listed had died in LaSalle County. I searched land records in LaSalle County trying to place him there at a specific time, but found nothing in either the Grantor or Grantee indexes.
I then decided to research other family members. I started by researching his wife Annie. A visit to the LaSalle County Genealogy Guild turned up the probate file for Anna [Annie] Monroe. Inside that file was a court transcript of the Proof of Heirship. In the court testimony, Annie’s son James testifies that his father, William Monroe, died “March 12, 1895, I think”. Returning to the state of Illinois’ database, I searched again and found a William Monroe who died 12 March 1895 in the city of Chicago. I immediately sent for the certificate, but wanted to do some more research to be sure I had the right person.
Since the 1890 census does not survive and William died prior to the 1900 census, I started by looking at the Chicago city directory for the year 1895. I did not find a William. I did, however, find an Annie Monroe listed. Beside her name in the directory was ‘wid. William, h 218 Centre av.’. I traced Annie forward in the city directories through 1900. She does not appear in the 1901 directory. I also traced William back through the directories to 1888. Each time, he is listed with an occupation of stonecutter. The 1881 Scotland census also lists his occupation as a stonecutter. It looked like I found the right William Monroe. As an additional check, I looked at the 1900 census for Cook County, Illinois. Annie Monroe is listed, at the same address as is in the city directory. All of the information on the census corresponds with other information I have for her.
When I received the death certificate in the mail, I confirmed that information on the certificate corresponds with information I already know, such as William’s occupation as a stonecutter, his place of birth being Scotland and his place of death listed as 218 S. Center (sic) Av., the same address where I found his widow, Annie. The bonus for me, however, is that the death certificate lists his place of burial as Calvary Cemetery, which is on the border of Chicago and Evanston, Illinois. I am looking forward to visiting the cemetery to see if I can find his grave site.
What started out as a seemingly hopeless task – finding William Monroe’s death date – has turned into a fascinating story. I am not sure that he ever was in LaSalle County, Illinois. Through city directories, I was able to discover when he came to Chicago, where in the city he lived and how long his widow stayed in Chicago after his death. I am continuing my research on William, hoping to find out more about his life. He died at a very young age – 45. I believe he lived a very interesting 45 years, however.