Way back when, I picked up a Brooklyn Death Certificate for George Oakley Yerks from the New York City Archives. He was the great x2 grandfather to Colleen Yerks Hayes, my wife. The Death Certificate disrupted everything I thought I knew about George Oakley Yerks and his parents. According to his Death Certificate, his parents were listed as George _ and Elsie Donlap. My previous research, largely based on Census Record research, had led me to believe that his parents were Lucinda and William Townsend Yerks. For about a year, I aggressively pursued other leads and possibilities with no luck whatsoever. So, With nowhere else to go, I have recently continued Yerks family research on the premiss that my initial Census Record research had been correct. But something still made me feel uncomfortable about that, until this past Monday.
Last week, I acquired two important dates of Deaths for William Townsend Yerks and Emeline Schenck. They came to me by way of Kim at the Onondaga County Public Library. They hold a copy of the Birth, Marriage and Death indexes for the State of New York. “Wm T Yerks” died on August 12, 1900. Emeline Schenck died on March 4, 1939. So armed with that information, I headed over to the Town Clerks office in Bedford, where they both died, in search of the details reported on their Death Certificates. The Town Clerk informed me that it may take about an hour or so to do the research and get everything typed up, so I decided to head over to the Mount Kisco Library to see what I could find on Microfilm about their deaths.
The Mount Kisco Library holds an incomplete set of microfilms for the “Mount Kisco Record” for the years of 1914 to 1940. So that prevented me from finding any obituary for William Townsend Yerks. But I was quickly able to find one for Emeline Schenck. It provided me with the best proof yet that the information on the death certificate was erroneous. I’ve highlighted the more interesting research points below.
Mrs Emeline Schenck.
Mrs Emeline Schenck, widow of Benjamin Schenck, died last Saturday night at her home in Bedford Hills in her 82 year. She had been a resident of Bedford Hills for many years and was well known. She was born in Chestnut Ridge, the daughter of the late Townsend and Lucinda Hadden Yerkes.
She is survived by two daughters, Miss Ella M Schenck and Mrs M McGuhy of Bedford Hills; three sons, William B Schenck of Cranston, RI, Albert Vanderoef, a son by a former marriage and Lewis Schenck, both of Bedford Hills, and a brother, George O Yerks of Brooklyn.
Funeral services were held Thursday afternoon at 2:30 from her late residence, the Rev. J. C. Coddington, pastor of the Bedford Hills Methodist Church, officiating. The internment was in Oakwood Cemetery, Mount Kisco.
So this might not be a primary source of information, but it is the best confirmation yet that the parents of George Oakley Yerks were indeed Lucinda and William Townsend Yerks. Of course, it is still possible that George was adopted, but it does now seem that the information collected on the Death Certificate did not come from any knowledgable source. Perhaps, William B Yerks, the son listed as the provider of information on the Death Certificate, provided the only information known to him at the time. Remember, William Benjamin Yerks was only nine when his grandfather died and sixteen when his grandmother died. So it is possible that he did not know who his grandfather was. And maybe he heard someone call his grandmother by a nickname… perhaps “L.C.”…. short for Lucinda. And maybe he heard it as “Elsie”.
When I got back to the Town Clerks Office, I had the information from the two death records waiting for me which confirmed much of my research.
William Townsend Yerks Death Certificate Information
Registered number: 412
Date Death: August 12, 1900
Name of Deceased: Wm. T. Yerks
Age: 73 years, 7 months, 28 days
Birthplace : Pleasantville
Father’ s nane and Birthplace: Wm. Yerks Pleasantville
Mother’ s name and Birthplace: Marie Yerks Pleasantville
Place of Death: Bedford Station
Cause of Death: Chronic Heart Disease
Medical Attendant: C. F. Chapman
Place Burial: Middle Patent
Emeline Yerks Schenck Death Certificate Information
Registered number: 10
Name: Emeline Schenck
Residence: Bedford Road, Bedford Hills,NY
Sex: Female Color or Race: White, Widow
Name of Husband: Benjamin Schenck
Date of Birth: Dec. 15, 1857
Age: 81 years, 2 months, 19 days
Birthplace: Chestnut Ridge, NY
Father: Townsend Yerks Birthplace: Westchester Co., NY
Mother: Lucinda Hadden Birthplace: Westchester Co., NY
Place of Burial: 0akwood, Mt. Kisco, NY on Mar.7, 1939
Date Death: March 4, 1939
Cause of Death: Carcinoma of Pancreas, Carcinoma of Liver, Anemia – Secondary: Myocarditis, chronic
In addition to confirming my research, I also learned that William Townsend Yerks was buried in the Middle Patent Rural Cemetery in Bedford. This cemetery is closer to the area know as Chestnut Ridge in North Castle and further away from Bedford Hills where he was living. I went to Middle Patent Cemetery in search of his grave, but could find nothing. So I called the caretaker. She did not find his burial in the main recordset, but did find him listed in a set of records defined as “unrecorded”. According to the caretaker, a survey of the cemetery was done in 1914 in which several previously undocumented graves were discovered. The first name and date match William T Yerks, but the last name had several question marks replacing letters on it. This leads me to conclude that the grave marker was basically unreadable in 1914, just 14 years after his death. So it would be next to impossible to find his burial place today.