The fifth in a series of posts revealing the fallability of records, even “official” ones.
What’s right with this death certificate? Annie Simmons‘ name — more or less, as she seems to have been called Anna in her youth. Presumably, her date and place of death. Her birthday may be right, though the birth year is probably three or four years late. She was certainly female.
But she was not white.
Annie Simmons was mixed-race, described as “mulatto” in early life and “colored” (and even “African”) thereafter. She is consistently classified in census records in two states (North Carolina and Indiana) and a province (Ontario), as well as her marriage license. The local newspaper avidly carried news of her husband Montraville Simmons’ antics and was quick to point out his non-white status. (She was certainly married, if unhappily.)
(By the way, Basedow’s disease is more commonly known as Graves’ disease, or hyperthyroidism.)
Annie was probably 54, rather than 50, and she was certainly born in North Carolina, but not to “James Harrison” and “Eliza Henderson.” Rather, as is clearly set forth in her application for a marriage license in Duplin County NC, her parents were James Henderson and Eliza Armwood. Montraville Simmons probably had not seen his in-laws in more than 40 years when he gave this information. His errors are perhaps excusable, but there they are, enshrined as “fact” and forever leading researchers astray.