Friday, August 26, 2011

Eliza(beth) Bourke/Burk Lanctot - Women's Equality Day

In honor of Women's Equality Day, I thought I would honor one of the pioneer women of Armour, South Dakota - my 2nd great grandmother, Eliza Bourke Lanctot, and give her an equal opportunity to be the focus of my frustration.

This may be a topic for a show on A&E or one of those other cable channels.

Let me explain.

Every time I find some clue about my 2nd great grandmother, Eliza (Bourke) Lanctot, I end up with more questions than answers.  I received her death certificate in the mail a couple of weeks ago and I was even more confused than before it arrived.  Either she was born a bunch of times or something's wrong.
  • 2 Feb 1859 - written on her death certificate  
  • 2 Feb 1860 - calculated using the age at death - 70 years, 10 months, 20 days - and subtracting from the date of death - 22 Dec 1930  
  • 1861 - if you believe the 1880 federal census
  • Feb 1861 - according to both the 1900 and 1910 federal censuses  
  • 1862 - calculated according to the 1920 federal census
  • 1861 - according to the 1930 federal census
  • 2 Feb 1861 - the transcribed obituary lists this date.

For the record, I have not been able to find her original obituary.  The one I have is a transcription from a cousin and doesn't list the name of the paper or the exact date the obituary was published.  I am also still trying to get my hands on a birth certificate for her.  Unfortunately, I can't seem to get a straight answer about WHERE she was born, either!
  • Michigan - according to the 1880 federal census
  • Illinois - according to the 1885 territory census, and the 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930 federal censuses
  • Michigan - so says her death certificate
  • Greenbush, Michigan - her transcribed obituary even pinpoints the town of her birth

So, do I put more stock in the information contained in the 1880 census, when she lived with her parents - who likely would have remembered where she was born?  Or do I simply request her birth certificate from both states and see who has it?  Second problem - Michigan didn't start keeping official birth records until 1867, and Illinois didn't start until 1916.  I vented some of my frustration in an earlier post here.  It hasn't gotten any better.

One of the items on my list of things to do is to find a history of Armour, South Dakota to see if she is listed there.  It's a longshot (because she's a woman), but she was one of the state's few women to own and manage a hotel by herself - Armour House - so, maybe.

Now on to the really bizarre stuff in her death certificate.

She is listed as a white, widowed female ... so far, so good.  
Birthplace: Michigan.  Okay, whatever.  
Father's name: Zenophile.  Wait, what?  
Mother's name: Eliza Burke.  Umm ...

Do you ever feel like you're being punk'd?  Or look around looking for hidden cameras, expecting Allen Funt to jump out of a closet or something?  Welcome to my world.

The only thing I can come up with is that Art (Arthur) Lanctot, Eliza's son, was the informant for the certificate.  I can only imagine that he either misunderstood the questions, and thought the form meant HIS parents - and put Zenophile and Eliza down. I just can't come up with another explanation.  In any case, not such a big help, Art.

I am so completely and totally open to suggestions at this point.  I just want one straight answer.  Someone?  Anyone?  Beuller?


Susan Clark said...

Sigh. Perhaps you can simply accept that she was, in fact, born - most likely on a Feb. 2nd. She is certainly does provide equal opportunities for frustration!

Jenny Lanctot said...

Thanks Susan, I guess I CAN say that I "know" she was born. I'm going to go with Feb 2 until proven otherwise. Hopefully I'll find more information about her while I'm on vacation next week :)

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