Saturday, October 29, 2011

Is the Genea-Zombie Virus in Your Family Tree?

By Centers for Disease Control (CDC) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
We all know about Genea-skankery thanks to Kerry Scott of ClueWagon. Today, I discovered a new virus, the Genea-Zombie virus. For those not in the know, it's when an ancestor continues to be involved in relationships long beyond when the time they're laid to rest.

While filing today, I realized I didn't have a death certificate for my maternal 4th great grandmother Hannah Ann Lightsey Rice (1847-1927). So I headed over to Georgia's Virtual Vault to get one. It only took a minute to find it and while looking it over, I noticed that I had never put her burial place into my genealogy program. After doing so, I clicked my way to FindAGrave to see if she had a memorial.

I was delighted to find that a memorial had been set up for her. Since family members tend to be buried near each other, I searched the cemetery for other Rices and came across her son, my 3rd great grandfather Aaron H Rice (1872-1958). All looked well until I happened to notice that the wife linked to him was not my 3rd great grandmother Martha Jane Register Rice (1872-1962), but another woman.

I was curious about this other wife because I knew that his wife Martha had outlived him and, as far as I knew, they had never divorced. So I hopped over to the other woman's memorial to check things out. Her name wasn't familiar and she was born in 1917, making her younger than most of his kids. She only passed a few years ago in 2006 so I decided to see if I could dig up an obituary.

I read through the obituary and was surprised to note that the husband of this woman was still living at the time of her death. If Aaron was her husband, this meant one of two things. Either Aaron found the fabled Fountain of Youth during his years in Florida or he was one of the undead aka a zombie. You see Aaron was born in 1872. To still be alive in 2006, he would have been 134 years old or one of the undead for 48 years.

As it turns out, Aaron wasn't a zombie. He lived to just a few months shy of his 86th birthday before dying and he's stayed dead all these years. The woman's real husband was another Aaron H Rice who was born in 1924. The person that linked the memorials apparently hadn't looked too close.

In a weird coincidence, the Aaron H Rice that the woman was supposed to be linked to turned out to be a grandson of my 3rd great grandfather. His father, Perry Franklin Rice, was a brother of my 2nd great grandmother Minnie Rice Hayes. So, what started out as a mistake by someone else actually ended up helping my research in the end.

I'm actually a little disappointed. Zombie or not, if I had access to him, I'd be pumping him for facts on the family. I'd want to know what happened to his dad who disappeared between the 1870 and 1880 census, who the Rice children buried in the same cemetery belong to and was his father-in-law really a deserter from the Confederate Army.

So have you found zombies in your research?

Note: I did contact the owner of the woman's memorial and it has since been corrected to link to the correct man. This is just another example of why you should always double-check anything you find written about your ancestors. Someone might not have been paying attention when they were writing or, in my case, linking memorials.

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