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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Five Pages of Written Testimony

A thick envelope arrived yesterday from the Cook County (Illinois) Medical Examiner's Office. I carried it from the mailbox to my desk with trembling hands. Gone were thoughts of doing the Genealogy Happy Dance. This is my family. Otto V. Mueller is my great grand-uncle. The documents inside this envelope from Chicago contained five pages of testimony telling how and why he took his own life.

Otto's half-sister Alma and two of Otto's neighbors testified that Otto had behaved differently during the week after his divorce. He was drinking heavily and talking about leaving the city he loved. On the night he died, Otto went home, turned a gas jet on high and blew out the flame. He climbed into bed and lay there waiting for the "illuminating gas" to fill his lungs and end his grief. 

How could he know that 99-1/2 years later a woman he had never met would sit at her desk blinking back tears and grieving for him?

3 comments:

Jen said...

OH...MY...GOSH....how did you get that file? How much did you have to bug them or what did your request say? I have never had any luck getting files from them! What is your secret?

Laura Aanenson said...

LOL no secret, sorry! I requested this file twice before (2003 & 2007) with no luck. This time I wrote a brief business-format letter and included a copy of Otto's death certificate. I offered to pay "reasonable copy charges" and provided email and snail mail addresses as well as my work and cell numbers.

After two weeks, I sent a postcard reminder. That turned out to be unnecessary because it crossed in the mail with their invoice. I wrote a check and sent it (with a copy of their invoice) the day after the invoice arrived.

Another two weeks passed. I called the phone number on the invoice to make sure my check had reached the right place. A very nice woman explained that the documents had been tri-folded for nearly 100 years and they were working to flatten them so they could be copied. A week later (and the day after my check was cashed) the file arrived.

Lastly, I sent a handwritten note of thanks. I want the people in the M.E.'s office to know how much I appreciate the difficult work they do.

I hope that helps!

Jen said...

That helps a lot. I'll try that approach because my letters always seem to go unanswered. I knew from Grace DuMelle's class at the Newberry that they are swamped there and you have to contact them almost weekly to ever get anything. But now that you received records there is hope for me to try again!

Thanks!

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