This is a copy of my husband's grandfather's death certificate. We found it online at the West Virginia History and Culture site; older records are slowly becoming available online, a huge help to those of us who can't go to the sources ourselves.
If it had not been for this one piece of digital paper, we would probably be no wiser than we were 2 years ago when we started looking for Larry's family records. This paper, while filled with inaccuracies, was the key to unlocking the rest of the story.
If you can read the document, you'll see that John Holstein (my husband's grandfather) died on April 1, 1940. The person filling out the certificate spelled the last name wrong at first but corrected it. However, John Holstein's father's name is given as Kelby or maybe Kelley Holstein, and his mother as Louis Pain. Louis, for a woman?
After many more hours of searching, we discovered that a lady we did not know, but apparently a distant relation, had been searching for Larry's ancestors too, several years earlier. She had posted some of her work online at Rootsweb. And there we discovered that Kelby was a bad mispelling of Caleb! This lady had it as Calbe and had not been able to find the information she wanted either. However, as we began to search for Calbe Holstein and Louis Pain (using as many variant spellings as I could think of!), I found at last the right names: Caleb and Louise Paine Holstein.
From there I was able to find Census records, and through the online genealogy site, to link the family back to the earliest Holsteins who settled in Kanawha County on Bull Creek. And that family links back to the Holston River Valley, and from there to Philadelphia and further back to Sweden.
But oh, the problems caused by bad spelling. I pity the person who might be looking for Larry's Uncle Ot. If you look at that death certificate, you'll see he's listed as "Auto"!
Have you run into similar problems searching for your family tree? I am glad we got this much done and it certainly changed Larry's ideas about who his people were--he assumed they were part of the wave of immigrants brought in to mine coal in the mid to late 1800's. He also thought they were German, and Confederates during the Civil War.
It was quite a shock to learn they were very early settlers (and possibly among the first settlers in Kanawha County) in West Virginia, had owned land and been farmers, that they were of Swiss and not German descent, and that many of them fought on the Union side of the war. I don't think he's fully reconciled to that yet!