Yesterday I received Max Brotman’s death certificate from the City of Mount Vernon. It has been quite a task tracking down this document. Although I knew from Judy and the picture of his headstone that he had died in 1946, I could not find any record of his death certificate. There is a public index of NYC death certificates that runs through 1948, so if he had died in 1946, it should have been there. But it wasn’t. Death certificates dated after 1948 from NYC are much harder to obtain; to get Abraham’s I had to use snail mail (!) and a notarized form and fee and self-addressed envelope sent to the NYC Department of Vital Records. I was hoping that I could just obtain Max’s electronically through the Family History Library, which is faster, easier and free. Unfortunately, the FHL does not have non-NYC certificates, and I could not find Max in the NYC register.
I was fortunate to find a volunteer in NYC who checked the paper records and found a reference indicating that Max, a NYC resident, had died “upstate.” But where upstate? It’s a big state! I recalled that Max had had a summer home in Congers, NY, and since he died in late May, I thought that perhaps he had died while up there. I contacted the town registrar in Congers, sent them a written request, check, and envelope, but they sent it back, saying that they had no record for Max Brotman.
So I was stumped. I asked Renee, my mentor, for advice, and she suggested calling the cemetery where he was buried to see if they had a record for where he had died. I called Beth David Cemetery on Long Island, and sure enough, they did have such a record and were willing to divulge where he died without a written letter, check and envelope. They said he had died in Mount Vernon, New York, not far from where I grew up.
I asked Judy if she had any idea what he might have been doing in Mount Vernon at the time of his death. She didn’t know. I wrote to Mount Vernon (yes, a notarized letter, check and envelope), and finally received the long-sought-after document yesterday.
So what does it say? Well, it explains what he was doing in Mount Vernon. He was a patient at the Mount Vernon Convalescent Home, where he was suffering from liver cancer. It looks like he was there for three weeks, as the doctor who signed the certificate had cared for him from May 6 through May 27 when he died.
What else does it report? It lists Joseph Brotman as his father (phew!), but Adda Browman as his mother. That conflicted with his marriage certificate which said his mother’s name was Chaye. And Browman? Is that just a misspelling of Brotman? Or was her maiden name really Browman? I consulted with Renee, and she said that Chaye was often Americanized to Ida, which is close to Adda. (She said immigrants tended to Americanize even the names of ancestors who never left Europe.) So maybe Adda is Chaye? Or maybe Richard Jones, who was Max’s son-in-law and the informant on the certificate, misunderstood or was misunderstood. I don’t know and probably won’t know until I can learn how to research records from Europe.
The good news is that it’s just one more bit of evidence confirming that Max was Joseph’s son. The bad news is that the document brings us no closer to knowing the town in Galicia from which they all came.