Good, Better, Best – Put Your Research Skills to the Test

Good, better, best,
Never let it rest.
‘Til your good is better,
And your better is best!

This jump rope rhyme, chanted on the playground, was an axiom often repeated by Grandma. The message was simple. Whatever you do, always give it your best effort. How does this analogy apply to finding records of your ancestors?

Consider the search for the death records of John R. Wells and his wife Rachel.

Good: A GOOGLE search led to Online Searchable Death Indexes & Records. A statewide index at Washington State Digital Archives validated that Rachel and John both died there in 1949.

Better: An expanded index from Historical Record Collections at provided death date and place, age at death, names of parents, and a reference source. John was the son of Robert Wells (and possibly Mathilda); Rachel was the daughter of Evan Evans and Rachel Davis. Both died in Pierce County, one day apart.

The source listed microfilm and certificate numbers, leading to the original death certificates. The digitized images are not yet online, but the films can be viewed at the Family History Library or ordered from a local FamilySearch Center. The Family History Library Catalog is the gateway to the world’s largest collection of genealogical records.

Best: The death certificates of John and Rachel revealed much more. Rachel was born 29 Nov 1869 in Massillon, Ohio; John was born 4 Sep 1864 in England. Rachel, age 79, married, had been a patient for one week; cause of death, cerebral thrombosis. John, age 84, now a widower, with a heart condition for 51 years, died the following day after having been admitted 2 hrs and 35 minutes. Non medical terminology might reword “coronary occlusion” to read, “died of a broken heart”. Maybe John just could not bear to part with his beloved Rachel.

Statewide registration of deaths came in to play with the use of a standardized form in the early 1900’s. Two fields at the bottom of the form record the funeral home and the cemetery. Both entities created a separate set of records. Arrangements for John and Rachel were handled by the Whitmore Funeral Home in Buckley, Pierce County. Burial took place at the Evergreen Cemetery in Enumclaw, King County.

Never let it rest: The FHL collection led to cemetery records compiled by the South King County Genealogical Society.

The “great reward” arrived in the mailbox from what is now the Weeks Funeral Home. The Funeral Arrangement Sheets gave great historical information and detail of the combined Wells funeral. John, a retired coal miner, came to the U.S. 64 years earlier. He had been a resident of the state for 49 years. Rachel’s parents were born in Wales. She belonged to the Assembly of God Church. They had ten grandchildren and seventeen great grandchildren. The six casket bearers were fellow lodge members. Dorothy Hovey sang “Amazing Grace”, and Mrs. W. played the organ. Best of all seven relatives were listed including married names, relationships and residence.

“Good, better, best...until I find a will, I cannot let it rest!”

Comments (3)

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  1. This is a beautiful old saying that I will say to my grandchildren, and explain just how I came across it. In my researching! Thank-you, for the beautiful story.

    Sharon E Hayes 28 May 2011
    5:10 pm
  2. good article i liked using this site

    lily 24 May 2011
    10:08 am
  3. what an excellent article this is and it has urged me on to find as much information as I possibly can about each of my ancestors. Keep up the good work as you are obviously doing some thing right.

    Robert Gilmour 06 May 2011
    5:52 am

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