Family History Research

Death Certificate Discoveries

on June 21, 2010

Death certificates can contain very interesting causes of death, or the “usual” causes of death such as heart disease and cancer. I discovered two certificates for my husband’s Italian side that caused quite a stir in the family when I revealed how these men died.

First we have Fortunato Fratto. Fortunato was born about 1854 in Taverna, Italy. He immigrated to the United States 21 November 1890 and set his sights on Chicago. Fortunato died 31 January 1921 in Chicago, Illinois due to what the death certificated stated as “Hemorrhage due to gun shot wound. Inquest held.”  Wow! He was shot! After the initial shock of this discovery wore off I began to search for records.

Thanks to the work of Northwestern University, the Chicago Homicide records from 1870 – 1930, are in a database located at the Homicide in Chicago website. Their site contains historical background information, an interactive database, crimes of the century and much more. To find my Fortunato Fratto I searched the database. The search options include keyword search, case number, date of offense, victim name, address, circumstances, defendant and relationship between the victim and defendant. The database does include a note that all information was transcribed exactly as it appeared on the records with no corrections being made to the data input. And as we know when researching records, the data on the document isn’t always 100% correct.

The database shows under a search for Fratto, nothing. I had to search several different criteria in order to find his case. When I found it, the name was misspelled as Fortunato Fratts. Not Fratto. The blurb that comes up with the search states, “January 30, 1921 Fratts, Fortunato – Age 55 – Fatally shot 1/29/21 during an altercation with Guisseppe Tellerino, in the latter?s home at 230 W. 25th St. Tellerino escaped. 15 Pct., Case number: 5987, View case details.” Clicking on case details gives more information about the circumstances of the homicide, victim and defendant information.

Take a look at the Chicago Homicide Database. There are lots of interesting cases. You never know what you will find.

Now, on to our second Italian, Charles Murabito. Charles was born 14 February 1882 in Trecastagni, Italy. He immigrated to the United States 30 March 1903 and came to Chicago. He lived a full life, dying 27 October 1933 in Elgin, Kane County, Illinois. I looked for his death certificate on the Illinois State Archives death certificate database.  I searched by Cook County because that is where he resided. It was only when I opened the search to the entire state that I found a possible record for him, in Elgin. When I read the death certificate, the information matched and Charles had indeed, died in Elgin!

Elgin is a long way from Chicago, even by car in 1933, and there was a lot of farm land out that way, so what was a “city boy” doing in Elgin when he died? His death certificate stated the cause of death was, “General paralysis of the insane.” Huh? What is that? A little Googling brought me to understand this was Syphilis. My jaw hit the floor when I discovered this bit of information. Did my husband’s family know this? More Googling brought me information related to the old Elgin State Hospital that no longer exists. This was a mental hospital where the “mad and insane” where taken from all around the area.

My husband’s family found all of this information interesting but also a bit shocking. Can you blame them? I think it is all extremely fascinating. These are the things that make every family different and interesting in their own way.

What interesting Death Certificate Discoveries do you have?

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