R.I.P., Mary Dahl


Kate took this one during an August visit to Mount Olive Cemetery, up on the North Side of Chicago. It’s where my dad’s people are, and it’s impressive to see such a collection of Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians in one place. Every once in a while–pretty frequently, actually–you come across a headstone that, with only names and dates, seems to tell a story. In this case: the three short lives of Mary Dahl.

Briefly, here’s what I can find through looking at some genealogical records. George and Mary Dahl (nee Marie Johnson) arrived in Chicago from Norway in 1883 and ’86, respectively. George and Mary had several older children, born in Norway. Their first American-born child apparently was Mary II, born in January 1889. A Cook County death certificate (below) says she died on June 28, 1893. The cause: croup, which according to contemporary reports killed hundreds in Chicago that year and was perennially listed, along with diphtheria, another disease that involved airway obstruction, as a leading cause of death for children.

So where does Mary III come in? A Cook County birth certificate (middle document below) lists the birth of a baby girl named Marie to George and Marie (Johnson) Dahl on August 18, 1893. In other words, just seven weeks after the death of Mary II. By the 1900 Census, both Marie, the mom, and Marie, the daughter, are listed as Mary. (If not for the headstone inscription, that could be dismissed as a census enumerator’s error. The 1900 Census also lists Mary I, the mother, as not speaking English.)

My no-longer-quick search doesn’t find any documents for Mary III’s death in 1903. It does turn up a death certificate for Mary I, though, on April 14, 1908, age 59. Cause of death: carcinoma of the stomach. Under “duration of cause,” the document says three years and one month.

Update: I went back to the FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com databases to look again for the death of Mary Dahl III, born in August 1893. This time I chanced across a record on Ancestry that I hadn’t been able to find because whoever wrote out the death certificate (bottom) had misspelled her last name as “Diahl.” She died April 26, 1903, of “brain fever” with a contributing cause of “convulsions.”

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3 Replies to “R.I.P., Mary Dahl”

  1. Did you send away for the death certificates? And, you can get copies of birth certificates? In any event, good research to find an explanation for such an odd headstone.
    I had to street view that stretch of Milwaukee Avenue. Very busy neighborhood, as I’m sure it was back then. Also, it looks like it’s ready for some investment. Maybe.

  2. Not that I have anything to invest. But I’m sure someone’s got his eye on that neighborhood.

  3. Hey, Marie: I found the certificates online through FamilySearch.org; I’m not obsessed enough (yet) to send away for documents about total strangers.
    One thing about the address: The Chicago street numbering system changed starting in June 1908. A number change guide on the Chicago History Museum site shows that 1874 Milwaukee Avenue, where the Dahls apparently lived during this period (though the 1900 Census shows them on N. Campbell Avenue), changed to 1506 N. Milwaukee Avenue. It could be the building right on the northwest corner of Honore — kind of a handsome-looking old place, is the way my dad might put it.

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