In earlier posts, I have wrote about the challenge of learning much of anything about my great-grandparents Jacob Sylvester Agin and Mathilde (Tillie) Miller.
I know from census data that they married in 1892 or thereabouts – but I have not been able to locate a marriage record. I know that they raised a family in Kingston, N.J. and then later moved to the larger nearby city of New Brunswick, probably when the quarry where Jacob worked closed down.
The couple last appears in the 1920 census. Through a deductive process, that included a review of obituaries for Jacob’s siblings, I surmised that he died before 1930, when his younger brother Charles Augustus Agin died as a vagrant on the streets of Trenton. Jacob is not mentioned as a surviving family member in that obituary or in any of the others that followed.
At the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton, there was a missing reel of microfilm. It covered deaths in 1928 for people whose names started with “A.” So I had a hunch that his death record was on the missing reel.
My breakthrough came when I visited the main public library in New Brunswick. I went to look for some obituaries on microfilm. They have a complete collection of The Home News, the local paper of record.
From the library’s website, I learned the library also had an index card file to New Brunswick’s birth, marriage and death records, including deaths from 1924-1970. I wasn’t allowed to browse through the index cards themselves, which were located in the basement, but the librarian did a search for me and confirmed that a Jacob Sylvester Agin died on May 10, 1928.
I went straight to the microfilm and found my great-grandfather’s obituary, published in the May 11, 1928 edition of The Home News. The left margin is a bit obscured, probably because the newspapers were bound together when they were archived. But it’s not hard to make everything out.
I learned something from this obituary. The last records I had showed him living in New Brunswick, probably working as a security guard. But by 1928, the family appears to have moved across the river to Highland Park or neighboring Piscataway. Jacob never owned his own home or had a lot of money, so it’s not surprising that it was hard to put down roots.
There’s one big discrepancy, though: the article refers to Jacob’s wife Mary when I know it was Mathilde or Tillie. Perhaps this was just an error. Or perhaps Tillie, a German immigrant, went by different names at different times in her life. I know that she survived Jacob and lived well into the 1950s (although, again, I have not been able to learn precisely when she died).
It was interesting (and heartening) to learn from the obituary that Jacob was “well known” in Highland Park and New Brunswick. A related article, published a few days later after the funeral, paints a very positive image of the deceased.
In “Jacob Agin Buried,” published on May 15, 1928, we learn that “the church was filled by the many friends and relatives attesting to the high esteem in which the deceased was held, and the floral tributes were numerous and beautiful.” Was this just standard flowery language? Or was Jacob a popular guy?
I learned something surprising from this article as well. The funeral took place in a Roman Catholic church, St. Paul’s in Highland Park. Was Jacob a Catholic? I have seen no other evidence of that.
Jacob was only 60 when he died. It makes me sad to realized he died only five weeks after his latest granddaughter – my mother Lillian Agin – was born. But I’m thrilled to achieve some closure on the life of Jacob Sylvester Agin.