From Eliza Duncan English’s 1932 interview:
Thomas and Eliza went to Mendota where they lived with Frank Duncan and his wife. Frank and his wife moved to Des Moines. Thomas and Eliza went with them. Then they came back to LaMoille, Illinois to live with Dr. James Duncan, where Thomas’ wife Eliza Cation Duncan died. Buried at Ottawa, Wisconsin.
I wrote about Eliza English’s interview at the end of this post.
Eliza Cation Duncan died 9 December 1890 in LaMoille, Illinois. She was 73 years old.
Times and ways of expressing deaths have changed – this article from a LaSalle county newspaper, 1890, has an irreverent ring to it these days:
“The aged wife of Mr. Thomas Duncan who has been with her son, Dr. Duncan at LaMoille, had a stroke of apoplexy recently, but the Gazelle reports her as improving. Dr. F. Duncan, formerly of this city, is one of her sons.
Since writing the above we learn that the old lady died.”
Thomas Duncan’s 80th birthday was 2 July 1895.
From the Reporter and Sun newspaper, Mendota, Illinois, 6 July 1895:
“Mr. Thomas Duncan celebrated his 80th birthday at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Dr. English on the Fourth of July. Four of his sons and their families were present. Dr. T. C. Duncan, Dr. D. Duncan, Dr. G. Duncan of Chicago, and Dr. J. C. Duncan of LaMoille. Dr. F. Duncan of Des Moines, Ia. and J. M. Duncan of Dallas, Texas could not be present. Those present had a very pleasant time and promised to gather on his next birthday, should he be spared until that event. We hope he will be able to see many more occasions before he is called away.”
This death certificate has the wrong year for his death. The paperwork was done in January 1896 and the death date is incorrectly noted as 1896 rather than 1895.
I Thomas Duncan of the town of Mendota in the county of La Salle and State of Illinois of the age Seventy Nine and being of sound mind and memory do make publish and declare this my last will and testament in the manner following. That is to say First I give and bequeath to my Grandson William Duncan Five Dollars in full for his fathers interest. Second if in case my beloved Sons Frank Duncan and John Duncan pay said promissory notes that I now hold against them they shall share equally with my other Children. If in case the said notes are not paid by them they are to have the said notes for their shares. Third I hereby direct my Executor to divide equally among the rest of my Children my property Real or Personal after my funeral expenses and other debts are paid. Thomas C. Duncan, David Duncan, James Duncan, George Duncan, and my daughter Eliza English Equally.
Lastly I hereby nominate and appoint my son James C. Duncan as my Executor without bonds and request that my Executor shall keep out enough of my property to erect a suitable tombstone at my grave.
In Witness where of I have set my hand and seal the Fifteenth day of March in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight-hundred Ninety five.
[signed] Thomas Duncan
He refers to his grandson as William Duncan although William was adopted by Alderman and took that as his surname many years before.
There is a note in the file from John Duncan saying he cannot pay back the money he owes.
Obituaries can be gold mines, but we must remember they are not a primary source: they are written by people sometimes long after an event (like birth, marriage, emigration) took place. And the information is often supplied by folks who were not present at those events. Good information – really good hints.
This obituary is full of genealogical information. The most interesting part to me is the following:
Mr. Duncan was the head of the Duncan families in America, who are bound together by this compact, “To perpetuate and honor the name Duncan. The oldest living member is the recognized chief. He shall preserve the family bible and records. To him shall be reported all births, marriages, and deaths and other notable events, by the head of all the families in all countries.”
William Duncan, of Fox Lake, Wis., is now the head in America.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to contact any descendant of William Duncan’s family even though his son, William C., married our Frank Duncan’s daughter, Eva. I do wonder where the family bible is.
His 1895 obituary from a Mendota, Illinois newspaper:
Thomas Duncan departed this life peacefully, after a lingering illness, on Wednesday, December 18th, 1895 at three o’clock p.m.
He was born at Li____hgo, Scotland, July 2, 1815. In 1836 he was married to Miss Eliza Cation, and came to this country in 1846, settling at first near Rochester, N.Y., where he made his home for five years. Since then he has lived in Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. He lost his beloved wife on December 9, 1890, aged 73 years and since her death has made his home with his daughter in this city. Of eleven children born to Mr. and Mrs. Duncan, six sons and one daughter are living, and of the six sons, five are physicians. They are Dr. T. C. Duncan, Chicago, J. M. Duncan, Dallas, Texas, Dr. D. Duncan, Chicago; Dr. F. Duncan, Des Moines, Iowa; Dr. J. C. Duncan, LaMoille, and Dr. G. Duncan, Chicago. The only daughter is the wife of Dr. F. N. English of this city. When Mr. and Mrs. Duncan celebrated their golden wedding in 1886, on that happy occasion there were gathered around them six children and thirty-three grandchildren.
Last July Mr. Duncan passed his 80th birthday, and at that time a happy reunion at which most of the children were present was enjoyed. It was the last reunion on earth. Mr. Duncan’s strength had begun to fail and the end of a long and honorable life gradually came near.
He was the head of the Duncan family in America who are bound together with …pact “to honor and perpetuate the name of Duncan,” the oldest living member is the recognized chief who shall preserve the family bible and records, and to whom shall be reported all births, marriages, deaths and other notable errata for registration. Due notices thereof shall be sent to the “heads of all the families in the various countries.” W. Duncan of Fox Lake, Wisconsin is now the head of the family in America.
Mr. Duncan was a religious man. Of Scotch origin he was naturally a Presbyterian and to the church of his youth he clung during his life. He was well versed in the scriptures, passages of which he frequently repeated. He was a kind and loving parent, an industrious citizen, well and favorably known by all. The last five years of his life have been spent in our city, and until within a year he was frequently seen on our streets. He was always glad to see his friends, and his pastor was ever a welcome visitor, and he loved to talk of religious things, especially such as related to the church of his ancestry and choice.
His funeral services were conducted by Rev. Theo. H. Allen and…[illegible]
Some images from the probate packet showing expenses. I like to see the letterheads used by the sons.
From Eliza Duncan English’s 1932 interview:
Thomas then lived with Eliza and Frank [English] in Mendota until his death. Buried in Ottawa. (Also buried at Ottawa are grandmother’s grandfather, William Duncan, father of Thomas Duncan, and James Cation, father of Eliza Cation Duncan, and Jane Duncan, grandmother’s infant sister) William Duncan and James Cation’s wives are buried in Scotland. Thomas was the oldest in his family.