In the middle of the Great Depression, a small business owner from New York named Donald K. Giddings took on a new job as a clerk at a small department store in Pittsburgh.
His wife and daughter were in college, and he could make ends meet as a grocery store cashier.
Gentry didn’t have much money, but he was passionate about helping others.
In 1939, he began collecting a list of all the people who died while in the line of duty, and when he was done, he had a rough tally of the names.
His research was eventually published in The American Journal of Clinical Statistics, and the list became the basis for the Giddingers’ personal financial record.
Now, every death in the family can be added to the family’s personal death records.
The Giddinger family has collected about 2.3 million personal death statistics.
When I spoke with Gidders in a telephone interview, he described his first death as a “pretty traumatic experience,” but it’s hard to deny that his life has changed a lot since then.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about my family, my life, my friends, my work,” he said.
“And, really, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about myself and my life.
And the biggest thing is, I’m thankful for that.”
The Gaddings’ personal death data has become a valuable source of information about how people are impacted by the Depression.
“You can be a bit of a cynic and say, ‘Well, maybe they should have taken their money,’ ” said Giddes.
“But it’s not like they did that.
They didn’t just give it to you.
They paid it for you.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by the Gaddes’ mother, Ruth, who has been collecting personal death information for more than three decades.
“Every death has its own story,” she said.
But the Gwidings have been collecting statistics for a long time, and it has made them better able to understand what’s happening in their lives, whether they have dementia or not.
“There are so many of us in this world that are living in an environment that has a lot to do with our mortality, and that has affected our lives in so many ways,” Giddess said.
The first Gwidinger family death records The Gwidingers’ own personal death list has more than 2.5 million entries.
The oldest entries date back to 1918.
“The Gwidigers started collecting their own data and were able to sort through that,” Gidden said.
One entry, for a man who died on January 30, 1940, was a record of his funeral service.
The funeral home’s secretary, who died in 1952, told the Gidgins that the funeral home had just opened.
The records show that the secretary had gone to the funeral house to buy some flowers.
When the funeral director returned to the office, he was told that the flowers were for sale, but that there was no money left in the account for the flowers.
“So he just sat there,” Ruth said.
That man died on December 4, 1951, of a stroke.
The family had previously collected death records from the local funeral home, but they were incomplete.
“We started to realize that we had to go out and get them,” Gwidess said of the personal death files from the cemetery in the area where his father died.
“They had not been updated.
We were hoping to get a copy, but we never got one.”
The family then started collecting death records by going to funeral homes and the local police department.
The files are still incomplete, and Giddens has kept the family updated on their progress, but the data has been helpful to him in his research.
“It’s helped me understand how people died and who they died with,” he explained.
“A lot of these people that we didn’t know lived very long, so we could be a little more specific about the date they died and the cause of their death.”
The data also helps the family understand the circumstances surrounding the death.
“In general, the person died of some sort of a heart attack,” Ruth Giddesse said.
A few years ago, the Gidsons got into the habit of making death certificates for the family, so that they could have access to the data when they needed it.
“If they had died a couple of years ago,” she explained, “they’d have gotten the death certificate and been able to see it in person, but when they got a death certificate from the coroner, they’d get an email back from the funeral service, and we would never get to see that information.”
Giddesses also collects death certificates from other local and state agencies, and sometimes they also make copies of the death certificates.
“For example, the Pennsylvania Department of