With Heavy Heart, Comparing Ancestor Patriots to Those Who Stormed the Capitol

My blog plans have changed due to the events of this past week.  Originally, I was going  to share a find I discovered by accident on Christmas evening but that will wait. 

When I began Genealogy At Heart, my goal was to post blogs to further the genealogical education of everyone interested in family history.  One of the ways I would accomplish that objective was through sharing heartwarming genealogical finds. 

My heart hurt this week by the lack of respect and the irresponsibility that was shown by the mob that attacked the Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6. Their denial of the truth and their selfish actions are abhorrent.   Although I have only once previously written about my personal political beliefs I cannot remain silent on what occurred on Wednesday. 

I suspect, based on your belief system, you may stop reading this – here’s why you shouldn’t do that and try to keep an open mind.  We can’t pick and choose our ancestors.  You need to be open to all the records of their lives so it would be in your best interest now to practice that today and continue reading. 

A genealogist needs to be respectful, responsible, honest and hard working.  I believe those 4 traits are beneficial to all people in every career field.  Today, I’m providing some genealogical education since it appears, based on the latest poll, that 45% of U.S.Republicans believe that the mob’s behavior was acceptable.  Please know I am not bashing Republicans as my own family had been members since the days of Abraham Lincoln. My intent today is to reflect on the events of January 6, 2021 and compare it to my family research. Wednesday was a historic day for our nation and my family was a part of much of the United States’ history.

As an educator, I often give non-examples to students and I intend to use that method below. 

What is a “patriot”?  Google’s dictionary states its “1. A person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.” 

Those who believe that storming the Capitol is acceptable behavior are calling themselves patriots. Donald Trump and his daughter also used the term, though she deleted it.  I vehemently disagree with them.

I vigorously support my country and I am willing to defend it against enemies/detractors.  The key word is “enemies” which the Google dictionary defines as “a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.”  I am not hostile (unfriendly/antagonistic); those who took part in the assault on the Capitol were and they were violating the sanctity of our country’s rules of law.  The legislators tasked with certifying the election results were not the enemy; they were following the law.  They were voted in by their constituents to do that job.  Those who tried to prevent them from their jobs are the enemies and are not patriots.

An enemy is not someone who merely disagrees with you.  An enemy uses violence because they want it their way and  believe their view is the only one that matters.  Patriots DO NOT act in that manner. 

Here are some examples of Non Patriots and Patriots:

Non Patriot

Photo texted to author by colleague.
Wearing the shirt “Camp Auschwitz” exemplifies being a NON PATRIOT.  There are no words I can use in a family blog to describe someone who mocks the 1.1 MILLION who died at Auschwitz.

Patriot

PATRIOT George Willard Harbaugh (1924-2004) served in World War 2.  He was captured and held by the Nazi regime in Camp Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow & after the notorious Black March, was confined at Camp Wobbelin Bei Ludwigsloft. He earned a Purple Heart.  I knew this Patriot; he would be appalled by what happened on Wednesday.  He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He is my husband’s uncle.

Non Patriot

Photo on site by Simon Davis-Cohen, no photographer noted. Antagonizing those who are serving to protect and defend the citizens of this country who follow the rules of law are NON PATRIOTS.  Granted, this country needs to clean up the folks in blue as not all of them are fit to serve. It is still inexcusable to resort to violence.

Patriot

Patriot George Bryant Harbaugh (1893-1954) served in World War 1.  He was injured at Chateau-Thierry, France on 14 July 1918 & in the Argonne Forest on 1 Oct 1918 supporting France from the “enemy.” He earned a Purple Heart.  He and wife Elsie (1896-1968) to his right, were the parents of PATRIOT George Willard Harbaugh & they are my husband’s maternal grandparents.

Non Patriot

Photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP. Carrying a flag does not make you a Patriot; standing for the ideals of the country does. This clown, Jake Angeli, (clearly man is not the right word; my middle school males are more manly then this person) needs someone with sense to tell him it is not Halloween, he isn’t a shaman, Q Anon is FAKE NEWS,  nor is it appropriate to mock the hallowed halls of Congress.  Screaming is also inappropriate.  Guess he never learned how to choose a positive peer group either based on those surrounding him who are allowing his poor conduct.  All pictured are NON PATRIOTS.  (I just keep thinking – where were the women in these men’s lives? How could you raise a son to act this way? Why would you date/marry someone with these character traits? Come on, ladies, step it up to become Patriots!)

Patriots

PATRIOTS are not found just in the Military.  On 4 Jul 1923 these Patriots were celebrating our country’s independence.  They were immigrants who were mocked for where they happened to be born & the religion they chose to follow, worked their entire lives in dangerous low level jobs, endured a KKK cross burning yet they so strongly believed in the ideals of this nation they became citizens. Left to right, boarder living with my grandparents, my maternal grandmother Mary Koss (1900-1985) & my great uncle Joseph Koss Jr. (1902-1993).

Non Patriot

Getty Images/Photographer unspecified. I have no idea what the above person’s education level is, however, he made a poor choice in breaking into the Capitol. Did he never pass Civics?! That “duh” look on his face shows he has perfected playing stupid over the years to get out of trouble.  Education or lack of it does not make one a Patriot.  Storming the Capitol to interrupt the important business of certifying a national election to attest the leader of the free world is most definitely something a NON PATRIOT would do. 

Patriot
Patriot

My maternal grandfather, Ivan “John” Koss (1892-1970), left, did not have the opportunity to attend even 1 day of school.  He often endured the slur, DP, at his job with U.S. Steel in Gary, Lake, Indiana.  He wanted to become a U.S. citizen so badly but feared he would not pass the test due to his illiteracy.  The girl pictured below him is his daughter Mary Lou (1931-1999).  She tutored him and he successfully passed to become a citizen in 1942.  She is shown on the bike she was given for her help in allowing him to reach his dream.  She went on to volunteer with her chosen political party as an adult for years to ensure that everyone eligible could exercise their voting rights. Even though he had a wooden leg, John hobbled in the cold Indiana weather to vote in every election.  They were true PATRIOTS even though they belonged to different political parties.

Non Patriot

Photo by Mike Theiler, Reuters

Parading into the Capitol with the symbol of racism from THE LOSING SIDE in the Civil War is demonstrating NON PATRIOTISM, along with prejudice, white supremacy, a disregard for the feelings of others AND the stupidity of not realizing that the south lost the Civil War over 155 years ago.  Get over it and stop believing the lie that the war was about state rights.

Truly this is a creepy photo not just due to the fact that it’s the first time the Confederate flag was brought into the Capitol.  You can read more about the men in the portraits and their views on the nation’s divisions in the mid 1800’s.

Patriot

My 1st cousin, 3 times removed, Jacob Wilson Parrott (1843-1908) was left orphaned at age 10. He later became a private in the Union Army, Company K, 33rd Ohio Infantry in 1861.  He volunteered in 1862 to infiltrate Confederate lines and hijacked the locomotive, The General, from Atlanta, Georgia.  He was successful in destroying the train, however he was captured and severely beaten 110 times in an attempt to make him talk.  He refused to be broken and later  escaped.  Captured again, he was exchanged in a soldier swap.  He was taken to Washington, D.C. where he met President Abraham Lincoln and was the first recipient of the Medal of Honor. This PATRIOT, like John McCain and George Willard Harbaugh who were captured, was not a “loser” as the current individual residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would call him.  A loser and Non Patriot is someone who incites others to “be worst!” and then watches the events unfold from safety. In other words, they are cowards.

Non Patriot

Photo by Saul Loep/AFP/Getty Images. If you are  proud while breaking the law you are a NON PATRIOT. Taking what doesn’t belong to you makes you a thief, aka criminal. This individual did not come to unite the country but to take home a souvenir. Shallow and selfish!

Patriot

This is the grave marker for my immigrant 2nd great grandfather, Henry Kuhn and his wife, Maria Duer.  Henry, born in Bedesbach, Pfalz, Bavaria arrived at 16 in the U.S. At age 30, in 1862, he joined the Union Army & served as a private in the 45th Regiment, Ohio Infantry, Company 1 in the Civil War.  He didn’t have to, he wanted to. He is a PATRIOT and I am proud to be a Daughter of the Union Veterans because of his belief that our country be “UNITED.”

Non Patriot

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Image. Richard “Bigo” Barnett of Gravette, Arkansas – you are a NON PATRIOT.  Poor baby, was it too long you had to stand that made you have to sit at someone’s desk and put your feet up? You are not even close to being George Patton Reincarnated as your Facebook page is titled.  Taking mail that doesn’t belong to you makes you a thief.  Leaving a quarter doesn’t make it right. Your actions show your lack of character. You would think by age 60 wisdom would have been involved but clearly Small Minded Bigo has none .

Patriot

Like Henry Kuhn, PATRIOT Samuel “August” Samuelson (1839-1908) was an immigrant from Stora Haddebo, Vastra Harg, Ostergotland, Sweden who arrived in the U.S. at age 12 with his family.  Settling in Indiana, he chose to join the 73rd Indiana Infantry Regiment as a private in the Civil War.  He was seriously wounded and left for dead at Stone River, Tennessee but he survived.  Although he suffered the remainder of his life from his injuries, this PATRIOT refused to give up and went on to become a prosperous farmer.  He is my husband’s paternal 2nd great grandfather. You would never have seen this man breaking into someone’s office, rifling through their belongings and putting his disabled leg up on their furniture.

Result of the actions of a Non Patriot

CNN article by Harmeet Kaur, no photographer noted. Vandalizing property is only done by NON PATRIOTS. Destroying historical property is only done by thugs and idiots. No “good” person would act in this manner.

Patriot

My husband’s 2nd great maternal grandfather, John A. Long, (he was the grandfather of Patriot John Bryant Harbaugh) so hated slavery that he was run out of Morristown, Jefferson, Tennessee at age 16 because of his views.  Relocating to Indiana, he decided to enlist, at age 49, as a teamster with Union Army Company I, Indiana 9th Infantry Regiment.  His experiences took him all the way to Texas.  He mustered out on 28 September 1865.  John Long demonstrates you can be a PATRIOT at any age.

Non Patriot Action

Photo by Melina Mara/Washington Post. Leaving a mess behind for someone else to clean up is what a NON PATRIOT does. Did no one ever teach this group to leave your area better than how you found it?

Patriot

Leonard Harbaugh (1749-1822), my husband’s 5th great grand uncle, was a carpenter who helped build the original White House, the contractor for the War and Treasury Buildings and the Foreman of Carpenters for the Capitol after it needed to be restored due to the previous siege by the British in August 1814.  He and his wife are buried in the Capitol Cemetery in Washington, D.C.  I can only imagine how that PATRIOT would have viewed those who vandalized his hard work. Bet he always left a clean job site!

Non Patriot

Jenny Cudd – seriously, grow up.  You are a NON PATRIOT and act like a spoiled child. As a white woman you sicken me! Maybe you need to think about your actions as it probably explains why you weren’t elected mayor in Midland, TX in 2019.  Kudos to your community to seeing what you represent.

Patriot

Above is the grave marker from Covententer’s Cemetery, Jackson, Mahoning, Ohio, of my 5th great grandfather, John Duer (1748-1831) who served as a private in the Sussex County, New Jersey Militia for the Continental Army.  He had a son who served in the War of 1812 and a grand son who served in the Mexican American War.  Clearly, this PATRIOT led by example and instilled in his descendants the importance of protecting our democracy.

Actions of a Non Patriot

Photo by Katherine Frey/Washington Post. Only a NON PATRIOT would think it was acceptable to deface something that does not belong to them.  For all those real Patriots who were injured doing what was right, the NON PATRIOT’s action makes a mockery of what real Patriots endured. This statue purportedly was vandalized with blood. Only a mentally ill person or someone who has no understanding of the dangers of body fluid transmission would do something like this. Guess that explains why the vast majority of the mob didn’t wear a mask or social distance.

Patriot

My husband’s maternal 4th great grandfather, Christian Thomas Harbaugh, a member of the Moravian Church that opposed violence knew it was the right thing to do to stand up to the invading British Army.  Christian was commissioned in Christian Smith’s Company as an Ensign on 29 March 1779 in Frederick County, Maryland.  Putting your country first demonstrates being a true PATRIOT.

Non Patriot

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images. NON PATRIOTS believe stealing is acceptable. You might not expect that from a father of 5 with a physician wife but Adam Johnson from Parrish, Florida thought his white male privilege made him cute and justified his actions.  It does not – he needs to be in jail. He’s a danger to raising those children. I wouldn’t want his wife to provide me medical assistance even if I was near death. He is maskless and not social distancing. When he gets home he can easily spread covid to his family. She needs to lose her job.

Patriot Sadly, there is no picture for Wilson Williams (1754-1831),  my husband’s 4th great paternal grandfather who served in Hempstead Harbor, Long Island, New York’s Militia Company in 1775.  In keeping with his religious belief, his grave was simply marked with a stone that has disappeared over time.  He is buried next to his wife in the Dutch Reformed Church Cemetery, Long Island, New York. Family lore states the Hessians invaded his home but were driven out as the soldiers thought the fireplace was possessed by the devil.  It actually was chestnuts, stored on a niche in the fireplace, exploding from the fire.  Wilson and his sons were able to use the Hessian’s arms to keep them from returning.  What a PATRIOT!

In my family tree, I have more than the 12 Patriots I have highlighted above but these were the individuals that came to mind as I watched in horror on Wednesday at the events unfolded at the Capital.

My Patriots were NOT perfect people, just like every other human.  They did, however, strive to do what was right for their country.  I honor their courage and spirit.  As you reflect on the events of the past week, please think of your Patriot ancestors and pledge that you will follow in their footsteps.  We have a lot of work to do in this country and now is the time to get involved.

Lessons Learned From A Past Pandemic

My backyard poinsettia is in full bloom, the radio is playing holiday tunes and I should be baking and partying with those I love.  Except I’m not.  I hope you aren’t either. With a reported 16,000,000 million cases and nearly 300,000 deaths in the U.S. from covid as of today per Google, I can’t stop thinking about the picture above.  

Yes, it is morbid, depressing and haunting.  Taken outside the Croatian Church, then located on 23rd Avenue in Gary Indiana on the 21 February 1919, the deceased man in the center in the coffin is my maternal great grandfather that I never met because of his untimely death at age 43 of broncho-pneumonia brought on by influenza.  Joseph Kos was one of the estimated 675,000 U.S. deaths from the 1918-1919 H1N1 Pandemic. 

We’re approaching half way to the number of deceased from 100 years ago and we’re not yet close enough to see the end of the spread of covid.  That saddens me immensely!  For all of the advances in health care in the past century you would think the current death rate would be low.  Interesting how we rely on modern medicine when simple old fashioned hand washing, distancing and masks could have significantly lessened the death toll.

My mother, Dorothy Koss Leininger, didn’t remember her grandfather as he died when she was an infant but his death changed the course of her life forever.  History is repeating itself again and still we haven’t learned.  

Joseph emigrated from Croatia, then part of Austria-Hungary, in January 1910.  This was not his first time in the U.S., as he had initially come in 1893 but returned home to marry Ana Katherine Grdenich on 10 February 1895. Family lore says he joined the military and served in the cavalry but after sustaining a kick to his head from a horse while it was being reshooed, he developed epilepsy and was forced to leave the service.  With jobs scarce he decided to return to the U.S. After his arrival in New York he worked as a laborer for the Pullman Company.  He’s found in Chardon, Geauga, Ohio in the 1910 U.S. federal census as an alien speaking no English.  

With his Pullman job, Joseph traveled the country and ultimately ended up in Chicago in 1913.  Residing in Pullman housing, he sent for his wife and two children, Mary, my grandmother, and Joseph Jr. (Josip), to join him.  Ana was soon pregnant and gave birth to daughter Barbara on 14 Sep 1914 in Blue Island, Cook, Illinois.  

Joseph arranged for daughter Mary to wed John (Ivan) Kos, a villager and purported second cousin who had happened to also arrive in Chicago and worked for the Pullman Company. Mary and John wed on 28 January 1917 in Chicago; their first child, my mother, Dorothy, was born in Pullman housing on 14 April 1918.  

The family moved sometime in the latter part of 1918, renting a home at 1521 Garfield Street in Gary, Lake, Indiana.  Joseph and John found work with the I.I.B. Teaming Company which supplied laborers to U.S. Steel Corporation.  To save money, instead of using the available street car, Joseph and John commuted the 1.5 miles to work and back daily via bicycle.  With contract tracing unavailable in those days, it is not known where or how Joseph contracted the flu.  My grandmother believed it was from work which was likely, as the conditions inside the mill were brutal – unheated, with poor ventilation and large numbers of unmasked men toiling round the clock and then riding home exhausted in a cold rain would lower anyone’s resistance to infection.  As an immigrant with WW1 being fought overseas and knowing you are the bread winner your family depends on added further stress.

The last photo taken of Joseph, shown above, shows the funeral attendees maskless and not socially distancing.  I have no idea why.  Perhaps they were mask slackers but I doubt that as my grandmother always washed her hands as soon as she came in from any errand.  I suspect they didn’t know they should.  I suspect that U.S. Steel did not mandate that workers wear a mask.  By clicking through the death certificates on Ancestry I can see many men who worked as laborers dying of the same conditions during the same time period as Joseph.  Possibly Joseph caught the flu from one of the men who died shortly before him, perhaps not.  John also was ill but he recovered.  

The man on the far left of the photo was the funeral home director; maskless, he clearly did not require a face covering be worn.  The man holding the wreath to the back left of the coffin is John Koss, Joseph’s son-in-law.  The young man holding the wreath on the right is Joseph Jr.  Next to Joseph (look closely) is my grandmother Mary, hidden by a black veil. I like to think she was the only one with any sense to wear the face covering but knowing her well, I think her choice was due to a fashion statement.  Next to Mary was her mother, Ana, Joseph’s widow.  The others in attendance were neighbors and parishioners of the Croatian Catholic Church.  Missing was my infant mother and Barbara, Joseph and Ana’s youngest daughter.  Who was watching those girls is unknown.  

How Joseph’s untimely death affected my mother was profound, though as a baby she was unaware of the event.  John became the only breadwinner in the family and with the loss of Joseph Sr., the family’s income was cut in half.  Joseph Jr. was forced at age 17 to leave school and seek work.  Money would become even tighter as Mary was pregnant with her second child, Anne Marie, who would be born 6 months after Joseph’s death.  

More tragedies came in quick succession to the family – a scarlet fever epidemic that infected both children required the family to quarantine.  With no money for a physician, my grandmother relied on her neighbor’s home remedy advice to treat the family.  John then had to have a leg amputated as a result of an injury at the mill.  When recovered, he could no longer ride his bike to work and had to spend money on the street car. The KKK threatened the family and burned a cross in the empty field in front of their home.  A fire started by a candle caused extensive damage and burned my mother’s only toy, a doll.

A little over 10 years after Joseph’s death the Great Depression hit.  John’s wages were cut, the family took in boarders, raised vegetables, rabbits and chickens to survive but it wasn’t enough. Dorothy, as the eldest, quit high school at the start of grade 10 to work in a hardware store.  Her lack of a diploma hindered her job prospects for the rest of her life.  

During the current pandemic I’ve been thinking a lot about the 1918 one.  If Joseph hadn’t succumbed to the flu would my mother have been able to finish high school?  She had always aspired to be a dietician but going back to school was out of the question.  Her working enabled Anne Marie and her younger siblings, George and Marilou to obtain their diplomas.  How would my life have been different if my mother had found a career she loved and that paid better than the minimum wage jobs she held?  Would I be the frugal genealogist I am today if money hadn’t been so tight while I was growing up?  

My memories of my great grandmother are of an old woman always wearing black who sat quietly in deep thought.  What was she thinking about?  Never remarrying after the man she loved so dearly died, she spent the next 47 years of her life residing with her adult children, changing residences every few years depending on the needs of their growing families.  If Joseph had survived, how would her life have turned out?  

My grandmother, the apple of her father’s eye, missed him the rest of her life.  His death was a loss that could never be replaced.  The extra burden of being the sole breadwinner put a strain on my grandfather, John.  Would his health have been better and would he have lived a longer life if Joseph had lived?

The pandemic fatigue I’m feeling is put into perspective whenever I compare it to the 1918 pandemic my ancestor’s experienced.  I do not want my adult children to miss my husband and I as my grandmother missed her father for the remainder of her life. I do not want any grandchildren I may someday have to wonder about the grandparents they didn’t get the opportunity to know.  I’ve learned from my family’s experiences that thriftiness is beneficial.  I don’t panic over shortages of goods.  I’ve always kept a fully stocked cupboard and supplement with my garden.  My children do the same. 

The holidays will be different from past ones for all of us. In a season that personifies hope, I’m remembering the past and hope 2021 will be brighter.  I am taking the next two weeks off from blogging but will return in the new year.  Be smart – stay safe!

That Creepy House in Your Neighborhood

It’s October and even though 2020 has been a nightmare, it’s my annual month to blog about the creepy in genealogy.  Last week, I wrote about my new neighbors and this week, I got another new set as a family moved into the rental next door. 

When you were a kid, I bet there was a house in your neighborhood that the older kids told you was haunted or where a witch or a monster lived.  In my memory, there were two homes that I was warned to stay away from late at night.  (In reflection, I was never let outside late at night so why in the world I would be afraid is beyond me today.)  

The first house supposedly had been used during the Civil War as part of the underground railroad.  Late at night, anguished crying was heard coming from the basement.  

The second house, though, was only two homes east of my grandparent’s house.  It was on the main road, route 6, and set far back from the street.  The small front yard was overgrown with vegetation and even midday from the sidewalk, you couldn’t really see a house.  My one year older than me neighbor, Carol, insisted that monsters lived there and would eat children.  She heard this from her older wiser brother, Tony.  She dare another neighbor, Raymond, and I with walking up the front door and knocking on it.  We must have been about 8 or 9 years old.  I took the challenge but only got a few steps toward the house when I turned and ran back to the safety of my friends.  Raymond got about as far as me and also turned back.  When we challenged Carol to do it, she shrugged and said she wasn’t stupid and wouldn’t take the risk.  

Just like holding our breaths when we passed a cemetery (ironic, isn’t it, as genealogists we certainly don’t do that now!), we’d stop breathing when we rode our bikes or roller skated past the house.  Later that summer, on the wooden telephone pole on the south side of the sidewalk, a nail had been driven into the pole and lots of leaflets hung down.  I ripped one off to read it with my friends but we didn’t understand most of what we were reading.  We decided it was dangerous so we ripped all of the papers down and debated what we would do with them.  Should we leave them on the ground?  That was littering and not good.  Should we take them and throw them in a garbage can?  But if they had a spell on them we would be transferring it to our home.  Guess it never occurred to us to walk around the block, down the alley and place it in the spooky home’s own garbage cans.  We opted to leave the papers on the ground.  

Shortly after, my mother somehow got wind of what we had done.  Perhaps our next door neighbor, Mr. Bauer, had spotted us or our loud arguing over what to do had alerted her that something was up, since no one had air conditioning in those days and everyone knew everyone else’s business.  I was so proud of myself for fighting “evil” I told my mother I had ripped down a pamphlet and it was from the monster and we were stopping others from getting eaten.  I remember the pained look on my mom’s face.  She told me I must go back, pick every pamphlet up and put them back where I found them because there was this law that said there was free speech and I was breaking it.  Huh?!

I didn’t like disappointing my mom and now I was afraid as my friends weren’t with me for back up on my newest quest.  I tried to get out of it by saying I would do it after lunch.  Mom said no lunch until I did the right thing.  I told my mother if I never came back for lunch it was because the monster ate me.  She told me, as she had many times before, no monster was going to do that.  She said she would accompany me and I immediately felt better.

I picked up all the papers though some had blown into the street.  She retrieved those.  We tidied them up and I couldn’t reach the nail nor did I have the strength to punch the paper through the head.  She ended up doing that for me; one pamphlet at a time.  We then went home for lunch.

Over lunch, mom asked me why I thought monsters lived there.  I related Carol’s story.  She told me that two people lived there, an elderly widow and her invalid son.  We should respect their delicate condition.  After lunch, she told my friends the same thing. 

Carol must have told her parents as the next day she told me that her parents said my mom was liar and that the family were monsters.  Calling someone else’s mom a liar was fighting words and things got heated.  We didn’t come to blows but we did huff off mad at each other.  

At home, I told my mom what happened and she laughed.  I saw no humor in the situation.  I wanted her to tell Carol’s parents they were liars.  My mom sat me down to explain that people have different views of life and that Carol’s parents had fled Spain’s dictator, Franco, just a few years earlier and that they would consider a Socialist sympathizer a monster which evidently, was what was on the pamphlets.   That afternoon my mother explained political systems.  Prior to then, my understanding was democracy was best and per the the nuns in school, we should always thank God for not being raised in communist Russia because there, the government made children tell on their parents who prayed at home and the parents would be killed.  

So before I start getting hate mail, my mother was a staunch Republican.  Those long dead nuns probably wouldn’t be happy with me for thanking God that my mom didn’t live to see the current state of the world but that’s really what I’m most glad for this week.

Today, I live between two families who are strongly supporting opposing candidates.  My neighborhood is up in arms over one of the signs that has a word I would not publish in my blog and is visible to children who play in the park across the street.  Others are saying it’s free speech. The neighborhood association rules prohibit political signs but the board refuses to act.  

When the world gets to be too much, I find solace in genealogy.  I always get insight from those dusty records and the lives of the deceased.

I decided to do some genealogical sleuthing to discover info about the occupant “monster” from my childhood neighborhood.  It was a good way to take a break from my own brick walls (had a major disappointment that I’ll share in the future, sigh) and learn a little bit more about the people I knew as a kid.  

I approached the task the same way I would with a client; writing down everything I did know.  Using Google maps I got the address.  Looked at the property tax records which wasn’t very helpful since the family I was searching was long gone.  From previous experience, I know that most of the city records are missing; when the city went into foreclosure the county requested the property records but not all were delivered according to county officials.  The city officials dispute that (of course). I would also have tried to check the vertical file at the library but unfortunately, the city has shuttered all of their libraries due to financial difficulties.  

Using online sources only, I began to investigate the family residing in the home.  Census, death certificate info, immigration records and family tree information gave me additional information to ponder.  I never met the family that lived in that house in the 11 years I lived two houses away.  I now have a greater insight on them; they really did have a difficult life.  

Maybe the answer is praying that more people take the time to learn from the past so we can all have a harmonious future.

Synchronocity and my Roots

It’s been a rainy, windy week in my area with Tropical Storm Cristobal passing off shore.  I spent my free time catching up on two books I’ve always had on my “To Read” list but never got around to checking out – Henry Z. Jones’ Psychic Roots and More Psychic Roots.
If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you know I occasionally write about the unexplainable and downright weird things that happen to me when I am deep into a genealogical research problem.  I get a hunch, am driven to reach out to follow through on that thought and voila, a long lost photo or document or knowledgeable individual miraculously provides me what I am seeking.
Several years ago, one of my blog posts was selected by a major organization to be featured in their newsletter.  One of my dear readers and the editor of the newsletter both suggested I ready the books but I was so involved with other projects, I didn’t have time. I finally made time when I saw that both titles were available through genealogical.com which I subscribed to for 3 months during the pandemic.  
Does reading about coincidences increase them?!  It seemed to work for me this week.  Perhaps it’s like opening a communication link. You have internet access, however, if you don’t go on you’ll never be connected to the wealth of information out there.  That’s my take on how this all works and you’ll see why in a moment.
I really enjoyed reading the events that others experienced, especially when I have met some and others are my followers.  One of my husband’s distant ancestors was also mentioned, Thomas Harbaugh and his wife, Polly.  Thomas’ story always was one of my favorite Harbaugh recollections so I wasn’t surprised that his descendants would have a strange event when they sought information on him.
Just like the author cannot explain his passion for Palatine research, I can’t explain mine for the Harbaughs.  I’m not one, bloodwise.  Some have married into some of my related lines but the connection hasn’t been close.  The Harbaughs’ are my husband’s maternal line.  I was never close to my mother-in-law and his grandfather had passed before I met him.  Why did I take the time to enter every bit of Harbaugh data into our family tree?  Beats me but I was (and am) obsessed.  I would work late into the night entering information and trying to connect all the Harbaughs in the US since the 1947 Cooprider & Cooprider book on Harbaugh History was published.  
I’m a quick reader so I finished both Jones’ books in three days.  Each night, I had a genealogical related dream.  The first night I dreamt that the Gateway Ancestor for the Harbaugh’s was not Yost but Jost and if I looked for records for Jost I would find them.  I told my husband the next morning and he laughed, pointing out in German that was probably correct.  I don’t know German and my husband and I have been a couple since our high school days.  He knows that renown Harbaugh historians have puzzled over the oddness of a Swiss first name of Yost.  Did my husband ever mention that the name wasn’t odd at all in German?  Nope.  Later that day I was reading a different book on genealogical.com and sure enough, it explained German names.  Everyone assumes that the Harbaughs emigrated from Switzerland so no one looks at the surname as being of German origin.  In the German book I looked at later in the day, Harbaugh is recorded as meaning being near a brook (baugh).  I’ve read that before but somehow it never sunk in.  The family lived for a time in Kaiserslautern, in the Palatine region of what is now Germany.  How did I miss the obvious all these years?  How did everyone else researching this family?  I don’t know!  This helpful hint from beyond will be useful going forward.
I’ve been working on finding proof for one of my Gateway ancestors, Daniel Hollingshead for a lineage application I submitted.  He is not listed in any of the typical texts that show emigration so I’m required to document more fully.  He left Saxelby, England for Barbados in the early 1700’s, possibly indentured (according to family tales).  He married in 1710 (have the record), wife, Ann from whom I descended died in 1714 (record)  and he remarried in 1716 (record).  The family relocated to New Jersey via Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) about 1720 (land and tax records).  One of his children from his second marriage even moved back to Barbados with her husband.  The rest of the family remained together in the colonies.  I can prove he left Barbados and lived in what is now the US but I can’t prove how he got to Barbados.  My second night’s dream had me standing in front of a mirror but the reflection was not mine, it was blurred, like a computer screen without my glasses.  A male voice told me to look in the mirror and to look “smaller.”  What the heck did that mean?!  I shared that dream with hubby, too.  He laughed and said he thought it meant the information was in front of me but I wasn’t seeing it all.  Hmm.  We’ll come back to how this played out.
After finishing the second book, the third night I dreamt my deceased maternal aunt was taking me to her new home.  We entered the back door into a kitchen and I saw my grandmother and mother.  Everyone was glad to see me and I was taken to the kitchen counter where a box was being unpacked.  It contained the most beautiful clear glass plates I’ve ever seen.  My aunt asked me to help unwrap them and put them into the cabinet.  I thought we should wash them first but she said they were fine.  The bowls were exquisite and I remarked I wished I could find a set like this (on my side of the universe).  I then said they wouldn’t work for me because I don’t have a wooden table but a glass one where they wouldn’t show up well on it.  When I awoke I instantly knew one of my family members will be dying soon and the “move to a bigger house” was to prepare for their “homecoming.”  I don’t know who that will be but I have a hunch between 3 individuals.  None are ill.  I’m keeping my mouth shut to see how this turns out.  In the meantime, my second dream’s meaning surfaced…
Thursday afternoon I got an idea out of the blue to contact a local woman who does British research.  I searched for her email address, which I know I have as I distinctly remember writing it down a few years ago after she gave a lecture.  I couldn’t find it but I did clean up my office!  I decided that evening to email the former president of my local society who I thought would surely have her email.  I hate asking someone to give me a phone or email address without the individual’s permission so I requested he forward the email I would have sent to her.  Three hours later he responded that he had tried but the email bounced back as undeliverable.  He had used it recently and was surprised.  He gave me her phone number and suggested I call.  It was late in the evening and I told him I would follow up the next day and let him know if we connected.  I then sent the email, which didn’t come back as undelivered.  I decided to give her a day or two to respond before I called (since the weather is inclement and knowing our power would be up and down for the next few days).  Knowing that my power would be out is also weird, as you’ll see in a minute.
While writing the email to her I had rechecked several sources I had used to try to find emigration, census and indentured records online.  Typically, I close out any work I’m doing on the computer when I stop for the day to insure I don’t lose anything.  I thought I had done that but perhaps I hadn’t.  
On Friday morning our doorbell rang and an employee of our power company informed us that we were scheduled to get a new meter installed so he was requesting we turn off all appliances, televisions, computers and the air conditioner while he installs the new device.  I distinctly remember walking into our office and turning off my and my husband’s computers, then turning off the A/C.  
The new meter was installed quickly but I was reading on my Kindle so I had no reason to immediately turn the office computers back on.  Later that afternoon I decided to restart mine but I walked away before it was fully up.  
I can’t recall what the reason was that made me go back to my desktop Friday evening because what happened next totally threw me.  I sat down at my desk and saw that the Google was already up on my right screen.  I thought my husband must have used my system for some quick need since his computer hadn’t been restarted.  I clicked and what was displayed was a page from the National Archives of England (shown at the top of this blog).  I remember thinking that was odd since there is no reason my husband would ever have gone to that site.  Something caught my eye on the bottom right corner so I scrolled down and what did I discover?  A link to Caribbean Connections!  I clicked and discovered that an online lecture will be held on June 19th at 2 PM London time.  I immediately signed up for the class.  

You can see for yourself from the top picture above what I saw when I clicked on my Google browser.  I had to scroll down to see the map on the right (shown directly above).  If not, I would have missed it.  
Even odder, how did that website show on my computer when it had been shut down for the installation of a new meter?  I got the eebie jeebie feeling for sure!  I told my husband that the strangest thing had just happened and asked if he had used my computer.  No, he replied.  I then told him his explanation of my dream was correct.  The information was in front of me but I wasn’t seeing it because I was only seeing a small part of it.  
I can’t wait to attend the lecture and I’m hopeful I will be finding the information I am seeking soon.  I love these strange experiences and hope they keep coming.  I hope you find all that you are seeking, too.

Genealogy Food for Thought

Food items in short supply for the last few months seem to be returning to my local grocery store.  For a time, there was no flour, eggs and milk which definitely impacted home made bread and dessert making.  I don’t bake much anymore but I definitely pulled out my old family recipe book to cook up some comfort food while we were home.  

In 2001, as my oldest was about to leave home for college, I compiled a book of our favorite family recipes.  It’s definitely time for a re-do as I’ve acquired many additional ones to add to the old time favorites.  The binding on the old book is also giving out and some of the pages are stained. 

Since I’ve read every book and magazine in my house and on my Kindle, reorganized every closet and drawer, I’m ready to tackle the recipe book as my upcoming summer genealogical project.

You see, I add historical info as background to the cooking instructions.  For example, I tell the story of how Corn Meal Mush came into my grandmother’s go-to recipes when money was tight.  She got the recipe as a young bride from a southern neighbor.  All you need is corn meal and butter – simple and delicious.  

I will definitely be adding a section entitled “Pandemic” and it will contain the improvised methods I had to use when I ran out of staples and couldn’t get to the grocery store.  I don’t want to forget the past weeks – I want to document survival for a future family member.  Whether we’ve turned a corner on covid-19 or not, I can’t say.  What I can say is hope will get us through and I’m really hoping I’ll have this revised recipe collection done so I can give it out as Christmas presents!

Swedish Coincidences

Two weeks ago I wrote about genealogy patience.  This is a follow up that I’m having difficulty writing because I’m so overwhelmed with joy at the moment I can hardly contain myself!  Now this story is also just plain weird and I think proves that the universe has a wicked sense of humor so I hope you enjoy what I’m about to relate.

I have searched for a picture of my husband’s maternal Great Grandmother Lovisa “Louise” Carlson Johnson for years (pictured above with her three daughters).  When a DNA match was discovered two years ago in August I sent an email asking if the match had a picture.  He responded this year on Halloween that he didn’t think so but would check with another family member who had a box of unlabeled photos and would get back to me.  I put it out of my mind as I wish I had a buck for every time a family member said, “I’ll check and get back with you.”  My people procrastinate and they never seem to followup up unless I keep bothering them.  I figured, with the holidays approaching and people getting busy, I’d wait til after Thanksgiving and send a gentle reminder.

I went about my business and was volunteering two weeks ago at a local genealogy library  event assisting interested patrons in finding their roots.  I had helped 2 wonderful retired teachers when things got really slow.  I considered leaving but the event was supposed to continue for one more hour and I don’t like to cut out early when I’ve committed so I decided to bring up Arkidigital.com, a Swedish genealogy site, that is awesome.  I used to belong but found most of my husband’s Swedish records so I didn’t renew.  Since it was free for the weekend I decided I’d revisit and see if they had added any new records.  I was still bringing it up when a new patron stopped by.  So, you can probably guess that the woman had deep Swedish roots.  What a coincidence, I thought, and told her I just happened to open up the free site.  She was interested in discovering information about her great grandfather who settled in Minnesota.  She thought he had changed his name at Ellis Island so she wasn’t sure how to verify the story.

I didn’t need Arkivdigital for that so I went in search of naturalization records and World War I and II draft records to see if we could find a clue.  There it was – he hadn’t changed his name at all.  What she had thought was a last name appeared to be a Confirmation name that he had stopped using between 1917 and 1942.  He had emigrated under the name he had arrived with in the U.S. and continued using it; it is on his tombstone. 

By the time we had found the evidence, the event was ending so I showed her how to go to Arkivdigital to search for his birth record in Sweden.  Turns out, she was also a former educator and she told me a funny story of her attending a conference in Wales several years ago.  I replied I wanted to go there, to Croatia and to Sweden to see family’s old haunts but I couldn’t find a tour that went where my husband and my people lived.  She told me she had gone on a fantastic trip to Sweden through a group out of Minnesota and gave me their website.  I told her I’d check it out when I got home.

On the way home I stopped in a store to pick up a few items and yes, they were already playing holiday muzak.  What was on was Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.  Geez, I thought, what a dumb song.  I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

I got home and told my husband I’d love to go to Sweden next summer and was going to check out a tour group.  Sure enough, the tour went exactly where we needed to visit.  Wow, I thought, that’s coincidence number 2 for the day – the last lady just happens to give me the info that I’ve been looking for.  I sent the company an email.

After dinner I decided I’d bring Arkivdigital back up and search for a bit.  I had my tree up on one screen and the website I’d be searching on the other when an Ancestry little leaf appeared.  As I’ve written several times, I typically just ignore the hints but this time something told me to check it out.  It was for my husband’s paternal great grandfather, Samuel Samuelson, who had died in 1908.  It was a link to Find-A-Grave.  I already had that info but clicked to go to Find-A-Grave anyway.  I’m so glad I did because a man interested in history had recently posted a newspaper story from a Chesterton, Indiana paper that is not available anywhere online regarding the circumstances surrounding Samuel’s death. The information hadn’t been there the last time I looked (so you have to go back and look over sites again or you might miss something important).   I had the death certificate which noted accident – skull crushed but I assumed that was the result of a farming accident of some sort.  Nope, the accident explained that Samuel and a neighbor were crossing a train track when the sleigh they were in was hit by the train.  Both men and horse died.  Okay, so here’s the weird, twisted part – I couldn’t get the reindeer song out of my head.  I was humming it when I read this.  I got a sick feeling – I’m humming a song that’s supposed to be funny but I just discovered someone’s gruesome death in a related accident.  That was the 3rd coincidence that day.  The individual who posted the article had also posted the obituary which said, “…his youthful looks and manner, his good nature, and never failing sense of humor made him a delightful companion…”.  Somehow, I thought he would be amused by this twisted occurrence.  And learning about his personality, the man sounds just like my husband.

By this point I was just done with genealogy for the day so I thought I’d check my email and then call it a night.  There was an email and it was from the DNA match who said he’s get back with me – he had found a few pictures that were labeled and they were of my husband’s maternal great grandma!  It must have been Sweden Day as the photos he sent me were of different stages in the woman’s life.  He promised to send me a thumb drive with all the photos of other relatives he had but warned me that most weren’t labeled.

I just got the thumb drive – my, oh, my, what a wonderful early Christmas present!  There was my husband’s maternal grandparents wedding photo which was also the earliest photo of his grandfather I had ever seen.  

There were photos, labeled, that had stepchildren of his great great grandfather.  There were church records!  Someone had gone to a long closed church and photographed the handwritten membership list.  There is so many genealogical gems that I haven’t even gone through everything yet. 

Oddly, he had even sent photos of my husband’s paternal side of the family who isn’t even his relation.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised but in 1917, they all had attended a wedding for one of his relatives.  Living in the small farming community, it shouldn’t have been surprising a wedding would have brought neighbors together.  I just never expected to find so many of my husband’s great and grandparents in these photos.  

But that’s not all!  I had a grainy photo of the Harbaugh family reunion but I could never make out most of the individuals because someone had moved the camera as the photo was taken.  It was also a far shot and the people were so tiny.  Enlarging the photo only made it more blurry.  Turns out I had the first photo and the photographer decided to take a second shot.  I can tell as the man in the front row far left has turned to walk away from the group.  Unbelievably, the photo I just received has names attached and is clear as can be:

Check out the man in row 2, third from left that looks like Abe Lincoln.  That would be my husband’s maternal great grandfather.  It is the only photo known to be in existence of him!  His wife is right in front of him.  I had a grainy photo of her from a church group shot taken about 10 years before this one.  All of my husband’s great aunts and uncles are also pictured and we never had any of their photos, either!  The mysterious Louisa, who I had originally contacted the DNA match for a photo, is also shown.  

So my patience really paid off and I highly encourage you, this upcoming holiday season, to ask for the stories – photos – documents – DNA tests – that will enhance what you’ve already discovered and give you a more complete story of your ancestors.   Happy Hunting!

The Virtue of Genealogy Patience

Gust Johnson

You know that Bible verse Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it shall be given to you, knock and you shall find?”  I believe it was really written for genealogists.  I would add to it – “though not immediately.”

In August, 2017, I sent an email query to a DNA cousin on Ancestry.  I recognized the surname, Chellburg, and knew immediately the relationship.  I was hoping to find a picture of my husband’s great grandmother, Louvisa “Louise” Carlson Johnson.  Louise had lived in the house my husband grew up in and when my husband’s parents were relocating, I claimed all the photos and letters that had been stored in a suitcase in the basement.  Of course they weren’t labeled.  We were able to identify just about everyone, however, and no photo was ever found to be of Louise.  Maybe she was camera shy or perhaps, when she moved in with another daughter the last year of her life, the pictures went with her.  I was really hoping the last scenario was the case.

Over the years, I’ve checked with all the closer relatives for a photo and no one had one so when the DNA match came up I immediately sent off a message.  Hey, I followed the Biblical directions – I asked and the email served as an electronic knock and then, well, I guess no one was home because I didn’t get a response.

Two years, two and a half months later I get an email back with the answer (paraphrased) – Sorry, I haven’t been on in a while.  I don’t have a picture of Louise but I have one of her husband, Gust Johnson.  I think another cousin, who’s 92, has the photos.  He’s got a lot but none our labeled.

Big surprise there – another box of unlabeled photos.  My husband had actually reached out to the older relative a few years ago but he didn’t respond.  Now I’m hoping that the DNA match can connect with him to find a photo.

I am many things but patient is not in my makeup so the waiting really is the hardest part of genealogy for me.


Rose is Found – But Not In A Likely Location!

I’ve blogged in the past about the weird finds that I make in locations that had no connection to the relative I was searching.  I just had another strange occurrence.

Since I did a surname study, my public Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com trees contain all the Harbaughs in the U.S.  Although they are not all my relatives, I’ve been fascinated with that family since my mother-in-law shared a 1947 book, Harbaugh History, by Cooprider and Cooprider, that contained the family story going back to the immigrant ancestor, Yost Harbaugh, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1720.  I entered the information from the book, along with several older Harbaugh books that were published, into my trees in an attempt to connect all the Harbaughs.  I did this pre-DNA so I still have the lines of 13 immigrants (Herbach/Harbo) I haven’t been able to connect.  Since I have so many Harbaughs and my tree is well sourced, a genealogy hobbyist shared a find she had recently made.

The hobbyist had visited an annual flea marked outside of Gainesville, Florida one Saturday morning and met a newly retired former antique dealer who had sold his shop in Hagerstown, Maryland and relocated to a rural area of Florida.  He decided to sell some of the items he had moved with him to his new home.  One of those items was a photo of a woman (above) and in pencil on the back, was recorded Miss Rose Harbaugh.  A clue to the location where the photo was taken was imprinted by the photographic studio on the front – Hagerstown, Maryland.

The hobbyist had grown up in Maryland and was familiar with the Harbaugh name.  Like me, she is not a relation to the family.  For some reason she can’t explain, the photo haunted her and she decided to purchase it.  Once home, she went on Ancestry.com and found several trees that included a Rose Harbaugh.  The family loves to re-use names – there’s a lot named George and Frederick.  Although Rose wasn’t as widely used (I have identified 37), Rose was often given as a nickname.  In the case of the woman in the photo above, that was what happened – she is really Rosina Elizabeth Harbaugh.

The hobbyist decided she liked the effort I had put into my tree and that it was public but she wanted to make sure that the photograph was returned to someone who would appreciate it’s uniqueness.  It was unique in that no one seems to have a photo of Rosina posted.  Also, Rose was noted to be a “Miss.”  As a single woman in middle age with no children, it isn’t likely she will be remembered.  The hobbyist wanted to find a person who understood the importance of preserving the photo.  Just finding a well sourced tree wasn’t enough for the hobbyist so she decided to check me out online.  She said her decision was finalized when she found my website and my genealogical affiliations.

After connecting with me, the hobbyist and I chatted by phone about our genealogical passions and within a week, the photo was in my mailbox.

Rose never visited Florida but her photo gets to retire there.  The second daughter and sixth of nine children born to Jonathan and Elizabeth Stephey Harbaugh, Rose was born 15 Dec 1838 in Maryland.*  At 22, she remained with her parents and siblings outside of Cavetown, Maryland where her father farmed.  By 1870, the family had relocated to Ringgold, Maryland and Rose was employed as a domestic servant.  After both her parents died in 1879, Rose moved in with her brother, Samuel, and his wife, finding employment as a store clerk.  By 1900, Rose was living on her own; unfortunately, her employment status is unreadable in the 1900 US federal census.  In 1910, Rose was working as a 71 year old dressmaker and living on her own.  She died on 5 Dec 1917 in Smithsburg, Maryland and is buried in Smithsburg Cemetery.

Rose’s photo is a welcome addition to my Harbaugh collection.  One hundred and one plus years after her death, Rose has found a new home thanks to Elaine May for her genealogical act of kindness.

*All information from Harbaugh History, US censuses and Find-A-Grave with full citations on my trees.

Haunted Rose Cemetery

Branch found behind my car between 10-10:45 AM on 11/3/18

I actually planned on writing about an awesome find by using an index that happened to me while I was researching last weekend but an event just occurred that I must get out of my mind.

On this beautiful cool fall morning, a World War 1 Centennial Commemoration service was scheduled at Rose Cemetery in Tarpon Springs, Florida. I typically don’t attend these types of ceremonies because my schedule doesn’t allow it but I got an email message from a neighborhood list that I’m a member of Thursday afternoon apologizing for the late notice and something just made me want to go. I’m not sure if it was because it was an Eagle Scout dedication for installation of a memorial stone and flag pole that piqued my interest since my children had achieved both Eagle and Gold Award in the past. Earning those recognitions are a major accomplishment for a busy teen and I well remember all the work that was involved. I’ve been working on a book about my husband’s grandfather in World War 1 for the last few years and my goal had been to get it epublished this year but life got in the way of that happening; the ceremony’s tie in to a project I’m working on was definitely a draw. I also always wanted to visit historic Rose Cemetery, the African American burial site in my region, but every time there was a clean up planned I had to be elsewhere.

Last evening at dinner I told hubby my plans of attending the event. He was going to be helping out a family member prep for painting. I arrived about 5 minutes before the ceremony was to begin. As it’s an old fashioned cemetery – you drive on the grass and park on the grass, I parked in the closest space next to the table set up for volunteers for a local club who were going to perform some maintenance after the event. I walked a short distance to where others were gathered for the ceremony.

Towards the end, hubby called telling me he needed the garage door opener I had in my car for the family member he was helping as he couldn’t access the house without it. He asked where I was parked and I gave him directions. The ceremony ended minutes later so I quickly called him to make other arrangements for him to get the opener as I didn’t want him to try to pull in when the dignitaries that had just spoken were pulling out. There’s only one path and if someone is driving the “wrong” direction the only way to get out is to drive backwards which I didn’t want anyone to have to do as it’s a curve with stones close to the edge. He told me he hadn’t left home yet so I told him I’d deliver the opener.

I had just hung up and was walking fast when I noticed a late attendee had parked parallel to the road directly behind me. There was room for me to pull out but just barely. As I walked into the dirt drive I noticed the branch pictured above gently laid between my car and the late attendees. Now there are lots of trees and we had a cold front come through yesterday bringing severe weather – a tornado had hit to the north and south of us and 60,000 people had lost power – so a fallen branch was not unusual. What was weird was the faded plastic flowers that appeared to be gently placed adjacent to the limb where it had broken from the tree. This did not look like a random fall of a tree branch. It had landed right smack in the middle of the small dirt drive and the flowers were standing upright as if someone had planted them in the dirt. There were no loose leaves or sticks. There was no obvious place in the tree above where the branch had broken off. In this small space of just a little over the width of a car, the branch had fallen without touching either car. The plastic flowers were not stuck in the leaves so yesterday’s wild winds did not blow them up into the boughs. The flowers were standing straight up as you’d normally see a bouquet with the metal stems stuck in the dirt at the end of the broken limb. It made me shiver.

I looked around and there were two women standing by the table talking. They were oblivious to the limb. How they had not hear it fall was beyond me. I didn’t think to take a picture. I thought to get out of there but I could only do that if I removed the branch. I reached down and picked up the flowers with one hand and dragged the branch over to rest beside my car and the table. Both women watched me but said nothing. I said, “This was weird, the branch and these flowers were right behind my car and I couldn’t back up. At this point, the late attendee and her husband arrived and she asked where the branch was. I pointed to the empty space between our cars. She said, “That wasn’t there a few minutes ago.”

Even stranger, although the marks where I dragged the branch were visible in the dirt, there was no impression made as you would expect when a heavy branch fell onto dirt. It simply looked like it had been gently laid there.

The women at the table just shook their heads. Now it’s a well known story in my town that this place is haunted. You can read about some of the happenings here and here and here. You an also check out YouTube for more info. None of us wanted to say ghost but it was clearly what we were all thinking. I said, “It’s okay, weird things happen to me all the time.” One lady walked away and the other just stared at the branch. I didn’t want to offend anyone as the place I put the branch was the closest empty space but it wasn’t a good location since many of those who had been at the ceremony were going to be arriving at the table and the branch would be in the way. There just wasn’t anywhere else to put it. The table lady just looked at me and said, “Things happen here.” I replied, “I understand, I’m a genealogist and I’ve had many strange things happens to me when I visit cemeteries of my family members.” But I have no family members, to my knowledge, buried in Rose Cemetery and I’ve visited lots of cemeteries over the years and have not had anything odd happen. I have no idea why what I said even popped out of my mouth. I was blabbering. “I’m just going to leave the branch there,” I said. She nodded a yes.

I got in my car and took the picture as I drove away. All I wanted to do was go home and take a shower. I’m thinking that comes from an old family tradition; my grandmother always entered the house after a cemetery visit refusing to speak to anyone until she went to the kitchen sink and washed her hands. I asked her about it once and she said it was just a family custom to wash the spirits away. I’ve never felt the need to do that but today I did.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever go back to Rose Cemetery. Maybe my mind is just making a mountain out of a mole hill. This past week was Halloween, All Saints and All Soul’s days. I’d like to think that perhaps those holidays were influential and made me lose my rational side.

I just would like to understand how a large branch can suddenly appear on the ground with plastic flowers upright and no one saw or heard anything. Strange, indeed.

A Creepy Weird Family Story


Every October I like to blog about a family story passed down to me that I consider spooky. The odd thing about the story I’m about to tell is that I can find NO DOCUMENTATION to support the facts. Zero – Nada – Zilch! Since this occurred in my lifetime I find the lack of proof frustrating and a little strange. You’ll see why at the end of the tale.

I come from a large extended family on my maternal side. My grandmother, Mary Kos Koss, was the family matriarch who loved to entertain which greatly contributed to people keeping in close contact with each other. After her death on 5 Jun 1985, the relatives, for the most part, lost touch with each other. I witnessed the retelling of this story in the presence of my mother and grandmother from the individual it happened to and they are all now deceased. One of my aunts also had knowledge of the event, along with two of my cousins. My aunt is deceased and I have lost touch with my two cousins.

Here’s what I recall…

On school days as a child, I awoke every morning at 7 AM so that I wouldn’t be tardy to school which began at 8 AM. I lived a block from my elementary school and about 6 blocks from my high school so the walk was quick unless the snow was deep. During my late middle and high school years, my mother worked a few blocks from our home and also had to be at work at 8 AM. She liked to listen to the radio and catch the 7 AM news report that included the weather report because weather was fickle in our area; a warm morning could change to snow dusting by afternoon.

While mom was listening to the radio in her bedroom I was getting dressed in mine. I heard her shriek and I quickly came out to find out what was the matter. She was running down the stairs to the first floor, something I rarely witnessed, so I ran after her. My grandmother was in the kitchen enjoying a cup of coffee and toast. Mom ordered my grandmother to turn on the kitchen radio. Mom never ordered anyone to do anything so this was strange, indeed.

Grandma got up from the table and turned the radio on but all that played was big band music. My mother reached over and changed channels but my mom couldn’t find whatever she was looking for. After stopping at several stations she turned the dial off and told my grandmother that the news reported that there had been a plane crash at the home of George Kos. My grandmother paled.

George was my grandmother’s only son. He lived a short distance from us in a small home he had purchased after his second divorce. At the time, Uncle George worked for US Steel as a laborer. As was typical, his work schedule varied; days, nights or midnights as the three shifts were commonly called. We didn’t know what shift he had been assigned so we didn’t know if he had been in the house when the plane hit.

Grandma immediately dialed his landline phone number but it was out of service. I suggested we call the news room for further information. While I looked up the number in the phone book, my grandmother tried to reach another of her daughters who lived in the area. No one answered. My mother called the radio station but no one answered, probably because the office didn’t open until 8 AM. My grandmother then called the police station; she was informed that there was no information to disclose. I remember thinking we should call the hospitals but I kept that thought to myself. Grandma called my aunt again and still there was no answer. It was now about 7:25 AM and the adults decided they would drive to George’s home to see if he was there. My mother told me to get my shoes on and as we were heading out the door, the phone rang. My aunt told my grandmother they had just been awoken by the phone and figured we had called. George was safe and had slept the night at her house.

I was glad Uncle George was fine but certainly disappointed I had to go to school that day. My aunt told my grandmother George was going to sleep in and meet with the insurance agent that afternoon but they’d all be over for dinner that evening.

Over dinner that night, Uncle George said he after he had gotten home from the day shift, he showered and turned the television on. He had fallen asleep in the living room and was dreaming that his grandmother, Anna Grdenic Kos, was shaking him. Anna had died on 14 Feb 1966 and had doted on George in his youth. Granny, as we called her, was whispering in his ear and shaking him to get up and get out of the house right away. In his dream, George told Granny he was tired and needed to sleep but she was insistent that he rise and leave. He awoke, startled. The dream had seemed so real. As he sat in the armchair, he could still hear her voice in his head telling him to go now. He arose, grabbed his truck keys and wallet and decided he needed a drink at the local bar. He was there when the plane crashed into his home. The living room had been destroyed. He believed Granny had saved his life. We all believed it, too.

I’m foggy about the exact time period the event occurred. It happened after Granny’s death in early 1966 and before I met my husband in 1972. A cousin had lived in George’s home after her marriage and at the time of my grandfather’s death in 1970 as I stayed with her while my grandfather was dying. I don’t recall my grandfather being at the dinner table when Uncle George told us his dream so I’m inclined to think this happened in 1971 or early 1972 as my cousin had relocated from the area and George would have returned to the house. But if Gramps had been there, it could have occurred between 1967-1969.

Now here’s the frustrating part with the records. We used to get the local newspaper, the Gary [Indiana] Post Tribune but I don’t recall an article about the crash. My family were newspaper clippers so I would think I would have inherited the story but I have not. Sometime during this time period, we did purchase the Chicago Tribune instead so that could be why I don’t have a clipping. I wanted to check the Gary Post but those years are not online. The newspaper had changed ownership and those years are missing. The local library has been closed due to funding cuts. On to the next record –

I know my Uncle’s address as I do have a US Public Records Index from 1987 listing it. (The house was rebuilt and he continued to live there until he retired and moved from the area.) I tried to search property records but the city claims they have given the records to the county who claims the city did not do so. I was hoping the property records could show when my uncle purchased it to narrow the earlier dates and possibly, to show when permits were pulled to rebuild. Onward with the search –

I have no relatives to help me recall the dates further. Next –

Could not find the event online, although there are several websites that record plane crashes in Indiana. Some do not go back into the 1970’s; those that do have missed it.

Trying to think outside the box, I thought of possibly contacting the present owners but the street view of Google from 2013 (above) shows the house was abandoned. The living room was the front window on the right.

For now, I have no proof of the event. As the only surviving witness to the story, I wanted to record it. Perhaps someday the missing records and newspaper story will surface to add support to the my tale. Even if documents are never found, I will continue to take heed of dreams involving my ancestors. I just wish they’d tell me the winning lottery numbers!