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!

Another Family Story Shattered!


You know the feeling when you discover a long held belief isn’t what you thought?! Shocked, Saddened, Denying it, Attempting to disprove the new information – yep, those stages of grief. But learning the truth is important and I know it can change my genealogy sleuthing to find what I really need to get a better understanding of the family.

I’ve written previously about one of my husband’s great grandmothers, Mary “Mollie” O’Brien, who with her purported half sibling, ventured to New York City during the height of the Potato Famine from Ireland.

Cousins and I have surmised that Mollie and her sister must have been orphaned as Irish church and civil records show no trace of her parents after her Baptism in Limerick. This would explain why she set out for a new life in a new land.

Mollie worked as a maid in New York City and it was there she met Scotts immigrant, John Cook. After a brief courtship, the couple “eloped” via Newark, New Jersey where they had a quickie wedding and then took the train to Chicago where they lived out their life. Now “elope” is another fable that seems plausible but hasn’t been proven. Mary and John’s marriage record was found at a Roman Catholic Church in Newark that was close to the train station. The maid of honor and best man seem to be parishioners and not family or friends of the couple. Mollie was not honest about her age, adding a few years to make the union legal.

According to family tales, John was Protestant but agreed to marry Mollie in a Catholic church with the stipulation that any boys they had would be raised Protestant and the girls, Catholic. I always thought that was so forward thinking for the mid-1800’s. Love overcoming long held beliefs and the ability to compromise said a lot about their relationship. What a couple! Except, this story wasn’t true.

I first heard the tale from my father-in-law who explained to me why he was raised Protestant. His father, Andrew, was supposedly taken to church by his father, John, as part of this deal. I then met a descendant of William, Andrew’s brother, and she had heard the same tale. Using social media, we reconnected with a long lost cousin of Mary, the only girl the couple had and not surprising, that line had all remained Roman Catholic. So this story seemed true, except it wasn’t.

Recently, FindMyPast.com released Chicago, Illinois Roman Catholic church records. I initially went on to find my relatives – my mom and great aunt’s Baptism certificate and my grandparents’ marriage record. I still haven’t found the marriage and I had terrible difficulty locating my mom’s document. I have a copy so I knew it existed; I knew when and where it had been made but the search function did not allow me to search by the known church, even though it is supposed to work.

I began to eliminate first names in the search and kept the search vague – just the last name and not even the complete name. The surname was Koss but when the family emigrated, the spelling had been Kos so I used just that. The search engine then gave me all the Kos’ and Koss’ to explore further. Lo and behold, there was my mother as Dorothea and not Dorothy. I hadn’t thought that the Latin word would have been used in the database as the hard copy record clearly recorded Dorothy. (Side note: I’m now wondering what my real baptismal record shows as I recall my mom telling me that there was some discussion with the local priest that my name did not have a Latin translation and that was a problem. I really need to find out what the church decided to call me! Perhaps my mom always knew she had been recorded as Dorothea but this was the first time I learned of it.)

But back to Mollie…I decided to find the Baptism record for Mollie and John’s daughter, Mary, and based on my new found knowledge, entered only Cook. There were many of them but using the known birth year I thought I’d find Mary quickly. Nope, instead I found Andrew and William. So the boys had been Baptized Catholic after all. Interestingly, William’s name was not Latinized to Gulielmus nor was Andrew’s as Andreas. When I finally found what I think was Mary’s, it wasn’t either, but her parents first names were and I’m not sure I have the correct record as their last names are off. No one else seems to have Latinized surnames so I’m not understanding what’s up with this record.

To be honest, these records were a hot mess. My Great Aunt Barbara’s had several errors that were corrected by cross outs. First, my great grandfather’s name was entered as the infant and then corrected; my great grandmother’s name was crossed out then added. Someone wrote sideways “Were married” and my great grandmother’s maiden name, Grdenich, was also added sideways in pencil in what appears to be a different handwriting.

After several days I still can’t find my grandparent’s marriage and I have the pictures so I know it happened.

But once again, back to Mollie…I guess it is possible that the boys attended another church and Mollie just took daughter, Mary, with her to mass. My father-in-law never told me what particular denomination his father attended. I’m not convinced the boys ever went to any church as John Cook, Mollie’s husband, happens to be buried in the Catholic cemetery next to her. John was originally entombed in nondenominational Calvary Cemetery but after Mary’s death, the family moved him to Catholic Mount Carmel. So I have no idea if he was approving or opposed to the change. His sons didn’t seem to mind. Daughter Mary is in the same plot with her Catholic husband.

I looked for Roman Catholic marriage records for all 3 children but like with my grandmother, haven’t found them yet. I also haven’t found anyone’s Confirmation record. The search continues.

Stories from Sadness

Yesterday I attended a funeral for a woman I knew well but had never met. Her daughter was a former Client and I had done much research on the deceased’s grandmother. I’ve never attended a Client’s family member’s funeral before and it was an interesting experience. The Minister spoke about the importance of connections and he was so right in ways he didn’t even know!

I should have thought of this years ago but somehow this escaped me until now. In grief, a lot of memories are evoked that can explain or provide hints to better understanding of the individual and their place in the family. During the Reflection phase of the memorial service, I was struck by a piece of info that the Client had never previously shared with me regarding the family residence years ago. Since this was between census years in a rental in a place that didn’t have a City Directory, I would have been hard pressed to find where they were living and why. It had been a troubling time, based on what I heard yesterday, and that would explain why the Client never shared it while I was working on the lines, however, it readily connected the family to another family 2 generations previously that I knew was living on that same block.

Many of the reflections confirmed other stories I had heard; that the deceased had an uncanny ability to know everyone’s date of birth and address for this large extended family. I readily agree. When I was in the early stages of the research, I met to share some of the findings and the Client was certain I had made an error. After checking with the very knowledgeable family member, my data was confirmed.

Her passing yesterday is a loss to the family in many ways; from a genealogical perspective, the stories she did not pass on might never be learned. One of the grandchildren recorded the service thus preserving the recollections of some of the family members.

Although emotions are raw during a funeral, important genealogical information is decimated. If you are distraught, your spouse or friend might be helpful at this time to unemotionally record the information that can assist you later. I plan on meeting with the Client for lunch in the next few months to share the information that I learned. I think she’ll appreciate it and gain a better understanding of the past.

Mother’s Day Ideas


Mother’s Day is just around the corner and I thought of some unique ideas that don’t take a lot of time that mom would really value. Lucky you, since you’re into genealogy, you’ve got the information to share.

This idea I got from my church – they requested a brief (meaning less than 500 words) bio of a special mom. Note the word special; that mom doesn’t have to be by blood. I really liked that concept. So remember those special moms on Mother’s Day, too! Not sure who that could be? Think family friend, neighbor, teacher, or perhaps, an older sister. that you looked to for guidance. If they’re no longer living, create a Find-A-Grave memorial page or donate to a cause they were passionate about.

Now back to the brief bio idea…this only takes a few minutes to write, print and frame. Add a picture and get some input from siblings or grandchildren. A personalized gift was always valued by my mom and I wish I had thought of this while she was still living.

Last month, Ancestry.com advertised a Mother’s Day promotion and even though it’s too late to enter, the method, a video, is another wonderful way to honor mom. I think it would be awesome to highlight several moms in a line this way. Adding music of the time period, documents with signatures and your voice over as a connection across the ages could be powerful. Geez, you could even make copies on a thumb drive to use for stocking stuffers at Christmas.

A spin off of the Ancestry.com idea made me think of a mom in my past that had overcome adversity. Your tree is most likely full of hard working women who have made a positive impact. Pick one as your heroine and simply write that individuals name on a stickee to be placed near your computer. If you have her picture, put it on your phone for another visible reminder of strength. We can all use a little motherly love during a stressful workday! It’s a neat gift to give yourself.