Last week I received an email via Ancestry.com from the Research Manager with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). The group will be having a candlelight vigil in Washington, DC in May 2017 and reached out to me as I have in my Main Tree an individual that was selected to be honored.
We are not closely related to the fallen officer; Robert Flenner was my husband’s 4th cousin, 3 times removed through marriage to the grand daughter of a Harbaugh. Since I have updated all the Harbaugh/Herbach family in the U.S., Robert appears in my tree.
I had never heard of the organization and did a little research. The NLEOMF was founded in 1984 for the purpose of honoring and remembering law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty. I’m not sure how they select the officers to be honored; Robert Flenner died in 1908.
After receiving the email and checking out the group I went to my tree to remind myself who Robert Flenner was. I have a large tree and I didn’t recall him. The citations I had were the 1870, 1880 and 1900 US Federal census, a death certificate that didn’t mention he was a fallen officer (cause of death-cancer of intestines; occupation of deceased-house duties), Pennsylvania Probate, Find-A-Grave memorial and a Social Security record for one of his children. I did find it interesting that the death certificate noted he was buried in Harbaugh Church Cemetery. I had visited there on my July research trip looking for the grave of one of my husband’s several times great grandmother. I must have walked past Robert’s resting place as I was all over that small cemetery on my unsuccessful hunt. Passed him without giving him a thought! None of my found records provided me the event that occurred to warrant being honored. I looked for an obituary and found the following provided by KimTisha on Find-A-Grave:
Ironically, the same day I was contacted by NLEOMF I received a copy of my paternal great grandparents’ divorce records. I had always suspected the root cause of the divorce was alcoholism because I had found a newspaper article written shortly before the divorce mentioning that great grandpa had been fined for providing alcohol to a known alcoholic. I was also very aware that NO FAMILY member on that line drank. So I was not surprised when the divorce documents mentioned that my great grandfather had had a drinking problem for 25 years. I was stunned, however, by the long term physical abuse my great grandmother had been subjected to when great grandpa was inebriated. He was definitely a mean drunk! The records mention the severity of the abuse and it made me sick.
Reading the obituary for Robert Flenner and knowing the arrest he made had prevented another woman from receiving further abuse I was determined to find a closer relative who could represent him at the DC event.
The problem was, I had been unsuccessful in finding any close family members for my husband’s line when I visited the area three months ago. What to do?!
The internet is a wonderful way to connect so I thought I’d try to locate family by following the bread crumb trail of known records. I updated Robert’s line and discovered one of his two children had married and had children. I emailed every Find-A-Grave memorial creator through Robert’s great grandchild. Most didn’t respond but several wrote back that they knew of closer descendants and would forward the information to them. I’m hoping that someone is able to attend the Candlelight Vigil in which he will be honored.