Here Today Gone Tomorrow, The Ever Changing Access to Online Records

Ahh, the balance of the universe!  Maybe it’s just me but I’ve noticed lately that the more that the web grows genealogy sources, the more sources I relied on in the past have disappeared.  I’m definitely not a doomsday prophet but I found my experiences yesterday as a wake up call to change some of my practices in the future. If I don’t I’ll be facing disaster someday. Here’s what happened…

I was going back over a line I hadn’t visited in five years.  When I do that, I start with my gateway ancestor, in this case, Mary Ann Hollingshead, and I recheck my saved sources.  I predominately use Ancestry.com so I click on the Gallery feature and look at the documents I previously uploaded.  Then I go to the hints area and look at all that I had saved as “Maybe” or “No.”  I always keep the hint setting on but my tree is so large I don’t have time or desire to check every hint that populates. Weekly, as part of my genealogy cleaning chores, I go through any hints that are shown over the previous seven days and just dismiss them.  They don’t really go away; they are saved under the individual that the system matched them to.  That’s a nice underused feature, I believe, as you can always go through them at your leisure to examine each one closely when you have the time.  

Next, I go back to Facts and check the citations that I had linked to the timeline.  For sources that I created from outside of Ancestry.com records, I always but the link so that I can easily review the information and note if anything has changed.  That’s where I noticed the first of the serious changes to the web.

I went to Francis Hollingshead and was checking the link I had made to FamilySearch.org for England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975.  I used to be able to see the actual page of the document but not any longer:

As you can see on the right side above, I must go to the Family History Center to view.  Now I wish I had saved every FamilySearch.org document I have ever found and that’s a lot!  It never dawned on me that the information would not be readily available from home.  All I could think of was Job 1:20 “…The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away…”.

I did notice that some of the documents were available through FindMyPast.com so I could (and will) go there to snip and save them to my Gallery but not all can be found that way, as the one above shows.  

As I went farther back on the Hollingshead line I discovered that British History Online now charges for many documents that once were available for free:

Back in the day, they asked for support through a donation but now they have Premium, Gold, 5-year Gold and 10-year Gold access.  What I was trying to reach was Gold level.  I only needed one document so it wasn’t worth it to me to purchase a subscription.  I had saved in my citation a transcript which is fine for my purposes but if I had known it would go away, I would have snipped and saved the original and transcribed under it.  Live and Learn!

Yes, I did try the Wayback Machine to see if I could gain access to these docs and the answer is unfortunately, no.  For the British History Online document, only once was it saved and that was in 2015 but you had to log in to access.  I tried my old log on but it no longer works.  

The next issue I discovered was of a document I had saved in my Gallery.  I had the page snipped but I had neglected to include the book’s title page.  No worries, I thought, as the link was for Internet Archives.  Of course, I happened to hit them just as they went down for maintenance so I couldn’t get the information I needed.  The book wasn’t available through any of the other online sources so this just required me to wait awhile to get what I needed.

It’s not just older documents that are no long accessible.  Google+, which ties to my Blogger account, is disappearing soon.  With it goes all of my former reader comments.  I’m glad that I save all of my posts to my genealogyatheart.com website so they will still be available but unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about the comments.

Genealogy is definitely a practice in patience.  Sometimes it’s years before you find the record you seek or connect with a long lost relative that holds the key to discovering a generation back.  With organizational changes, patience needs to extend to how we save the documents we find at the time we make the discovery.  I’m fortunate that there were only a few records I wasn’t able to access in the 18 generations I checked.  I’m hopeful, going forward with the procedure changes I plan to implement in my practice, that won’t be an issue again.

UPDATE 23 Feb 2019:  I spoke today with a FamilySearch rep at a local genealogist conference I attended.  He stated that some of the records are no longer available from home due to copyright agreements with the holders of the original data.  He also stated, if you have found yourself having difficulty viewing some of the records online because they become fuzzy, simply record where you are then click out of the database and go back in.  When you restart go directly to the record you left off and it should be viewed clearly.  If not, you can report it.

Growing Your Genealogy with Living Family Member Interaction

Zen needed

Sometimes, you just have to practice self control when you’re around your family.  (‘m referring to the living ones and not the death ones who left no documents or photos behind.)  I bet, as the family historian, you’ve encountered some of the following situations:

  • They just make one excuse after another for not going into (Fill in the blank – attic, basement, closet, storage facility, garage) to retrieve the (Fill in the blank – birth certificate, Bible, photo)  that you desperately need yet…
  • You receive a frantic call at an inopportune time wanting to know if your family is related to a celebrity
  • Your family expects you to help them for FREE join a lineage society
  • Even though you’ve shared all the discoveries you’ve found and ignored the glassy eyed bored looks you’ve gotten in return, they want some arcane piece of info on some distant ancestor because someone at work or some show on TV made them think about that story you told, only you have no knowledge of what they’re talking about because they’ve jumbled different people and events together in their minds
  • You’ve bought the DNA kit, helped them follow the simple instructions, mailed it back for them and monitor it and they don’t believe the results (even though your DNA and theirs is a close match)

Those are my top 5 pet peeves and over the past holiday season, each of them raised their ugly heads.  Two of the above became the most problematic.  

The first situation was the result of Ancestry’s recent upgrade of their DNA results.  With the old results, one family member showed more Swedish than anyone else in the family.  As a genealogist, my take on it is “So what” as we all know that the percentages are fluid since they’re based on the pool tested.  As the pool grows, so the results change.  I have explained this in the past but I guess somehow I’m not doing a good job.  In my family’s case, the updated stats shifted the percent slightly making the former number 1 in second place and the the former second place in first.  No big deal, right?  Evidently it was.  Instead of just asking for my take on the change, the newly placed number 1 decided that the results were questionable and so purchased a test from a competitor.  Of course, the competitor’s pool was different and the results varied but in this individual’s head, those results were more valid (because they hadn’t been updated yet).  Since the percents of test two were even less than the first test results, the individual became upset at all the ‘misleading info and the waste of money.”

It was time to take a deep breath.  I ignored the waste of money part since I had paid for the first test and the individual had gotten a deep discount on the second test.  I brought up my own results from several companies and showed how the results vary and again explained why.  I don’t think it got through any better than the previous times I’ve explained but it did end the conversation on a positive note.  

The second situation was a family member who asked me to write down the birth and death dates for two ancestors.  When I did, I was informed that I was wrong.  I had to bite my tongue to not respond, “If you know the information why are you asking me?”  Instead, after a pause, I asked if the individual wanted a copy of the birth and death certificates.  The response was no.  I then asked why the information was being questioned.  The answer was it didn’t seem like it had been that long ago when the individuals died.  Sure, as we age, time seems to go much quicker.  In this situation, I owned the problem as I jumped to the conclusion that the asker doubted my research when that wasn’t the case at all.  

Family can be a help in our genealogy quest – not just with gaining names and dates of ancestors but in showing us character areas where we need to grow.  

What’s a Genealogist? Hint: It’s not a Gynecologist

Recently on a beautiful spring (in Florida – the robins just returned so hang in there northerners) afternoon, family members invited me to go to lunch at a local cafe in our downtown area.  Because this was a spur of the moment invitation, I hadn’t changed from my casual Saturday morning attire.  I was wearing my recent Christmas gift from my sister-in-law pictured above and a pair of jeans.

When our waitress, Melissa, who has given me permission to identify her and share this story, handed us the menus, I found her staring at my t-shirt.  She immediately asked, “Are you a gynecologist?”  My family burst out laughing.  “No,” I replied, “I’m a genealogist.”  Obviously, the way I was seated at the table Melissa could not clearly read my t-shirt.

Melissa asked what a genealogist did and I explained that I was like a family historian.  A family member added that I help people find their past.  I added, “For people who are adopted and want to know about their birth parents, I’d work with their DNA.  For everyone, I would search for old records and photos to help them prove a family story.”  Melissa shook her head yes, she understood.

As we dined, Melissa returned to check on us several times; each time she had another genealogical question. 

The word genealogy is derived from Greek meaning the study of generations.  It surprises me that in a study done in December 2018 in the U.S., 34% of the respondents could not name their grandparents.  I’m never bothered by people asking how to get information to help them discover their past so I wasn’t bothered by Melissa’s questions.  Research shows that genealogy is one of the largest hobbies and I’m happy to add more people who are interested.   

Valentine Gift Idea – a Family Tree Poster

Valentine’s is around the corner and here’s a quick gift idea for family – a poster of your family tree.  I discovered that Geneanet has some free templates that make awesome (inexpensive) gifts.  I did this last minute before Christmas and the results were beautiful.

If you have a Geneanet tree you can follow the instructions below.  If not, first you need to create an account a thttps://en.geneanet.org/  Although they have a premium service, which is a nice option, you don’t have to pay to become a member and upload a tree.

Download wherever you’ve saved your family tree and then upload to Geneanet on the ribbon under Family Tree – Import/Export a Family Tree.  Depending on the size of your tree, this may take a few minutes.

Once your tree is uploaded, open up the individual (or yourself) that you want to start as the base of your chart.  Then click on Charts & Lists – Ancestry – Printable Family Tree.  There are several templates from which you can select.  I chose a fan design and used a tree in the background on one and a lion on another.  You can also select up to 10 generations to include.  I saved it to a thumb drive and then took it to my closest big box office supply store.  They quickly printed it for me on poster paper and the cost was $3.17 ($1.08 a piece with tax).  Make sure you tell the sales person to leave a border around the poster if you intend to get it framed.  I didn’t which I should have.

The only downside is that GENEANET is printed in large letters at the bottom right but for the price, I believe it’s worth the advertising.

Now just think – you’re family will stop asking you how so and so is related and when great grandpa died.  Well, maybe if your family is like mine they’ll continue to ask but that’s okay, you can redirect them to the chart.  I call it baby steps in training them to be interested in genealogy.

A Winning Genealogy Formula

Frances and Peter Landfair


Happy New Year!  I took a few weeks off from blogging and am delighted to be back.  My blogging break, however, didn’t include a break from genealogy so in the next few weeks I’ll be writing about my recent discoveries, insights and well, dumb luck, which I’ll explain below.

I have always loved the holidays and it seems every year I get a genealogy gift from the universe.  This year, I got an extra special one.

I’m not talking about the unexpected adorable t-shirt my sister-in-law bought me that says “Genealogist because Freakin Miracle Worker is not a Job Title” or the archival pens I found in my stocking (thanks, hubby).  It’s those Santa gifts that I cherish because they come when I least expect it and make me scratch my head trying to figure out how in the world they even came about.

Trying to bring logic to the situation, I came up with a formula  P1 + P2 = P3 whereas P1 is persistence, P2 is patience and together they equal P3 which is prosperity.  Perhaps there is no logic involved and as I said earlier, this was just dumb luck. 

This year, a few days after Thanksgiving, I saw a comment posted on Ancestry.com about one of the 10,000 plus pictures I’ve uploaded.  Yes, I know that those pictures I uploaded give Ancestry rights.  I understand I own the photos but these long dead people I do not own so I believe in sharing their lives.  Legally, they lost their rights when they died so I have taken responsibility to track who is taking those shared photos.  I figure it’s the least I can do to honor them.

The Ancestry comment was from an individual I did not know;  he had identified the people in the photo above I had attached to my grandmother Lola Landfair Leininger.  Most of the photos I inherited were not labeled so I placed all the photos under my grandmother’s tab as I assumed they had meaning to her since she had passed them to my father.  I did not get the photos until long after both of them died and there was no family members left to identify them. 

Around 2005, after a series of hurricanes had hit our area and being tired of lugging them around as we evacuated, I decided to scan and save the photos to CD.  I titled them Leininger Family Photos but that turned out to be a mistake.  Leininger was my grandmother’s married name; I realized that many of these undated photos had clues that showed they predated her marriage and if she was the care taker of them, then the older ones would be Landfair and Kuhn (my great grandmother’s line) photos.  At the time I saved to CD, I uploaded to Ancestry but I didn’t realize that saving them as Leininger wasn’t helpful to any other surnames related to that family as they wouldn’t have shown up in an Ancestry search for those other lines. 

Over the years, I have received a number of inquiries from Leiningers who asked for more details about a photo or two.  I always persistently made a copy of the CD and mailed it off asking only that the receiver notify me of anyone they identify but none were ever able to help.

On Christmas Eve day I received an email that he had identified several more individuals that were closely related to him – his grandfather as a child and his great-grandfather.  He had never seen those photos and was so excited he was going to take the photos with him to share with his family to see if they could identify others.  Nine of the photos were eventually claimed as his closer family. 

So, you can imagine my surprise and delight after patiently waiting 13 years to receive a comment identifying the Landfair children.  How did this poster know that these were Landfair children?  He had inherited the same photo that was clearly marked with their names.  I mailed off the CD to him but with the busyness of the season, didn’t give it much thought. 

In speaking with his older relatives, one who is in her 90’s, he learned that our shared great-great grandfather, Peter Landfair, had only one photo ever taken of himself.  He did it because his family was insistent he be photographed and I know that I don’t own that one photo because family lore says he was photographed with his back to the camera.  I would never know this story if I hadn’t shared the CD with this distant cousin. 

On a side note, while sharing the photos he learned that a stash of them is residing in an unheated barn in the midwest.  (Yep, that would be my family; mine were found in an unheated damp basement).  He hadn’t been aware of that and plans to rescue them this month.  I’m hoping that he finds that backside photo.  Even if he doesn’t, I feel that the photos will lead to genealogy prosperity with lines we currently have no photos for and perhaps, we’ll be able to connect with others and gain even more goodies. 

My New Year’s resolution is to continue blogging, sharing and connecting.  I’m also wishing you and yours Genealogy Prosperity in 2019.

Interesting News on Life Span


I read 2 articles this week (Thanks to the NEGHS Newsletter) that at first look appeared to be unrelated but as I processed the information, realized that they were indeed related. The first, Life span has little to do with genes, analysis of large ancestry database shows by Sharon Begley clearly surprised me. Not having a medical background, I assumed, wrongly it appears, that genes were a much stronger indicator to longevity. The article is also interesting in that the data analyzed most likely included my people and yours, if you are an Ancestry.com member. I have no problem with my tree info being shared for research purposes but if you do, and you didn’t take the time to read the disclaimers when you were signing up, you need to be aware that your information is being used by third parties.
The second article, ‘She was like a second mother’: the German woman who saved our Jewish family history by Simon Finch drove home to me how fortunate my family has been in leaving areas of unrest in the nick of time. Those that bravely fought for freedom, from Jacob Wilson Parrot,the First Congressional Medal of Honor awardee from the Civil War and my first cousin three times removed, to two Purple Heart recipients (WW I and II), George Bryant and George Willard Harbaugh, my husband’s grandfather and uncle, all made it home safely.
Family mortality has always interested me. Aside from the occasional accident, such as my great grandfather Frank Landfair falling off a train platform, to my Great Uncle Francis Earl Landfair, being struck my lightening while standing outside talking with friends, I attempted to deduce longevity by averaging the prior three generations of family members, taking into account gender, and adding two years for men and three for women to account for medical advancements. This seemed to work for both my maternal and paternal sides. I guess my data set was too small to make an inference.
I’d be interested to hear if you’ve looked at your ancestor’s longevity and drawn any conclusions. Let me know if you have!

Using an Index to Find What I Didn’t Know Existed

Genealogist purists do not like using indexes. I ‘m glad I’m not a purist as I recently found an interesting record by accident while using an index.

Monthly, I get an email from Familysearch.org with updates about the site. I always check out the section that lists the newly available online records. I find this especially important since the organization has stopped mailing microfilm to be viewed locally and a trip to Salt Lake City doesn’t seem to be in my immediate future so I need to keep checking to see when records of interest to me are available online.

One of the new links was to Ohio Wills and Estates to 1850: An Index by Carol Willsey Bell. I have many Ohio settlers from the early 1800’s and I wanted to use the index to make sure I didn’t overlook a probate record.

I understand the danger of simply citing an index as there might have been an error in recording the information. Personally, I view indexes like Ancestry hints. I might get lucky and I might not so let’s roll the dice and hope for the best.

I was searching for a probate record for Edward Adams, my elusive 3rd great grandfather who showed up in Perry County, Ohio about 1815 when he married Mary “Polly” Dennis Hodge, widow of John Hodge who had been killed in the War of 1812. Edward died shortly after being elected county auditor and was replaced in October 1822 according to the History of Fairfield and Perry Counties, Ohio.

I was delighted to find an entry on page 1 in Ohio Wills and Estates for Edward (Estate-1825 Perry Common Plea Minutes 64, page 10, page 68) and an Evi on page 2, who I was hoping to link together. I also found a Samuel I had not known about. One of Edward and Polly’s sons was named Evi, an unusual male name. The adult Evi in Perry County would have been about the right age to be a younger sibling of Edward so I was excited to see an entry for both men. I had also found a Susan Adams in the 1830 census in Perry County and I wondered if there was a connection. I’m now thinking she was the wife of Samuel. Reviewing my notes I noticed I had never checked the Common Plea Court records in Perry County and that’s where the index was directing me.

I quickly returned to the search engine at Familysearch.org and opened the microfilm for the Common Plea Court. I click on Minutes v. A 1818-1820 Minutes v. B 1820-1822 and without paying close attention to the middle of the title, noticed that the last entry was for 1828-1831. What I missed was that not all the records were filmed. And of course, some of the records I needed weren’t there.

Obviously, Bell had seen the complete records when she was recording the information for her book. This gives me hope that the records are somewhere out there where I may one day find them.

The limited info I did find showed that Evi was the administrator for Edward so I was pleased in that connection although it did not state their relationship. But I’m not disappointed at all because instead of finding what I was seeking, I discovered instead a court record for my 4th great grandfather, Peter Drum (1750-1837), which was on the page where I thought I’d find Edward’s estate info.

1
I’m unable to find the bill of indictment so I don’t know what he was pleading guilty to. I did look up the fee of $4.19 and in converting it to today’s dollars – it’s about $20.00.

Here’s the weird part…the day before I had emailed the Fairfield County, Ohio Pioneer Society for a followup as earlier this year, I had submitted a lineage society application for Peter Drum and I had not heard from the organization. I could have used the above record as further proof of his residence but I hadn’t known it existed. The day after I found this record I received a response that the application for Peter Drum was accepted and I would receive more information in December.

Now I intend to go page by page through these court records to see if there are other interesting discoveries to be made. So glad winter is coming!

1 Court records, 1818-1854 Minutes v. B 1820-1822 Minutes, Peter Drum, Familysearch.org (https: familysearch.org: accessed 28 Oct 2018) p.2.

In Honor of Veteran’s Day

Today, the world remembers the end of World War I. Although no veterans or civilians are with us to recall the atrocities, the record of their experiences lives on through letters, diaries and recordings. I am in possession of a collection of letters and wanted to mark the 100th anniversary by sharing one with you.

With the United States Congress declaring war on Germany on April 6, 1917, 2.8 million American men were soon to be drafted to serve in what was then called “The Great War.” Hoosier born George Bryant Harbaugh, a 22-year-old Deputy Sheriff with the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway in Gary, Lake County, Indiana, was sent to Camp Taylor, Kentucky for basic training. Army Private George left behind his sweetheart, Elsie Wilhelmina Johnson, a 21-year-old Mother’s Helper living in Miller, (now Gary), Indiana.

Elsie saved every letter and postcard received from George. Only 3 letters from Elsie to George survive. The following is a scan and transcript of the letter detailing his experiences when the Armistice was called on November (11) 11th at 11 AM:

ON ACTIVE SERVICE
WITH THE
AMERICAN RED CROSS
AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE

NAME
Geo B Harbaugh D

Infantry
U.S. Army.
Dec. 16, 1918
Allerey, France

My Dearest Elsie.-

Your most welcome letter of Nov. 17 received about an hour ago and I can’t tell you how tickled I was to get it. I am expecting a lot more soon for the last one I got before this was dated Aug. 24 so I must have lots more somewhere. I expect though, that they are at Tours at the Central Office and I’ve notified them of where I am so maybe they will reach me after awhile

You ask when you may expect me back. That is hard to tell. We may leave here tomorrow and may be here a month yet. My Division the 28th , is in the Army of Occupation and is in Luxemburg I believe, but they say we can’t get back to our old companies anymore but are to go in Casual Companies and go home but just how soon, we don’t know. But I think I’ll be back before March and when I get to New York, I’ll send you a telegram about when you can expect me.

I’m sure anxious to get back and I’m sure we can be nicely settled in that little cottage of Ours before next winter. I’m glad you got the money all right as I didn’t get to see the chaplain after I gave it to him. You see, we got paid off one day and we went into battle in a couple of days. I didn’t know what might happen so I thought it best to send it to you. I’ve got 5 months’ pay here now and if I get it before coming back, I’ll send it to you as I don’t want to spend it over here. I wanted you to get something for your Xmas, though.

So, you are looking for a house for us, are you? ha. ha. The place below Gertie would be fine. I didn’t suppose you would tell Gertie our happy secret but my only regret is that you haven’t the ring, too. So Gertie was willing to have us for neighbors, was she? Tell her for me that when Bob and I get together there will be some stories to hear. I never heard where any of the other Miller boys were, but Bob was in the 26, or “Yankee Division”, from the New England states and the 28th was from Pa. We relieved the 26 Div. on July 25 and they went to St Mihael, then Argonne Forest so I never got a chance to see Bob. I hope he came through the war all right.

You speak of getting a letter from Ed Lemert. Yes, Dear, he’s an awful good friend of mine and is almost as much as a brother. I wrote to him quite often but I haven’t wrote for several weeks so guess I will write tonight. I expect lots of my letters get lost but there was times it was impossible to write for a week or two at a time. Conditions here are not what you folks imagine they are. I haven’t saw any real American Y.M.C.A. huts and as for a Y.M.C.A entertainment for the Infantry at least, is something unheard of. I believe there is a nice Y.M.C.A.in Paris but we aren’t allowed there.

I haven’t heard from Raymond Clemons since about Aug 1 and I believe I’ll have to write and see if he’s still alive. I’ll have to write to Mrs. Clemons, too, I guess. The 111th Regt. lost lots of men at Chateau Therrey. The Huns used liquid fire on them and that is horrible. We got gas, shells, grenades and machine gun fire but the 112th never got any liquid fires used on us. Did you ever get the letter I sent that had a little pressed pansy in? I picked it in the city of Fismes and the Germans were shelling it to beat the band. We had two companies of our regiment captured there but they sure did pile up the dead Huns before they were overpowered.

Guess you must have had a grand time Nov. 11 from the clippings you sent. We did here. They have a bulletin board and on Nov. 11 it read “At 4 P.M raise H-l and I guess they did. I was in bed yet then but we sure yelled 4 P.M here would be about 6 A.M. back there. Bells all over France rang and everybody was happy, believe me. I’ve only been here 7 months but that seems an awful long time but the other Allies have had 52 months of it so they sure was cause to rejoice.

Well, Pres. Wilson got a big reception when he came here and if it wouldn’t have been for the Yank soldiers. He would never have come to France for it would have all been Germany by now. But that will wait till I get back. I won’t tell you too much else; I can’t tell you anything new when I get back.

Well, I will have to close, Dearest, if I am to write another letter tonight so I’ll close hoping I may get more of your ever welcome letters real soon.

With Oceans of Love and Kisses and hoping I’m back with you by Feb. 22.

Your Own and Always,

George

Convalescent Camp
A.P.O. 785
G .Company

A.J. Bruggeman
(unreadable)

I am currently compiling the letters into an eBook with the working title, Thanks to the Yanks – World War I Letters from a Soldier Boy to his Sweetheart.

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!