Closer to Fulfilling Another Genealogical Wish

Editors. Mercer County, Ohio Cemetery Inscriptions Volume VI. Celina, OH:  Mercer Co. Chapter OH Genealogical Society, 1990 found at Mercer County, Ohio Public Library in Celina.

While I was in Celina, Ohio, as I mentioned last week, I found another hint about John Duer. I had blogged twice this year about my search for his final burial site.

A year ago in June, in a book in Allen County Public Library, (Editors. Mercer County, Ohio Cemetery Inscriptions Volume VI. Celina, OH:  Mercer Co. Chapter OH Genealogical Society, 1990, np.) I had discovered that he might lie in row 15 of Kessler Cemetery in Ohio. The transcription simply noted “John Duer, unreadable.”

Kessler’s trustee had years ago sent me a copy of their records but row 15 was missing. Both of John’s wives were buried at Kessler, along with some of his children, so it seemed logical that the book was noting his burial location.

My husband and I went out to the cemetery in March and found what we thought might be his grave but it wasn’t in row 15. The rows are not straight so it might have been, depending on how someone counted from the newer section. I thought it looked more like 14 but there was no stone in what I considered 15 so I could see how someone might interpret the rows differently. I was overjoyed anyway with the find.

Except, it wasn’t John’s burial place. When we returned in May with cleaning supplies it became apparent that it was for a child with the same name and who just happened to die the same year my John did. Sigh.

At the Mercer County Public Library, I found another book, and this transcription was clear about what was recorded on the stone in row 15. That stone is no longer standing in Kessler. You can see the top pic of the page.

What had me totally floored is that this book has the exact same title page as the one I found in the Allen County Public Library but the contents of the book differ. One must have been updated but it doesn’t note that anywhere in the volume I found in Celina. Here’s what the page looks like for the volume in Allen County Public Library:

At this point, I decided to call it a day at the library and I headed for the courthouse.

Meanwhile, this wish remains, too, but with every find I get closer to solving this mystery.

Next week I begin my Creepy October series. By the time that concludes I can’t wait to share my courthouse experience AND the weirdest identity theft I uncovered from 1891. Stay tuned.

More Genealogical Wishes. . .

Photo by Lori Samuelson

Honestly, I didn’t expect to find much in the Celina, Mercer, Ohio library. I spoke with one of the librarians in August and she mentioned that the collection was held in a small room, the local volunteer didn’t come to help out researchers anymore, and there had been no response from the local historical museum contact in the past year so no information on the contents of that museum was available. Not very promising information to hear and besides, the location was 1 ½ hours from my home. Still, I’ve always wanted to visit as my paternal lines were in Mercer County from the 1840s through the 1940s so I hoped that some secrets would be given up.

Hubby was off on a trip of his own so I decided to take the day to research. I wasn’t sure how long I would spend at the library and depending on what I found, I might also visit the courthouse. This was the courthouse I contacted years ago when I was searching for a divorce record for a great-grandmother. It took me 9 months to get them to send me the record and it was only after, at Christmas time, I had sent a reminder email that I had been a good genealogist all year and all I wanted for Christmas was the record. I finally received it.

I had planned to arrive at the library when they opened at 9 AM but my crazy GPS took me to a lake, instead. It was a beautiful lake but definitely wasn’t going to help me locate records so I pulled out my phone and used an alternative GPS to find the library, about 10 minutes away.

I was amazed at the wealth of the information that I discovered! Some kind soul had compiled an obituary collection of 3 x 5” cards and they were stored in the old wooden card drawers. Remember those? Arranged in alpha order by author, title, and subject. What I found was surprising as I had looked for the burial location of John Duer and Peter and Catherine Lanpher/Landfair for years and wasn’t able to find it. The obituary card listed an obit for Catherine. Wow! But there was a problem – it listed no source. So whoever typed the card likely had found one once but where did it now reside? I looked through every piece of paper in the file cabinet by surname. Scanned each shelf book by book looking for a cemetery book, church record, death index, and family genealogy – nothing was found for Catherine.

I went to look for a librarian to see if they knew what the sources for the obit cards were and was told they came from a newspaper that was on microfilm. The librarian set it up for me but alas, going forward 4 weeks for this weekly local paper, no obit appeared. The obit did not list a cemetery, which was the main interest, but I also was interested in seeing if the obit had other information that might have been left out of the card. Struck out again but I know that somewhere out there one resides and so this item remains on my wish list.

Next week, more about the Celina research trip.

When Your Genealogical Wishes Come True

Photo courtesy of PBS

Like me, you probably have spent years searching for a document to prove an identity or relationship.

Perhaps you were looking for proof of where an individual lived between census years.

Maybe you are trying to pinpoint when a family relocated to another area.

You’ve searched high and low and after checking the regular recommendations, went as far as boots on the ground.  Then you began looking in unlikely places with the hope that just maybe the record you seek will appear.

Geez, I’ve even talked to pictures of the deceased based on author and genealogist Henry Z. Jones Jr.’s books that seemed to work for some genealogists.

This year I have discovered several documents that shed light on my husband and my ancestors and I’m going to spend the next few blog posts discussing how I FINALLY have gotten closer to finding what I was looking for.

I’m beginning this series with the most unusual way I located my husband’s maternal grandmother’s family’s school records. I never saw this one coming.

Back in 2014, I began looking for Elsie’s school records because I had acquired her 8th-grade exams and certificates for school attendance and I was writing a book about her husband’s line, Perseverance Amidst Adversity.

I was living in Florida and contacted Crown Point, Indiana, the county seat of Lake County, to try to locate Elsie’s enrollment records because the family changed the spelling of their last name and I wanted to see when it evolved from Johannesson to Johnson. I was told the records were never received from Gary.

I tried calling Gary but never got a response. Their main library had been shut down for lack of funding and the messages I left at a school district office were never returned.

Looking over the documents again I realized that the program for the 8th grade graduation that I had obtained from a relative stated Elsie resided in Miller, which was an unincorporated area in 1910 when she was in school. The diploma, however, stated she was attending school in Hobart, a town southeast of Miller. I called Hobart and was told that the records had been turned over to Gary when Miller became a part of Gary in 1919. This is a good reminder that boundaries change while the person of interest never moved.

I then tried contacting the county’s library and museums. No one had the record. Next, I tried the Indiana State Archives (ISA) which is supposed to keep records for schools that are no longer in existence, IF the school district has also ceased to exist. Elsie had attended a one-room schoolhouse, long gone. ISA also keeps records for districts that are or were unable to maintain the records. They had nothing.

Obviously, I had first tried all the usual online sources and even some smaller ones, like Genweb and at that time, Rootsweb. Nothing.

So, imagine my surprise one day when I was walking through the New England Genealogical and Biographical Society in Boston and decided to look at the Indiana shelf. There was a transcription of Lake County, Indiana school records and there was an Elsie, just not mine. To be honest, I was surprised that there were two Elsie Johnsons, close in age, in the same small school district but I shouldn’t have been because Johnson is not an uncommon surname. Elsie’s record I found listed her father, who had enrolled her, along with the enrollment date. She was a few years older than my Elsie.

In 2020 I created a lecture on the importance of school records and one of my slides shows the record for “Elsie that is not related” to my husband. I include it as I reminder to attendees how there is often more than one person at the same time in the same place with the same name. I also add that I’m hopeful that one day, I’ll find the records I seek, even though I’ve been told they don’t exist.

Hope is a beautiful thing and doesn’t just work for Pandora! I never give up hope of breaking through brick walls and finding other records that will enrich the lives of my ancestors.

Earlier this year I wrote a journal article for the Indiana Genealogist on the importance of school records that was published September 1. In the article, I mention the Boston find and my hope that one day I’ll locate Elsie’s records.

This article was read by Lynn Jackson, a librarian at the Lake County Public Library. It is the same library where I began my genealogical journey in the late 1960s.

Lynn realized that the library was in the process of scanning the enrollment records for Indiana University North West. She did not find Elsie’s page, however, she did find the school enumeration records for Elsie’s half-siblings and a sister. I could not believe it!

First, I had never had someone read a journal article I wrote and took the time to search for a missing record I noted. My appreciation for this kind, knowledgeable librarian is immense! Give this lady a raise!

Second, I’m kicking myself as I had reached out to IU NW years ago, but I never asked about school records. I asked about city directories as I mentioned in another lecture on interviewing how I never clarified my grandmother’s response about where the family first lived when they moved to Gary. My grandmother responded on the corner of Washington and Ridge Road. It hadn’t dawned on me to ask which corner; obviously, there are 4 and it was between census years. I had contacted IU NW for city directories they hold but it wasn’t for the years I needed.

Thirdly, I’d like to remind you that you must reach out again to archives to verify that they don’t have the information. Perhaps they acquired what you needed after you had first checked or, like me with a past blog about mysterious John Duer, a more knowledgeable staff member will look and find the record in an unlikely place. Lynn recommended I reach out to them to see if they have further information on Elsie which is a wonderful idea.

The enumeration record found does show that Johnson was used for the family when Elsie’s older sister by one year began her school career. Yes, the information is limited but there is so much to discover even when data is not exactly what you are looking for.

The moral of the story, look everywhere, make contacts far and wide, and write a journal article. Who would have thought that?!

Preserving Your Records – Do It Now!

June 1982 Flood, St. Petersburg, Pinellas, Florida

Was watching the news and saw a drone image of the Shore Acres neighborhood of St. Pete., Florida after Hurricane Idalia went through. Looks like my old stomping grounds flooded again.

The photo above is me with our dog, Misty. The flood was unexpected and not due to a hurricane, though hurricane season had begun. It was the result of heavy rainfall and a high tide. Luckily, the water stopped before entering our home.

Hurricane Elena, September 1985

We weren’t so fortunate three years later when Hurricane Elena decided to sit offshore for two days. We lost all furniture (shown above) except for the crib, which was on high casters, and our kitchen table and chairs which were made of solid wood. Every appliance was shot – refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, washer, dryer, water heater, and air conditioner. All the flooring had to be replaced. So were the baseboards and lower part of the wallboard. That meant walls that had wallpaper had to be all redone and other walls needed to be repainted. A window had broken when a branch hit it, letting water in, and slashing the drapes. The wind whipped through the house and knocked mirrors and pictures off the walls. We had no phone or electricity for 3 weeks as we had to let the lines dry out. I don’t even like to think about the yard cleanup – dead fish, snakes, and insects hiding under the sea grass, branches, and assorted debris blown in from who knows where.

The pic below is from a different storm, Hurricane Frances. By then we had moved to Tarpon Springs. Our home was spared but a large branch of an old oak in our backyard wiped out our neighbor’s fence as it fell. Insurance didn’t cover it so we took turns with the chainsaw to cut it up, and lug it to the front, for the city to pick up. They weren’t really happy about it, either.

11 Sep 2004

My heart goes out to those who are rebuilding once again. As I mentioned above with Elena, Idalia didn’t even make landfall in the Tampa Bay area but it caused widespread damage there. That area is overdue for a 100-year storm which makes the likelihood of another disaster on the horizon increase.

I’m not trying to invoke fear; I’m trying to point out that one day the big one will arrive.

If you don’t live in Florida don’t get a smirk and think this doesn’t apply to you because it unfortunately does – fires, floods, tornadoes, derechos, hail storms, snow storms, and the list goes on, can affect you wherever you reside.

If you haven’t already planned for preserving your records you must make that your priority.

I’ve blogged about it previously and now would be a good time to review that.

In an emergency, you aren’t likely going to have time to collect and save all your items. Sometimes, all you can do is grab your keys, wallet, and phone.

Rebuilding after a loss is stressful, exhausting, and mentally painful. There’s so much to do it’s hard to know where to begin. Genealogy is not going to be your priority.

Now is the time to make sure your genealogy collection is preserved.

If you have already scanned your documents check to make sure they are all preserved. Read this blog to see why and this one to get them organized. Need help on using the Cloud? Here’s how.

Sure, things can be replaced but your lifelong work of collecting photos and records would be lost. Take the time NOW to digitize. From someone who has experienced too many hurricanes to county, you’ll be thankful.

Accessing Restricted Genealogy Records

Photo courtesy of

Here’s a warning, Dear Readers, I’m in a mood!

I’m not sure if it is my location or if you, too, are experiencing difficulty in finding local archives open for use.

I blogged last year about my problem in locating someone who has a key to unlock a mausoleum where one of my husband’s great uncle is buried. I have yet to find a way inside.

I’ve tried to visit two local museums but they, too, are always closed. One has been under renovation since before the pandemic. No response when I sent a few messages on Facebook requesting information about their holdings. Another claims to be open between Memorial and Labor Day but it hasn’t been. There is a sign on the door that provides an email and a phone number for more info. The email is non-deliverable and the phone doesn’t allow for messages. I have repeatedly stopped by; a few weeks ago, a person was leaving the building as I drove up. I asked how I could arrange a time to visit and was given a different email to make a request. It happened to be a member’s work email. This individual said they would also email the member to let them know how I obtained their email address. Never got a reply. I got a tip last month that a group uses the basement weekly so I showed up and found the door open. A woman was at the entryway and I asked for information on the museum. Was told she didn’t have any. Asked for a particular individual I was told would be at the site that evening. She didn’t respond but the man did hear his name and came from an adjoining room. His story is that my email doesn’t work and couldn’t explain why he hadn’t tried the phone number I had also provided which is local. Claimed he’d contact me and would arrange for me to come and look at the archives. Still waiting.

Last week I blogged about visiting the Wells County Public Library. I tried to contact their historical museum to arrange a day/time I could visit as I’m trying to gain more info about my Great Uncle Charles Landfair. Their website directs folks to send a message through Facebook. No response.

Last summer I visited a small museum in Mercer County, Ohio. The docent recommended that I call and schedule a time to meet with a more knowledgeable area historian. The number is out of service. No one responds to the website form filler request for information.


If you are a long-time reader you know I do not give up easily. So, after a while, I try again. After a few more days I reached out to the local library; the response is usually, “Good luck with that.” They have no additional information. I then contact the Chamber of Commerce. They often don’t have any information, either.

Yes, this is frustrating but there is a bigger concern than poor Lori not finding records. What is happening to these small communities’ history? Without access, the stories of the past are being erased.

Sure, the pandemic took a toll on all of us. Membership declined. Folks got used to staying at home and haven’t got back into volunteering. Younger people weren’t always welcomed into historical groups. Many of them are too busy raising families and working to get involved.

We shouldn’t be letting roadblocks become dead ends!

Reactivating historical organizations and societies is vitally important. If the area has little interest in stepping up, then the archive holdings should be transferred to an organization that is willing to preserve the artifacts.

I know firsthand how hard it is to let go. Last year when I relocated and downsized I had no room for my family’s heirlooms. They have been passed on to family members who can use and enjoy them. I know that giving them to the next generation was wise as they are in good hands. Museums need to do the same if they do not have support to maintain the collections.

A Foreshadowing of Creepy October

Courtesy of SoundCloud

Fall is just around the corner and I’ll be posting my October blogs about the weird, unexplainable happenings that occurred while I researched over the past year soon. I typically write them down as they happen and save them to present in October. I’ve got my four done so what happened to me this week is too good to wait for a whole ‘nother year so here goes. . .

On Thursday I attended a local genealogy club event at a library. We were supposed to be researching early residents of the town for a timeline poster the library was making. This was a continuation of what we had begun the previous month.

It was pouring and cold. Yes, I know most places are under a heat dome but we were not. It was in the 60s and I don’t do cold. I considered not going but I had promised to be there so I donned my raincoat and drove off through flooded streets.

Luckily, there were two parking spaces available close to the library door. I took one and a male patron took the other. I sat for a moment debating if I should just pull my hood up or wrestle with the umbrella. It was lightning so I opted to just make a run for it as it wasn’t more than a few steps. The man chose the umbrella and was struggling to get it open without getting soaked.

I stood in the vestibule shaking off my raincoat when he approached but he was carrying items in one hand and the umbrella was in the other so he couldn’t open the door. I noticed and held it open. After some pleasantries, we went on our separate ways.

I happened to be the first to arrive so I was talking with one of the librarians about the project. She said if anyone came who needed genealogical help we’d do that first. I love helping people with their brick walls so this sounded great to me!

Moments later a woman came in with a question; how accurate are death records? She had found some inconsistencies. We talked about, how family members are often distraught by the loss of a loved one, and provide incorrect or incomplete records. I gave an example of my Maria Duer Kuhn who was born in Ohio but her son had stated she was born in Germany on her death certificate. Nope, that would be his dad. Dad had been active in the immigrant community so Maria had an obituary in both the English and local German newspapers. Her son was just confused at the time of her death.

Next, the umbrella man arrived; those papers he had been carrying were death certificates for two of his Hull ancestors and he was stymied by the oldest which stated that the deceased had been born in Virginia. He could find no records in Virginia for this man.

I pointed out that the northwest territory had once been assigned to Virginia and that at the time of the man’s birth, the late 1700s, it was possible that the named location was somewhere else but under that jurisdiction. Seriously, once upon a time, in what is now Indiana, deeds were to be presented to Williamsburg, Virginia. Crazy, huh?!

I asked him if he had looked at online family trees for clues, warning him about unsourced or poorly sourced trees. He hadn’t. I brought up Ancestry but my personal version since the library edition that is available doesn’t give patrons the option to search public member trees.

I knew I had a few Hulls in my tree as my Revolutionary War patriot, John Duer’s sister married a Hull. I figured a lot of people would have the Hulls in their tree as it sounds to me like a common name.

Imagine my surprise when I looked at public trees and discovered my tree contained the information he needed.

Umm, yes, we were distant cousins. I then brought up so he could see the will which named parents and siblings. I’ve complained about that will for YEARS as my John’s will omit his deceased children and I wished that he had done the same as his brother-in-law – named everyone.

I then showed him I’d taken the Duers back to Merry Ole England and that he was eligible for several lineage societies. He had no idea and needed time to process this. Nothing like showing up in a downpour with two documents and leaving in the sunshine with hundreds more already nicely packaged for you.

But that’s not all. I decided to stop at another library on my way home to look at a book that the deceased author’s daughter had emailed me about that might be of help for a cemetery project I’m working on with a local high school. I went directly to the librarian and told him I didn’t have the name of the book but knew the author and publisher’s date. He found it for me in seconds. Yes, it had EXACTLY what I was looking for. Pleased, I put the book on the cart to be refiled. Then I stopped at the cemetery but no one was in the office. Sigh.

I didn’t check my email until I got home but I could hear it pinging. Sure enough, an email, related to what I had just accomplished.

It was sent by the author’s daughter while I was in the library. She had pulled out the copy she owned and sent me a list of former residents I could use in the cemetery tour. While reading the email I got a call from a friend and fellow member of our local genealogy society. A few minutes after I left the library she had arrived with the intent on looking at the same book as she had read in the newspaper that a barn was being moved from a neighboring county to our county to use for horses during the fair. The barn was coming from one of her great uncle’s farms. That family had lived in our county but relocated to a neighboring county in the 1800s. She remembered while reading the article she had intended to confirm a burial date on the now unreadable stone for this several times great aunt buried in our county.

When she arrived at the library she couldn’t find the book on the shelf so she went to the librarian and he told her Lori Samuelson had just used it. They went to the cart and there it was, right where I left it to be reshelved. See, they know me well in this library and I always return the items to the cart for reshelving as that is their policy.

Moral of the story – genealogical connections are integral and coincidences are icing on the cake. Were my Duer ancestors and the local deceased author giving us a nudge? Possibly though I can’t prove that. Sometimes we just need to appreciate the findings, however, they occurred.

Worldwind Summer Cemetery Tours

John A and Elizabeth “Betsy” Troxell Long, Photo by Lori Samuelson

Last week I mentioned I combined a cemetery tour of ancestors with my husband’s 50th high school class reunion. Today I want to go into depth about planning a whirlwind cemetery tour.

Most family historians have a list of places they want to visit – to walk in their ancestor’s footsteps, see the sights, and reflect at the site where their family permanently rests.

I know I was surprised when I learned that in many European countries, remains are dug up if the family did not continue paying rent to the church. The remains are then gathered with other deceased whose family didn’t pay up and reinterred together in a common grave. Sometimes, the tombstone is placed as a pathway or wall around the cemetery. Other times they’re destroyed. I’ve even heard that occasionally, the stone is bought by construction crews to reuse.

That also happens in the U.S.; my husband’s Harbaugh family left Waynesboro, Franklin, Pennsylvania for St. Joseph County, Indiana after the Civil War. They left behind two deceased children in the Old Union Cemetery. That church cemetery was sold and for those who did not claim the graves, the bodies were interred in a mass grave in Green Hill Cemetery as the new church did not want to care for the cemetery of another church’s former parishioners. The tombstones were transferred to the new cemetery and supposedly reside in the same order they were originally in but are now laid flat instead of upright.

I have a few family members I still don’t know where their remains are located – Daniel Hollingshead likely on his farm in Somerset, New Jersey, John Duer probably with a missing headstone in Kessler Cemetery with the rest of his two wives and most children, and Mary “Polly” Dennis Hodge Adams Elder Search somewhere in Mercer County, Ohio. I may have even missed a husband for Polly! More research is needed for those folks.

While my husband and I returned to our childhood home area we decided to visit the graves of family in that location. We happened to arrive earlier than expected and were only 10 minutes from Oak Hill Cemetery where my mother, maternal grandparents, and great-grandparents are interred.

I had routed the distance between cemeteries with the plan to save time and gas by going directly from one to the next. I had also contacted the cemeteries for maps but not all complied. If it is a large cemetery this is an important first step.

Come prepared as you don’t know what you’ll find. I was saddened to see that my mom’s flat stone was covered with dirt. It had sunk somewhat and the grass hadn’t been trimmed which made it appear even lower. That, and the remains of dried cut grass covering it, didn’t help.

Luckily, I had brought a shovel, garden gloves, D-2 which still didn’t work, Krud Kutter, bottled water, a soft scrub brush, and rags. I should have brought garden shears to trim the grass. Learn from my mistake! It is not fun to try to pull the grass out with your hands.

My great-grandfather is buried in the old section of the cemetery as he died young in the 1919 flu epidemic. Funny how I remembered exactly where his grave was located. My grandmother would tend it when I was small and I often accompanied her. Um, yes, she had a cemetery gardening kit she transported in the trunk of her car and it did include shears. I thought about it when I didn’t have the shears with me.

I am so thankful that Find A Grave had photographed that cemetery years ago as the stone is now unreadable. Vandals had destroyed the photo it once held and removed the top, which I believe was a cross. I also have a rubbing from years ago which I’m glad I saved.

The next stop was where my husband’s maternal grandparents and great-grandmother are buried, about 10 minutes farther away. We had never been there before. He attended her funeral but not the burial at the cemetery.

I knew the section but had no map of Ridgelawn. This hasn’t been the most friendly cemetery I’ve corresponded with over the years. They refused to provide burial information for years until I discovered a book in the Germany Library in Tampa that stated his great-grandmother was buried there. Another call only gave me the grave section. I didn’t bother to try to get a map as I hadn’t planned on visiting at that time.

Luckily, I happened to just park the car directly across from where the family is buried. I LOVE coincidences! Saves so much time. Car is on the left, the stone is where that little bit of red (my husband) is showing to the left rear of the large upright stone in the middle:

The following day we were going to visit where my husband’s parents and my dad and paternal grandparents were interred as it was in the next county over and on our way home. The cemetery had sent me maps of the sections but not a map of the cemetery itself which became problematic. The signage was down in many areas and we could not find the Memory Section. Turns out we were close but it wasn’t until we returned home that I wrote back to get specific directions did I realize we were just steps away. Sigh! Will use the map for an upcoming visit.

Why do cemeteries bury people in all different directions? Between upright and flat stones going north, south, east, and west we gave up. We did find his parents and had to clean the graves. Like with my mom’s they were weed-infested. We also realized that his dad’s death date was not inscribed which we had paid for years ago. The cemetery was supposed to send pictures when the engraving was done but had one excuse after another. I put in a request for Findagrave but no one went out so I gave up.

We had considered this cemetery as our final resting spot since it contained both our families but after seeing the condition and getting the response we have from the office staff, decided to look elsewhere.

After a week and a half got a return call from the cemetery stating they hadn’t noticed the engraving wasn’t done. Um, right. Of course, no proof of payment in the file. Re-paid as it wasn’t worth the time to look for the canceled check from years ago. Will be following up next month when we swing by that cemetery after a lecture I’ll be giving nearby.

Then it was an hour and a half drive to Fair Cemetery in St. Joseph County, Indiana to visit the graves of my husband’s maternal great-grandparents, George Frederick and Margaret “Maggie” Long Harbaugh. A half mile from the cemetery we hit a dead end. The road was closed. No detour. We were in the middle of the country with fields on each side of us. The car and phone GPS wouldn’t reroute us. So close, yet so far!

We decided to go to the next cemetery on our list, Porter Rea. We thought the GPS might start working for an alternative to Fair if we were approaching from a different direction.

When planning, look up the cemetery address online but I want to warn you that it is not exact and often wildly wrong. GPS coordinates would be wonderful but often they are missing in these remote locations.

Porter Rea is now a part of Potato Creek State Park so you have to go through the ranger gate to access it. The Rangers gave us great directions and the signage to find it was wonderful. They also had a nice paved parking lot, a water pump (that needs priming), and this cemetery was beautifully maintained. The stones you see at the top were repaired sometime in the past. They are in remarkably good shape, likely because they face west so most of the algae gets burned off in the summer sun and the north wind doesn’t blow snow on the stones, further preventing their deterioration.

We found the stones in seconds as the former trustee told me to find the pump, look for the white mausoleum, and walk 100 feet back. How he could remember is beyond me as he has given the records to the new trustee. Wish all cemeteries had someone like him.

I had read in the diary of Mary Ann Eyster Johnson that she had planted a white rose bush on Betsy’s grave in the 1880s as that was Betsy’s favorite flower. Find A Grave photo showed no flowers so I brought a white Snow Drop rose to plant. Actually, hubby planted it and we decided it was best to put it between the two stones to make the mowing easy for maintenance.

Mary Ann Johnson was a friend of Betsy and related distantly to her through marriage. Mary Ann’s sister, Sarah had married George Henry Harbaugh. One of their sons, George Frederick, married one of Betsy’s daughters, Maggie Long. Maggie was buried at Fair Cemetery, the one we had been unsuccessful in reaching.

GPS gave us an alternative route so we were now backtracking from my original plan. The distance was about 10 minutes. On our way, we passed a beautiful old white church and I told my husband to stop. Yep, it was St. John’s Lutheran and that was where George Frederick and Sara Eyster Harbaugh were buried. We found their graves quickly as the cemetery is small. It needed a mowing but we had heavy rains at the end of the week and that likely messed up the lawn schedule. The stones were clean so after a short visit we were following GPS to Fair Cemetery.

The car told us we had arrived at our destination but there was no cemetery; it was a field across the street from the Pine Creek Church of the Brethren which the family had attended. Interestingly, the address was the only location of the family’s 1880s farmhouse which is long gone.

No one was at the church so we drove down the road and luckily, found two women in the front yard of their farmhouse. One said she’d ask her husband because she knew of no cemetery close by. A few minutes later she returned to our car with her adult son who offered to drive us to the cemetery, a short drive (2 roads) away. We hated to bother them but she insisted saying he needed to drop items off at his uncle’s house who lived the way we were going.

He kindly got us there; honestly, we would have never found Fair Cemetery without their help. This cemetery was also well maintained and we found the graves quickly. We also found many other graves of both my husband and my family. Our families have followed the same pioneer trails in many places over the past 1000 years so I guess that’s not surprising.

We were quite tired by this time but I had one more cemetery to visit in South Bend as I had promised a distant family member I would check on his grandmother’s grave.

Once again, GPS routed us to the wrong cemetery but it was easy to find where we needed to go as it was across the street, Highland Cemetery. We had the section and found it quickly but the sections were HUGE and without a map, we were not successful in finding the grave. The storm had left down trees and knocked over stones. The ground was soggy and uneven. My husband went to the middle of the section and I started at the road walking in circles as graves went in every direction. I knew what the stone looked like from Find A Grave but so many stones were of the same shape and color, we gave up after an hour when it began to thunder.

What we did discover was this historical marker:

How cool is that?! We don’t often think about the folks who once walked about the ground where are relatives are now interred. The Native Americans and LaSalle, sitting under the now-dead tree, I could picture.

As summer comes to an end, we plan a few more cemetery stops. Next time, I’ll be prepared with shears!

Combining Genealogy With a High School Reunion

In late July, graduates of my husband’s now-closed high school held their 50th reunion. Only about 60 of the 352 graduates attended. Some didn’t care to attend, others probably didn’t have the time or funds to make the pilgrimage home. The remainder had no choice; about 18% of their classmates are deceased.

I heard a lot of stories about those missing members. A memorial had been created for them – a 1970-style school desk in the corner of the Pavilion, the same location where Senior Prom had been held. Upon the tabletop were listed the names, birth, and death dates of the individuals. The first died barely two months after graduating and the most recent, three months ago. There was an increase in deaths between 2020-2022. Was it aging or the pandemic?

This reunion made me aware of the folly of youth. At 17, when I danced the night away in that very same room, I hadn’t thought much of the prom’s theme – Stairway to Heaven. I hadn’t even remembered that was the theme until my husband’s close friend since kindergarten mentioned it. This was the same friend who had introduced me to what would become my husband. It was the same song that just happened to play on the radio when hubby and I were meeting at a city cemetery in Florida to select our grave sites. We’ve since sold those back to the city and are now in the process of deciding AGAIN where our final resting place will be.

So, being frugal (you can insert cheap in here, no worries on my part!) and time conscious, I decided we would visit cemeteries of deceased family members during our trip to our old hometown which is now a two-and-a-half-hour drive from our new city. I was thinking we might want to be interred there eventually and could save if we combined trips. We hadn’t visited some of the gravesites in over 20 years and in other cases, have never been. This seemed like a good time to check them out.

When I was thinking about the reunion I wasn’t thinking at all about those that weren’t going to be attending because they had passed away. I guess I was still thinking as we did at 17; aging and death would happen but not any time soon. In those days anyone over 30 was over the hill and we were far from that. Funny how fast time passes. Appropriate that we sometimes get a jolt of reality during a regular humdrum day.

I planned to visit seven cemeteries during this two-day trip which would include five hours plus of driving and four hours for the big party. I also wanted to drive by our old haunts, like our childhood homes, schools, friends’ homes, and places that held special memories – our first date, our favorite beach, and so on.

They say you can’t go home again. That’s not true; you can and you should. Does it look the same? Definitely not. Without the people you knew, like Mrs. Chellich who made the best grape jelly every summer, or Vera Shobach, who owned the corner store, the visit wouldn’t be the same as returning to an earlier part of your lifetime. Life goes on and it is worth the travel to your origin, to remember, reflect, and both laugh and cry.

Did I record any of the conversations that were held during the reunion? Nope. I was a guest. I heard apologies, regrets, and lots of memories of good times. I hope the attendees return home and someday write or record their memoirs.

Perhaps they’ll change their minds in ten years but it sure sounded like many had decided this would be their last reunion, which could explain the depths of some of the conversations that occurred. Well, at least at the table where we sat that I have labeled the Nerd Table, where we talked about philosophy and what colleges give seniors free classes online. The jocks seemed to still be interested in their past glory days and who got drafted for what major league team today. The ladies seemed to be comfortable with their old friends; most came alone, kicked off their shoes, and danced together as they once did. There was also the smoker group that convened outside. I guess some things never change!

This was the first high school reunion event I ever attended. None of my schools are in existence today. I left for Florida two weeks before my senior year in high school was going to begin in Indiana as my mom had been transferred. I graduated early by attending a school that no longer exists in St. Petersburg, Florida; it’s become a condo. My Indiana high school was leveled in 2014. It was tough to see that beautiful building gone.

Luckily, my husband’s former elementary school is now an art antique mall so we were able to visit. I took pics of him standing in the doorway of every one of his classrooms. On the main floor behind the cash register are three class photos hanging on the wall and he is in every picture. One of the vendors had attended the school a few years before my husband so they reminisced about the teachers, principal, and students. It was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with the greater community who had experienced a shared past.

Friends – Associates – Neighbors enrich our family stories. Make the most out of your upcoming reunions to reach out and gain new perspectives on your past events.

A 4-H Genealogy Event Unveils the Truth

Courtesy of ROI-NJ

You learn a lot when you attend a genealogy event but I had no idea that I was going to learn something that changed my understanding of a situation that personally happened to me in childhood.

Recently I served as a Summer Judge Assistant for our local 4-H organization in the Genealogy category. I was in both Girl Scouts and 4-H in my youth but in neither organization did I participate in any genealogy badges or projects.

My parents were divorced so my mom was my Assistant Girl Scout Leader for my Brownie Troop 345 and my step-mother was a 4-H Leader.

In 4-H, I participated in the sewing category at the Porter County, Indiana Fair in the mid-1960s. I can’t recall exactly what the item was; I think I sewed an apron but that might be wrong. What I strongly recall is that I received a Blue Ribbon.

Over the years the item I sewed and the ribbon has been lost but I remember receiving the ribbon. I was proud of earning that award.

Imagine my surprise when I just discovered that EVERYONE who enters a project on time receives a blue ribbon. Um, this seriously burst my bubble! My family thinks this is hysterical.

Now I’m not even sure that my item was entered at the Fair, which I didn’t attend. The ribbons are awarded by a judge at a pre-fair event, which is what I assisted with. My now local Fair is not until September. The items will then be brought back for the Fair display. I now suspect that I didn’t have visitation on the day that the item was to be judged so my step-mother must have just submitted it on my behalf. Since I never spoke with a judge it didn’t go to the Fair. Sigh. At 9 years old I would have had no understanding of the rules or the ability to get myself to the judging event alone.

This brings up something we must all think about. When we are recording our memories, even those we personally experienced and didn’t just hear about, we must keep in mind that we didn’t have the full understanding of the situation as a child. When looking through an adult perspective the events are colored. Compound that with remoteness to the event and like me, not really remembering what I sewed, the event becomes less historically accurate.

Think of how that impacts the oral history that has been passed down to you. Yes, there is truth in it but it is likely not the whole truth.

Thanks, 4-H for the reminder of this hard truth.

Way Down Upon the White River…

Photo by Lori Samuelson

Earlier this month, hubby and I joined other Society of Indiana Pioneers (SIP) at an Intergenerational Day at Mounds Park, Anderson, Indiana.

We had never been to the park and after a short hike, the ranger explained research findings about the constructed mounds on the premises. We then trekked back to the nature center and had an informative hands-on wildlife experience with reptiles and amphibians. After a box lunch, pioneer activities were scheduled – butter churning, broom making, weaving, flint knapping, candle making, archery, and visiting a historic home. We also observed volunteers who were making a dugout canoe for a museum exhibit.

SIP’s program is helpful in getting a younger generation interested in history.

It wasn’t just the kids who were excited nor was intergenerational just for attendees. My husband’s Hoosier Pioneer was Jacob Troxell, born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on 2 October 1797. By 1810, he had emigrated with his parents to Bear Creek near Miamisburg, Montgomery, Ohio. There he married first Catherine Ranck/Raunk on 29 December 1819.

By 1822 Jacob, Catherine, and their first of eight children, Elizabeth “Betsy” moved to the then-new state of Indiana. They settled in Harrison Township, Fayette County, one mile north of Waterloo.

Jacob first farmed his property that was adjacent to the White River. The growing community had a need and he met it by erecting a saw and grist mill. Later he opened a dry goods business and became a County Commissioner.

After Catherine’s death, he married widow Mary Jane Carlton Port. The couple had one daughter.

Jacob died on 6 April 1885 in Fayette and is buried in Robinson Chapel Cemetery there.

Of my to-do plans is to visit where Jacob lived. Between speaking engagements, renovating our landscaping with native plants, and volunteering, it’s not likely we’ll get to visit this summer. The SIP program, however, enabled my husband to experience the White River for the first time. In this preserved park setting, it likely looks much as it did when his 3rd great-grandfather came in the 1820s. Wow, 200 years ago. Five generations ago. Now that’s really intergenerational!