Why Persistence Pays in Hunting Records

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 3 Dec 2015.

On 6 August 2010, I called a cemetery in Indiana requesting records of the family plot. I know I called that day and I know who I spoke with because I wrote a note on the ancestor’s burial citation on my Ancestry.com tree.  I was told it was against the cemetery’s policy to release burial record information. I told the employee that I planned on visiting the cemetery and needed to know where the grave was located.  That grave location was given to me and I dutifully recorded it. 

That day I created a Find-A-Grave memorial for two of the individuals in the family, the husband and wife.  I thought it was odd they were buried in Grave 2 and 3 but since the cemetery employee refused to give me who was buried in Grave 1, I had no way to know.  I immediately put in a request for a photo on Find-A-Grave hoping that the mystery of burial space 1 would be revealed.  No one ever came through with the photo.

In September, I wrote for the death certificate of the other spouse as I decided I would use this family for my Board of Certified Genealogist certification portfolio.  It took 2 months, and several phone calls to Indianapolis, before I FINALLY received the record.  I’m not understanding why the website says “Average Processing Time: 2 weeks (5-10 business days). Processing times could increase during peak times (holiday, travel, income tax months and school enrollment) and may take up to 3 weeks (5-15 business days) to prepare your order for shipping.” when it took them 2 months but that’s another story – I kept being told that it was a busy time.  I was very excited when the record finally arrived and it confirmed that the burial was in the same cemetery as the wife.  I decided the day after Thanksgiving to call the cemetery again to see if maybe their policy had changed and I could obtain a copy of the cemetery record.

I love getting the cemetery records because I have uncovered some very interesting info – names of children I had never heard of, confirmation that the family was in the area earlier than I had thought based on the purchase date of the plots and married names of female relatives who were listed as the next of kin.

Unbelievably, when I called the cemetery I got the same person I spoke with 5 years ago.  She again told me that records weren’t available.  I told her I needed a picture of the stone and had placed a request on Find-A-Grave but no one had fulfilled it.  She said that maybe there was no stone.  I told her that I was interested in having a stone placed on the graves so I needed to verify that there was no stone.  She agreed to pull the file which actually was only an index card.  She stated there was no mention that there was or wasn’t a stone.  I asked how I could know for sure.  She said I’d have to look. I told her I lived 2000 miles away and couldn’t do that.  She told me she couldn’t give me any further information because she had no proof I was a relative.

I asked her how she would like me to get her proof – fax or email?  She said to send via email so I scanned the 2 death certificates, one of their children’s birth certificates, the grand child’s birth certificate and my driver’s license.  Moments later she sent an email with a copy of the burial card and that’s when I did a double happy dance!

The card, interestingly, showed that 7 burial plots were purchased in 1927.  At the time of purchase, the couple had 2 children and the wife was pregnant with the third child.  I could understand purchasing 5 plots but they purchased 7.  Reviewing the record I learned that the wife’s mother was also interred in one of the plots.  I had tried to verify where this woman was buried for 10 years!  Although I had her death date from family member recollections no one could remember her maiden name or where she was buried.  I tried writing for a death certificate but was told that there wasn’t one on file.  I tried to get hospital records as there were only 2 hospitals in the area at the time of her death but was told by both sites that they don’t have records that old.  I tried contacting what I thought would have been the funeral home but they are no longer in business.  I was so happy to finally find where this woman was buried!  Unfortunately, the card did not list her maiden name.

I was also shocked to discover that an infant grandchild was buried in the last space.  I knew of this child as I had found his birth certificate among family papers but  I never knew where he had been interred.

I can only assume that 7 plots were purchased as the couple planned to have additional children but did not. Perhaps they were unable to have more children or the economic times was a detriment.  Maybe they purchased the extra spaces for their young children’s spouses.  This was a family that really planned well so that, too, remains a possibility.  All I know for sure is that I’m thankful that I was persistent and called again to get more information.  Sad that it had to take 5 years to get information that was available.  Since there are no relatives left in the area, I think I’m going to contact a reputable (meaning I’ve used them before and been pleased) monument company in the area to verify that there is no stone since the cemetery worker refused to leave the office and check and no one on find-a-grave has picked up the request.  

Pilgrim’s Pride Via A Lettter

Took a minute to clean my email after putting away the fall decorations and found the following link about the Mayflower at Crestleaf Thanksgiving Genealogy:  5 Steps to Finding Pilgrim Ancestors.

I’ve been trying to discover who my hubby’s Mayflower ancestor was for years.  I have my suspicion but no concrete evidence.

My mother-in-law used to say her family hasn’t been in the U.S. very long, just since the 1700’s. That always made me laugh since my maternal grandmother didn’t arrive until 1913.  Hubby’s father’s family supposedly arrived on the Mayflower but no one could recall who the gateway ancestor was. Hubby swore that the Thanksgiving oyster stuffing (which he absolutely hated) was a hand me down recipe on his dad’s side from that event.  Personally, I figured the stuffing recipe was from Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York where I have been able to trace his line.  His mom stopped making it in the 1960’s because no one liked it.  She had gotten the recipe from her mother-in-law and I checked with everyone on all sides and although it was well remembered, no one has made it or has it written down.  I love old family recipes so that’s a major disappointment for me.

The family also knew they had a Mayflower ancestor because of a letter that was written by a family genealogist who was a member of the Mayflower Society.  Problem was, no one knew the name of the family genealogist or had a copy of the letter.

It wasn’t until long after my in-laws passed away that I connected via the internet with cousins who happened to have a copy of the letter.  Like most family tales, the story I was told had been confused somewhat.  The letter writer was NOT a member of the Mayflower Society.  She was also not a professional genealogist but family history was certainly an interest for her.

How the letter came to be written, I think, is the most interesting part of the story.  In the 1960’s a teacher in Chicago gave her students an assignment to write a paper on their family history.  Cousin went home and her mother knew that paternal aunt who lived in Ohio was the oldest living relative so she contacted auntie for information.  The aunt said she would write down everything she recalled and that is how the family history came to be recorded.

I never could figure out how my in-laws would have known about the letter as they weren’t in contact with the Chicago cousin.  Perhaps there is another letter out there somewhere that the aunt took her information from or maybe, as this was a large family, the Chicago cousins shared the Ohio cousins info with one of the Indiana cousins and the information filtered down to my in-laws.

The letter mentions the William’s line and claims that a Balsora Williams Dorval was a member of the Mayflower Society and the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Checked with both organizations and they have no record of her.  The Mayflower Society told me that many of their records were lost over the years and that during the time Balsora lived (1821-1907) the Society was more accepting of memberships, meaning you might become a member without qualifying via genealogical proof standards that are used today.  Some groups even allowed membership if your ancestor arrived on a boat other than the Mayflower, as long as it was shortly after.  I would love to be able to see how Balsora became a member, if in fact, she did.  I say that because the letter contains a lot of wrong information. The family Bible contradicts places of marriage, numbers of children, and spellings of names written in the letter.  That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of great information in the letter that was helpful to us in tracing the William’s family.

Family information is important to record and it’s not too late to download the free ap from StoryCorps.me.  In conjunction with the Library of Congress, the program is designed for teens to record audio storytelling of their grand and great grandparents.  With more holiday get togethers on the horizon, further opportunities to join in are possible.  Just visit The Great Thanksgiving Listen for more info.  The recording can be uploaded to the Library of Congress and be preserved.  Making your family’s story included is an awesome way to honor your loved ones, preserve history and get your younger relatives interested in genealogy.

So the hunt for our Mayflower (maybe) ancestor continues…

Native American Ancestry Uncovered

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 25 Nov 2015.

Disclosure: Genealogy At Heart may receive a small amount of compensation if you choose to purchase products via some of the links below.  Opinions expressed are my own and all products listed are what  I recommend for my personal use.

In honor of Thanksgiving, I’m thinking about Native Americans.   

My husband loves to go garage sailing and just discovered a children’s book published by Lyons & Carnahan in 1924 titled Why We Celebrate Our Holidays by Mary I. Curtis.  Looking through it I was astounded at the number of holidays that are no longer celebrated, such as Bird Day, Forefathers’ Day and American Indian Day:

Evidently, American Indian Day was the brainchild of the Society of American Indians who proclaimed on 25 September 1915 the purpose was to strengthen the fellowship bond between “the red men and the white.” p. 73.  The New York governor agreed and the first holiday was celebrated the 2nd Saturday in May.  Other states soon followed but the date chosen varied.  The book does not say how the holiday was celebrated.

I’m not sure when most states discontinued the holiday but I never heard of it.  November is deemed Native American month in my area so maybe it morphed into that.  I met a Seminole Native American reenactor of Abiaka “Sam Jones” at one of my school sites for Great American Teach In last week:

We spoke about the the lens people have on historical events.

This got me thinking about changes in word usage and how we need to remember what once was acceptable might no longer be. We no longer say “Indians” as its not only inaccurate, it’s offensive.   Fifty years ago, as a Brownie Girl Scout, I learned the following song with hand motions at Camp Meadowbrook:

“Indians are high minded,

Bless my soul, 

They’re double jointed.

They climb hills

and don’t mind it.

All day long!”

The person who taught us that little ditty was a Native American, supposedly one of the last of the Potawatomi tribe:

Campers at Camp Meadowbrook in Lake County, Indiana

I loved anything Native American because I believed I was genetically related.  My mother told me that my father had told her that there was Native American ancestry in his past.  I looked Native American by skin tone, eyes and hair.  I decided I must be Potawatomi because that tribe resided where my father’s family farmed.  Years ago, my husband even had a bust made of a Potawatomi chief as a visual reminder to me that I would one day discover that unknown lineage.  

Then, dna became inexpensively available and I discovered I had NO Native American ancestry.  So why did my dad think he did?

Climbing the family tree instead of hills uncovered what I think was the root of the story.  

My dad was Orlo Guy Leininger.  His great great grandfather, Jean “John” arrived in America in 1827.  There were several other Leininger branches that had come to the U.S. before and after John’s line.  Although we haven’t identified who the original Leininger was, tests on several of the males from varying branches show that there was one Leininger ancestor from the Bas Rhin region of what was then owned by Germany.  

The earliest Leininger emigrants settled in Pennsylvania and later ones, like my line, in Ohio.  With large families and limited land the families moved farther west.  While I was growing up there was another Leininger family in the same locality where my father lived.  He had no knowledge (and neither did they) of how they were related.  Their gateway ancestor first settled in Pennsylvania and that is where I believe the mistaken tale of Native American ancestry began.

Sebastian Leininger immigrated in 1748 to Pennsylvania with his wife and four children.  The family farmed on the then farthest western boundary in the new world.  One day, Sebastian’s wife and oldest son, Johan Conrad, took the wagon to town.  Sebastian remained on the farm with his youngest son and his two daughters, Regina and Barbara.  A culture clash was arising in the area between the French, British, German and Native Americans.  A band of Native Americans attacked several homesteads that day.  The Leininger cabin was one of those targeted.  Sebastian and his son were killed while daughters Barbara and Regina were taken as captives. The girls were separated and moved into the Ohio valley where they remained for a number of years.  

There are two young adult books available that tell the story in more detail.  Interestingly, they are written with the point of view from different sisters – I Am Regina (Leininger) and Alone, Yet Not Alone is Barbara Leininger’s story. The last book was also made into a movie with limited release in 2013 and an Academy Award controversy over the title song – Alone, Yet Not Alone [Accompaniment/Performance Track] (Daywind Soundtracks Contemporary)

I believe the Leininger abductions became twisted in the retelling and that was why my father thought the Leininger family was Native American.  

Want to know if you have Native American ancestry?  Check out Genealogy Today’s recent blog 5 Clues You May Have American Indian Ancestry.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

A Serendipitous Burial Location

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 5 Nov 2015.

In my last blog I wrote about how I felt after getting “a sign” regarding my decision as to where to inter my mom’s cremains.   Today, I want to let you know about a serendipitous burial location for my mom’s best friend:

My mom met Helen when we relocated to Florida in 1973.  The two worked together at Montgomery Wards and shared many common interests.

After my mom died, I continued to send Helen, who had left the area, Christmas cards with an update on my family.

In early July of this year, I received the email below:

“Hi,

Just wanted to let you know that my Mother passed away on the 21st.  She was 89 years old and was as ready as anyone could be to go home to Jesus.  

 My wife and I are going through her things at our house and I’ve noticed cards from you for many years.  I’m not sure exactly who you are or what church you went to but it seems you and my mother were close at one time or the other… 

Sincerely,

Bill” 

(Note to self:  Remember to keep your old email addresses forwarded to whatever you’re currently using so people can still connect!)

I emailed Bill and explained my relationship with his mom.  We corresponded back and forth via email discussing ways he could preserve his mom’s many pictures and mementos.  Unfortunately, by the time we connected, he had tossed out the many letters my mom had sent Helen.  As he continued to go through his mother’s belongings he discovered a clipping his mom had kept of my marriage announcement in the newspaper and he sent it to me.

In genealogy we don’t often think about family friends as retaining our family information but seeing that clipping reminded me of the importance of checking outside the immediate family for records, too!

About a month after his first email, Bill sent me the following:

“We finished up cleaning out my Mother’s apartment yesterday and that is a relief.  We’ve been going through her things when we can and it is so difficult as she had re-organized to a method we are not familiar with.  Things from the 20’s next to a package from some charity asking for money from recent years.  Just trying to organize the photos is tough enough.

The funeral went very well.. I’m sure there haven’t been many like it.  The kids were all very supportive during her time in the hospital and hospice.     I’m attaching the story [that was] read and my mothers Testimony.  Also pictures of her miracle cups.  She was convinced her cups could make a difference to someone so I am attempting to follow through with her wishes. Please forward parts that are interesting to you to anyone you would like….  

We were going to record the service but after we saw the samples we realized that some memories should remain just that. …

My mother was engaged to one of the neighbors in 1981 (John)  after my Dad died in 1978 .  They were going to get married on the day after he actually died of a cerebral hemorrhage.    It was a sad time for her but it was life changing, again.  She ended up housekeeping and baby sitting for his Son and Daughter in Law in Miami. She did that for a while and they moved to Orlando.  She decided to stay and get her own apartment. Several years passed and money was an issue and the neighborhood was changing.  At that point I asked her to come back and stay with us while I was working.     She moved back in with the couple again and raised their kids through the teen years in Orlando.   [Then  we] found her an Apartment in a 55+ complex.   She said she had never been happier! 

Anyway, the point of the background:  During the service her deceased fiance’s son told me that his father’s Crypt was right over there and pointed to the first section of the Mausoleum that was very close.  Talk about shivers going down your spine!   We had absolutely no idea it was within view although I have a vague memory that my mother said that he was buried somewhere in the place.  I know she had no idea!  She had no sense of direction at all!  We picked out the place and only had her over to approve of it.  It is such a beautiful place.  Our “ashes” bench is right next to her.  We put my fathers urn and his dogs urn in with my mother.    When we asked her in the hospital if it was OK she just showed indifference.  Perhaps his religious beliefs were a factor?  If she would have known that John was laid out in sight I don’t know what the answer would have been……………. “

So dear readers, what is the probability of a family member purchasing a cemetery plot for their loved one and only discovering at the funeral that “We had no idea that John was buried in direct sight of our area……………   It was so nice that we actually went there and had lunch a couple of times on our bench with my mother.  I think she really enjoyed it there.  If she would have known her beloved John was right in view” All I can say is, WOW!

And the last email I received from Bill ties in his mom and my mom’s messages from beyond using butterflies:

“Speaking of Butterflies:  The following is an excerpt from my mother’s “Book of Miracles”.  

“I flew from Miami to St. Petersburg to visit my son and family for Mothers Day.  I told Bill that I would like to go to church as a family on Sunday.  I enjoyed church, and afterwards, we went out to eat.  It was a lovely day.  When we got back to the house we sat on the back porch for a while.

A butterfly landed on my hand and stayed there for a long time.  I could move my hand back and forth, up and down, and it still stayed there.  Finally, it flew to Bill’s hand , then to the children’s hands, one by one.  Then back to me it flew.  After it had visited each of us, it flew back to the shed and stayed there a long time.   It came out about the same time every day that I was there.  When I left, they never saw the butterfly again.”  

Butterflies seem to be a metaphor for life in some way.  So beautiful but so short a time..”
My mom had died shortly before this visit.  Was the butterfly visitor a message from my mom to Helen?  Doubters will say it is all a meaningless coincidence and psychologists will explain humans need to seek meaning in life, especially during a stressful time.  Those are two explanations but I prefer to believe that there is a lot of knowledge yet undiscovered and that we may one day better understand events beyond current explanation.

Butterflies and Flowers – A Mother’s Message of Love From Beyond

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 1 Nov 2015.

I’ve been blogging about synchronicity – those meaningful coincidences that occur – and genealogy. I’m going to blog about events that I cannot explain but held a powerful message to my immediate family and I. Here’s what happened.

First, a little background information.  I am an only child and was extremely close to my mother. Today is All Saint’s Day, and although my mom won’t be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, she’s the closest person I’ve ever known that espoused the characteristics of a saint.  An uneducated, single mom at a time when the world did not look favorably on divorce, my mom always put my needs and wants above her own.  A hard worker, she never complained about her lot in life and always spoke up for the underdog. Material things were of no interest to her. She preferred to be outside, enjoying nature, or reading a book.  She especially loved butterflies and could spend hours watching them dance among the flowers.

In January of my 2nd grade I contracted rubella.  I remember feeling hot, tired and itchy shortly after returning home from Sunday 9:30 AM Mass.  Mom asked me what what wrong and I didn’t know; I just didn’t feel well.  Mom and grandma decided I didn’t look well and needed to lay down.  The next thing I remember was a few days later.  I awoke and heard crying.  I felt wonderful, better than I had ever felt.  I was happy and light and filled with joy!  The crying didn’t sadden me in the least but I was curious as to who was upset and why.  It was my mother who was being hugged by my grandmother.  They were standing in the hallway outside of my bedroom.  My grandmother was speaking in Croatian, caressing my mother’s head and saying, “Doro, I’m so sorry.  I know.  Ssh Ssh.  It’s in God’s hands.”  What was in God’s hands?  It was then that I realized I was a part from my body.  I was somehow above my body, still in my bedroom but I was at the ceiling level and could see through the closed door.  Looking around, I could see myself lying in bed, covered with a quilt.  I wasn’t afraid. Instead, I was delighted that I was seeing from a different perspective.  I discovered I could move by just thinking so I decided to explore.  I moved so quickly, I call it zipping, that I soon found myself outside of my bedroom.  I could see my school a block away.  It was night and the stars were twinkling.  There was snow on the ground and the trees were bare of leaves but I wasn’t cold.  I tried to look at my hands and feet but could see nothing.  I was invisible.  Then, I saw a path of light.  I felt drawn to it.  As I came closer I noticed that there were many “stars”, little pinpricks of light that were also following along the lighted path.  I joined them but was halted by a voice.  The voice was kindly and although I call it a voice, there was no sound made.  Rather, the words were understood without noise.  The message I received asked if I was ready.  I knew what that meant.  Was I ready to move from this life to the next.  I wanted to badly because I felt so wonderful BUT I could still hear my mother crying.  My mental reply was that I couldn’t go forward as that choice would destroy her.  Instantly, I found myself back in bed with a thud.  I was heavy and hot and congested and itchy and miserable.  I regretted my decision.  I cried out and my mother and grandmother rushed in the room.  They helped me sit up and brought me a cold glass of water.

Unbeknownst to me, I had been in a coma for several hours.  A classmate who’s dad was a doctor lived down the street.  Dr. Lorenty had been summoned to check on me and had left moments before I “awoke.”  He had told my mother that there was nothing he could do and to prepare for my death. After my decision to live I made a quick recovery.  So quick, in fact, that my regular physician, Dr. Fadell,  called it miraculous.  I knew it was no miracle; I was being prepared for First Communion so I considered to be an example of free will.  I had survived because I chose to do so.

The problem was no one would listen to what I experienced.  When I first told my mom I chose to live because she was so upset she looked aghast.  She asked me to never talk about my experience again.  My grandmother was the one who told me about the physician visit.  Grandma also said to not mention what happened as people wouldn’t understand.  I did as they requested and only my husband and children knew the story, until today.

Because of that experience I have never feared death.

Unfortunately, my great grandmother, maternal grandmother, paternal grandfather, several aunts, mother and father experienced extremely slow deaths from Alzheimer’s.  For those of you that have had a loved one touched by that horrible disease you understand why I say it’s a slow death.  Each of the individuals I mentioned was ravaged in a different way.  My great grandmother became childlike. She would coo to my dolls believing they were her children.  My grandmother talked to pictures and the television, insisting they were communicating directly to her.  My father and a maternal aunt stopped communicating entirely.  My mother, however, fought the disease until the end. She volunteered to take part in a University of South Florida study as she wanted researchers to discover an effective treatment so other families wouldn’t have to go through the hardship.  The double blind study did not allow us to know if the experimental drug mom received was a placebo or not.  We learned at the study’s conclusion that she had been given an early version of Aricept.  Not a cure, it did allow her to probably live independently longer than she would have.  I say probably because one can never know for sure but that view is in comparison to all the other family members who had not been given the medication.

When Mom broke her hip and was confined to a wheel chair she showed my kids how she had learned to pop wheelies.  She always knew who the immediate family was but she had difficulty in knowing who was living and who wasn’t.  She insisted her deceased sister and mother had visited the night before and she would relay their messages to us.  We would kid her that what she needed to let us know were the lotto numbers so we could win.  She did not find that amusing.  Instead, she always said she would send a message via butterfly that she was fine after her death.

When she lost the ability to swallow I wished that she would make the choice to end the suffering. Shortly after the terrible events of September 11th, mom passed away.

The Sunday after my mother’s death I told my family that I wanted to take a long walk on the beach.  My mother loved Honeymoon Isle so that is where I headed.  This is what I wrote after I returned home from the beach:

“On Sunday, October 7, 2001 I decided to take my walk on Honeymoon Island Beach early in the day as [my family] and I had decided to have a family memorial service for my mother in the afternoon, followed by a lamb dinner at Hella’s Restaurant in Tarpon Springs, FL, as lamb was always a traditional food used in the family during times of celebration. Although we were greatly saddened at the loss of mom/grandma, we were rejoicing that her invalid condition was over as she was of independent spirit during most of her lifetime and she hated being confined to a wheelchair. 

I often walk the 2 miles to the island point and the 2 miles back as quickly as I can for aerobic exercise and I enjoy the walk solo as others in the family have difficulty in maintaining my pace. I also enjoy the solitude of the beach as the area is often deserted.  This Sunday morning I left the house shortly after 9 AM with my pedometer on, ready for a brisk walk in the cool morning air. 

The beach was more populated than usual but most people were elderly, using canes or each other for support and congregating near the bath house. In 4 minutes, I had walked a quarter of a mile, leaving most of the people behind me. It was near the quarter mile mark when I first noticed a yellow carnation. With each few steps I encountered more and more flowers – all varieties and colors – roses, mums, daisies – in yellows, pinks, reds and whites. My initial thought was that someone had had a wedding on the beach the day before but I soon dismissed that as I noticed that the flowers must have come ashore from the gulf as they were wrapped in sea grass. The thought that crossed my mind was that someone must have had a wonderful party on a ship the evening before but the flowers were so fresh that I dismissed this, too. They were not onshore in clumps, either, but strewn almost an equal distance apart and alternating in type and color. By the 3/4 marker the oppressive fragrance of roses overcame me. I looked around to try to find the source. Nothing close by was blooming, only the sea oats which had gone to seed bent their heads in the wind. I could find no source for the odor which permeated and seemed to follow me as I walked. It reminded me of the smell that we would occasionally come across in our last house. That, too, had never been explained but it always seemed to follow a crisis of some sort and soon after, better times returned. This led me to think about my mother and I thought that perhaps I was mistaken in calling the cemetery [up north] and that maybe I should have my mother’s ashes spread in the gulf as she had mentioned once. I thought that the flowers might be from a ceremony of that type. 

At the one mile marker I noticed the only yellow rose. Being my favorite flower, it made me smile. When I looked up I caught a glimpse of something flying over the water out of the corner of my left eye. At first I thought it was a sandpiper but as it flew I realized that it had a different movement. That’s when I realized it was a butterfly – a huge brown and reddish colored butterfly the likes of which I had never seen. I stopped immediately and thought that I was hallucinating. My mother loved butterflies, the beach, flowers, and me. All of a sudden the symbolism struck me. I took out my cell phone and called [my husband] because I couldn’t believe I was really seeing these things. The number was busy. I tried again, it was still busy. I decided he must be surfing the net. (This was the days of dial up connections)  It was then that I realized that the butterfly hadn’t moved forward but was merely fluttering up and down over the waves. I said, “Mom?” and with that the butterfly moved towards me on the beach a little but continued north. I followed. The sky became dark, thunderheads mushroomed in the north and west. The waves and wind increased in strength. I spoke to the butterfly of things that had remained unsaid. At one point it came onto the beach and I again stopped. I reached out my hand but it remained just out of reach. I followed the butterfly almost to the end of the island where it crossed the small strip of sand and headed towards the bay. The sky had become even more turbulent and I feared that I wouldn’t make it back to the car safely. Even so, I stood transfixed, I couldn’t let the sight of the butterfly go just yet. The butterfly flew off across the bay. The sky in the east was bright blue and the morning sun glinted off the crest of the waves, leaving dancing lights. I watched until I saw the butterfly dip down into one wave and become a spark of light. I let out a cry, knowing that I would never see the butterfly again. I looked at my watch. 15 minutes had passed from beginning to end. I began to walk back to the car. As soon as I crossed the small slip of land to walk back along the water’s edge I came across a whole shell. It was the type that my mother often collected and prized – a large clam shell, opened but still intact. I reached down and picked it up.

When I reached the 1 mile mark I picked up the yellow rose as proof of what had happened. It was too unbelievable and I wanted to have something tangible to show. Stranger still, was that every flower was gone upon my return – only 4 remained – all yellow, my mother’s favorite color – and strewn at each of the remaining mile markers (3/4, 1/2 and 1/4). Next was a mum, the type of flower my mother used to buy for [my husband] occasionally as she felt it was appropriate for a man. Someone [although there didn’t appear to be anyone else on the beach ahead of me] had stuck it standing straight up in my path. At first I passed it, leaving it as it had begun to drizzle but something insisted that I retrieve it so I went back about 20 steps and collected it. Then I came upon the first and second carnations, the flowers she sometimes bought for the kids. I stopped and picked them up, too. Stems, leaves and an occasional petal remained of the other flowers but nothing more. It began to pour by the time I reached the last flower. I walked back to the car and really don’t remember much of anything as I think I was in shock. I came home, [my husband] made me a cup of hot British tea and I related what had transpired. 

Later that afternoon, on our drive to Hella’s [Restaurant], we were a few blocks from the sponge docks and [my husband] mentioned the fact that in all the years we have lived in Florida and as frequently as we go to the beach (almost daily in the summer and at least 2-3 times during the rest of the year), we have never seen a butterfly on the gulf, nor come across flowers strewn as they had [been that morning]. Usually you come across the remains of a bouquet still intact but nothing of this magnitude and never with the strong odor that had come, too. Just then, out of right side in front of the car a monarch butterfly flew. We all saw it and I said, “Look at the monarch.” Instantly it disappeared. We have no explanation for any of these events. Lori Samuelson 10-8-01″

Although these occurrences are odd, another strange encounter was yet to happen.

My mother had prearranged to be cremated but she had never decided on what to do with her cremains. Whenever I’d ask the response was, “Whatever you like.”  Once she mentioned being scattered in the gulf but another time she mentioned being interred in the family plot in Indiana.  After the beach event I was torn about what to do.  I decided to go with the cemetery and arranged for the cremains to be interred during our winter break from school.  It was my daughter’s senior year and as she had taken days off to visit colleges, she had no more excused absences available.  We drove to northern Indiana on Christmas Day with mom in the trunk.  The Memorial Service was to be held the morning of the 26th.  When we arrived at Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, Indiana we were told that a snowstorm was forecast and that the ground might be too hard for the internment.  I was devastated.  Maybe mom didn’t want to be buried.  Maybe I should just take her ashes back to Florida.  The clerk told us to wait inside the office and she’s speak with the workers. There were only 2 chairs in the office so I sunk into one.  I was sadly staring at the floor when I heard my daughter say, “Look, it’s grandma.”  Looking up, I saw a monarch butterfly soar across the counter and land on my daughter’s arm.  I burst into tears.  My husband said, “Amazing.”  A moment later the clerk returned and said that the workman were able to dig the hole and we were ready to begin the interment.  The clerk looked at my tears and smiled.  I couldn’t find words to explain that the tears weren’t of sadness but of knowing that my mom was okay and that the decision I made was fine.  My husband tried to explain.  The clerk said that once in awhile butterflies just show up in the office, probably came in with flowers.  That may be but a monarch in northern Indiana in late December will always be seen by me as a final message from my mom.

Ashes on the Doorstep

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 29 Oct 2015

I absolutely love the internet – it’s my favorite improvement in life.  I could live without kitchen appliances, television, cell phone and backup camera on my car but I wouldn’t want to return to the days of no internet.

I first used the internet in 1993 at a reading festival at Eckerd College where a text only version was being demonstrated and I was eager to have it at home. My husband got us online in August 1995.   It’s been 20 years and my, has it changed our lives for the better!

When you think of spooky, spine tingling stories you think of creepy old houses, forlorn looking graveyards and the dark of night.  The internet is most likely last on your list of where ghostly happenings occur but it has happened to me on more than one occasion.

My most recent strange encounter began in January 2014.  I had been thinking about a deceased great aunt that I had loaned a musical instrument to in the late 1970’s.  I never got the instrument back and wondered what had happened to it.  I assumed one of her children had it.  Within a day of this thought I received an email from one of the aunt’s children who I had not seen since I was a child.  The email was curt and demanded that I correct misinformation regarding his parents that I supposedly had placed on Find-A-Grave.  I recognized his name and immediately wrote back calling him by my childhood nickname for him. Strange how I had just thought about his mom the day before!  I informed him that I was not the memorial owner and had tried to correct the wrong information in 2 prior emails but the owner had never responded. I did post a photo of his parents on the site and that is why he thought I was responsible for the wrong information.  I suggested he contact Find-A-Grave administration and forwarded my previous emails to the memorial owner to him to support his concern.

We corresponded via email for two months.  He had hired a genealogist from across the pond and had taken a trip himself to research.  He was adamant that some of my information was in error.  Thank goodness I cite my sources as I was able to explain where I obtained it, which was mostly word of mouth from my grandmother.  If you’re a faithful reader, you know my maternal grandmother was a strong family matriarch and did tend to dramatize the telling of stories so his concern of accuracy was understandable.  However, I would think she would know how many siblings she had and what their names were; he believed the family had 2 daughters and 1 son when my records show 3 daughters and 3 sons.  I suggested he contact his overseas genealogist who verified that my information was correct.  The genealogist had missed these children because she had begun searching Baptism records in 1900.  The 3 oldest children were born in the late 1890’s and died prior to emigrating to the United States. It was an understandable error as he had thought my grandmother was the oldest and she was born in 1900.  He hadn’t known she was the oldest SURVIVING child.

I sent via snail mail a dvd of all the family photos and scanned documents to him.  He had promised to send me copies of his photos but never followed through. I volunteered to take a photo of his birth dad’s gravestone which is not far from my home but he never replied.

Two months after we began exchanging emails he informed me that his sister had passed away and directed me to an online memorial site run by the funeral home.  I posted my memories of her on the site and sent my condolences to him which he didn’t acknowledge.  This was our last email exchange.

What was so odd was that his sister had died within 10 days of our initial contact. Why had he waited 2 months to tell me of her death?

In May, I received an email from a “friend” of my deceased second cousin.  She mentioned that she had seen my posting on the funeral home site.  The friend had tried to contact closer family but no one responded to her.  What should she do with my second cousin’s ashes?  Huh?!  I had to read the email twice to absorb the question.

We began corresponding and I learned, sadly, that my deceased cousin had died alienated from family. She had had a falling out with her sibling which explained why her brother had not told me about his sister’s death immediately.  He hadn’t known. Two months after the death the friend went online to try to find addresses for siblings and found the Find-a-Grave memorial now owned by the brother.  That was how he discovered his sister had passed.  Instead of responding to the friend, he forwarded the information to me.  No wonder he didn’t reply to my condolences.

I was sick to my stomach.  Knowing both my grandmother and her sister, my husband said it was a good thing this happened after they were long dead because they would have been livid.  I agreed.

How could I try to make the situation right?  Obviously, it was too late for sibling reconciliation.

The friend told me that my second cousin’s wish was to be interred with one of her parents.  The friend and a former co-worker had planned to scatter the ashes on the graves but they didn’t know where the parents were buried.  Going through my cousin’s belongings after her death didn’t provide them the answer so they waited til spring and turned to Find-a-Grave for help.  When they discovered the cemeteries were out of state they didn’t know what to do so they contacted the brother for help. With no reply from him they were at a loss until they saw my tribute.

I told them I would scatter the ashes and offered to pay for their time in finalizing my cousin’s estate. There was no reply to my offer.

In early June, I arrived home from the dentist to discover 3 boxes on my front porch.  Dragging them inside, hubby and I grabbed a knife to cut the tape.  There was a return address so I expected what I would find. The first box contained a cut glass vase, a coconut rice bowl, olive wood candlesticks, and a Hummel figurine. The second box contained pictures, certificates, a Bible and medical records belonging to my cousin.  The third box was her cremains.

An entire lifetime reduced to 3 boxes left on a doorstep.

My husband responded like he always does when odd things happen to me, he shook his head and said, “The weirdest things happen to you.”  My co-workers thought this was hilarious.  “Only you have your relatives UPS’d.”  I found it very sad.  This cousin was a role model for me as a child and I was deeply embarrassed by my family’s hard headedness.

I emailed the friend that I had received the packages and told her I would be sending her a check in the mail. She didn’t respond.  She never cashed the check or acknowledged receiving it.

Unfortunately, the death certificate was not included in the boxes.  I contacted the cemeteries where her birth parents were interred and was told that scattering of ashes was forbidden and interring cremains could only happen with a death certificate.  I couldn’t obtain a death certificate because my cousin died in a state that requires either a will, proof of life insurance bequeathment, or shared property.  Now I was dealing with 3 states and no one would make an exception.  I wrote again to the friend requesting a copy of the death certificate.  The email bounced back as undeliverable.  I sent a letter via snail mail.  No reply.  I went online trying to find a phone number but the person didn’t exist. Looked in the white pages, used Spokeo, called the funeral home – nope, nothing.  The friend had vanished.

In mid July I received a call from one of the cemeteries who told me that an exception was being made.  I followed the directions I was given and on my grandmother’s 114th birthday the cremains were finally at rest. I was asked to not divulge that an exception was made and I’ll honor that request. Even my kids don’t know how the story ended; they just knew that their 3rd cousins ashes were no longer in the entryway.

I can’t say if the change of heart was due to Divine Intervention but I’m fairly certain it was somehow my grandmother’s intervention.

And about that musical instrument.  Well, it wasn’t in the boxes so it’s still out there somewhere.  I’m fairly certain I’ll be getting a replacement soon.  How do I know?  As I wrote this, the mail was delivered and it contained my new passport.  I had forgotten hubby and I sent the renewal in early last month.  How odd that it arrived while I was writing this…

A Phenomenal Photo Find – A Picnic in a Chicago Cemetery

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 25 Oct 2015.

Hope you enjoyed the genealogical synchronicity links in my last blog.  For some reason, many of my strange experiences tend to revolve around photos and I’m going to share 2 odd occurrences that happened in the same week which completed a prediction made 18 years earlier.

The Christmas before my first child was born, my in-laws gave me a book to record family history. My mother-in-law asked me 3 months after my child was born if I had the book completed as she knew I was extremely interested in genealogy.  Overwhelmed with motherhood, I told her no. She said she expected that I would have it completed back to the American Revolution by the time my child graduated from high school.  Little did I know how right she would be and the odd timing of an important discovery in that line that made her prediction accurate.

I was always intrigued with my husband’s 2nd great grandmother, Drusilla Williams DeWolf Thompson.  No one else in the family was named Drusilla so where the name came from we don’t know.  I liked to call her Grandma Dru because Drusilla makes me think of one of Cinderella’s mean stepsisters.

Hubby’s parents didn’t know much about Grandma Dru; their knowledge was that she was a seamstress in Chicago and that she had arrived there via Conestoga wagon from upstate New York with her husband.  She was supposedly the youngest of 21 and her father, John Hicks Williams, a sea captain, died from a bad shave in the Orient.   Turns out much of that story isn’t fact.  Some of the wrong information came from an undated letter written by a family member who though Drusilla’s sister was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the Mayflower Society. No one in the family questioned the accuracy of the information until the early 2000’s when a second cousin decided to join the DAR and found their was no link in the line.

I came into contact with the cousin’s daughter via an internet posting on Rootsweb Gen Forum seeking info on Dru and I agreed that I would help research the family.  Separately, the cousin, her daughter and I made several trips to Long Island and Troy, New York seeking records as back in those days, internet searching was difficult.  We were able to prove descent from Dru’s paternal grandfather, Wilson Williams, and that Wilson was a member of the Hempstead Harbor, Long Island Militia during the American Revolution.  Along the way we discovered another cousin via the internet who filled us in on her line.

We had documentation from the family, census, military, church and civil authorities but what we longed for was a picture of Drusilla.  Dru died in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois in 1898 so it was probable that she had been photographed in her lifetime.  I have all of the pictures of my husband’s family and none were of Dru.  The cousins had no picture, either.  We decided to search collateral lines.  Dru had one son, John Calvin, with her first husband, Calvin DeWolf, who had died in 1852.  John Calvin had 4 children, Sadie, who died in 1953 had no children. Caroline died as an infant in 1883. Nellie died in 1908 during childbirth and Henry, who died in 1924, was unmarried.  The cousins and I would joke that the best chance of finding a picture would be for me to search antique shops locally as Sadie had died not far from where I live.  Instead, we decided to search other collateral lines.

Dru had 3 birth children and 1 adopted child with her second husband, Thomas Coke Thompson.  The adopted child, Nellie, seems to have vanished after age 11 so we assumed she had died.  Dru’s oldest child, Lewis Warren, died in 1883.  He married twice and had one child, Louisa, with his second wife.  Louisa also married twice but her only child died at age 3 in 1910 so this was another dead end.

Dru and Thomas’ second child, James, had 2 children.  Daughter Rose died as an infant in 1883.  Jeannette, their other child, died in 1944.  She married but had no children.  No picture would be found here, either!

If a picture existed it would be in the possession of a descendant of Dru’s youngest child, Mary, who both my husband and his internet found cousins’ descend.  Mary and Andrew Cook had 7 children but we could quickly eliminate 6 of the children’s descendants from having a photo.   Lulu May, who is my husband’s grandmother, can be eliminated since I have all of the family pictures.  To be sure, I double checked with all of his living relatives and no one could recall ever seeing a picture of Dru.

Oldest son, John Thompson, who one of the cousins is descended from, and second oldest son, William DeWolf Cook, who the other 2 cousins descend from, can be eliminated as none of those families had a photo.  Three of Mary’s children died without marrying – Drucilla in 1897, James Andrew in 1906 and Whitney Calvin in 1924.

This left one of Mary and Thomas’ children to find – Grace Gertrude Cook, the author of the undated family letter.  This was our last hope!  We knew that Grace had married John Honaker and they had 2 children.  I had met one of their children, John Sheridan Honaker, who had retired not far from where my husband and I lived when we first married and my in-laws would visit John when they came to see us.  He had 2 children we had never met.  Grace’s second child, Anne Virginia, married and also had 2 children we had never met.  My sister-in-law thought the family lived somewhere in the midwest.

Finding an obituary for John Sheridan Honaker, the cousins were able to get a phone number for one of his children.  This newly found cousin hadn’t ever seen a photo of Dru, either.  She doubted anything was left as a tornado in 1974 had blown the roof off her family’s home and there were only a few pages of the Family Bible that had survived.  She promised to check with her uncle who had been the one to clean up after the tornado.

It took several months for the cousin to be able to convince her uncle’s son to look in the attic.  The son insisted that everything had been lost and he really didn’t want to climb around his dad’s attic as the uncle was too old to look himself.  She volunteered to look but was politely told no.

I had moved on to other lines and really wasn’t thinking about Dru when I dropped off at Walgreens a baggie filled with undeveloped film and disposable cameras I had found while spring cleaning in a spare closet.  It was a Sunday afternoon and I knew I had too much for the harried clerk to develop in an hour so I told her to call me whenever she got the film developed.  As I turned from the counter I ran smack into another customer who I hadn’t known was standing close behind me.  I apologized and asked if she was okay since she clearly looked rattled.  She said she was fine but she certainly didn’t look it; she was scowling and tense.  I told her that I hoped the rest of her day would be calm and beautiful.  As I walked past her she asked if she could have a word with me.  I turned and she sputtered that she was psychic and did I know that I had a lot of dead people surrounding me.  The store clerk was taken aback but I just laughed and told the customer that I was a genealogist and that they were most likely all my relatives.  The woman told me she had never seen anyone surrounded by so many dead people.  I laughed again and told her I had a big family and that I hoped they were all listening because I really needed their help in finding their records, especially their pictures.  I shared what happened when I got home with my husband who shook his head and remarked that the strangest things happen to me. Every time I see this cartoon I think of that experience:

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I got a call several days later from Walgreens to pick up my photos.  While I was gone my husband was checking email.  When I returned from the store hubby was excited and told me there was an email I just had to read right away – it was from the Midwest cousin.  Here’s a transcription of the email dated 5 April 2001 but  I have used initials only as I don’t have permission to use their names:

“Found it!!!!! Actually J. found it.  It is very faint and has some water damage.  I will send you all copies (I’ll take it in tomorrow).  I have never been to Graceland [Cemetery] but there is a tall white stone with what looks like an urn on top.  On the left side of the picture is a young girl with a fancy dress.  Seated next to her is a bearded man with a top hat.  To the right of him is a girl with her head resting on her hand.  Two boys are seated on either side of the monument.  On the back in a flowery script it says:  Graceland  Cemetery 1870 Thomas Thompson Drusilla Thompson Lewis Thompson James Thompson Mary Thompson.

I will have the back photocopied so that I can send that along with the prints.  Hope this does it for you.  I actually jumped up and down when Uncle B. handed it to me.  He did not want me to take it from the house, but I insisted… Congratulations! S.”

I shouted and jumped up and down, too and thanked all the dead people who supposedly were following me.  Later that evening I received the following email from the Midwest cousin:

“I had a long talk on the phone with Uncle B tonight about Aunt V. and we were rejoicing over the good news from the doctor.  Then he says, “S., did you pray about this picture?” (He is a religious man.  I don’t pray about pictures.)  I said, “No, but it means a lot to I. and her daughter, and to Lori.  Why?”  And he says, “J. didn’t go up to find the picture.  He was just going through some old things cleaning up.  Then he came upon a box that he had never seen that had been up there before the tornado because it had water damage.  He went through it and found old clothes and things, and there in the bottom of the box was this picture.  The only picture in the box.  Somebody’s prayers must have been answered.”

“Well, I’ll leave that last part for you to decide.  But this is very weird because J. has been through those attics time and time again and he said this box was just sort of sitting there.  This makes the tape thing* of mine even spookier.  Anyway, J. brought the picture down not eve (sic) knowing what it was because it was so faint, and wouldn’t you know.  It’s the picture.

Just thought I would share that part of the story with you.  You can make of it what you will. S.”

And you, dear readers, can make what you will of this odd story that happened to me.  Here’s the picture:

dru

From a later email, here’s further information about the photo:

“…I asked what they [the photography shop] could do to make it clearer and they said that I would be pleasantly surprised because it was made before there was film so there is no grain and should enlarge perfectly.  I had them make a 5 x 7 with some cropping of tree tops from the top; a  5 x 7 that focuses on the family and the monument and an 8 x 10 that includes as much of the picture as possible in the original, which is about 7×6…”

The miracle of this picture is that it survived not only the 1974 tornado but also 131 years of no heating or air conditioning, the Chicago fire (1871), and several moves across three states.

But the story doesn’t end there….

Six months after the photo was discovered my eldest child was inducted into the DAR; it was her senior year in high school as my mother-in-law, long dead, had predicted would happen.

As I was writing this blog I decided to take a break and look at some of the hints that had popped up on ancestry. I have disabled most of the hint feature so when I get some, I tend to take a look.  I can’t explain how there was a hint for Find-a-Grave for Uncle B, the man who had the picture in his attic.  I didn’t even know he had died 3 years ago.  Someone had posted his and his wife’s gravestone photos just 2 months ago.  I have no idea who made the memorial or the relationship of the person who posted the photos.  Why that hint showed up a few hours after I had written most of this blog I can’t explain, either.

So just maybe all those dead people behind me in Walgreens are still around helping me keep my tree updated.  I don’t understand how it all works but I certainly appreciate the help!

*I’ll save that strange story of the tape for another day!

Creepy Creepy October

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 22 Oct 2015.

As we approach Halloween, I’m thinking about the weird and unexplained that happens in the world of genealogy.  I’ve had several strange situations occur which I’ll be sharing over the next few posts.

Since I know I’m not alone I wanted to share with you some coincidences I’ve discovered in the past few weeks written by other genealogists.

The first was from Crestleaf.com – if you don’t subscribe to their free email newsletter you really need to as it’s filled with useful posts.  In their September recap there’s a link to their interesting finds for the month and one written by Vicki Noels-Cornish, The Ginger Genie, who shares a serendipitous find.  Click on Crestleaf to read about it.

Don’t know if you saw the History Channel show last year about the violin that was discovered to belong to one of those who perished on the Titanic.  I’m not a big Titanic fan but I loved how the show followed the trail to discover that the violin was in fact one used on the ship.  I was astounded to read the rest of the story – recently posted by the Daily Mail in the UK.  This you’ve got to read if you’re not aware of the update.  Warning – there’s a spoiler in the headline so scroll down before you begin reading!  View it here.

My Mother was quite superstitious and one of her favorite saying was “It always comes in 3’s.”  So here’s the 3rd coincidental story – I’ve discovered recently that Genealogy Today has short stories submitted by users about Serendipity.  I really enjoyed “Marriage Arranged By Ancestors” as my husband and I met accidentally through friends.  Over the years we’ve discovered that we are “cousins” several times, the most recent in the 1500’s.  Before researching my ancestors I would have said I was Croatian and German and he would have said he was Swedish.  Little did we know we are also Irish, English, Welsh, Scottish, and French. Enjoy!

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree – The Real Life of Johnny Appleseed

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 16 Oct 2015.

When I think of fall I don’t think about pumpkins and leaves like most.  Instead, I think of apples.  I loved apple picking as a child and I knew what would come soon after, my grandma’s apple strudel. We bobbed them, tried to bite chunks out that were dangling from the ceiling and dunked them in caramel.  My neighbor, Carol, and I would twist the core while reciting the alphabet to determine the initials of who we would marry someday. Sweet or tart, there’s an apple for every one’s taste.

When my in-laws moved to a rural part of northeastern Indiana in the 1980’s, hubby and I always knew where to turn on the unmarked road – just look for the old abandoned apple orchard on the corner.  The trees were gnarly and the fruit small and withered.  It always looked creepy to me, even on a bright sunny summertime day.  I remarked to my father-in-law that it was a shame the trees were neglected.  He said that he had heard that they were once owned by Johnny Appleseed.  Little did I know how right he was.

I knew Johnny Appleseed was a real person named John Chapman.  With a romantic notion of him traveling the west to plant apple seedlings so that pioneers could benefit from the delicious fruit on their journey, I knew little else about him.

I passed on the story of Johnny Appleseed to my children every fall when I made my mother’s apple salad. They wanted us to plant an apple tree but in our part of Florida, that wouldn’t work.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered this newspaper clipping with my father’s papers after his death in the late 1990’s:

Like most everything my family has left me, I have no idea of the source.  Grrr-no newspaper name or date. Did Dad save it because the name Leininger was mentioned or was he, too, related somehow to Johnny Appleseed?  Dad and I weren’t close but there was an apple tree on my grandparent’s farm in Hobart, Indiana that I used to climb.  Wouldn’t someone have told me if Johnny Appleseed was a relation?

John and George Leininger are common names in the family – I’ve got 19 John’s and 18 George’s. In addition, I’ve got combined John George and George John.  I knew John Chapman never married and I had no Chapman’s in my tree so I assumed the clipping was because of seeing the Leininger name. Yet, there was some other oddities that made me wonder.  My step-grandmother was from Michigan, close to Hastings, and the Leininger family first settled in Ohio, though it was not Ashtabula.  My aunt’s name was Bonita and she once lived near Columbia City, Indiana.  Hmmm.

It wasn’t until a distant cousin emailed me his Leininger records that I learned that John Chapman was involved with the Leininger family and that spooky old orchard did in fact once belong to him.

“According to a deed signed by President Martin Van Buren, John Chapman owned 74.04 acres in the South 1/2 of the N.W. 1/4 Sec. 3 Twp 24 Range 15.  The deed was dated March 11, 1836. This land is located in the far northeast corner of Jay County, on the Wabash River.  It was on this land that he planted a nursery of appletree seedlings…. John Leininger purchased through a deed, entered July 1, 1839, 128.60 acres of the S.E. fraction of Sec. 15 of the same township. This land was located about two miles south of Chapman’s land.  John Leininger also purchased eight acres of land in Mercer Co., Ohio, on the other side of the State Line from his larger purchase.  He built his house and buildings on the eight acres, so that he could send his children to Ohio schools, which were better at the time than Indiana’s.  Please realize that this area was practically wilderness at this time.”1  My dear readers know I’ve written earlier about my family’s interesting ways to get their children into the best school districts – see blog of 20 August 2015 Education Across State Lines.

Map of Johnny Appleseed's farm (John Chapman) and John George Leininger's farm
The John Chapman and John Leininger Farms – Map courtesy of Robert LeRoy Leininger in his book, Leininger Family History and Genealogy (1970) p. 7F

So here’s how John Chapman is connected to the Leininger Family.  John’s step-sister, Percis Chapman (15 Nov 1793-28 Jun 1859), married William Broom (1792-1 Mar 1848).  Percis was known as John’s favorite sibling so he remained close to her, even after her marriage to William. Percis and William had 4 daughters, Mary, Lucy, Elizabeth and Harriet.  Elizabeth (10 Sep 1829-2 Jun 1863) married John George Leininger (7 Feb 1826-31 Mar 1917).

Elizabeth Broom
Elizabeth Broom Leininger Photo courtesy of Jill on Find-a-Grave

John George and Elizabeth had 6 children before her death.  He remarried to Sarah Hough in 1864

Sarah Hough and John George Leininger Photo courtesy of  Robert LeRoy Leininger

and had 5 more children.  John George is my 2nd great uncle, sibling to my 2nd great grandfather Jacob Leininger.

Henry Leininger and Jacob Leininger
John George’s brothers Henry (left) and Jacob (my 2nd Great Grandfather-right)  Photo courtesy of Robert LeRoy Leininger

I’ve written about John George in a previous blog (see 26 June 2015 Planes, Trains, Automobiles & Barges, Oh My!) and how difficult it must have been for my 3rd great grandmother, Marie Gasse Leininger, to have to journey to America with young children.

Marie Margaretha Gasse Leininger Photo courtesy of Robert LeRoy Leininger

According to family recollections, Johnny Appleseed lived with Percis and William when he came back to Indiana.  William tended Johnny’s land in his absence and when Johnny died in 1845, Percis inherited Johnny’s 1200 acre nursery.2  Johnny was a wealthy man at the time of his death.

I don’t know what religion Percis and William followed but their daughter, Elizabeth, married into a Lutheran family.  Johnny, however, followed the tenets of theologian Emmanuel Swedenborg.  At the end of his days, Johnny was a barefoot vegetarian who preferred to treat everyone and everything with respect.  Since that included Native Americans, animals and insects, Johnny was viewed as eccentric.

Here’s some things I bet you didn’t know about Johnny:

  • Johnny’s dad was one of the Minute Men in Boston during the American Revolution.  When Johnny’s mom and brother Nathaniel died in 1776, his dad returned home from the war.  Johnny was raised by his step-mom.
  • If you were a Girl Scout and sang the Johnny Appleseed blessing you really were singing Johnny’s favorite traveling song. (Ohh, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord, for giving me, the things I need, the sun, the moon and the apple seed, the Lord is good to me.)
  • The trees he planted weren’t designed for eating – they were designed for drinking.  Yep, Johnny was helping the settlers produce hard apple cider.  No wonder they loved him! Johnny didn’t believe in grafting which is the only way you can get an edible apple.  Planting apple seeds produces a fruit that may be just plain awful (but not if you’re going to use it for an alcoholic drink).  Apple liquor was easier to make than corn liquor and cured quicker.
  • He didn’t just sell apple trees – he also had a business selling herbs.  Native Americans purchased their herbs from Johnny.
  • Johnny was the “Paul Revere of the Western Frontier.”  During the War of 1812 he warned settlers in Mount Vernon, Ohio that the Native Americans were planning an attack by racing 30 miles through dense forest.  His actions saved the entire town.
  • His pet was a wolf that he once freed from a trap.
  • The west that Johnny ventured to was what we consider the midwest.  He planted in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.  There is some who think he went as far south as northwestern West Virginia, then known as Virginia, but that hasn’t be authenticated.
  • Johnny was the first person to travel between nursery sites.  He’d plant, stay a bit, then travel back to nurture a site he previously planted, move to a new site to plant and then move on to visit one he already planted.  This enabled him to have supplies in various places and not lose a crop due to poor weather conditions.
  • He’d rip out pages of his Bible to give to settlers and the remains of the last one he wore stuck in his belt was last known in 1970 to be in the possession of Waldo Dock, a descendant, in Celina, Ohio.

So the real Johnny would have fit right in the 1960’s as a hippie type that would have approved of Boone’s Farm Apple Wine with his special herb mixture.

Oh, and that newspaper article – seems that it was from the Ft. Wayne, Indiana newspaper around 1931 when Robert Harris was interested in finding descendants.  So it wasn’t cut out by my dad after all.  Most likely either my grandmother or grandfather clipped the article as that is where they were living at the time. Robert Harris published a book in 1946 about Johnny.

One more mystery remains – that apple tree I used to climb on the family farm.  I wonder if it was one of Johnny’s.  We couldn’t eat the fruit as my mom said it was “bad” and my grandparents were from the Ft. Wayne area so it just might have been one of Johnny’s.  Too bad we’ll never know.  The farm is now a subdivision and the apple tree was cut down in the


1 Leininger, Robert LeRoy Leininger Family History and Genealogy Two Centuries of Leiningers Manchester, IN:  Self Published, 1971, Appendix F.

2 The Straight Dope:  “What’s the story with Johnny Appleseed?” Straightdope.com.  Retrieved. 11 Oct 2015.

A New Genealogy Society – What Fun!

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 11 Oct 2015.

My sister-in-law called me last week and wanted to know if she was Scotch-Irish. I laughed and told her she was of Scottish and Irish heritage.  I then explained that the term Scotch-Irish is derogatory and only used in the U.S.

She was happy to find out that she was indeed Scottish as a new genealogy society is being established in the city where she lives and she wants to join with her friends.  The first organizational meeting is today so she doesn’t have a membership application to complete or much information on the requirements.

I looked at a similar organization and, knowing that I’m going to be extremely busy with my day job and trying to get my genealogy certification portfolio put together, I told her I’d pull the records for her as an early Christmas present.

Oh what fun it was to review my older research notes on one of my favorite couples on my husband’s side!  I really wish I could have met these folks as they are just endearing to me with their spunk, love and acceptance of each other’s differences.

John Cooke was born in  Whees, Stirlingshire Scotland about 1827.  I have him with his family in the 1841 and 1851 census in Scotland.  I’ve never been able to locate an emigration record but he must have come to New York City shortly after 1851 as he married Mary “Mollie” O’Brien in 1854 in Newark, New Jersey.  Mary was born in 1835 in Limerick, Ireland and thanks to the Irish records now available online, I have her Roman Catholic Baptism record.  Of course, it is on the right side towards the bottom of the page that is most difficult to read!  Mollie and her step-sister, Ellen, emigrated in February 1853 as domestic servants with another girl from her parish.  This was during the potato famine and there is no records of land ownership by Mollie’s parents so times must have been tough.  Coming to a new country at 18 years of age with nothing takes spunk!

Newark, New Jersey, being just across the river from New York City, was the perfect place to elope and take the train to Chicago.  I don’t know for fact that Mollie and John eloped but it’s awfully odd that there were no traditional wedding banns posted, which was a common Roman Catholic tradition. Also strange is that step-sis Ellen wasn’t the witness.  It appears that two unrelated parishioners did that job.  The birth information that was given at the church doesn’t quite match reality, either.  With no relatives around to question, John shaved off a few years, making him the same age as Mollie.

The couple remained together until John’s death in 1889.  Mollie lived until 1903 and never remarried. I believe they truly loved one another and their respect goes way beyond what a lot of folks can’t do even today.  The couple made an arrangement prior to their marriage – all female children would be raised Roman Catholic and all male children would be raised Protestant.  I’m not sure how Mollie got the Roman Catholic Church to agree to this since the rule was if you were married in the church you were agreeing to raise ALL of your children in the faith.  I also have to give John credit for marrying Mollie in her church and giving 50-50 in regards to the children.  I’m really impressed this agreement was made 160 years ago and both parties kept their word.  With integrity, they didn’t need a written pre-nuptial

The couple had 3 children – 2 Protestant boys and 1 Catholic girl.  I’ve been in contact with the girls descendants and they are all Catholic to this day.  All of the boys descendants I’ve been in contact with continue to be Protestant except for one and that was due to marrying a Catholic girl (me).

Interestingly, when John died he was buried in the Protestant cemetery, Calvary, in Cook County, Illinois.  Mary’s death certificate noted that she was going to be interred in Calvary, too, but she wasn’t.  She was buried in Queen of Peace Roman Catholic Cemetery instead.  After 15 years of being apart the children decided the couple needed to be together so John was re-interred next to Mollie. Unfortunately, there was no stone.  I assume because the cost of re-interment was considerable at the time.  I wish I could afford to put a stone there cause this is a true love story that needs to be long remembered.