Researching Step Sibs Unveils a Treasure Trove

Photo courtesy of Tut on Find-a-Grave

A few blogs ago I mentioned I needed to check out the sibling and step siblings of Margaret Ann Martz Searight Duer to try to discover why she relocated from Hardin, Ohio to Adams, Indiana.  I guessed that she had met my John Duer in Adams as he was a property owner in the same area as Margaret.  Turns out, there was much more involvement than I thought.

Since Margaret was the second wife of John, I had never researched her family since they are not related to me, or so it seemed.

Online trees showed Margaret was born to the first wife, Margarethae Himmelsbach, of George Peter Martz in Germany.  I have found a baptismal record for another child of the couple, Catharina, born 17 September 1830 in Rheinzabern, Pfalz, Bayern.  The child and the mother must have died shortly after as George married Elizabeth Goetz Martz, the wife of his deceased brother, John.  The second union produced eight children.  I never found a birth record for Margaret and determined her birthdate from her tombstone shown on Find-a-Grave.

Like Margaret and her first husband, George Washington Searight, “father” George and “step-mother” Elizabeth lived in Hardin, Ohio in 1850.  By 1860, some of the children were still residing with George and Elizabeth who had moved to Mercer County, Ohio. 

Interesting, I thought!  Perhaps John hadn’t met Margaret in Adams, Indiana but instead, in Mercer where he was found living with his first wife, Jane, in 1860.  Actually, they are 3 pages away in the census from where John and Jane lived.  Also living nearby, just two residences away, was daughter Maria Duer who had married Henry Kuhn, also an emigrant from Germany.  Perhaps John and Margaret met at a community event as Henry Kuhn was a leader of the German settlers in Mercer County. His wife, Maria, who was not German, even has an obituary in the German newsper.

Knowing that Margaret had family in Mercer helped me better understand why she was buried there and not in Indiana.  I still had no answer as to why Margaret purchased property in Indiana so I took the time to learn about her step siblings, thinking that perhaps, they lived in Adams County.

I decided to start with “step sister,” Hannah Lucinda and what a surprise I found!  Hannah died in Missouri before 1880 when the census shows her husband, Abraham Orr, residing with his brother, Thomas.  I was interested in learning more about Abraham because he was a property owner at one time in Trumbull County, Ohio, where my John Duer was born and where he first married.  In researching Abraham I discovered his mother was Anna Duer, sister to my John Duer.  Who knew these families were interrelated! It gets even better – After Hannah Lucinda died, her youngest children, Mary and Phillip Orr, are found living in the household of Phillip Martz, “step-brother” of Margaret in (drum roll, please) Mercer, Ohio.  So the Duers and Martz’s were connected prior to John’s marriage to Margaret.  No telling when or where they first met!

I hit pay dirt when I got to “step-brother,” Eli Martz.  He had a bio in amugbook from Mercer County, Ohio that, although not 100% accurate, provided me with background information about Margaret and her family. 

I thought it strange that Eli has two entries and the information is slightly different.  The first, names him Eli Martz, “the son of George P. and Elizabeth (Goetz) Martz.” P. 429.  I read this entry first.  When I finished the article I noticed the next article was for an Elisha Martz.  Hmm, who could he be? 

Elisha Martz was the “son of G. Peter and Elizabeth (Goetz) Martz.” p. 430. Yes, George P. is the same man as G. Peter.  Elizabeth Goetz Martz is the same mama.  At the very end of Elisha’s article the confusion is cleared – Eli and Elisha are brothers.  Why the parents would have named them so similarly I have no idea. 

Their stories have a few discrepancies which makes this very interesting!

Both stories state Margaret emigrated with her STEP-father and 3 of her step-brothers to Frederick Town, Maryland about 1830.  All of the online trees have Margaret’s father’s name wrong – it was not George Peter but George’s brother, John Martz.  George Peter was Margaret’s uncle who raised her after his brother died and George married the widow.  That explains why no record for Margaret’s birth has been found!

According to Eli’s article, the family arrived in 1830, however, the twins, Phillip and Caleb, were born in 1831 in Germany so that is not correct. Elisha’s article states they arrived in 1833.  That makes sense and would explain the longer than usual lapse in children’s births.  The couple seemed to have children annually in Germany but there is a longer gap between the twins (1831) and Eli in 1834.  Having twins and moving to start a new life in a new country would definitely have put a damper on having another child at the original rate. 

Margaret’s uncle was a shoemaker but decided he wanted to try farming so he relocated to Sandusky, Ohio after 3 years in Maryland, according to Eli, or 18 months, according to Elisha.  Really, what’s a year and a half?!.

Quickly deciding raising corn wasn’t for him, they packed up with the intent to return to Maryland.  On their journey they stopped at Wayne County, Ohio where they decided to stay for 14 years, per Eli, or until 1848, per Elisha. 

George bought land in the then wilds of Mercer County, Ohio but on the way in 1847 (Eli) or 1848 (Elisha), the family decided to stop in Hardin County, where they were found in the 1850 census.  Both agree in 1852, the family made their way to Mercer.  After his second wife died in 1876, says Eli, George relocated to Illinois where he died “about 1882.”  Elisha says George relocated to Illinois in 1864. He doesn’t say when George died. He does gush about what a great dad George was; Eli says nothing.  Hmmm.

This leads me to a big WHAT?  So, sons Eli/Elisha did not keep in close contact with Pop, as the year discrepancy is rather large of when George left Ohio not to mention they don’t know when their dad died.  Seems like this is a trend with the Duer siblings too, who never told their children their mother Jane’s name.  What is going on with these folks?

Since George’s wife, Elizabeth, was found living with Eli in 1870 and George is not found in any record after 1860, I’m thinking that both Eli and Elisha were somewhat accurate about George’s whereabouts. Eli would have known when his dad left the area because mom was in his household. Elisha might have remembered when his parents split households, probably in 1864.

The mug book names George’s 9 children, the eldest, being Margaret, “the widow of John Doer, who resides in Adams, county, Ind.” p. 429 or “Margaret, the widow of John Deuer, of Jay County, Indiana.” p. 430.  Yes, she was the widow but John wasn’t from Jay County  and I love the spelling of John’s last name!

The point, though, is I would have never located this had I not searched for more information on Margaret’s step siblings. 

The book goes on to note where every sibling resided and the only step-brother/cousin of Margaret that lived in Indiana was  Phillip.  However, he lived in Salem which is in southern Indiana, Adams is in northeast so Margaret clearly didn’t relocate to Adams because of Phillip’s move to that state. I’m thinking Margaret moved to Adams to be near John and away from ex wife Jane who most likely remained in Mercer. 

Now I’m intrigued as to why Uncle George (geez, I DO NOT need another Uncle George in the family) went to Illinois at an advanced age.  None of his children were residing there between 1864-1876. Supposedly, youngest daughter Hannah Lucinda died in Illinois per an online family tree but there is no citation. Her spouse was listed as a widow in Iowa in 1880 so possibly she died on the way to relocating west. Whether she stopped to visit her dad on the way, I don’t know.

George didn’t appear to keep in touch with any of his children as no one seems to know what became of him. The year of 1864 is interesting to me as that was likely when John and Margaret married.  The Civil War wasn’t over yet.  Maybe there was just too much drama for a man up in age and he decided to leave his wife for a new start.  I say that because Elisha mentions that George’s wife died in Mercer.  Eli/Elisha both agree it was in 1876.

The mysteries may continue, however, the beauty of the information in the mug book is priceless.  What a wonderful example of why it’s important to research the relatives, no matter how distant they may at first appear to be!  My tree is becoming gnarled.

Missing Tombstones


Photo courtesy of Cousin Becky, Find-a-grave

Last week I wrote about my awesome find locating the deed for one of John and Jane Duer’s children, Mary, in Mercer County, Ohio.  I mentioned that no one knows where John Duer was buried and that it is my guess he is buried next to his first wife, Jane.  

It is frustrating when we can’t find a burial location so before I get into why I believe that is where his body lies, I want to take a moment to list reasons of why someone may not have a tombstone.

1.  Lack of Money – many families, especially if a breadwinner died in his/her prime, would have certainly been impacted by the loss of income.  If it is between feeding the children and memorializing the dead, it is understandable that the living become a priority over the tombstone. 

2.  Family Dissension – unfortunately, as we all know too well, families don’t always get along.  In my own, I know of a brother and sister who lived only a few miles from one another but did not speak after the death of their mother due to a disagreement over the mother’s care in a nursing home in her last year of life.  The sister had no other living relatives when she unexpectedly passed except her brother and a few step-siblings that lived far away from her.  The sister’s friends reached out to the brother when she died, taking up a collection and paying for the cremation.  They wanted to know what to do with her ashes but the brother stated he didn’t care.  The brother emailed me two months after his sister’s death to inform me she had died.  He never told me about the ashes or the disagreement.  I sent my condolences via an online memorial site.  The friends saw my post and contacted me inquiring what I would like to do since I appeared to be the next closest relative to the brother.  I accepted the ashes.  I paid for the internment in the cemetery where the mother is buried as the friends stated that was the deceased’s wish.  I did not pay for a stone as I believe that would be out of line while the brother is still alive. Perhaps I will have a small stone placed there someday. But what happens if the brother outlives me?  Then there will most likely never be a stone.  If a researcher ever checked with the cemetery, the records will clearly show that I requested the internment and where the location was.  I do not own the rights to the deceased’s Find-a-grave or Billion Graves memorial so no information has been placed there.  Perhaps someday I will and then I will add the burial location.  Sadly, in the interim, no one seems to have been concerned where the cremains were interred.  

3.  There is NO Burial Site – Regarding cremains, the family may have scattered the ashes as requested by the deceased. Placing a tombstone in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico just isn’t an option!

4.  Deceased Requests No Memorial – The family may be keeping with the wishes of the deceased who wants the “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” to be literal.

5.Religious Preference – My example here is poor because I really don’t know if this was the case with my husband’s 4th great paternal grandfather, Wilson Williams (1754-1831).  He is buried next to his wife, Margaret Hicks Williams, in Christ Church Cemetery, Nassau New York.  She has a lovely stone.  He has zilch.  The family could afford a stone and there is no indication that there was family dissension.  Although his death location is not noted in the current church’s records, it was recorded in an old work of cemetery transcriptions by Josephine C. Frost in 1913.  (Thank you, Josephine!)  In what appears to be empty space next to Margaret was once  “a common field stone marked W.W.”  In a past blog, I wrote that Wilson was a member of the Dutch Reformed Church and a common burial practice was marking a grave with a field stone.  Over the years, the stone has been lost and for a time, so, too, was our knowledge of where Wilson was buried since the church cemetery records are no longer in the church at that site.  If not for the Frost transcription we would still be wondering.

6. The Missing – for those individuals that are no longer in touch with their family for any number of reasons, a falling out, an abduction, etc., the location of their burial is unknown so family cannot place a stone.  Some families do place a memorial to the deceased in a cemetery as evidenced by the many fallen soldiers interred overseas who have a memorial in their hometown.  

7. Avoid Remembering – deceased murderers often do not have a stone to ward off those who seek out the grave to disrespect it.  Being eternally unnamed and forgotten is a final punishment for heinous crimes committed.

8.  The Stone was Lost – tombstones sink, they fall over, they are vandalized or some idiot decides they would make great construction material and steals them.  My 4th great paternal grandfather, Thomas Duer’s stone had toppled over in a rural Ohio cemetery that had become abandoned.  A local genealogy group righted the stone and moved it to be in line with the other stones but its present location is not exactly where he was buried.  

9.  The Burial Site Relocated -My husband’s 2nd great maternal grandfather’s child, Lincoln Mordecai Harbaugh’s (1846-1847) was once interred in a cemetery adjacent to the family church in Waynesboro, Franklin, Pennsylvania.  The church sold the property long after he died and the family relocated to Indiana.  His remains are interred in a group burial site in Green Hill Cemetery after the new owners wanted to expand the building.  

10. Chaos Following an Emergency – In some parts of the world today, due to the pandemic, those who have died are being buried in mass graves.  This is not a new phenomena.  During an ongoing emergency the need to inter takes precedence over individual burials.  Whether the site will eventually be marked with a memorial may or may not occur.

Perhaps you can think of more reasons why tombstones might not be found. 

In the case of my John Duer (1801-1885), I can only point to examining further family dissension as the reason why he doesn’t seem to have a stone.  At the time of John’s death he had a second wife and 8 surviving children, 4 of whom were prosperous and have elaborate tombstones of their own (Maria, John B., Sarah Jane and James William).  John died in Jefferson Township, Adams County, Indiana where he was residing with wife Margaret Ann Martz Searight Duer.  He knew he was ill as he made a will in August 1884.  He did not name his prosperous children in the will or his daughter Mary Ann, possibly because they didn’t need the money or perhaps, because he was not on speaking terms with them.  Children Angeline, Charles and Lucinda were all named to receive John’s property, along with his wife.  I also know from the will that John requested “that my body be burried (sic) in a manner suitable with my condition in life.” John wasn’t well to do but he did own 80 acres that he farmed and had few debts at the time of his death.  A tombstone was not against his religious beliefs; he was raised Presbyterian as a child but there is no church membership found for him as an adult.  

Mary “Jane,” his first wife who died after his second marriage and a few months after he had a son with his new wife, is buried in Kessler Cemetery, Chattanooga, Mercer, Ohio.  The cemetery records are not complete and do not state who or when her plot was purchased.  The family owns a plot next to her that is sunken and may contain the body of John.  Family tales state he is buried in Kessler.  His second wife is also buried in Kessler but not close to Jane.  There are tombstones on both sides of Margaret’s gravesite so he is not buried next to her.  

No death certificate has been found for John, nor an obituary or church records that may shed light on where he was interred.

Perhaps John’s older children did not think he needed a marker as his name is on Jane’s stone.  It would have been awkward putting a stone next to Jane’s that said “John Duer, husband of Margaret.”  Perhaps the children decided to ignore the situation and leave his plot unmarked.  Since Jane died AFTER John’s remarriage, her stone’s inscription of “Wife of John Duer” holds a clue.  Perhaps she didn’t remarry as she believed that one only marries once.  Maybe she had no preference but her surviving children had the stone engraved as a way to voice their unacceptance of the second marriage.  

The only way I’ll ever know if someone is buried next to Jane is if ground penetrating radar is used and I’m not planning on doing that.  Even if someone was found to be buried there I wouldn’t know for sure it was John unless the body was exhumed.  So, I’ll have to leave this Duer mystery unsolved for now.  Sigh.