As the year closes, I’d like to reflect on some luck I had this past year. I was able to find the school enumeration records for my husband’s grandmother by getting a tip after writing a journal article. I hired a genealogist in Croatia who knew someone I could hire as a driver who just happened to have had a Ph.D. in archaeology and just happened to have done her dissertation on the area my ancestors once lived. Another lucky strike was writing to a small library in Ohio to ask if they had a list of Masons from the 1820s and getting a response they did not but they had in their vertical drawer notes from an unknown researcher that provided the source for a lost deed that hadn’t been filed until years after it was made and hadn’t been included in the index.
Those were all wonderful unexpected finds but I think the best luck came when I went cemetery hunting.
The photo above is just one of many that I took this past summer as I traveled across Ohio and Indiana searching for ancestor’s graves, then cleaning and photographing them. The one showing in the right corner is for my husband’s second great grandfather and his second wife, Maria Erickson.
Notice where the car is parked? I had no idea where in the cemetery the stone we were looking for was located. I only had a map for one cemetery, Graceland in Valparaiso, Indiana, but the sections weren’t marked in the cemetery so the map was useless. Somehow, my ancestor GPS was fully on as except for Graceland, hubbie and I found every grave in record time. I just drove in and something told me to STOP!!!! So we did.
Usually cemetery hunting is a spring-summer-early fall activity but two weeks ago one of my adult kids and I went to Chicago. The weather was frightful – sleeting, windy, and bitterly cold. We had wanted to go to the Field Museum but they had closed the parking lot close by, there was no street parking left and I didn’t want to pay for the parking garage down the street so we decided to go to the cemetery.
I realize that is a tad weird to those who aren’t interested in family history but this worked for us. I’ve written about Drusilla Williams DeWolf Thompson before and I’ve shared the also lucky find of the picture below in an attic in Dayton, Ohio where Dru never once set foot:
Dru is the woman with her head on her hand under the tree. Husband Thomas is impersonating Abe Lincoln. Daughter Mary is to his right, that’s my husband’s great grandmother.
You would think this stone on a bleak December day would be easy to find but it wasn’t. We had a map, too. We could see it was close to the cemetery office so we decided to just park there and inquire where to find it. The sweet office clerk donned his jacket and said it wasn’t far and he was right. It was just a few yards from the office. I wouldn’t have discovered it, though, without his help as the limestone is now barely readable. The trees are gone, as is the fence. The stone is off kilter as the base has eroded. It’s missing the top. It’s also filthy:
You can see that other stones surrounding it are also gone.
The cemetery does not allow families to clean stones so I’ve consulted with a company who will go out next spring and take a look.
I had always wanted to visit these folks as their story fascinates me – arriving in Chicago by wagon in the 1840s, surviving the fire, and watching Chicago grow into a metropolis. If only they had left their memoirs!
As a new year peaks around the corner I can’t wait for more exciting finds. Hope your holidays are delightful and that you continue to follow my fabulous genealogical adventures next year. I’m planning to take another AI course through the National Genealogical Society and two more heritage trips. Lady Luck is who I’m hoping to accompany me. Keep your fingers crossed for me!