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.

Newspapers.com Free This Weekend

John Koss was my Grandfather, Michael A. Milinovich was my God Father and Steve Milinovich was Mike’s brother. Typo in my Grandfather’s city- should be Gary, not Cart! 26 Dec 1956, c. 3 p. 2.

You may have a Basic membership through Ancestry.com to Newspapers.com but that’s doesn’t permit you to view all of the holdings. I spent a few hours yesterday rechecking my closest to me relatives to see if additional newspapers had been added since the last time I took advantage of a free special offer from the company.

I was delighted to find several articles that I didn’t know existed – such as:

Who knew that my grandmother Mary Koss had an obit in a Hammond, Indiana newspaper? I have the obit from the Gary Post Tribune but didn’t know about the Hammond Times. Likewise, my Uncle George also had an obituary in the Hammond Times. Must have been a deal hrough the funeral home I just wasn’t aware was in place. Funny as they rarely visited Hammond and to my knowledge, had not friends there!

Struck gold in the Zajenicar, a Croatian newspaper that my grandparents used to receive. I had been told that my name had once appeared in it. Evidently, back in the day, the Croatian Fraternal Union sold life insurance policies to the parents/grandparents of newborns and my grandparents had bought a policy for me that expired when I turned 18. I was told that the children’s names were printed in the newspaper so I searched for me but didn’t find myself. I decided to search for my grandparents thinking it might have been placed under them instead. Surprise, Surprise! Discovered that my grandfather, Kum (that’s God Father) and his brother had given $10.00 to the organization before my birth to help fund an Immigrant Museum to be built in Pittsburgh. Don’t think that goal ever materialized but it was a sweet find for me. I think they all would be pleased knowing I have tried to honor all of the family’s immigrants through my blog and family tree.

Interesting to me, I also understood why my Grandparents always paid for a lamb to be raised and slaughtered at Buncich’s Farm in Hobart, Indiana every year. Duh – they were sorta kinda related and I had no idea until I found an obituary that mentioned my aunt through marriage. One of her brothers had married the daughter of the owner of the farm. That would just be like my grandparents to support a family member if they could. I always thought they just liked the taste of the lamb!

Finding that obit was another aha! moment for me. I have one cousin whose name is “off” the naming pattern the family typically uses – we have a zillion John – George – Joseph – Nicholas – Michaels and those names move from first to middle so frequently it’s often hard to keep everyone straight. Since my cuz is still living and I don’t want to hurt feelings if he ever sees this I’m not typing the name but now I realize where he got it from – his mom’s brother’s middle name that had been a grandfather’s name. Who knew? ! I guess most of the family but me.

Since this weekend will be very cold in most parts of the states and we’ve had torrential rains already this morning in my part of the world – stay warm, stay safe and stay focused on your genealogy by taking the weekend to visit newspapers.com. No telling what you might discover!

An Unusual Source to Find a Deed

Timeline courtesy of INGenweb.org

What do you do when you’ve looked for a deed in all the usual places – county property appraisers office, FamilySearch.org or other online database of deed records, and even probate files but you come up with nothing? I was fortunate to find deed records in an unlikely place and you just might find this useful…

What do you do when you’ve looked for a deed in all the usual places – county property appraisers office, FamilySearch.org or other online databases, and even probate files but you come up with nothing? I was fortunate to find deed records in an unlikely place and you just might find this useful.

I wanted to locate a deed record for my John Duer (1801-1885) because I was trying to discover which wife might be named on it.  John married Mary “Jane” Morrison (1804-1866) on 29 July 1827 in Trumbull County, Ohio.  The couple would go on to have 11 children together and relocate first to Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio by 1840 and then to Liberty, Mercer County, Ohio by July 1860 when they are found together living two residences away from one of their married daughters, Maria Duer Kuhn. 

The census does not state if the residence was owned or rented.  The couple owned property both jointly and separately when in Holmes County.  I’m not exactly sure when they relocated but the last deed of sale I find for them in Holmes was 27 April 1854.  

I began to look in Mercer County, Ohio for deeds between 1853 (when they sold another piece of land in Holmes-I figured they may have relocated then but couldn’t sell the other lot they owned until the following year) and 1864 when I knew John had remarried.  I tried all the usual places but came up with nothing. The property appraiser site found no John Duer.  The site doesn’t say how far back the records go but one of the options for age of buildings is 1800.  I then looked for old deed books at the various online genealogy sites and found nothing for Mercer County, Ohio.  I even tried the Familysearch.org image search that I blogged about two weeks ago but came up with a big zero.

Sometime after July 1860 and before 11 December 1864 John and Jane split up and John remarried widow Margaret Ann Martz Searight.  They had a child together, Charles Edward, born in February 1866.

Since emigrating from Germany, Margaret lived first in Hardin County, Ohio but relocated to Adams County, Indiana, perhaps after her husband, George Washington Searight died 8 April 1863.  John and Margaret, after their marriage, lived together in Adams County, Indiana.

My next search was for property in Adams County, Indiana as I knew, from John’s will made in August 1884, that he was leaving Margaret the property.  That meant she had not been a co-owner. He possibly bought the land prior to their wedding or for some other unknown reason, decided to buy land separately from his second wife as he had done in Hardin County, Ohio with his first wife.

His will states, in the case of Margaret predeceasing him, the property would go to some of his children (why he selected only 3 children in his will I do not understand.  He names the two children he had with Margaret and one of his children, Angeline, he had with Jane. Angeline had married and was living in Adams, Indiana.  What is odd is two of his sons, John B. and James William, were also living in Adams. Why he excluded them from his will I hypothesized in my last blog, Missing Tombstones.)

The Adams County, Indiana property assessor’s office website is not very user friendly and I got lost in the clicking. I eventually found that “NEW! Electronic Records” were available but there is no link to where.  Trying to click on what appears to be a link stating “Adams County is now ready to electronically record all your documents through e-recording.” also didn’t work.  In small print, there is a note that the records are from 1990 to present.  Oh well!

I continued to click and thought maybe “History” would be helpful but it was just a few facts about the 12 townships in the county. Under “Residents,” I decided to click on “Genealogy.”  I was taken to INGenWeb for Adams County.  I was so excited to find a search box so I entered “Duer” and found 59 items.

At this point I had to decide, did I want to derail my search for a deed, which I figured wouldn’t be placed here, or just get more info about the Duer’s who had lived in Adams County.  I decided to stay focused but to do a new search for “John Duer” hoping that it would eliminate all of the other Duers except for John’s son, John B., known to also be living in Adams.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the search results were for 53 items. 

What immediately caught my eye on the first page (10 items show per page) was “Estate of David Tressler2 – 1862.xls.”  Who was David Tressler – certainly no one in my tree and how/why was John Duer associated with him?  Intriguing!

The image (above) was a timeline followed by scanned documents of David Tressler’s estate from 1862.  Using the Find trick (hold down the Ctrl and F keys and type in the box) I quickly found that John made a deed to purchase Tressler’s real estate on 8 September 1862.  Yippee!  So John had purchased the property IN HIS NAME ONLY prior to his marriage with Margaret which explains why she was not on the deed.  This also tells me that either he and Jane were having marital problems/separated/divorced by this time since Jane was also not a co-owner. 

After doing my happy dance, I went back to explore the remaining Duer findings on the site.  I was surprised to find another deed record – on 28 June 1860 John Duer purchased from Benjamin Shafer, the estate administrator for John Tressler.  Interestingly, this purchase was made ONE MONTH BEFORE the 1860 census records showing John in Mercer County, Ohio, which borders Adams, Indiana.  Jane’s name was not on that deed, either.  It’s likely the couple was already having problems with their marriage at that time.  The property description matches the property he left Margaret in his will.

So John Duer planned to relocate to the next county over even before he and Jane divorced.  (Yes, it would be wonderful to discover their divorce document but I have been unable to locate it in either county.)  

Of course, every find leads to more questions.  Now I want to know where and when John met Margaret.  Her first husband died supposedly at age 35 but I don’t know where.  I checked to see if he had enlisted in the Civil War but did not find him.  I can’t verify his date of death; he’s not on Find-a-grave/Billion Graves.  The date is unverified and comes from online family trees.  He was last known alive in Dunkirk, Cessna, Hardin, Ohio in 1860. 

My guess is one of Margaret’s sisters or step-sister was living in Adams and as a widow with a young daughter, Margaret moved to be closer to family.   I will have to search them to discover if that theory is correct.

It appears from plat records I also found on INGenWeb that Margaret owned 20 acres of her own land in 1880 in Adams, Indiana.  I don’t know when that land was purchased – before her marriage to John or after.  More research is definitely needed. It’s now clear where John met Margaret; they were property owners in the same neighborhood.

Moral of the blog….when you can’t find what you are looking for check out the local genealogy sites.  Kudos to those at INGenweb.org as they have done a phenomenal job in preserving local records and uploading them for FREE.  I also love how they insert a timeline of the scanned original documents.  I am deeply appreciative of your efforts.

I wanted to locate a deed record for my John Duer (1801-1885) because I was trying to discover which wife might be named on it.  John married Mary “Jane” Morrison (1804-1866) on 29 July 1827 in Trumbull County, Ohio.  The couple would go on to have 11 children together and relocate first to Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio by 1840 and then to Liberty, Mercer County, Ohio by July 1860 when they are found together living two residences away from one of their married daughters, Maria Duer Kuhn per the census. 

The census does not state if the residence was owned or rented.  The couple owned property both jointly and separately when in Holmes County.  I’m not exactly sure when they relocated but the last deed of sale I find for them in Holmes was 27 April 1854.  

I began to look in Mercer County, Ohio for deeds between 1853 (when they sold another piece of land in Holmes-I figured they may have relocated then but couldn’t sell the other lot they owned until the following year) and 1864 when I knew John had remarried.  I tried all the usual places but came up with nothing. The property appraiser site found no John Duer.  The site doesn’t say how far back the records go but one of the options for age of buildings is 1800.  I then looked for old deed books at the various online genealogy sites and found nothing for Mercer County, Ohio.  I even tried the Familysearch.org image search that I blogged about two weeks ago but came up with a big zero.

Sometime after July 1860 and before 11 December 1864 John and Jane split up and John remarried widow Margaret Ann Martz Searight.  They had a child together, Charles Edward, born in February 1866.

Since emigrating from Germany, Margaret lived first in Hardin County, Ohio but relocated to Adams County, Indiana, perhaps after her husband, George Washington Searight died 8 April 1863.  John and Margaret, after their marriage, lived together in Adams County, Indiana.

My next search was for property in Adams County, Indiana as I knew, from John’s will made in August 1884, that he was leaving Margaret the property.  That meant she had not been a co-owner. He possibly bought the land prior to their wedding or for some other unknown reason, decided to buy land separately from his second wife as he had done in Hardin County, Ohio with his first wife.

His will states, in the case of Margaret predeceasing him, the property would go to some of his children (why he selected only 3 children in his will I do not understand.  He names the two children he had with Margaret and one of his children, Angeline, he had with Jane. Angeline had married and was living in Adams, Indiana.  What is odd is two of his sons, John B. and James William, were also living in Adams. Why he excluded them from his will I hypothesize in my last blog, Missing Tombstones.)

The Adams County, Indiana property assessor’s office website is not very user friendly and I got lost in the clicking. I eventually found that “NEW! Electronic Records” were available but there is no link to where.  Trying to click on what appears to be a link stating “Adams County is now ready to electronically record all your documents through e-recording.” also didn’t work.  In small print, there is a note that the records are from 1990 to present.  Oh well!

I continued to click and thought maybe “History” would be helpful but it was just a few facts about the 12 townships in the county. Under “Residents,” I decided to click on “Genealogy.”  I was taken to INGenWeb for Adams County.  I was so excited to find a search box so I entered “Duer” and found 59 items.

At this point I had to decide, did I want to derail my search for a deed, which I figured wouldn’t be placed here, or just get more info about the Duer’s who had lived in Adams County.  I decided to stay focused but to do a new search for “John Duer” hoping that it would eliminate all of the other Duers except for John’s son, John B., known to also be living in Adams.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the search results were for 53 items. 

What immediately caught my eye on the first page (10 items show per page) was “Estate of David Tressler2 – 1862.xls.”  Who was David Tressler – certainly no one in my tree and how/why was John Duer associated with him?  Intriguing!

The image (above) was a timeline followed by scanned documents of David Tressler’s estate from 1862.  Using the Find trick (hold down the Ctrl and F keys and type in the box) I quickly found that John made a deed to purchase Tressler’s real estate on 8 September 1862.  Yippee!  So John had purchased the property IN HIS NAME ONLY prior to his marriage with Margaret which explains why she was not on the deed.  This also tells me that either he and Jane were having marital problems/separated/divorced by this time. 

After doing my happy dance, I went back to explore the remaining Duer findings on the site.  I was surprised to find another deed record – on 28 June 1860, John Duer purchased from Benjamin Shafer, the estate administrator for John Tressler.  Interestingly, this purchase was made ONE MONTH BEFORE the 1860 census records showing John in Mercer County, Ohio, which borders Adams, Indiana.  Jane’s name was not on that deed.  It’s likely the couple was already having problems with their marriage at that time.  The property description matches the property he left Margaret in his will.

So John Duer planned to relocate to the next county over even before he and Jane divorced.  (Yes, it would be wonderful to discover their divorce document but I have been unable to locate it in either county.)  

Of course, every find leads to more questions.  Now I want to know where and when John met Margaret.  Her first husband died supposedly at age 35 but I don’t know where.  I checked to see if he had enlisted in the Civil War but did not find him.  I can’t verify his date of death as he’s not on Find-a-grave/Billion Graves.  The date is unverified and comes from online family trees.  He was last known alive in Dunkirk, Cessna, Hardin, Ohio in 1860. 

My guess is one of Margaret’s sisters or step-sister was living in Adams and as a widow with a young daughter, Margaret moved to be closer to family.   I will have to search them to discover if that theory is correct.

It appears from plat records I also found on INGenWeb that Margaret owned 20 acres of her own land in 1880 in Adams, Indiana.  I don’t know when that land was purchased – before her marriage to John or after.  More research is definitely needed.

Moral of the blog….when you can’t find what you are looking for check out the local genealogy sites.  Kudos to those at INGenweb.org as you have done a phenomenal job in preserving local records and uploading them for FREE.  I also love how you insert a timeline of the scanned original documents.  I am deeply appreciative of your efforts.

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.

Colorizing Old Photos

You may have tried the new MyHeritage tool that allows you to upload a black and white photo that will be transformed into color.  I spoke with a colleague at a genealogy conference last month who gushed about the magic of the results. 

I finally got around to trying it and decided the true test would be with one of the photos in my collection that were of a known relative so I could compare results with memory. 

I selected a photo of my great grandmother, Anna Grdenic Kos[s]:

I recall this photo was taken Christmas 1961 or 1962.  I remember the dress and that my grandmother, Mary Violet Kos Koss, purchased the corsage and it was worn to the church service.  I even recall where they attended, St. Joseph’s Croatian [Roman] Catholic Church in Glen Park, Gary, Lake, Indiana.  I didn’t go with them because the mass was in Croatian; instead, my mother and I walked a block to attend services at St. Mark’s [Roman] Catholic Church. 

Here’s what the colorization looks like:

This was not my great grandmother’s skin tone in winter; she was quiet pale. Actually, it wasn’t even her tone in the summer as she didn’t go out in the sun.  The dress was green and white.  The corsage was silver with red balls and a green ribbon.  I know this because I was there.  I also played with the corsage and tried to affix it to my cat’s collar after the holidays.  I thought that corsage was just awesome!

So, if you’d like to colorize your photos you can do so at MyHeritage.  You can sign in through Google or Facebook and if you have a MyHeritage account, just enter your password.  Then, just drop and drag the photo you’d like colorized in the box.  It just takes a few seconds to get the finished image.

Know that MyHeritage retains the rights to the photo.  Know, from my personal experience, the colors you get aren’t necessary true.  Personally, I like my black and whites and sepias. 

An Overlooked Resource to Determine Parentage

Here’s an often overlooked resource to help identify parentage – school records.  I’m not talking about yearbooks on Ancestry.com.  I mean the enrollment and attendance records that schools had to maintain to receive state and federal funding.  

To acquire those records, which are not available online, visit the school district’s website.  If there is a search bar, simply type in “records” or “school records.”  Follow the link which usually is for recent graduates of the school district needing to get a transcript for further education or work.  Obviously, you are searching for old records so find the phone number and make a call to see what will be required for you to get the documents.

In my area, a death certificate by a relative is needed but an attorney’s representative for the estate handing the deceased’s probate is also acceptable to receive the records.

Most districts have microfilmed their older records so you will not have your request fulfilled immediately.  There’s no telling what you’ll receive, either, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to check it out. I live in a state that has lots of record loss due to mold, flood damage, fires and insects.  Even with all the losses, there is usually some records that were able to be salvaged and scanned.

Recently, I assisted a client in obtaining school records from the 1950’s-1960’s in the hope of identifying parentage. The turnover time was a little over a week. Prior to the 1970’s, you’re not going to receive a birth certificate as most schools did not have a photo copier available to make a copy of that document at the time of enrollment.  The best you’re going to get is a check mark on a line that noted a birth certificate had been presented.  The name of the enrolling parent/guardian is then recorded on the document, along with the address where the student was residing.  You may even get lucky and have a telephone number recorded.

Once you have the parent/guardian name it’s time for you to check city directory records.  In my location, phone numbers were added in the mid-1950’s and I was able to match the telephone number on the school records to two different names not recorded in those records.  Was there an error in the school records in recording the phone number?  No, the information proved that the deceased had been involved with a social service agency and explained why the recorded schools’ names varied when the home address didn’t.  The student must have been temporarily living in either a foster home or with a relative but the parent still had the right to obtain school records so the enrollment address did not change.  The enrollment and withdrawal dates listed for the various schools attended provides evidence that the family was experiencing difficulty and gives more places, such as court records, to look for a better understanding of what was occurring.

In my situation, only one parent’s name was recorded in school records.  That individual was never found in the city directory but the name and telephone of the individual who purportedly lived at the address in school records was a clue to find the other parent’s name.  

The school records also contain a birth date for the student so a check of newspaper birth announcements for that date could lead to a further confirmation of parentage – or not.  In my case, there was no announcement so it was likely the student’s parents were not married at the time of birth as it was the local policy to not record in the paper the names of children of single mothers.  

School records will not provide every answer you seek but will point you in the direction of locating other records and help you gain insight into the life of the student and the parent/guardian.  

So, what do you do if the district says there are no records?  Don’t give up!  Next check Worldcat online to see if those records were published in a book and held at an archive somewhere.  On a trip to Boston a few years ago I spent a couple of hours at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. I decided to browse through the Indiana section.  I happily discovered a book that was a transcription of Lake County, Indiana school enrollments for the early 1900’s.  The book contained my husband’s grandmother’s name and who enrolled her in first grade – one of her older stepbrothers. That made sense, Elsie’s mother was a recent immigrant from Sweden with little knowledge of the school system.  The stepbrother, a graduate of that school district who was fluent in English was helping his stepmother with the enrollment while his father was at work.  I had tried to get Elsie’s school records from the county previously and was told they had been destroyed.  That was correct information; who knew that a transcription had been made of those records prior to their demise?  I later checked with the library in Lake County that has the largest genealogical section and they didn’t have a copy of the book that was sitting in Boston.  How strange that a record was located in a place the ancestor never visited.  Of course, original records are preferred but in this case, a transcription was better than nothing and did shed light on the family dynamics at the time of Elsie’s school enrollment.  Happy Hunting!

Using back door techniques to solve a genealogy mystery

I’ve been researching a mystery man, Anton “Tony” Kos, who was buried in 1934 next to my great grandfather, Joseph Koss, in Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, Indiana.  You can see from the above pic I took in December 2001 how close the stones are compared to the next stone to the right.  Looks to me like the plot was one.

I never got a straight answer regarding how Tony and Joseph are related, if at all.  I’d love to find out if they were related, which I strongly think is possible, and why my mother and grandmother refused to verify that.

Here’s what I know…I used to accompany my mom and grandma to the family cemetery around Memorial Day to tend to the graves.  We’d always go to the old part of the cemetery first, to clip the grass around the gravestone of my great grandfather, Joseph Kos[s] who died in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic.  When I was old enough to read, I noticed that next to his grave was an Anton Kos.  I knew the family name was originally spelled with one “s” but I had never heard of Anton so I asked how he was related and never got an answer.  I recall my mother just looking at my grandmother and my grandmother looking down and continuing to tidy up her father’s grave.  So, as only a small child will do, I asked again.  I never got a straight answer.  I tried several other times over the years and got various answers; that Kos is a very common Croatian name like Smith is in Great Britain.  That didn’t tell me if Tony was related.  It also didn’t explain why I never saw another grave in the cemetery with the original spelling of the surname.  When I asked about that, I got, “I don’t know why.” as a response. (There actually is another Kos, John, who died in 1934 buried in the cemetery but as a child, I had never seen that grave.)

I tentatively placed Anton as a sibling of my great grandfather Joseph.  Joseph was born in 1875 and Anton, in 1879.  I had called the cemetery in 2012 to ask who purchased Anton’s plot and was told that no one did because the cemetery records don’t have an Anton Kos.  I told the clerk I knew where he was buried, immediately south of my great grandfather.  They insisted no one was buried there.  Looking at the records, I understand what happened.  Anton is listed as Tony in cemetery records, even though Anton is chiseled on his tombstone.  Tony was what was recorded on his death certificate and the cemetery must have listed him under that name. My great grandfather’s tombstone has his Americanized name, Joseph Kos and not his birth name, Josip Kos so there was another possible clue that my family was involved.  These folks Americanized as soon as they arrived in 1910.

As an adult, I can see another family trait that gives credence to a relationship; my family plans for their deaths.  I could see that they would have purchased two plots when my great grandfather died in 1919 expecting that his wife would be buried next to him.  But she lived on until 1966.  I’m thinking when a family member who was in need of the plot died, the family buried him instead.  My family always helped out a relative in need, be it sending care packages back across the pond, fronting them money or taking them into their home for awhile.  My grandparents had purchased a larger plot in the newer section of the cemetery that was the intended burial site for them and my great grandmother.  It is also where I buried my mother’s cremains.  

After we tidied the old section (but we never touched Anton’s stone, which is interesting), we’d move to the new section to trim the grass around the Koss stone.  No one was yet buried there but my forward thinking grandparents had enough sense to purchase the stone while they were still employed.  (And thanks, mom, for taking care of your end of life stuff prior to your death.  Hope our kids appreciate we did the same – yes, you can already find me on Find-A-Grave.)

So getting no where with the cemetery, I decided to try to research Anton Anthony Tony to find a connection. 

From Ancestry.com, you can see his death certificate below:

No help with his parents info but it does say he was born in “Yugo Slavia” just like Joseph Koss.  He also died of lung issues, just like Joseph.  Joseph’s whole family had lung issues, hmm.  Not a smoking gun but certainly gives one pause to consider a relationship as they all died young. He also was a laborer in a steel mill, though not the same one where Joseph worked. Granted, most immigrants at the time were laborers and steel mills offered good wages.

I have never been able to find Tony in any census – having checked 1920-1940 under Anton, Anthony and Tony Kos, Koss and Ross (as my own people have been enumerated as). 

There is another mystery – who was Steve Sesta who provided the death certificate info?  I’ve never heard of him.

The death certificate gives me a clue to look at the address where Tony was living when he died, 35 East 39th Street, Gary, Indiana.

So here’s a tip – I want to use the 1940 census to find who was living at Tony’s address.  It could take quite some time using Ancestry.com because I would need to click on every enumeration area and Gary was a large city so there are many.  To save time, I used the National Archives site (just Google 1940 U.S. Federal Census enumeration map and you’ll be taken directly to it or use my link). 

Since I grew up in the city, I know the layout of the street and avenue names, which saved me time.  If you are researching an area you aren’t familiar with, simply use Google earth to get a better idea.  In my case, I knew that streets ran north and south, avenues ran east and west.  Street names west of Broadway used the president’s names in order (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, no repeat of Adams, etc.) and east of Broadway used states’ names, in no particular order.  So, I was looking for 39th Street and could eliminate all of the western side of Broadway simply by identifying if the first page of the census had a presidents name or not.

After going through 3 enumeration areas, I found the address:

The address was divided into two housing units, front and rear.  Steve, who had provided the death certificate info, lived in the rear.  That means Tony was living in the front but he wasn’t there in 1940.  It also explains why there is no parent information for Tony, neighbor Steve did not know that information.  (I know, you’re thinking I should check property records to see who owned the residence but the problem is most of Gary’s records were “lost” according to the Lake County, Indiana property appraiser’s office.  I suspect they’re somewhere in Gary and just weren’t turned over to the county when the law changed but I don’t live anywhere close to be able to hunt around for them so that’s a dead end for me.)

The death certificate did state Tony had worked for 1 year as a laborer for Illinois Steel.  He may have only arrived in the area in 1942, during World War II. 

I checked immigration records but there are many Anton Kos’ who emigrated from Austria-Hungary/Yugoslavia so I’m unable to pinpoint one of them as my mystery man.

I know, from a recent DNA match with another relative, that during World War II, my Cvetkovic relatives were displaced to another part of what is now Croatia, due to mayhem in the area where the family originally resided in Velika Gorica.  It certainly is possible that Tony had left the area because of the war and came to the U.S. to a place where family already resided. 

Tony was survived by a wife, Anna, who was born in 1878.  Perhaps she remarried as she is not listed in cemetery records by the last name Kos or Koss or like Tony, she wasn’t entered in the cemetery database correctly.  Unfortunately, only 30% of the cemetery is listed on Find-A-Grave.  There’s nothing on Billion Graves either. 

Somehow, I have a maiden name for her as Smolkovic but I have no idea where I got that info.  I also have a marriage date, but no place, and two children residing in Rhode Island.  That info was obtained years ago before I carefully sourced (shame on me!). This is an area I need to further research.

I checked City Directories and there is only one Anthony in Gary but he was married to a Mary living on Filmore Street in Gary in 1918.  He never appears in any other directory.  My Kos line doesn’t arrive in Gary until 1919 so I suspect he wasn’t the my Tony.  There is no Tony or Anton ever in any City Directory for Gary. I got his obituary thanks to the Ask-A-Librarian link on the Lake County library site but it provides basically no information other than he had died after a long illness, which disputes the information on the death certificate.  Or, maybe not.  Perhaps he suffered from lung problems for years but the incident that caused his death had been short.  

There is no one in my family much older than me left who would know – definitely no one who was alive in 1943 that would remember.  Decided I’d try the cemetery again since it’s recently been sold and maybe the new owners have done an inventory of grave sites. Sent an email on Sunday and haven’t gotten a response so will follow up with a phone call this week.  

If that falls through, I’m going to attempt to check Baptism records for Velika Gorica to see if I can link Anton to Joseph’s parents.  Unfortunately, they aren’t on Familysearch.org so I’ll have to email a genealogist in Croatia to do some digging.  

Connecting Tony and Joseph would be awesome but I’ll most likely never get the story of why he was not discussed since dead men tell no tales! 

Solving Broken Connections by Connecting With the Living

Happy Memorial Weekend! Although I won’t be spending time caring for family members’ graves this weekend because no family member is buried close to where I currently reside, I have memories as a child of going to the grave sites of long dead relatives at this time of year.  Grandma Koss would keep a small gardening kit in her car trunk so whenever she passed the cemetery during the warmer months of the year, she could tend to the graves.  It contained gardening gloves, small grass clippers, a bakery paper bag to put weeds in, and a small spade to help dig up flowers and replant.

Last weekend I was reminded of a genealogical family mystery.  My great grandfather, Josip “Joseph” Kos[s] died in 1919 in the Spanish flu epidemic. He was buried in the old part of Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, Indiana.  His gravestone, in Croatian, was next to a Tony Kos.  I asked how we were related to Tony and I never got an answer.

Out of the blue last week, I received an email to my Ancestry account from a possible relative whose father had been orphaned in Pennsylvania in the 1930’s.  Since both his parents died when he was young, the family has no stories.  His father’s place of birth was in the same general area in Croatia that my Kos’ were from.  I had placed him in my tree years ago in the hopes of locating a living relative who might have some knowledge.  We’re awaiting DNA results to see if we match.

We all have genealogy mysteries but the most vexing are those that are fairly recent.  I don’t know about you, but I tend to jump to a dramatic conclusion – must have been an out of wedlock birth, an against the then norms of society situation or a major disagreement that makes the information remain secret.  Never dawned on me it could have been as simple as two early deaths of parents that had moved from the area and family lost touch with the remaining children.

Hopefully, I’ll soon have an answer to how the mysterious Tony was related to me and why the Pennsylvania branch of the family was disconnected.  Now if I could just discover someone who knows how the Massachusetts branch lost touch I’d hit the trifecta.

A Creepy Weird Family Story


Every October I like to blog about a family story passed down to me that I consider spooky. The odd thing about the story I’m about to tell is that I can find NO DOCUMENTATION to support the facts. Zero – Nada – Zilch! Since this occurred in my lifetime I find the lack of proof frustrating and a little strange. You’ll see why at the end of the tale.

I come from a large extended family on my maternal side. My grandmother, Mary Kos Koss, was the family matriarch who loved to entertain which greatly contributed to people keeping in close contact with each other. After her death on 5 Jun 1985, the relatives, for the most part, lost touch with each other. I witnessed the retelling of this story in the presence of my mother and grandmother from the individual it happened to and they are all now deceased. One of my aunts also had knowledge of the event, along with two of my cousins. My aunt is deceased and I have lost touch with my two cousins.

Here’s what I recall…

On school days as a child, I awoke every morning at 7 AM so that I wouldn’t be tardy to school which began at 8 AM. I lived a block from my elementary school and about 6 blocks from my high school so the walk was quick unless the snow was deep. During my late middle and high school years, my mother worked a few blocks from our home and also had to be at work at 8 AM. She liked to listen to the radio and catch the 7 AM news report that included the weather report because weather was fickle in our area; a warm morning could change to snow dusting by afternoon.

While mom was listening to the radio in her bedroom I was getting dressed in mine. I heard her shriek and I quickly came out to find out what was the matter. She was running down the stairs to the first floor, something I rarely witnessed, so I ran after her. My grandmother was in the kitchen enjoying a cup of coffee and toast. Mom ordered my grandmother to turn on the kitchen radio. Mom never ordered anyone to do anything so this was strange, indeed.

Grandma got up from the table and turned the radio on but all that played was big band music. My mother reached over and changed channels but my mom couldn’t find whatever she was looking for. After stopping at several stations she turned the dial off and told my grandmother that the news reported that there had been a plane crash at the home of George Kos. My grandmother paled.

George was my grandmother’s only son. He lived a short distance from us in a small home he had purchased after his second divorce. At the time, Uncle George worked for US Steel as a laborer. As was typical, his work schedule varied; days, nights or midnights as the three shifts were commonly called. We didn’t know what shift he had been assigned so we didn’t know if he had been in the house when the plane hit.

Grandma immediately dialed his landline phone number but it was out of service. I suggested we call the news room for further information. While I looked up the number in the phone book, my grandmother tried to reach another of her daughters who lived in the area. No one answered. My mother called the radio station but no one answered, probably because the office didn’t open until 8 AM. My grandmother then called the police station; she was informed that there was no information to disclose. I remember thinking we should call the hospitals but I kept that thought to myself. Grandma called my aunt again and still there was no answer. It was now about 7:25 AM and the adults decided they would drive to George’s home to see if he was there. My mother told me to get my shoes on and as we were heading out the door, the phone rang. My aunt told my grandmother they had just been awoken by the phone and figured we had called. George was safe and had slept the night at her house.

I was glad Uncle George was fine but certainly disappointed I had to go to school that day. My aunt told my grandmother George was going to sleep in and meet with the insurance agent that afternoon but they’d all be over for dinner that evening.

Over dinner that night, Uncle George said he after he had gotten home from the day shift, he showered and turned the television on. He had fallen asleep in the living room and was dreaming that his grandmother, Anna Grdenic Kos, was shaking him. Anna had died on 14 Feb 1966 and had doted on George in his youth. Granny, as we called her, was whispering in his ear and shaking him to get up and get out of the house right away. In his dream, George told Granny he was tired and needed to sleep but she was insistent that he rise and leave. He awoke, startled. The dream had seemed so real. As he sat in the armchair, he could still hear her voice in his head telling him to go now. He arose, grabbed his truck keys and wallet and decided he needed a drink at the local bar. He was there when the plane crashed into his home. The living room had been destroyed. He believed Granny had saved his life. We all believed it, too.

I’m foggy about the exact time period the event occurred. It happened after Granny’s death in early 1966 and before I met my husband in 1972. A cousin had lived in George’s home after her marriage and at the time of my grandfather’s death in 1970 as I stayed with her while my grandfather was dying. I don’t recall my grandfather being at the dinner table when Uncle George told us his dream so I’m inclined to think this happened in 1971 or early 1972 as my cousin had relocated from the area and George would have returned to the house. But if Gramps had been there, it could have occurred between 1967-1969.

Now here’s the frustrating part with the records. We used to get the local newspaper, the Gary [Indiana] Post Tribune but I don’t recall an article about the crash. My family were newspaper clippers so I would think I would have inherited the story but I have not. Sometime during this time period, we did purchase the Chicago Tribune instead so that could be why I don’t have a clipping. I wanted to check the Gary Post but those years are not online. The newspaper had changed ownership and those years are missing. The local library has been closed due to funding cuts. On to the next record –

I know my Uncle’s address as I do have a US Public Records Index from 1987 listing it. (The house was rebuilt and he continued to live there until he retired and moved from the area.) I tried to search property records but the city claims they have given the records to the county who claims the city did not do so. I was hoping the property records could show when my uncle purchased it to narrow the earlier dates and possibly, to show when permits were pulled to rebuild. Onward with the search –

I have no relatives to help me recall the dates further. Next –

Could not find the event online, although there are several websites that record plane crashes in Indiana. Some do not go back into the 1970’s; those that do have missed it.

Trying to think outside the box, I thought of possibly contacting the present owners but the street view of Google from 2013 (above) shows the house was abandoned. The living room was the front window on the right.

For now, I have no proof of the event. As the only surviving witness to the story, I wanted to record it. Perhaps someday the missing records and newspaper story will surface to add support to the my tale. Even if documents are never found, I will continue to take heed of dreams involving my ancestors. I just wish they’d tell me the winning lottery numbers!

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.