Boots on the Ground Remains Important

Courtesy of Aunt Becky on Findagrave.com

Do you have a family line that just fascinates you? Mine is the Duers who emigrated from England to New Jersey, moving on to what is now West Virginia and then into Ohio.

I’ve blogged before about the difficulty of identifying individuals as each generation reuses names – John, Thomas, Daniel, Joseph, and John(athan). I have been trying to prove for years that patriot John Duer (1758-1831) had a son, Thomas, who predeceased him. Thomas had a son, John, whose burial location was unknown. Both of grandson John’s wives, Jane and Margaret, were buried in Kessler Cemetery, aka Liberty, in Chattanooga, Mercer, Ohio.

Several years ago I contacted the cemetery staff and they kindly sent me a handwritten listing of burial plots. John Duer was shown buried in row 6 space 23. Unfortunately, that’s not the John I’m seeking; that John was the man I’m seeking’s son John Fred (1836-1939).

While I was in Fort Wayne recently at the genealogical library, I asked my husband to check books for cemetery records in Mercer County, Ohio. John died in Allen County, Indiana, across the border from Mercer as that is where he owned property later in life and had his will probated. No obituary has been found for him. His will omitted many of his children from his first marriage. My theory was that he was buried in an unmarked grave either in Adams County, Indiana, or in Kessler Cemetery.

My husband is not interested in genealogy and sometimes, not having a background makes for the best finds. He didn’t bother using the indexes provided in the back of the books. He scanned every page for the name John Duer. He also was looking for alternative spelling as he was aware that the original spelling was Dure. In Judith Burkhardt & Gloria Schindler. Mercer County, Ohio Cemetery Records of Liberty Township (1987) he hit gold! The last entry on the last page (52) noted in Row 15: “Next several stones missing, sunken in ground or unreadable John Duer – Unreadable”

Wow! It’s likely this was the John that I was trying to find. He wasn’t listed on the Kessler Cemetery sheet sent to me because the document only went to row 8. I had no idea I hadn’t been sent the entire cemetery listing.

I definitely need to take a trip to Kessler to see the stone for myself. I’m not holding out hope I’ll be able to glean information from the stone that was unreadable 34 years ago but I still need to make the attempt.

Interestingly, the Burkhardt & Schindler book also noted that the first wife, Jane’s, tombstone death year was 1888 which is a mistranscription. Her stone is shown above. Actually, that death year on her stone is probably also in error. John married second 11 December 1864 to widow Margaret Martz Searight. It is likely that his first wife Jane died in July 1861-4; no divorce record was found by staff who searched in Mercer County.

I definitely need to check for myself and also search divorce records in Adams County, Indiana, where John purchased a property in 1860, leaving Jane off the deed. When they lived in Holmes County she was listed as an owner with him.

I suspect her tombstone was not added until after the Civil War as the family had several sons and sons-in-law fighting for the Union. I’m thinking 1866 was the year they had the tombstone installed. Or, there was a divorce I haven’t yet found.

Boots on the ground are still necessary and it’s definitely exciting to step away from the computer to make a find in person. Kudos to my husband who made this exciting discovery for me. Happy Hunting!

A Unique Genealogical Find on Christmas Night

I absolutely adore those unexpected finds, don’t you?!  During my two week hiatus I decided I’d try to solve a John Duer (1801-1885) mystery.  I wasn’t able to do that yet but I have made some tremendous progress and want to share how I came to put the pieces together to answer my question – Why is it written on Mary Jane Morrison Duer’s 1866 tombstone “Wife of John Duer” when John was married to Margaret Ann Martz Searight Duer at the time of Jane’s death? I have never found a marriage record for the 2nd marriage nor have I found a divorce record for the first wife.  Was there more than one John Duer? (Yes, there are many!) Was John polygamous?  (Could be but I haven’t found that in the Duer line.  They were Quakers, Presbyterians and then Independent Christians.) 

John and Jane are my paternal third great grandparents.  No one ever mentioned them but in all fairness, I was not close to my father’s side of the family so I never got much family information about anyone. Duer cousins I have connected with have no information, either.

I love researching the Duers for several reasons – 1.  They are complex in that they reuse the same names every  generation – John, William, Thomas, and they all have large families so separating who is who is a wonderful mind puzzle.  2.  Records are scarce – they don’t leave many records and they just disappear in thin air.  3.  Somehow, every time I go back to working on those lines a strange event occurs to help me find the information.  That kind of happened again Christmas night which I think was the most perfect gift I received.

The week before Christmas I re-analyzed all the information I had on the family and began to sort out some anomalies.  I discovered that a Find-A-Grave memorial for a John Fred Duer is in error.  I’ve written to my distant cousin to have it corrected.  The mistake was in plain site on the page and I’m embarrassed I didn’t catch it years ago.  The memorial shows that the man was 102-3 when he died – possible but unlikely.  Looking at the individual who requested the tombstone, I realized that two Johns – John Fred and John B. had been merged.  The birthdate for John B. was entered with the death date for John Fred.  The tombstone does not provide a birth date.  

John B. was John and Jane’s son; John Fred[eric] was the son of Charles Edward and Almeda Buckmaster Duer.  Charles Edward was the son of John and 2nd wife Margaret Martz Duer.  John Fred’s mother had requested the military tombstone for her son who had served in World War 1.  John B. was dead before World War 1 and too old to serve.

I can understand how the mistake happened – most of John and Jane’s children are buried in Kessler Cemetery, Mercer, Ohio.  John B., however, is not – he is buried in Backestro Cemetery, Adams, Indiana.  John and Margaret lived in Adams, Indiana so you would think they would be buried there but Margaret, Charles Edward and John Fred are buried in Kessler.  No one knows where John, husband of Jane and Margaret, was buried.  My guess is Kessler in an unmarked grave.  I’ve checked with those who oversee the cemetery and there is a depression next to Jane’s grave that was possibly an interment.  My guess is that the family didn’t pay for a tombstone.  More on that in another blog sometime.

My working theory is that some of John and Jane’s children were not wild about  his second marriage to Margaret.  Hence, they would put the “wife of John” on Jane’s tombstone to validate their mother’s marriage to their father.  I wanted to narrow down the time period of when the couple split and try to determine how John met Margaret since she was in the next state.  I’ll write more about that another time, too.

My thought was to check out, in detail, all of the players – meaning looking more closely at all of the children of the two couples and their spouses.  I used Excel to list all of them, the date and the place where I had a record they could be found.  I realized there was a lot I did not know.  I’ll be writing in the next few weeks about some of the interesting and sad finds I made but for now, back to the Christmas night find.

I was using FamilySearch.org image feature which I highly recommend.  If you haven’t used it you must because almost all of the wonderful information I have compiled lately on this family is from this unindexed, convoluted place.  You must try it! Images do not mean pictures as in photos. Images mean they are a picture of a document.  They look just like the other microfilmed documents that are indexed on the site.  The images are not always orderly, meaning you might find a death record next to a marriage consent.  You must take it slow, examine closely and click away.

To use images, sign into Familysearch.org, on the ribbon click “Search” and the “Images.” Under “Place” type whatever area you are researching.  In this case, I was looking for a deed record for Mercer County, Ohio because John and Jane were last found together there in July 1860 in the US Federal Census.  I entered in Place “United States, Ohio, Mercer” and clicked Search Image Groups. When I try to duplicate that search today, however, it will only let me enter Ohio, United States.  Don’t know why it’s been changed but no worries!  On the left hand side of the screen “Places Within” is a drop down so I will scroll to Mercer [County]. There are 321 record types to look at – woo hoo, that’s a lot of info that may or may not be relevant.  

The 1860 US federal census showed John and Jane living two residences away from their married daughter, Maria Duer Kuhn, in Liberty Township, Mercer, Ohio. Liberty Township should have been where I was looking for a record of the deed for the property but I didn’t find that township specifically.  (I first tried the Mercer County, Ohio property appraiser site and did not find the record there).  With the options limited, I clicked on FamilySearch.org on Celina, Land Record 1834-2003, etc.  I was thinking that Celina was the county seat and that’s where the deed may have been recorded. 

Remember, these images are not indexed so I decided I would open the page to as full a view as possible (meaning I clicked the > on the right hand side and was just mindlessly clicking image after image zeroing in on the years 1850 (when I last knew the family was in Killbuck, Holmes, Ohio based on the census and 1866 when John and Margaret had their first child together and Jane died. Sometime in those 16 years perhaps there was a deed in Mercer and I wanted to know which wife was on it.) Turns out that wasn’t correct but that’s another story…

It was a very good practice that I had first become familiar with children and their spouses.  After just a few minutes, on image 130 of 1112, I discovered the record at the top of the page.  Look at the second from last entry above for Grantees Ceraldo, John F. & Mary Ceraldo.    

John and Jane’s daughter, Mary Ann, has been elusive and here I found a deed record for her and her husband in 1887.  I about jumped out of my chair!  

All I knew of Mary was that she had married twice, to a James Furman in July 1875 and to John L. Ceraldo in April 1879, both in Mercer County, Indiana.  I can’t find her in the 1860 or 1900 census. There is a child, Daniel, listed with the couple in 1870 US federal census, however, it must be from a previous relationship of John’s.  That is the only record for the child I could find. No marriage record for a possible first wife.  No burial records.  Nada!

John Ceraldo was a naturalized citizen having been born in Mexico and serving in the cavalry for the Union during the Civil War.  He could not read nor write so his name is spelled in multiple ways in the few records found.  The couple eventually ended up in Michigan where Mary died in 1909.  Sadly, John, the informant, knew John Duer was Mary’s father but did not mention Jane as her mother.  The mother space is recorded as Unknown.  Jane, having died in 1866, probably never met John but why didn’t Mary ever talk about her?  This seemed to be a pattern with the younger children of John and Jane as James William and Angeline’s death certificates list an incorrect first name or record unknown.  More Duer mysteries!  Why was Jane forgotten by her youngest children?

What was so awesome about this find was that I wasn’t looking for it.  I also was able to place the couple in Ohio as they had not yet relocated to Michigan. The gap between 1880 and 1900 is large so any find in that period is just wonderful.  I also discovered they continued living in Jefferson Township, since at least 1870, and not Liberty Township where siblings had settled.  

I don’t know the relationship of Daniel Webster, also listed as a Grantee, is to the couple.  That’s another clue I have to pursue.  

I’m looking forward to more Duer finds this year.  Since my top 10 blogs from 2020 showed that my readers love the unexpected, I thought you might enjoy the following article in the Washington Post (3 Jan 2021) Near the End of life, my hospice patient had a ghostly visitor who altered his view of the world, by Scott Janssen, originally published in Pulse – Voices From the Heart of Medicine.  If only John or Jane would give me a visit!

John Duer, Where Art Thou Buried and Other Duer Mysteries?!

My last post, Records Breadcrumb Trail May Lead to Wrong Conclusions, and an earlier post, Circular Migration Patterns-How History Repeats Itself, 30 May 2015) noted my research of my Duer line.  My latest hurdle is finding the burial location of John Duer, my 3rd great grandfather.

I know from his Indiana probate records that John died on 25 February 1885 in Adams County, Indiana.[1] John and his second wife, Margaret Martz Searight, were living in Jefferson, Adams County, Indiana in 1880, along with their two children Charley, age 14 and Lucinda, age 12.[2]  Adams County, Indiana is adjacent to Mercer County, Ohio where both had resided with their first spouses.  I’m descended from John’s daughter, Maria, with his first wife, Mary Jane Morrison.[3]

I’m discovering some interesting information regarding John and Margaret and I wish I could connect up with relatives who might be able to shed light on my findings.  The first “odd” event was John and Margaret’s marriage on 11 December 1864.[4]  How that is odd is that first wife, Mary Jane, did not die until 10 July 1866.[5]  No divorce documentation has been found.  Nothing leads me to believe that John was a polygamist; he was raised as a Presbyterian and his father, Thomas, was buried in a Presbyterian cemetery in Trumbull County, Ohio.[6]  The Justice of the Peace for the second marriage was a third great uncle of mine on another line, John Leininger.  The Leiningers were Lutheran.  Since Mary Jane’s tombstone clearly states she was “the wife of John Duer” and there was only one other John Duer living in the area at the time who happened to be her son who was married to a Carolina Kuhn, this isn’t a case of mistaken identity.  I’m positive that the John Duer that married Margaret was not John and Mary Jane’s son John (Jr.) as I have his marriage certificate to Carolyn in 1863.  John Jr. and Carolina’s first child, John (of course!) was also born in 1866.  Likewise, John Sr. and his second wife, Margaret’s first child, Charles, was born in 1866.  I haven’t been able to find the exact birth date but remember, first wife didn’t die until July 1866.

If John Sr. and Mary Ann had divorced, why would Mary Jane’s tombstone inscription note her as a wife?

Figure 1Mary Jane Morrison Duer Tombstone[7]

To further support I have the correct John Duer, his will probated in Adams County, Indiana not only mentions his children from his second marriage to Margaret, but Angeline, his youngest daughter with his first wife, Jane.[8]

John and Jane had ten children; at the time of his death six were known to be living.  Yet, he did not note any child from the first wife in his will except Angeline.

There could be several reasons for the omission.  Perhaps his older children, as well established adults, did not need financial assistance.  Maybe there was a falling out and the older children were no longer speaking to their father.  Angeline, Mary and James, children from his first wife, were living in Adams County, Indiana while the other children were living in Mercer County in 1870.  Although geographically these counties are next to each other, perhaps John decided only unmarried children living in Indiana would receive compensation.

I’ve searched for an obituary for John and Jane and haven’t been able to find one.  I’ve also been unable to find where John was buried.

Kessler Cemetery records are incomplete.[9]  Jane is mentioned in the records, however, John is not.  According to one of the county trustees, the older section of the cemetery has no empty plots.  There is an empty space in Jane’s row so it is possible that John was interred there with no stone.  If they had divorced, why would he be interred close to his ex?

To rule out a burial elsewhere, other cemeteries in Mercer and Adams counties were examined.  No burial location for John was found.  John died before death certificates were mandatory in Indiana so there is no clue to be discovered there.

John’s second wife, Margaret, was also buried in Kessler Cemetery and her burial is notated in the records.  There are no empty spaces in Margaret’s burial location and all surrounding graves have readable tombstones, very similar to Jane’s.  Like Jane, Margaret’s stone denotes her as the wife of John Duer:

Figure 2 Margaret Ann Martz Searight Duer Stone[10]

Margaret was first married to a Mr. Sea(w)ri(gh)te.  She had a daughter, Effie, from her first marriage that was born in 1856.  Effie was born in Ohio so Margaret had emigrated from Hesse, Germany prior to that time.

I’ve never been able to determine where Margaret’s first husband was buried, either.  Oh, these missing men!

Here’s the second odd situation with this family – John and Jane’s daughter, Maria (not to be confused with Mary, another of their daughters) married Henry Kuhn Jr.  Henry was also an immigrant from Germany; he was quite prosperous and well known in the German community in Mercer.  The Leininger family (the JP for the second marriage) were much like the Kuhns; born in Germany they adapted quickly and held many political offices in the community as well as being successful farmers.  Surely these individuals would have all known each other.  Maria and Henry’s tombstone is ornate and also in Kessler Cemetery.  They could have well afforded a small stone for John. Why doesn’t John have one if he was buried there?

Some individuals do not want a stone but I find no reason that John would have been one of those folks.  His father, mother and grandfather had stones, as did both of his wives.  It seems to me that his passing wanted to be forgotten.

As I was researching obituaries I came across the following unsettling article:

John’s wife, Margaret, had met a similar fate[11]

Figure 3 The Fort Wayne [Indiana] Daily News

The son that lived nearby was Charles.

Figure 4 The Evening Republican

Figure 5 The Fort Wayne [Indiana] Evening Sentinel

Figure 6 The Indiana Tribune (in German)

John and Margaret’s son, Charles Edward Duer, was married to Almeda Buckmaster.[12]  I thought she was the “Mrs. Duer” who had died on 1 June 1894[13].  I began to wonder if there wasn’t a sinister side to this line but I’m happy to report that upon analysis, there were two Charles Duers, one in Indiana and one in Ohio.  Both had a loved one die by fire but they were not one and the same.  Whew!  Thought I was identifying a murder suspect for a bit.  Guess it’s just a creepy coincidence!

__________________________________                              [1] “Indiana, Wills and Probate Records, 1798-1999,” John Duer, Volume A-C, page 484-486; digital image, Ancestry.com (http:  ancestry.com:  accessed 16 October 2016), citing Adams County, Indiana Circuit Court.

[2] 1880 U.S. census, Jefferson, Adams County, Indiana, population schedule, page 6 (handwritten), family/dwelling 54, John Duer; digital image, Ancestry.com (http:  ancestry.com:  accessed 16 October 2016), citing FHL microfilm 1254263.

[3] See previous blogs for citations.

[4] Ohio, Marriage Intention Application, John Duer,

[5] Find-A-Grave, database and image (http://www.findagrave.com:  accessed 16 October 2016), memorial page for Jane Morrison Duer (1804-1866), Find A Grave Memorial no. 22503919; memorial created by Teresa citing St. Kessler Cemetery, Chattanooga, Mercer County, Ohio; image by Cousin Becky.  Tombstone states “Jane, wife of John Duer” and clearly shows 1866 as the death year.

[6] Find-A-Grave, database and image (http://www.findagrave.com:  accessed 16 October 2016), memorial page for Thomas Duer (1775-1829), Find A Grave Memorial no. 57798621; memorial created by BLJns75 citing St. Pricetown Cemetery, Newton Falls, Trumbull County, Ohio.  No tombstone pictures but confirmed with a local genealogist in Trumbull who had tripped over Thomas’ fallen stone and had it reset, the cemetery was for Presbyterian’s only.

[7] Find-A-Grave, “Jane Morrison Duer,”

[8] “Indiana, Wills and Probate Records, 1798-1999,” John Duer, Volume A-C, page 484-486

[9] Author to       , Mercer County Trustee, Phone and Email, date, .  Author is deeply appreciative of         for not only scanning and emailing the cemetery records for the Duer family, but including other family members who were interred in the cemetery.            Also physically went to the gravesite to verify that there was no stone for John Duer.  She took pictures of surrounding stones and emailed to the author.  Her dedication is exemplary!

[10] Find-A-Grave, database and image (http://www.findagrave.com:  accessed 16 October 2016), memorial page for Margaret A. Duer (1823-1904), Find A Grave Memorial no. 22546617; memorial created by Teresa citing St. Kessler Cemetery, Chattanooga, Mercer County, Ohio; image by Cousin Becky.

[11] “Burned in Her Home,” The Fort Wayne [Indiana] Daily News, 29 December 1904, p. 1, col. 3.

“Aged Woman Cremated,” The [Columbus, Ohio] Evening Republican, 30 December 1904, p. 1, col. 2.

“Aged Woman Burns to Death in Home,” The Fort Wayne [Indiana] Evening Sentinel, 30 December 1904, p. 1, col. 3.

“Radridten and Indiana,” Indiana Tribune, 30 Dec 1904, No. 110, p. 1, col. 6.

[12] “Indiana Marriage Collection, 1800-1941,” Charles E. Duer and Elmeda Buckmaster, 6 March 1886; digital image, Familysearch (https://familysearch.org:  accessed 17 October 2016); citing FHL microfilm 002321466; citing Adams County, Indiana County Clerk Office, p. 124.

[13] “Fatal Burns,” The Lima [Ohio] Times-Democrat, Vol. X, No. 195, p. 1, col. 1.