Correcting John Duer’s Burial Info

What I thought was John Duer’s Tombstone in Kessler Cemetery

Last week I blogged about two gravestone preservation products I recently tried. After cleaning the stone I thought was for my third great grandfather, John Duer, I still couldn’t read more engravings on the stone than I had before I cleaned it.

The next step was to use the rubbing paper I had purchased and this is what I uncovered:

Still largely unreadable but I had a complete death date and age – 11 m 10 d.  This was a tombstone for an infant and not my 3rd ggrandfather. Sigh.

The tombstone did have a memorial on Findagrave and by using the death date and the cemetery, I was able to read what I could not from the rubbing:

Photo courtesy of Cousin Becky on

My goodness, has the tombstone deteriorated since 2008!

I’m glad to know the stone was saved on Findagrave before it became unreadable.  You may have to use the technique I just described while visiting a cemetery and locating a stone you can’t decipher.

The question remains, Where is John Duer buried? Both of his wives are buried in Kessler as are some of his children. According to a text in the Allen County Public Library he was buried in row 15 but when the information was recorded, about 1987, the rest of the stone was unreadable. Kessler Cemetery’s records are incomplete and does not show him buried there.

One of my adult children who accompanied me pointed out that all of the older Duer adult stones on the south side have the same shape so we began looking for stones that matched but found none that said John Duer.

According to the 1987 book, he once had a stone but there was no description or picture of it. Perhaps it was a different John Duer as that name is used in each generation by everyone having children. Perhaps it was my John Duer and the stone was somehow destroyed between 1987 and 2007 when the Findagrave photos began to be taken. Perhaps he was never buried there.

All I know is that I’m back to square one! I went on Findagrave, removed the photo I had attributed to him, and left an explanation as to why.

The hunt continues.

Tombstone Preservation Products Reviews

D/2 Tombstone Cleaner and Bl Carboff Rubbing Paper 26″ x 100′

Memorial Day weekend I set off to Kessler Cemetery to clean tombstones for a few small memorials that were missing from Findagrave. I had blogged recently about my search and find of John Duer’s stone in Kessler, however, the entirety of the stone could not be read when we visited on a cold March day. Since then, my husband and I researched products that would help us see more information on the stone.

Several years ago, a minister in Pennsylvania who was a cemetery trustee recommended I use a bleach and water solution on a stone I could not read. I drove to the nearest Walmart, and bought a spray bottle, water, brush, and bleach tablets as I was in a rental car and being a klutz, was afraid I’d spill liquid bleach.

That mix worked beautifully, however, I’ve since read that you shouldn’t use bleach on stones as it causes damage. A recommendation online was to purchase a product called D/2 Biological Solution. The product claims it is non-toxic and no scrubbing is necessary.

There were several methods for use outlined on the back of the spray bottle. I selected Immediate Resuz Method as I didn’t have the option of going back in a week. Immediate it simply spray, wait 5-10 minutes, spray again if needed, and scrub thoroughly with a non-metallic brush. Wait?! Didn’t it say that no scrubbing was necessary? !

Followed the directions – the stone had green lichen and black mold on the marble. The stone was from 1885 and faced south on a windy, rural cemetery in northwestern Ohio. Although, with scrubbing, we could remove the lichen, the black mold did not come off. We tried this method with seven other stones, some facing south and others facing north. Same results.

In fairness, the stones were badly worn. Turns out they had been memorialized on when the cemetery was added about 15 years ago but we couldn’t read names to check. As a backup plan, I decided to purchase blue Carboff Rubbing Paper. The directions were simple – just cut from the paper roll the size you need and rub with a whiteboard eraser over the stone. My family and I tried rubbing vertically and then on a new sheet, horizontally, thinking that maybe we just had to find the right grain. Nope, some letters and numbers were visible but none of the stones were entirely readable.

I had also brought aluminum foil as that had been recommended. Same technique as with the rubbing paper, basically, the same result though it was much more cost-effective.

I will be writing next week about my research on the stones that we worked to preserve. More information was obtained using these products but for the cost, I was not impressed and wouldn’t recommend them.

Allen County, Indiana Courthouse

Rotunda ceiling, Allen County, Indiana Courthouse

It’s time to travel! Since we’ve returned to live in Indiana, hubby and I have decided to get reacquainted historically with our region. We have planned to visit historical sites throughout the Midwest this summer and I’ll be blogging about our amazing finds.

Wanted to start this series off with a courthouse because, as genealogists, we’re used to digging around there. Most people, however, get the willies just thinking of a courthouse visit. I get it – you’re either in trouble or you’ve been selected for jury duty. If your local courthouse was anywhere close to what the historic Allen County courthouse in Fort Wayne, Indiana looked like though, you’d get over the dread quickly.

Listed as a National Historic Landmark, the Beaux-Arts style building was dedicated in 1902. The architecture is breathtaking – from the rotunda to the numerous Italian marble columns, stained glass, and basreliefs in every courtroom. The murals have been repainted as total fools in the 1930s painted over them. (All I kept thinking was that old song “Folks are dumb where I come from” when I heard about the modernization to paint over them.) Unfortunately, the paint used could not be removed but the original drawings were thankfully stored in the Louvre and France graciously shared the design so they have been replicated.

We were lucky to have gotten a tour from a knowledgeable docent arranged through AARP. The Society of Indiana Pioneers to which we belong is planning another tour later this summer and we loved the visit so much that we plan on returning and bringing family with us.

Visiting this courthouse is like going to a fine arts museum. Most courthouses at the time cost about $80,000 to construct; this one cost $817,000!

We were just stunned at how much thought went into the basreliefs, which vary depending on your role in the room. For example, jurists face Lady Liberty to keep in mind their important task of being fair. The defendant faces honesty, and the judge faces justice. Some rooms are themed around Indiana history and highlight famous northeastern Indiana historical figures, like Anthony Wayne and Native American Chiefs.

Interested in taking a tour? Check out the courthouse website to arrange one.

Generation by Generation – A Genealogical Book Review

Photo of book cover by Lori Samuelson

Ahh, beach season is upon us. Most of you might put aside your family history research while you hit the sand at the lake or seashore. I say it’s the time to rest, relax, and plan your colder-weather genealogical research.

I found the perfect book to accompany you in a comfy lounge chair – Generation by Generation:  A Modern Approach to the Basics of Genealogy by Drew Smith (Baltimore, MD:  Genealogical Publishing Company, 2023). Drew is a librarian at the University of South Florida and who better to help you with your family research than an expert in books?

Generation by Generation was designed as the book that Drew wished he had when he began his family history journey. Unlike other beginner genealogy books, this one starts with the basics to prepare you to begin your research and then moves to what primary record sets are available for you to use to find sources from your generation backward in time. I do appreciate the emphasis on beginning with oneself which newbies so often skip in their search for far-flung ancestors. Too often, they realize that they were mistaken and that the folks they had researched aren’t their forebears. Drew’s approach is straightforward and helps to ensure accurate results and organized records.

Throughout the text, the importance of record analysis is stressed without the worry that one is not doing genealogy correctly. Personally, I have met too many beginners who were so concerned about not recording a citation perfectly that they omitted the information entirely. Drew removes the anxiety while encouraging the reader to be cautious regarding spelling variations, different people with the same name in the same place/time, and inconsistency in records. The explanation of the basics of DNA is so well written that I shared it with family members whose eyes often glaze over when I’m talking about autosomal. Now they understand!

I agree that “the best thing that a genealogical researcher can do is to be comfortable with change. You’ll always be learning something new.” This is exactly how this advanced researcher views the information found in this beginner book. I learned that the United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN), which standardizes the place names within our country, has schools as one of their categories on their searchable site. I never thought of looking there and will include that information in an upcoming presentation I will be giving this month.

No spoiler alert here but I also learned a more efficient technique when using WorldCat to search for family genealogies. Who knew? Apparently Drew and if you purchase the book, you will, too.

For a beginner book, there is very little I would have added as the work is concise and nonintimidating for a novice. One item I would have added is regarding PERSI; I highly recommend contacting the publisher of a journal, magazine, or newsletter if you cannot find a local copy and before you request a copy for pay through the Allen County Public Library (ACPL). I research often at ACPL and those folks are wonderful and overworked. I know they would appreciate it if you exhausted all avenues first to find a copy before contacting them.

I highly recommend obtaining a copy of Generation by Generation, regardless of your skill level. As Drew stated, “Your role, as a genealogist, is to tell the real story about your ancestors, and by following these research steps, you’ll have the best chance of discovering the real facts of their lives.” Amen!