My Swedish Dilemma #1

An estate near Sjohester, Sweden

When my husband and I went to Sweden in April we visited the family home and church for ancestors who were on both his maternal and paternal sides.

Kris and Mangus, of MinnesotaSwede.com, mentioned they were intrigued by how early Samuel August Samuelson and his parents had emigrated to the US and settled in Chicago – 1851! I never thought much about that date but knew from a mug book account that the family only remained in Chicago for one year and then relocated to Porter County, Indiana.

I discovered in Sweden the reason they first went to Chicago. Sam’s older half-brother, Carl Gustaf Johnson, had left Sweden for Chicago in 1849. Why? Samuel Eriksson was a tenant farmer who had married Anna Elisabet “Lisa” Torstensdotter after she had birthed Carl. The family stayed together working for an estate for years but in 1849 the estate let the family go as it appears that the property was sold and the new owners had their own tenants that they wanted to hire.

Samuel, Lisa, and their four surviving children moved to work at a smaller estate as tenant farmers. Perhaps there wasn’t room for Carl or he decided to set off on an adventure in America. According to Kris and Mangus, this wasn’t the time that most Swedes left the country. Only those who believed there was nothing left for them in Sweden took the long and dangerous route to North America. This was the era of sailing ships.

By 1850, Samuel had to move on to another tenancy. From visiting it became apparent that the family was on a downward slide. Each home was smaller, the land surrounding it was tiny, and the estate where they worked was not as prosperous as the former ones. It is no surprise that the family decided in 1851 to join Carl in Chicago.

But where in Chicago? Carl does not appear in the 1850 federal census. Samuel and family arrived after the census. I searched city directories for the time period but they are not found. I stopped at the Swedish Museum hoping their archive might hold some clues. Unfortunately the archivist was not in so I had to follow up with an email. Got a response that she was busy with setting up a new exhibit and would get back to me when she had time.

I then asked at the Chicago History Museum if they knew of Swedish churches in Chicago during that time period. There weren’t any as there were too few to form a congregation.

So, this mystery remains – where did they live and what did they do for the short window when they lived in Chicago?

What I did finally understand was why Samuel’s son, Samuel August Samuelson, volunteered as a Union Soldier and became a lifelong Republican (not to be confused with the current party’s belief systems). Samuel had experienced life as a child of a tenant farmer. He likely empathized with the enslaved which resulted in his joining the Civil War. I would never have figured this out unless I had stood in his former homes and saw for myself what the family had experienced.

Next week, I’ll write about another Swedish mystery that I’m still working on.

Asking the Right Questions on a Cemetery Visit

Yes, it is the time of the year to visit cemeteries. Recently while researching in the Chicago area I decided to check out Mt. Carmel Cemetery located in Hillside, Cook, Illinois. Purportedly, my husband’s second great grandparents, John and Mary “Mollie” O’Brien Cook were interred there. No one had made a Findagrave memorial for them so I stopped at the office first to ask for the location of the graves. I was the first one there when the office opened so they weren’t busy. The clerk could not readily find them. I had their birth and death info and various spellings (Cook and Cooke) but she insisted there were too many Mary’s and didn’t find John by his death date. Then it hit me! John had originally been interred in Calvary Cemetery in Evanston when he died in 1894. Some of his children had him moved to Mt. Carmel in 1918. The clerk found him with that burial date that had been entered as his death date. The clerk said she found no one on the record besides John which I found odd as I would have thought his wife, Mary, was buried by him.

I was given the printout you see above. Interesting that there was a QR Code to use to find the stone. Except, it wasn’t. The QR supposedly took you to the cemetery section. I got confused following it on my phone as it wanted to take me out of the cemetery. This turned out to be correct as the cemetery is so large that it continues across a main street. I had entered a different way and did not see that initially.

After 10 minutes and discovering that GPS wanted me to drive across grave stones, I found an alternate route and arrived at the correct section. It was a large section and I wasn’t sure of the alignment because I couldn’t be sure I was facing south. I thought I was and decided to use the compass of my car to double check.

I started at the first row and went up and down and moved on to the next, and so on until I was midway through the section. Something wasn’t right. The Cook family was Scotts Irish. John had been born Protestant in Scotland before emigrating to the US. Mary was born Roman Catholic in Ireland. They met in New York City, eloped in New Jersey and took the train west to Chicago.

My father-in-law loved to say that all of his side were raised Protestant. Except, after his death, I discovered they weren’t.

Molly, according to one of my husband’s aunts, made a deal with her husband John. All boys would be raised Protestant and the girls, Roman Catholic. What no one in the family had discovered (but me!) was that Molly had gotten the boys baptized Roman Catholic, too.

What a gal! Takes a special kind of woman to do that back in the 1850s.

Part of what I was trying to discover in Chicago was which church John belonged to. I wanted to see if they had membership records that included the boys as the family tale states. Haven’t found that yet.

I know the church where Molly had her children baptized, Old St. Mary’s. Her sole daughter, Mary Ellen, married James Hanlon at Old St. Pat’s Church on 26 May 1880. But I digress! Remember the Hanlon name because I’m going back to the cemetery story.

I quickly realized that 95% of the section I was looking at contained Italian names. This could not be right. There was no stone for the Cooks anywhere. The grass hadn’t been cut and I was getting dehydrated and exhausted from bending over flat stones trying to remove dead grass to read the names.

After an hour of this I returned to the office. Quite an interesting experience when I returned. The clerk who had helped me was waiting on someone who was screaming at her that the customer’s mother had been buried in the wrong lot. This conversation was not going well.

Meanwhile, another clerk was helping an older woman and what was likely her daughter understand the cemetery rules. I had other places to go that day so I was impatient but it was nice and cool in the office so I chose to wait.

Eventually, I was called by the second clerk. I showed the paperwork and explained I had walked the section for an hour, knew I was oriented correctly but could not find the grave stone. I explained I had left at 4:45 AM to get to this cemetery, traveling for over 4 hours and I really needed help in locating the graves. I also mentioned that the first clerk insisted that there were too many Mary Cook’s and she couldn’t find the one I needed who had died in 1901.

I’m not sure what magic the second clerk used but he readily told me that Mary was indeed buried next to John, along with several members of the Hanlon family. This explains why John’s body was moved from Calvary. Mary Ellen Cook Hanlon must have wanted her parents buried with her and her husband so John the Protestant, long dead, had no way to object to being moved to a Roman Catholic Cemetery. I’d love to know if Molly ever confessed to him that she had baptized their sons. Something I’ll likely never discover.

Anyway, it turns out the reason I could not find their tombstones is because they don’t have any. Memo to self:  Next time ASK IF THERE IS A STONE! This would also explain why the memorials were never created on Findagrave. Whoever transcribed this section of the cemetery without records would not have known they were buried there.

Speaking of records, I also mentioned to the second clerk I would like to get the records corrected since the cemetery had John’s death date wrong. He told me there was no way to correct the records. He also informed me I could not see the original burial records as that was not allowed by the Diocese. Wonderful, not! They have wrong records they won’t correct and family members aren’t allowed to see the records. What a policy of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

The second clerk, however, kindly told me who the family was buried next to the Cooks. I was able to find that stone quickly and took a pic of the lot to upload to Findagrave.

Here’s reminders for the future:  Sometimes you have to ask more than one person at the site to get the full story. Always ask if there is a stone. Allow for more time as the unexpected could throw off your schedule.

I notified family that there was no stone as that was news to me. None seemed interested. If I ever win the lottery I will be spending the winnings on purchasing stones and restoring those that are there. Next week, I’ll be writing about my Swedish dilemmas.

Verifying a Family Story in Pullman, Cook, Illinois

After returning from Sweden, I spent four days researching in the Chicagoland area. Both my maternal side and both of my husband’s sides lived in Chicago for a time and the Swedish trip unveiled some new mysteries that made me want to find answers there. Nothing online so boots-on-the-ground was needed. The next few weeks I’ll be writing about my discoveries and the steps I took to get the answers.

Today, I’ve shared the photo above that was taken in Chicago circa 1919. From left to right is an unnamed  neighbor of my family, Great Uncle Joseph Koss, Maternal Grandma Mary Koss, and my mother’s Godmother, known as Kuma. The little girl is my mom. The photo was undated but I know it is from the spring of 1919 for several reasons.

First, my mom is standing on her own. She was born on 14 April 1918 so she is likely about a year old. My grandmother was pregnant in the photo but barely showing; her second child was born in November 1919 in Gary, Lake, Indiana. The family moved shortly after the photo was taken. By the way they are dressed, it is spring – no heavy coats but long sleeves and my mom in a little jacket.

My grandmother had told me it was taken outside of their Pullman apartment building in Chicago. The family story was that both my great grandfather and his son-in-law, who was to become my grandfather, emigrated separately from Dubranec, Croatia with the intent of settling in Pennsylvania where they had heard there was work in the steel mills. When they arrived, however, the mills weren’t hiring so they became employed by the Pullman Company. (This is problem #1 – Pullman didn’t hire in Pennsylvania). They worked on the lines all the way to California and when the job ended, were shipped back to Chicago to work on the canal. (Problem #2-Pullman only hired for working on the cars, not on the lines). It was at that time when my great grandfather sent for his wife, Anna, and two children, Mary and Joseph, to come join him in America. The story goes on to say since he was employed by Pullman he was able to take the train to New York to meet his family and escort them back to Chicago. (Problem #3 – nothing shows that this was a perk of working for Pullman). Well, Gary, actually. He was afraid the big city would intimidate them so he moved them for six months to Glen Park, which eventually became part of Gary so that they could learn English. My grandmother finished 8th grade, the family reunited and lived in Pullman housing in Chicago until they relocated back to Gary because there was work at U.S. Steel in 1919.

I love verifying family stories and I thought this one would be a no brainer. Many of Pullman’s employment records exist at the South Suburban Genealogical and Historical Society in Hazel Crest. Newberry Library also has some ledgers and a box full. How hard could this be?

The librarians at South Suburban were absolutely wonderful! I had not completed a form for them that is required for lookups and I did not expect them to drop everything to help me out. There were several John and Joseph Koss’s but none were my relatives. One was Russian, the Austria-Hungarian became employed in 1925 long after my family had moved on, and another was Slovenian. Sigh.

I had shown the photo and that was when I learned that Pullman had once been its own town but over the years, became a part of Chicago. I also learned that Pullman did not hire laborers. Oh, dear, that was what my ancestors were considered. Another fallacy in the story is that Pullman was somehow involved with the canal building – the Illinois Michigan Canal – but that wasn’t the case.

Pullman did need working railroad tracks, however, and it was thought that perhaps my family had been hired by a company to maintain the rail lines. This makes sense as my immigrants would not likely have understood the concept of subcontractors.

These findings redirected my research question from Finding the Pullman Employment Records for Joseph and John Koss to Finding The Names of Company’s Who Maintained Railroad Tracks in the Pullman, Chicago Area between 1912-1919.

Apparently, no one has asked that question to the many archives where I looked – South Suburban, Chicago History Museum, Henry Washington Public Library, Newberry Library, and IRAD. So, this item remains on my to-do list!

I was also  interested in finding the location of the photo as my mother was said to have been born in that apartment house. My grandmother did not trust hospitals; she swore they stole babies. My cousins and I kidded her for years about that only to discover with DNA, that she had been correct. Too many babies had been switched at birth.

For locating the address, I turned to city directories that were not online. There is nothing like physically touching an ancient book that just might provide the answer to your burning question! Luckily, I discovered that there was a listing for Joseph Koss, laborer, who lived at 12311 South State Street in the 1917 edition. Better yet, he was the only Joseph Koss. I had been told that the whole family lived in the same apartment so by not finding John, the narrative was confirmed. In this particular city directory, only one name, typically a male, was listed per address.

Having an address was wonderful as by checking Google Maps and the Cook County Property Appraiser we quickly determined that the apartment building was still in existence and hadn’t changed much in the last 100+ years. I finally have the location of my mother’s birth! The location even ties in with the church, St. Salomea’s, where she was christened. The church wasn’t far and looking up the church history on flickr explained its need to be built in the Pullman area.

Distance from Apartment to Church, Google Earth

More work is needed to find the company that employed my ancestors. Newberry’s ledgers had Koss’ but they weren’t mine.

I have a request in with IRAD for contractors who worked in 1918-1919 on the Illinois Michigan Canal. I’d love to check out their perks, did they provide discounted train tickets? How did my great grandparent get an apartment in Pullman housing if he wasn’t employed with the company? Sometimes one find leads to more questions! Next week, I’ll tell you about what I learned at a cemetery.

Rethinking Your Family Stories

Photo courtesy of Global Citizen

Yesterday I attended a lecture about researching in burned county Cook, Illinois. We don’t think about Chicago being located in a burned county but of course, like many areas, had a devastating fire that destroyed a large part of the downtown are 150 years ago. Of course, the burned area was where records were kept. The point of the lecture was there are still records left to examine and provided where those sources are now housed.

But that wasn’t the taken away I got from the session…At the very end, a participant asked if Mrs. O’Leary’s cow was the cause of the tragedy. There was an extensive investigation after and both the cow and Mrs. O’Leary were cleared. There had even been a fire the evening before due to the extremely dry conditions. Shoddy building practices and older wooden structures permitted the fire to spread rapidly. A fire department that wasn’t well funded made the situation worse.

When I was a child I lived in the Chicagoland area. Although I don’t recall how I first heard about the fire, I do remember asking my mom about it. She said it was started by Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. My mom was not alive when the fire occurred. Neither were my grandparents or my great grandparents who eventually lived for a short time in the city.

In hindsight, I suppose my mom heard about the fire over 50 years after it had happened. Whoever told her had some knowledge of the original sources blaming the cow but didn’t follow the story long enough to discover what really happened.

Often our family stories are like that; passed from one to another over an extended period of time without fully investigating the information that has become a “fact.”

This week, plan on recalling one of your family stories and do some investigating. Who knows what awesome discovery awaits you! Please share, I’d love to know.

UPDATE: See this interesting story about the O’Leary kin and who might have been responsible for the fire. Note: story mentions that Chicago area children were taught that the cow started the fire so that is how my mom possibly got that information.

Finding a Long Lost Recipe in a Modern Way

During the pandemic, I updated a family cookbook that I originally compiled in 2002.  It is a collection of recipes and holiday customs passed down to my husband and I.  Unfortunately, most of the recipes are from my maternal side of the family.
Although I wasn’t close to my dad’s side, I do recall my grandmother’s cooking on several occasions.  Chicken or beef, mashed potatoes with gravy and another vegetable was all I can remember.  What does stand out is that she served dessert on the same plate that was used for dinner.  This totally grossed me out as a small child so I would refuse dessert.  She must have thought I was very strange to turn down homemade apple pie ala mode but I just couldn’t enjoy it if it was on the same plate in which my main course had been served.  
I have no idea why a dessert plate wasn’t used as I have inherited a set from my paternal grandmother’s mother so clearly they had the means to separate the courses.  I don’t know why it bothered me as I wasn’t one of those kids who wouldn’t eat if one food touched another.  The only food I refused to eat was pizza as it looked unappealing to me.  Of course, the only time I recall my parents going out to dinner with my paternal grandparents was to a restaurant where they ordered pizza.  I recall I had a child’s chicken plate instead.  
I don’t have many recipes from my husband’s side of the family, either.  Most came from a church cookbook that my mother-in-law purchased for me that contained her submitted recipes.  I’m not sure how many of those recipes were passed down, however.  Years ago, I made a beef stew recipe from that cookbook that was supposedly one of my sister-in-law’s favorites.  I complimented her on it and she had no idea what I was talking about.  My husband asked his mother and she said she entered it to see her daughter’s name in print.  I wonder how many other organizational cookbooks contain recipes that the “submitter” never tasted. Sometimes, records submitted are not correct!
I do have a recipe for Lickum, which has been handed down on the Samuelson line, probably from Sweden as it appears to be from that area originally.  There are several variations online.  Lickum is similar to a pickle relish made with onions, tomatoes and peppers.
Last week I went on a quest for a lost family recipe on my husband’s paternal line.  I had tried for years to get the recipe from his cousins but everyone I asked replied with a stricken expression and said, “You don’t want that recipe.”  My husband absolutely hated it as apparently, all of his cousins had.  The recipe was called oyster stuffing and though we’re still 6 months away from Turkey Day, my mind recalled, in a strange way, that I still haven’t discovered it. 
Through the Kindle library I read a short book about a true story of a pirate operating off Long Island, New York in 1860.  He murdered the captain and two deck hands on an oyster ship.  It was a true story and I was shocked by how large the oyster market was at that time.  
My husband’s family were originally from Long Island and my father-in-law had recalled his grandmother making the dish for holidays.  His grandmother, Mary Thompson, was born in Chicago, however, her mother Drusilla Williams, was born on long island and her father, John Hicks Williams, was a ship’s carpenter.  Although I will probably never know for certain, it’s likely the oyster stuffing recipe originated from the once abundance supply of oysters near the family’s home.
Several days after finishing the book, I had a strange dream.  I awoke from a deep sleep and only recall that I was looking at what looked like a television’s blank screen – grey with static – and a man’s voice saying, “If you want that oyster recipe you better ask for it soon before it’s too late.”  Kind of an ominous warning for a mere recipe that no one continued to serve.  
I told my husband the next morning and he posted on Facebook.  Within a matter of minutes one of his cousins had forwarded it to another cousin through marriage that had the recipe.  Apparently, it’s all over the internet.  From Martha Stewart to Chef John, what my husband’s family called Oyster Stuffing is now called Scalloped Oysters or Oyster Casserole.  Who knew?!  I have duly entered the recipe in my family cookbook.  
Reaching out on social media helped me discover that long lost recipe in minutes.  I don’t know why I never thought to do that before!

During the pandemic, I updated a family cookbook that I originally compiled in 2002.  It is a collection of recipes and holiday customs passed down to my husband and I.  Unfortunately, most of the recipes are from my maternal side of the family.
Although I wasn’t close to my dad’s side, I do recall my grandmother’s cooking on several occasions.  Chicken or beef, mashed potatoes with gravy and another vegetable was all I can remember. What does stand out is that she served dessert on the same plate that was used for dinner.  That totally grossed me out as a small child so I would refuse dessert.  She must have thought I was very strange to turn down homemade apple pie ala mode but I just couldn’t enjoy it if it was on the same plate in which my main course had been served.  
I have no idea why a dessert plate wasn’t used as I have inherited a set from my paternal grandmother’s mother so clearly they had the means to separate the courses.  I don’t know why it bothered me as I wasn’t one of those kids who wouldn’t eat if one food touched another.  As a preschooler, the only food I refused to eat was pizza as it looked unappealing to me.  Of course, the only time I recall my parents going out to dinner with my paternal grandparents was to a restaurant where they ordered pizza. I had a child’s chicken plate instead.  
I don’t have many recipes from my husband’s side of the family, either. Most came from a church cookbook that my mother-in-law gifted me that contained her submitted recipes.  I’m not sure how many of those recipes were passed down, however.  Years ago, I made a beef stew recipe from that cookbook that was attributed to my sister-in-law.  I complimented her on it but she had no idea what I was talking about.  My husband asked his mother and she said she entered it to see her daughter’s name in print.  I wonder how many other organizational cookbooks contain recipes that the “submitter” never knew about. Sometimes, records submitted are not correct!
I do have a recipe for Lickum, which has been handed down on the Samuelson line, probably from Sweden as it appears to be from that region originally.  There are several variations online.  Lickum is similar to a pickle relish made with onions, tomatoes and peppers.
Last week I went on a quest for a lost family recipe on my husband’s paternal line. I had tried for years to get the recipe from his cousins but everyone I asked replied with a stricken expression and said, “You don’t want that recipe.”  My husband absolutely hated it as apparently, all of his still living cousins had.  The recipe was called oyster stuffing and though we’re still 6 months away from Turkey Day, my mind recalled, in a strange way, that I still haven’t discovered it. 
Through the Kindle library I read a short book about a true story of a pirate operating off Long Island, New York in 1860.  In The Pirate by Harold Schecter (2018), Albert W. Hicks murdered the captain and two deck hands on an oyster ship.  It was a true story and I was shocked by how large the oyster market was at that time.  
My husband’s family were originally from Long Island and my father-in-law had recalled his grandmother making the dish for holidays.  His grandmother, Mary Thompson, was born in Chicago, however, her mother Drusilla Williams, was born on long island and her father, John Hicks Williams, was a ship’s carpenter.  I have no idea if the pirate and my husband’s ship’s carpenter were related, sharing the similar surname of Hicks.  There were many Hicks’ in the area at the time.  Although I will probably also never know for certain, it’s likely the oyster stuffing recipe originated from the once abundance supply of oysters near the family’s home.
Several days after finishing the book, I had a strange dream.  I awoke from a deep sleep and only recall that I was staring at what looked like a television’s blank screen – grey with static – and a man’s voice saying, “If you want that oyster recipe you better ask for it soon before it’s too late.”  Kind of an ominous warning for a mere recipe that no one continued to serve.  My subconscious most likely paired the bloody Hicks to my husband’s Hicks and the Long Island oysters connected them even further.
I told my husband the next morning and he posted on Facebook.  Within a matter of minutes one of his cousins had forwarded it to another cousin through marriage that had the recipe.  Apparently, it’s all over the internet.  From Martha Stewart to Chef John, what my husband’s family called Oyster Stuffing is now called Scalloped Oysters or Oyster Casserole.  Who knew?!  I have duly entered the recipe in my family cookbook.  Husband says he is not eating it if I make it.
Reaching out on social media helped me discover that long lost recipe in minutes.  I don’t know why I never thought to do that before! I had wasted years asking relatives in person when I could easily have just posted a request.  Live and Learn!

A Phenomenal Photo Find – A Picnic in a Chicago Cemetery

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 25 Oct 2015.

Hope you enjoyed the genealogical synchronicity links in my last blog.  For some reason, many of my strange experiences tend to revolve around photos and I’m going to share 2 odd occurrences that happened in the same week which completed a prediction made 18 years earlier.

The Christmas before my first child was born, my in-laws gave me a book to record family history. My mother-in-law asked me 3 months after my child was born if I had the book completed as she knew I was extremely interested in genealogy.  Overwhelmed with motherhood, I told her no. She said she expected that I would have it completed back to the American Revolution by the time my child graduated from high school.  Little did I know how right she would be and the odd timing of an important discovery in that line that made her prediction accurate.

I was always intrigued with my husband’s 2nd great grandmother, Drusilla Williams DeWolf Thompson.  No one else in the family was named Drusilla so where the name came from we don’t know.  I liked to call her Grandma Dru because Drusilla makes me think of one of Cinderella’s mean stepsisters.

Hubby’s parents didn’t know much about Grandma Dru; their knowledge was that she was a seamstress in Chicago and that she had arrived there via Conestoga wagon from upstate New York with her husband.  She was supposedly the youngest of 21 and her father, John Hicks Williams, a sea captain, died from a bad shave in the Orient.   Turns out much of that story isn’t fact.  Some of the wrong information came from an undated letter written by a family member who though Drusilla’s sister was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and the Mayflower Society. No one in the family questioned the accuracy of the information until the early 2000’s when a second cousin decided to join the DAR and found their was no link in the line.

I came into contact with the cousin’s daughter via an internet posting on Rootsweb Gen Forum seeking info on Dru and I agreed that I would help research the family.  Separately, the cousin, her daughter and I made several trips to Long Island and Troy, New York seeking records as back in those days, internet searching was difficult.  We were able to prove descent from Dru’s paternal grandfather, Wilson Williams, and that Wilson was a member of the Hempstead Harbor, Long Island Militia during the American Revolution.  Along the way we discovered another cousin via the internet who filled us in on her line.

We had documentation from the family, census, military, church and civil authorities but what we longed for was a picture of Drusilla.  Dru died in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois in 1898 so it was probable that she had been photographed in her lifetime.  I have all of the pictures of my husband’s family and none were of Dru.  The cousins had no picture, either.  We decided to search collateral lines.  Dru had one son, John Calvin, with her first husband, Calvin DeWolf, who had died in 1852.  John Calvin had 4 children, Sadie, who died in 1953 had no children. Caroline died as an infant in 1883. Nellie died in 1908 during childbirth and Henry, who died in 1924, was unmarried.  The cousins and I would joke that the best chance of finding a picture would be for me to search antique shops locally as Sadie had died not far from where I live.  Instead, we decided to search other collateral lines.

Dru had 3 birth children and 1 adopted child with her second husband, Thomas Coke Thompson.  The adopted child, Nellie, seems to have vanished after age 11 so we assumed she had died.  Dru’s oldest child, Lewis Warren, died in 1883.  He married twice and had one child, Louisa, with his second wife.  Louisa also married twice but her only child died at age 3 in 1910 so this was another dead end.

Dru and Thomas’ second child, James, had 2 children.  Daughter Rose died as an infant in 1883.  Jeannette, their other child, died in 1944.  She married but had no children.  No picture would be found here, either!

If a picture existed it would be in the possession of a descendant of Dru’s youngest child, Mary, who both my husband and his internet found cousins’ descend.  Mary and Andrew Cook had 7 children but we could quickly eliminate 6 of the children’s descendants from having a photo.   Lulu May, who is my husband’s grandmother, can be eliminated since I have all of the family pictures.  To be sure, I double checked with all of his living relatives and no one could recall ever seeing a picture of Dru.

Oldest son, John Thompson, who one of the cousins is descended from, and second oldest son, William DeWolf Cook, who the other 2 cousins descend from, can be eliminated as none of those families had a photo.  Three of Mary’s children died without marrying – Drucilla in 1897, James Andrew in 1906 and Whitney Calvin in 1924.

This left one of Mary and Thomas’ children to find – Grace Gertrude Cook, the author of the undated family letter.  This was our last hope!  We knew that Grace had married John Honaker and they had 2 children.  I had met one of their children, John Sheridan Honaker, who had retired not far from where my husband and I lived when we first married and my in-laws would visit John when they came to see us.  He had 2 children we had never met.  Grace’s second child, Anne Virginia, married and also had 2 children we had never met.  My sister-in-law thought the family lived somewhere in the midwest.

Finding an obituary for John Sheridan Honaker, the cousins were able to get a phone number for one of his children.  This newly found cousin hadn’t ever seen a photo of Dru, either.  She doubted anything was left as a tornado in 1974 had blown the roof off her family’s home and there were only a few pages of the Family Bible that had survived.  She promised to check with her uncle who had been the one to clean up after the tornado.

It took several months for the cousin to be able to convince her uncle’s son to look in the attic.  The son insisted that everything had been lost and he really didn’t want to climb around his dad’s attic as the uncle was too old to look himself.  She volunteered to look but was politely told no.

I had moved on to other lines and really wasn’t thinking about Dru when I dropped off at Walgreens a baggie filled with undeveloped film and disposable cameras I had found while spring cleaning in a spare closet.  It was a Sunday afternoon and I knew I had too much for the harried clerk to develop in an hour so I told her to call me whenever she got the film developed.  As I turned from the counter I ran smack into another customer who I hadn’t known was standing close behind me.  I apologized and asked if she was okay since she clearly looked rattled.  She said she was fine but she certainly didn’t look it; she was scowling and tense.  I told her that I hoped the rest of her day would be calm and beautiful.  As I walked past her she asked if she could have a word with me.  I turned and she sputtered that she was psychic and did I know that I had a lot of dead people surrounding me.  The store clerk was taken aback but I just laughed and told the customer that I was a genealogist and that they were most likely all my relatives.  The woman told me she had never seen anyone surrounded by so many dead people.  I laughed again and told her I had a big family and that I hoped they were all listening because I really needed their help in finding their records, especially their pictures.  I shared what happened when I got home with my husband who shook his head and remarked that the strangest things happen to me. Every time I see this cartoon I think of that experience:

90c28bcfbe8cc5ef61e05a0b6e3c0b42

I got a call several days later from Walgreens to pick up my photos.  While I was gone my husband was checking email.  When I returned from the store hubby was excited and told me there was an email I just had to read right away – it was from the Midwest cousin.  Here’s a transcription of the email dated 5 April 2001 but  I have used initials only as I don’t have permission to use their names:

“Found it!!!!! Actually J. found it.  It is very faint and has some water damage.  I will send you all copies (I’ll take it in tomorrow).  I have never been to Graceland [Cemetery] but there is a tall white stone with what looks like an urn on top.  On the left side of the picture is a young girl with a fancy dress.  Seated next to her is a bearded man with a top hat.  To the right of him is a girl with her head resting on her hand.  Two boys are seated on either side of the monument.  On the back in a flowery script it says:  Graceland  Cemetery 1870 Thomas Thompson Drusilla Thompson Lewis Thompson James Thompson Mary Thompson.

I will have the back photocopied so that I can send that along with the prints.  Hope this does it for you.  I actually jumped up and down when Uncle B. handed it to me.  He did not want me to take it from the house, but I insisted… Congratulations! S.”

I shouted and jumped up and down, too and thanked all the dead people who supposedly were following me.  Later that evening I received the following email from the Midwest cousin:

“I had a long talk on the phone with Uncle B tonight about Aunt V. and we were rejoicing over the good news from the doctor.  Then he says, “S., did you pray about this picture?” (He is a religious man.  I don’t pray about pictures.)  I said, “No, but it means a lot to I. and her daughter, and to Lori.  Why?”  And he says, “J. didn’t go up to find the picture.  He was just going through some old things cleaning up.  Then he came upon a box that he had never seen that had been up there before the tornado because it had water damage.  He went through it and found old clothes and things, and there in the bottom of the box was this picture.  The only picture in the box.  Somebody’s prayers must have been answered.”

“Well, I’ll leave that last part for you to decide.  But this is very weird because J. has been through those attics time and time again and he said this box was just sort of sitting there.  This makes the tape thing* of mine even spookier.  Anyway, J. brought the picture down not eve (sic) knowing what it was because it was so faint, and wouldn’t you know.  It’s the picture.

Just thought I would share that part of the story with you.  You can make of it what you will. S.”

And you, dear readers, can make what you will of this odd story that happened to me.  Here’s the picture:

dru

From a later email, here’s further information about the photo:

“…I asked what they [the photography shop] could do to make it clearer and they said that I would be pleasantly surprised because it was made before there was film so there is no grain and should enlarge perfectly.  I had them make a 5 x 7 with some cropping of tree tops from the top; a  5 x 7 that focuses on the family and the monument and an 8 x 10 that includes as much of the picture as possible in the original, which is about 7×6…”

The miracle of this picture is that it survived not only the 1974 tornado but also 131 years of no heating or air conditioning, the Chicago fire (1871), and several moves across three states.

But the story doesn’t end there….

Six months after the photo was discovered my eldest child was inducted into the DAR; it was her senior year in high school as my mother-in-law, long dead, had predicted would happen.

As I was writing this blog I decided to take a break and look at some of the hints that had popped up on ancestry. I have disabled most of the hint feature so when I get some, I tend to take a look.  I can’t explain how there was a hint for Find-a-Grave for Uncle B, the man who had the picture in his attic.  I didn’t even know he had died 3 years ago.  Someone had posted his and his wife’s gravestone photos just 2 months ago.  I have no idea who made the memorial or the relationship of the person who posted the photos.  Why that hint showed up a few hours after I had written most of this blog I can’t explain, either.

So just maybe all those dead people behind me in Walgreens are still around helping me keep my tree updated.  I don’t understand how it all works but I certainly appreciate the help!

*I’ll save that strange story of the tape for another day!