Thursday, June 20, 2019

Burial at Arlington: A Follow-up Story

So, a few years back I had a client who wanted to know what ever happened to her missing grandfather.  With some amazing help from a reader or two, I was able to crack the case.  I also traced back that line, and her other lines, and found lots of war veterans—including that same grandfather, which she had not realized.

This opened up a whole new appreciation for her ancestors who served their country.  And that led to this decision recently, quoted here from her Instagram page:

“After much soul searching, I decided that my parents, who were married almost 50 years, should be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  In doing my ancestry, I found that two great grandfathers were captains in the Civil War.  One of them even fought with Andrew Jackson.  One of them fought at Bull Run and Gettysburg, others in the American Revolution, the Spanish American War, and the Indian Wars.  My grandfather served in WWI and my father in WWII, where he met my mother.  He went on to serve 23 years in the Air Force and was stationed at the Pentagon for two tours.  My husband served in the Navy during Vietnam for four years.

So, I thought it was only fitting to have a full military ceremony to honor those great men who served our country.  And how appropriate to do it just before Memorial Day!…  Rest in peace.” 
She wrote this message to me before they left for Arlington National Cemetery:

There absolutely never would have been a story—and we know that every family has a story—without you.  We are all so grateful.  My sons and grandson are incredibly excited to take this journey.  And my parents can finally be at peace—together.  I hired a videographer and photographer to capture it all. To pass on. To relive. It’s just amazing to have so much history in one family...   

So, she flew to Virginia with her husband and entire family, and the ashes of both her parents.  Afterwards she was kind enough to share some photos from the ceremony at at Arlington.  Here they are:

A few days after the burial, she wrote this to me:

I did this ceremony for all of the brave men in my family. I needed to honor them in some small way. Well, it turned out to be much more than I ever expected. How wonderful I was able to do this for my adult children and my grandchildren. They are STILL talking about it!  We were given the casings from the 21 gun salute and will frame them with the flag that was presented to me.

Thank you so very much, Susan, for being instrumental in my decision to do this for my dad and all of those who served before him in his family.  It was absolutely spectacular.  Something only seen in movies or the news...  I hired a professional photographer and videographer and should have that soon. What a gift to pass on to my family—in addition to your binders!

No, dear lady—thank you!  It’s so gratifying when a client really digs into the information I send them—really devours it and internalizes it, instead of just putting the binder away on a shelf for posterity. 

I don’t always hear what happens with the binders I create, but it’s wonderful when I do!

P.S.  I'm writing this a couple of weeks later.  Here's the video...

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

On a Personal Note...

I haven't written much on this blog in 2017, or even late 2016!  But there are reasons for that! 

In late 2016 we sold our home in Yorkville, IL and transitioned into a rented condo there, while we gradually moved our stuff to our new home in Middlebury, Indiana.  (Hubby has a trailer, so we did it all ourselves!)

In early 2017 we both prepared to finish out the jobs we'd held for 25 years (hubby) and 17 years (me), intending to retire and move to Indiana on July 1.  But a couple of "acts of God" changed that plan!  Gary's place of employment (Pilkington in Naplate, IL) was blown apart by a tornado...  And then I got stage 3 thyroid cancer. 

Somehow we managed to finish up at our jobs, and we got to Indiana in late May.  After a summer of cancer treatments and a hospital stay for sleep apnea, I finally got my strength back this fall - and I then got a knee replacement in October and another one in November, just 9 days ago. 

I did manage a couple of genealogy projects, but I didn't have the time or energy to write about them...  But 2018 will be a better year!

Monday, August 21, 2017

She's How Old?

The other day I found this 1945 Florida State Census record for a client of mine.  In the middle of the page is my client's grandmother, Francis Phillips, and her grown son Robert Thomas Phillips.

The funny thing:  Look at Francis' listed age!  "21+"?!

I've looked at many hundreds, maybe thousands, of census records, and I've never seen a woman get away with something like this!  

I asked my client about it, and she had this to say:  "My grandmother always looked very young and she was incredibly vain.  To the point that she lied about her age to her 10 and 11th husbands, who were at least ten years younger than her!"

So, that explains Francis' answer...  but she must have been a very persuasive lady to get away with that answer! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Another Step in the Right Direction

Last year at about this time I wrote one of my most personal blog posts ever - about my late brother, Bruce.  Here is a link to that post, with a postscript added at the end...  It's another step in the right direction.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Honoring Our Veterans: Coins on Gravestones

This is a guest post from a friend of mine, Diane Furlan, who made a discovery at a faraway graveyard that she visited while on vacation recently.

Earlier this year I was sitting in my dentist’s office and he offered to sell me a vacation package he was unable to use.  When I found out it was to Mackinac Island I jumped at the chance!  Most people never get to visit the island—let alone stay on the island.  In July my husband Steve and I stayed in a lodge at the center of town, right on Mackinac Island.

Stepping off the ferry, after a 20 minute ride across Lake Huron, was like stepping back in time 100 years.  My eyes were as big as saucers!  No motorized vehicles allowed—just horse and carriage, bicycles, or your own two feet.  With six days on an island with a circumference of eight miles, Steve and I wanted to explore as much as we could, knowing we might never get to visit again.  

We thought we would walk the entire eight-mile circumference—but after just four miles in the summer sun we decided there must be a better way to explore this lovely destination!  So one day we ventured out on a multi-speed Trek tandem bicycle.  Now this was the way to travel –me resting comfortably on the back seat while hubby did all the peddling.  (Do you think he noticed?) 

We explored old Fort Mackinac where we had a nice lunch overlooking the town.  When we took a guided horse and buggy tour around Mackinac Island State Park (the majority of the island is preserved as a state park), we noticed an old cemetery.  You see, dear reader, your blog host has recently turned me on to the website!  She has me scouring the countryside for cemeteries to photograph and upload headstones.  

After the tour was over we walked back to the Post Cemetery.  My husband thought it odd—I had to explain my obsession.  I proceeded to drop down low in front of every military gravestone to get the best picture possible to upload.   

Steve and I noticed that many of the headstones had all kinds of coins on them, even dollar bills held down with a stone.  Neither of us had ever seen this before and didn’t know what it meant.  Steve felt bad for the ones that had no coins, so he proceeded to leave a coin here and there—even though we didn’t know what the coins meant!  When we returned home, I got on Google and did some research.

The first website I came to was “Graving with Jenn,” where I found out that coins are left on headstones as a way of paying one’s respects.  There are quite a few ideas as to how the custom began, and one of those is based in Greek mythology.  According to legend, Charon, the ferryman of Hades, required payment of a coin to ferry a loved one’s soul across the River Styx.  People who couldn't pay the fee were said to be doomed to wander the shores of the river for 100 years.

But I was in a military cemetery, so I knew there had to be more to this story—so I Googled some more and came across this from Mix 106 Radio.  I found out that when visiting the grave of a soldier, it is customary to leave a coin to honor them.  A coin left on a headstone lets the deceased soldier's family know that someone stopped by to pay their respects.  I now wish my husband would have left a few more coins on a few more graves!

Upon further Googling (who doesn't love to Google?), my final site was Snopes.  There I found out that some people say that there is meaning to each denomination of coin…  Leaving a penny means you visited; leaving a nickel means you and the decedent trained at boot camp together (I hope we didn't leave any nickels!); a dime means you served with him/her in some capacity; and a quarter means you were with the soldier when he/she was killed.  Nothing is written about the dollar bill, but I say those who received a dollar bill were obviously very much thought of!

Needless to say, this was not just a fun vacation—this was quite the learning vacation.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

My Dining Room Is Full of Boxes

New client, and this one's really different than most! This lady's mom died a number of years ago... She left behind 10 or 15 boxes of genealogy stuff, in NO order that I can see, that's been in a storage locker. She was a genealogy pack rat! I'm sorting through the stuff (including dried bug parts) and trying to cull the useless and organize the valuable. This is gonna take some time!

Monday, January 18, 2016

My Favorite Lesser Known Websites

When I do genealogy, I couldn’t live without  Who can argue with 12 or 14 billion records?  I also subscribe to and…  But there are loads of small, lesser known websites out there.  Here are half a dozen of my favorites—all free.

The U.S. Government’s General Land Office Records (above). I don’t have many ancestors who came to the U.S. early enough to be the first private owners of government land (and it was almost all government land back at the beginning)…  But I’ve done plenty of other people’s trees where I found some real treasures here, including ancestors of Amish friends.  And it’s easy—click on “Land Patents” – then choose the state and county, type in the name, and hit “search.”  Often the original patent image is there (similar to a deed), and the images can be downloaded as pdf files for no cost.

Old Time Medical Ailments.  When looking at old death records, one sees causes of injury or death such as “putrid fever,” “lagrippe,” or “consumption,” it’s nice to have a place to consult in order to find out that today we call these same three ailments “diptheria,” “influenza,” and “tuberculosis.”

The Inflation Calculator (above).  Old census records list the value of land and homes.  This website translates those dollar amounts into 2014 dollars.  No calculator can take every factor into consideration, but it’s much better than my wild guesses when trying to figure out, for example, that $300 of land in 1860 might be worth about $77,915 today.

Behind the Name (above).  This is a site with information about surnames, with a twin site for first names.  You can browse the surnames by letter of alphabet, by nationality, or by typing the name into the search box.  The first names can also be sorted out by gender.  This website has been very useful for me when I see a name on an old record which I cannot read (or which was misspelled by the census taker).  For instance, one client’s grandmother was a German immigrant and her first name was spelled a different way on every single record!  But by searching the German female first names on the website, I determined that it was most likely spelled “Ottilie,” since that was a common German first name for girls and none of the other spellings even appeared on the list.

Old Occupations.  Most of time I recognize the occupations appearing on U.S. census records, but occasionally I am stumped by one like “drayman,” “steeplejack,” or “huckster.”  Old English records are even more likely to have occupations I’m not familiar with.  This site lists hundreds of them, with definitions of each.

I hope this list contains something helpful for those of you bitten by the genealogy bug like I am.  What are your favorite lesser-known websites?