Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Diversion

I haven't got much to report on the in the art department because I have been immersed in genealogy. My Mother began doing the family history back in the 70's when everything had to be done by mail or with a personal visit. Or you could pay a researcher. There are some copies of census data that she paid $2 to a researcher to get. She amassed quite a bit of information and a lot of it was from talking with people who remembered names, dates, and places. I remember on one of her visits here we went to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and spent the day looking through ships' logs trying to find a listing for my father's father and family who came over from Ireland in 1882. We spent hours looking through microfilm records and had no success. And because my Mom had gotten far enough back in the family that any more research would have to be done in foreign countries, she more or less gave it up and gave all the information to me.

This is my great aunt Rose.She was a bit of a black sheep - she was a show girl.I have pictures of her dressed in her follies costume. She was killed in a car accident.

I entered all the information onto the computer but never really went any further with it until about 2 years ago when a family member asked what information I had on one of the branches. It was then that I discovered that there is a wealth of information online and much of it is free. Census data, in particular, tells a story in 10 year increments, and depending on what information was being gathered, reveals quite a bit of history. Birth records, marriage records, draft registration records, and death records lead me ever deeper into my ancestors and I'm constantly discovering new cousins.


This is one of my great grandmothers.  She lived from 1863 to 1937.

I joined Ancestry.com and was immediately sucked in by their little waving leaf symbols. These indicate that there is a hint to some more information on that particular person. It's like a never ending spiral - information leads to more information which leads to more information. It can be overwhelming. One of the hints led to another website called Findagrave.com. For the past ten years, volunteers have been entering data from cemeteries and also taking pictures of headstones and uploading them. There are currently 101 million grave records so it's pretty likely that some one you know is listed there somewhere. So now I'm finding out where many of my ancestors are buried, most of them in the Chicago area. And I'm thinking that it would be interesting to visit these cemeteries and find the gravesites of as many people in my tree as I can.

Alice's husband. Not such an upstanding guy - abandoned her with 5 young children.

I present the idea to my sister, who is slightly less than enthusiastic about this adventure, but is willing to humor me. She will drive me around to the various cemeteries and help me find the gravesites. Now I start calling cemeteries and asking for the locations of the graves. They are very helpful, as long as I only have a few names. But for one cemetery, I have 20 names, and Tom, the poor soul who answered the phone, said he couldn't do that over the phone. So I sent him my list, hoping that by the time we got there, he would have found everybody. It sort of worked out, he gave me a list of graves, and a map of the cemetery, and told me to take my cell phone with me. Who am I going to be calling, I ask? Well, just because I have a map and a location, doesn't mean I can walk right to the grave. Things aren't in nice neat rows and columns, and are definitely not marked. I'm to call Tom and give him a name that I can see, and he will tell me where I am, and which direction I need to walk. Six phone calls later, we had found most of what we were looking for.


More great grandparents. These two came over on the boat from Ireland in 1882.


Things I learned - lots of people can be buried in the same plot and not all of them have a headstone, especially infants and small children. Marble is not a good material for headstones because it weathers terribly. Stones that are flat on the ground are slowly but surely covered over with grass. 



Husband and wife. William was born in Germany.
Anna is the only great grandparent that I remember.


The Patrick Nolan who died in 1925 is my great grandfather. His son, Patrick J., died earlier than he did.

We really wanted to find the gravesite of our grandmother Sadie, who died of breast cancer in 1940. In my Mother's genealogy papers was a plot description from Calvary Cemetery. In this plot nine people had been buried, including our grandmother Sadie, grandfather Frank, and great grandmother Margaret. The first day we were there we hunted all over and all we saw was a large grassy area. This was most upsetting to think that all traces of these people were gone. On our return the next day Tom told us that there definitely was a grave marker on this plot, so we returned to the area. This time when I called Tom, he stayed on the line while I gave him names. Not far enough, then too far, okay right block. Now move south 4 plots. Then we see it. It's a marble monolith about 5 feet high and extremely weathered. We can barely read the names, but there is enough to know this is the right one.


The plot listing tells the sad story: Infant of Patrick Nolan, died October 14, 1885. Mother Margaret died 2 days later. Childbirth was a very dangerous event in the 19th century.

We spent 4 days total and I have about 40 pictures. I'm discovering new relationships and have even made contact with a second cousin I had never knew existed. It's odd to have memories of the same people and places, share some genes, and yet be virtual strangers. Imagine visiting the old countries and finding cousins there also! 


10 comments:

Judi D. said...

Cathy, this is so fascinating! Thank you for sharing the pictures. You know who would like this? My mom! She and I spent a lot of time in cemeteries, often taking rubbings. I'm glad you are doing this and can see you're enjoying it!

Cathy Kleeman said...

I also went to the cemetery where your folks are and took pictures of their headstones. Go on findagrave.com and do a search.

Joan Levin said...

This is so interesting. The reason I have not joined ancestry is fear of being pulled in to the process as you have described. But your success makes it even more tempting.

linda said...

Did you do any rubbings? Fascinating stuff (love the black sheep showgirl & her tragic demise).

Didi said...

Was the Calvary Cemetery you went to o Sheridan Rd. by Lake Michigan? A huge place?? I know it, if it is the same one. My husband's uncle is buried there.

Cathy Kleeman said...

Didi - Yes, Calvary Cemetery in Evanston, right near the Lake. Most of the others I found are at St Boniface, not too far south of Calvary.

I didn't do any rubbings, didn't have the right materials. And we were on a mission, no time for rubbings.

Karen B said...

Fascinating - a good journey. Your comments made me think about how cemeteries provide a link to the past - we don't have that for people who were cremated and not buried in a cemetery. I, too, am reluctant to join ancestry because it could take over too much time. Maybe later when I slow down.

Mary Ann said...

Part of my job at church is to go into the records for birth, marriage, first communion, conformation. It's fascinating. The very old records are in latin. Sometimes the cause of death is listed. It's fun to search for people. And we are free.

Susan said...

Cathy, That's wonderful your mom started the family history and you are continuing it. I too am addicted to it and am a member of ancestry.com for a few years now. I stopped for a while because of a lot of brick walls, and I needed to stay more focused on my art. It can be very time consuming! Well, this summer I went back online and found closure for a brick wall because of the new information that had been uploaded to familysearch.org. I love the challenge of the research and have found a few unknown cousins. Putting the stories and photos together in a book for the grandchildren and future descendants is a fun project and makes it all worthwhile.

najamonline4u said...

every headstones in Maryland has a story behind. thanks for sharing some. nice post