The Case of the Lost Lady, or is it the Found Fellow?

I do not know how many of you need a break from your research to let your brain settle down or just to think about something else for a while, but I find that I need a good diversion once in a while, which often leads me to volunteering for a genealogical society or indexing records for Family Search, or as a last resort, organizing my own desk and files.

Recently, I found myself at one of those frustrating forks in the road and decided to do more than “step outside of the box” and stepped completely away from the box and diverted my attention to a different area of research.

I subscribe to various newsletters and message boards, free websites and selected pay sites as I am sure many of you also do. Occasionally, a site will post a challenging question that is guaranteed to test skills and knowledge, bending your brain around either topics or other aspects of genealogical research that you may have only heard of or had little experience with.

This Case is about my adventures working on one of those challenges and some of my surprises along the way! This challenge was posted as “Brickwall Buster” where a members could ask for help in finding those missing pieces of their research and participants would link found pieces back to the requesting member. There were ten submissions to this challenge, but one challenge, and only one, drew my attention. Part of the title caught my eye, “Tennessee to Michigan.” Well, I live in Michigan, have access to many databases, libraries, and enjoy traveling around the state, so I contacted the author, who told me that she was looking to find when her great grandmother had died and where she is buried.

I went to my closet and once again I donned the Deerstalker cap, and in typical Genealogy Huntress fashion, jumped in with both feet. I had hopes of making this an easy hunt as I looked for clues started in my usual lists of places.

Since the author had lived in Michigan and still has many relatives in this state, she had already poked and prodded in all the likely places. She gave me her list of places searched, and those were the first places I re-checked, having discovered the hard way that many times that the information was there all along but overlooked, or information had been updated since the last look.

Well, I quickly went through the list and used the information to make my own “tree.” As I entered all the of the information that I found on her family, I was extremely surprised by the amount of data I was able to find! As I came to discover, the family had played a significant part in the history of Detroit, and as the information unfolded I became more and more intrigued, and felt honored to help her with her puzzle as I learned several history lessons. Those adventures will be discussed in future blogs.

But I digress. We are hunting to find her great-grandma, so I decided to start at her beginnings and move forward, hitchhiking through time. I found that she was born in Virginia, brought to Tennessee as a child during slavery, then traveled north to Michigan and found life events that changed her direction many times. She had married and divorced, and then had married again and became widowed. Her trail ended in Michigan, where she lived with one of her sons, but it is here where the trail went cold.

As we so often see in our research, couples purchase plots together and arrange to have headstones engraved while they are still living, with no thought of circumstances that might lead one or the other to remarry and then wish to be buried with their second spouse.

So, I theorized that even though she had been remarried and widowed, she may have been buried with her first husband, who was the father of her children.

I went to the Ancestry website and began digging. I did not find a little green jiggly-wiggly leaf, but I did find that her first husband was listed in Indianapolis, Indiana City Directories.

Time to wipe the brow, sharpen a few pencils, get a pad of paper ready and make a few telephone calls. I found a cemetery named Crown Hill, made inquiry about the first husband, and waited as ‘elevator music’ played and time stood still. Finally a fellow returned and apologized for the long wait. He explained that the cemetery records were not in good order “way back in 1918”, so he had checked two places to be sure, and had found that indeed, there had been a burial for the first husband. Huzzah! My hunch had been correct, and you can just imagine my excitement to find him!!

I contacted the author, who began this case by looking for her great grandmother and told her the news that I had found her great grandfather! She was ever so excited as she told me that she had trying to find him but had run into another brick wall!

So in search of the lost lady, we now have a found fellow!

I am still searching for this great-grandma. I go back and check some ideas every few weeks, because hunting is sometimes like the game of “Hide and Go Seek” where our ancestors Hide and we Seek, and that some ancestors don’t really want to be found.

But – I’m not giving up!

– Genealogy Huntress

Post Script:

Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, Crown Hill Cemetery is the third largest non-government cemetery in the United States. Encompassing an area of 555 acres, it provides the final resting place for some famous notables, including:

The notorious bank robber, John Dillinger,
The inventor of the Gatling Gun, Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling
The President of the United States, Benjamin Harrison
The 28rd Vice President of the United States, Thomas Riley Marshall

My husband and I took a road trip from Michigan to Indianapolis to the cemetery. They graciously gave us a map, and after locating the plot for her great-grandpa we were saddened to find there was no headstone or marker. We took several photos of the plot and area surrounding his final resting place, left flowers, and found satisfaction that at the end of this hunt we had found him for his family. The author was then able to put these photos with her research on her great-grandfather and as they say when things are finally done, she put a bow on it.


About Hunting Down History

Megan Heyl is a genealogist, researcher and teacher and has been involved in genealogy for many years.
This entry was posted in Tales, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Case of the Lost Lady, or is it the Found Fellow?

  1. kristin says:

    One correction, my great grandmother was born in Virginia and then brought to TN as a child during slavery. Maybe that is just the clue you needed. I think I will get in touch with some more relatives in another branch and see if they remember anything new. I will let you know.

  2. Thanks Kris! I will add that note to my file. I bet between the two of us, we will find her! Thanks for reading my blog and the permission to tell the story.

  3. I corrected the error in the blog – Thanks for the “new data” for my files.

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