Work to Do

Do you ever find yourself so engrossed in researching those 6th and 7th generation brick walls that you overlook documenting earlier generations with obvious sources? That’s what I’ve found to be true with my research.

I recently read the post, 7-gen-1-sheet that suggests using a spreadsheet of ancestors to look at one’s data in a different manner. Thus, I decided to look at the sources I’ve attached to death facts to see whether I have sourced an obituary and their Find a Grave site.

See all of that red? Needless to say, I’ve failed! A few of these don’t have known death dates/locations – but I’ve been to some of the other graves shaded red.

Before shading the 7th generation, I’m going to try and turn more of these yellow.

To start turning the red to yellow, I started by checking the burial fact . For many of these 6th generation ancestors, I had attached the Find a Grave source to the burial fact but not to the death (or birth) fact. Thus, I simply had to memorize the source on the burial fact and paste it onto the death fact. That simple task changed a lot of the red to green.

For those still shaded red, I do not know a death date or place. Thus, they will likely remain shaded red until such time that I can verify their death date and place.

I doubt I would have ever gone back to update these death facts if I hadn’t looked at my data in this way.

Honoring a Legend

Today, I learned of the passing of Cletus Suther. For those in the Seneca area, the Suther name is associated with lumber and building. However, in the Nemaha County genealogy world, Cletus’ name is associated with cemeteries.

Before Find a Grave and before the Internet, there was Cletus’ cemetery work. Living in Ohio, Cletus wanted to give back to his Nemaha County roots. Thus, he researched not just one but EVERY cemetery in Nemaha County. Cletus doggedly located the original record holder and transcribed those records into his cemetery notebooks. He then added obituary references for any and all that he could find. Those cemetery notebooks were then FREELY given to the Nemaha County Historical Society and the public libraries in the county.

This body of work was and still is an ENOURMOUS contribution to Nemaha County Genealogy. By using the original records, Cletus’ notebooks contain information for burials with no tombstone.

Thank you Cletus for your dedicated work to compile cemetery information for Nemaha County and for your generosity in freely sharing your work.

Cletus Suther with NCHS President Anita Heiman

Cemeteries and GPS

Have you come to rely on GPS technology to help you when traveling? Have you ever wished that you could use that GPS technology when trying to find your great-grandfather’s tombstone in a sea of tombstones?

If so, you are in luck. GPS technology is available for use in the cemetery!

Some cemeteries, like the Olathe Memorial Cemetery have used mapping technology to add GPS coordinates to the burials in their cemetery. With that information, they have created the Olathe Memorial Cemetery app. Using the app, one can search for a name. If found, the app will provide a ‘map’ to the plot along with directions using those GPS coordinates.

For many cemeteries, the app Billion Graves is an excellent option. Like Find A Grave, Billion Graves relies on crowd-sourcing — i.e. volunteers to collect the data. If cemetery, or even just the tombstone, has already been added to Billion Graves, then the app will provide directions to get to the tombstone.

Using Billion Graves, my husband and I were able to use the app to locate the tombstone of a collateral relative in the Chapel Hill Memorial Garden Cemetery last Memorial Day. Thanks to the app, we didn’t have to rely of cemetery staff for assistance, nor did we have to walk a section to locate the desired stone. Not only was the app a time saver — but on a hot sticky day, it was also a ‘life saver’.

If the tombstone is not in Billion Graves, then it can easily be added. All that is required is the Billion Graves account (the free version), and the Billion Graves app (free) on a smart phone with location services enabled. Using the app, one just snaps a picture of the tombstone and uploads it to Billion Graves. (There is even a setting to delay uploading until attached to wireless to conserve on data usage.) Once uploaded the images are transcribed by volunteers, making them easily searchable in Billion Graves.


Yesterday, I was travelling to a courthouse in southern Kansas. On the way, I took the time to visit 3 rural cemeteries and one city cemetery. Using the app, I took pictures of the tombstones for my relatives. Today, after arriving home, I logged into Billion Graves to discover that all of my images have already been transcribed! THANK YOU volunteers!

For your next cemetery visit, make sure you have the Billion Graves app on a smart phone. Better, yet, make sure you have an account so you can upload images of tombstones that are not already in the app.

Decoration Day Memories

Peonies240As a child, Decoration Day started with mom going out to the back yard and picking flowers – particularly Peonies, Iris and Sweet William. My grandmother would do the same thing from her flowers. In addition, my grandmother would order Peonies from the grocery store. She would keep those Peonies in the refrigerator. Those Peonies would be set out the night before so they would open up.

Preparation for the day would have included digging out the vases — but more often coffee cans. The coffee cans were wrapped in foil. Then some sand and/or rocks would have been added to the bottom to add weight. The digging out also included finding the wire hooks to hold the vases. If these hooks could not be found, then new ‘hooks’ would be made from wire hangers.

Mom would take the Sweet William and a small white vase to prepare flowers for my brother’s grave. My brother, Duane Gail Crawford, was a day old when he died. His small grave was in the Crawford plot along with my great grandparents and other relatives.

Once the flowers were ready, we would all go to the cemetery. There we would help carry items to the plot and carry water for the vases. I’m sure my grandmother told us how we were related to the graves we were decorating. This was the beginning of my genealogy education!


Don’t Forget the Book!

For the April meeting of the Topeka Genealogical Society‘s ‘Brick Wall Study Group’, we were supposed to bring one of our brick walls to the April meeting yesterday. The intent was that we would discuss our brick wall with another member of the group and get their input. (And then we would discuss their brick wall and provide input.)

For this task, I decided to take one of my SMITH brick walls. In 1833, my ancestor, Nelson G. Crawford, married Martha Smith in Warren County, Indiana. Even though I have Martha’s life documented after her marriage, I have no information on her parents or siblings.

hannah smithHowever, I remembered that I had seen a tombstone for Hannah Smith in the West Lebanon City Cemetery to the East of the plots for Nelson and Martha Crawford. Because my memory says that Hannah was buried close to Martha Crawford Smith, I elected to try and prove that Hannah was Martha’s mother.

So, I went to the meeting armed with SMITH census and marriage records to try and find Martha’s father and/or siblings. As we visited about this research, we kept returning to my recollection of the placement of the stones and whether I could find anything to validate my memory. Unfortunately, I couldn’t rely¬† my recent set of photos from the West Lebanon Cemetery, since the Hannah Smith stone was not found. Nor can I rely on Find a Grave for help, since that site does not show a Hannah Smith in the West Lebanon Cemetery.

That’s when we turned to the book I had brought along: Warren County, Indiana Cemetery Inscriptions, Volume II by Rosella Jenkins (c1985). There is information in this book for Hannah Smith on page 87.


From studying the book, we made the following observations:

  • Hannah Smith is listed in Stack 3 of the West Lebanon City Cemetery
  • Hannah Smith is listed on the same page as Nelson G. Crawford and Martha Crawford
  • The names are NOT in alphabetical order
  • Based on the ‘introduction’ to the book the information was obtained by reading the stones
    • “This volume of cemetery inscriptions includes …”
    • “Every time I found a stone so weathered as to be almost impossible to read, I would think that perhaps this very stone would be just the one someone needed for their records.”
  • Hannah Smith is listed just above William C. Crawford (d. 1868). This William C. Crawford is believed to be a son of Nelson G. Crawford and Martha Smith Crawford.

Based on the order in the book, we believe that it is possible that Hannah Smith was the mother of Martha and grandmother of William C. Crawford.

Without this book, I would not have been able to

  • verify that the stone for Hannah Smith was in the West Lebanon Cemetery at some point in time
  • see the possible family connection based on the closeness of Hannah Smith’s grave to the Crawford family graves.
  • seen that Hannah Smith’s stone was next to William C. Crawford’s stone.

This experience has reinforced the concepts that

  • not everything is online
  • in some cases, context is lost when the data is placed online (For example, Find a Grave does not help determine who was buried next to whom.)
  • books are valuable resources for genealogical research
  • libraries provide access to resources not available online

When all else fails, go old school:

visit a genealogy library and

open the books to see what clues are hidden inside!


Tombstone Challenge Accepted

This week’s ‘Saturday Night Genealogy Fun‘ challenge was to figure out how far back a line can be traced thru tombstones. My immediate reaction was that it was probably thru my dad’s CRAWFORD line

There are 4 generations of CRAWFORDs buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dodge City, Kansas

  • Dad: Eugene Crawford
  • Granddad: Leon Russel Crawford
  • Great Grandfather: Judson Crawford
  • Great Great Grandfather: Washington Marion Crawford (headstone and footstone shown)

My 3rd great grandfather is buried in the West Lebanon cemetery just outside of West Lebanon, Indiana.

My 4th great grandfather is buried in the cemetery at Eaton, Ohio.

The Mighty Mo – Then and Now

Saga of the Elwood Cemetery – Part 3

As pointed out in an earlier post (Elwood, Kansas and the Mighty Mo), the Kansas State Historical Society has made several historical maps of Elwood available as part of the Kansas Memory site. The 1870-1890 map of Elwood is particularly beneficial in that it shows the street layout and can easily be compared to a current map of Elwood. Vermont Street is common to both maps. The 1870-1890 historical map has 12 blocks between Vermont and the river’s edge. In addition, the 1882 and 1904 plat books of Doniphan County, have the Missouri River on the north edge of Elwood and actually making a right hand turn at the northeast corner of Elwood.

Taking the Find a Grave map showing the Elwood Cemetery, I’ve added a rectangle to illustrate where the Missouri River would have been in 1896. (1896 is when the burial would have occurred.)


If the river was at the North edge of Elwood as indicated by the historical maps, then the GPS coordinates of the proposed cemetery would place the cemetery in Missouri (or the bottom of the river).

My next step was to look at the Google Earth view of Elwood and the river. Using that image, I added arrows showing where I think the image reveals the old river bed.


For more information regarding the Elwood Cemetery, see my previous posts: