Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mysterious Burials and Sleuthing Cousins

After I got home from my trip to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Cape Cod and Plymouth, MA, I took my notes, sat down at the computer and started working on the mystery burials in the family plot at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. You can read about the first part of my trip here.

I started working with the unmarked burial. I had a name and a burial date. I double checked my family tree on No matches there. So, I started with my great great great grandparents and went through the trees of each of their children to see if there were any new hints. Of course there were, thanks to Ancestry. I found two likely candidates, both related to a son of my great great great grandparents. One is his daughter; the other is his second wife. He's buried in the plot beside his first wife. The unmarked burial is on the other side of his first wife, so I'm thinking it's most likely his daughter, as there is room for a burial on his other side.

Armed with the birthdate and the date of the last US census record I can find for the daughter, I head over to to see what they might have on my distant cousin. Plowing through the death records and will indexes, I find several records that might be for my distant cousin. Unfortunately, all I can find are the indexes as the online will images don't go very far into 1900 and the first index record that matches is for 1905. I decide to take a break from researching the unmarked burial and see what I can find on the removed grave.

I know the name of the man who was originally buried in the plot and then moved to another plot. I do not have his original burial date. I do have the date he was moved. I do not have any information on why he was moved. I don't have the name of the owner of the plot where he was moved. Doing a search on Ancestry leads me to my great great great uncle's second wife. There is a niece with the same last name and the niece's daughter living with the widowed second wife. Can you say bingo?

A quick check of shows that the niece in question is the wife of the man whose grave was moved. Moving on to FamilySearch, I locate her death record. And yes, we have a match! I have verification from several sources. I even locate a copy of a newspaper article on Chronicling America from 1877, when the mystery man died, that gives his occupation (minister) and his wife's name, which matches.  It all adds up. He was buried in the old family plot when he died in 1877. She, or someone, buys the new plot and has him moved there in 1908. His wife dies in 1921 and is buried next to him.

Always keep in mind that death records are good if and only if the informant can actually answer the questions accurately. Even my own grandmother's death certificate from 1982 has several errors, which I have documented in my notes, verified against other, more reliable records.

One mystery solved. One mystery to go. I sent one of my cousins an e-mail outlining my discovery and sharing a photo of the record with him. A few minutes later, his answer appears in my in box. The unmarked burial is the daughter. Another cousin had more documentation verifying that the daughter is buried in the unmarked grave. Why her grave is unmarked is another mystery for another time.

Stay tuned. I am by no means finished with my family history research. I also have a couple of helpful websites and tips to share with you in future posts.

Until then, enjoy uprooting your family tree!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mysterious Burials, Flaky Internet and a Laptop That Lost Its Mind

Recently, on the way to visit relatives on Cape Cod, I realized a childhood dream and visited Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, NY, where I have many relatives buried. To make my visit even better, Jim in the cemetery office helped me find my great great great grandfather's burial record and he tracked down the plot map and interment record for the plot where both of my great great great grandparents in this line are buried. (I will talk about my experiences at Sleepy Hollow in another post, so stay tuned.)

Well, my family being my family, this couldn't be a clean and simple interment record, now could it? Of course not! If there is one lesson I've learned from researching my family history, it's that almost every discovery opens another can of worms to research. Hints, tips and research to do's multiply faster than a pair of rabbits or guppies.

While I was quickly able to identify most of the burials in the plot as family members and could connect each name with their place on the family tree, there were two mysteries: an unfamiliar relative and a mysterious grave removal. I checked my tree on the mobile app on my smartphone. Nothing. Drat! Time to grab my laptop, hook up to the internet and do some uprooting.

Not so fast missy, says someone somewhere in the universe. It can't be quite that easy. After all, this is my family history research we're talking about. There must be challenges and roadblocks somewhere. Ah yes, there they are, straight ahead. I should have known this wasn't going to be easy.

Since I was stuck in a resort on Cape Cod with spotty internet service, solving those mysteries would have to wait until I could get home where I had reliable internet service and a working PC. The first night we were at the resort, my laptop was acting "funny." Virus scan clean. Malware scan clean. Spyware scan clean. Check disk cleaned up a few problems.

On the second night, my laptop decided to lose it's mind. After beating my head against the wooden table and trying my best to coax my laptop into finding itself again, I gave up and resorted to restoring my laptop to factory settings on the third night. Hello universe, I have a mystery to solve! I don't have time for a sulking laptop, fifty eleventy million windows updates and internet service that goes up and down faster than the needle on the EKG machine during a cardio stress test.

Oh joy of joys! Now I'm dealing with unreliable internet that goes down at 9 pm every night, a laptop that needs windows updates from the dawn of time and I'm dying to get to work on the mysterious burials in the family plot. Sigh, breathe, enjoy visiting with my family, and have fun on the cape.

Now, fast forward to the day after I return home from our trip. Woohoo! Finally I can get started on solving the mystery. Who are these people? How are they related to me? Why was one grave moved? What's their story?

To be continued in my next post ...

Until then, enjoy uprooting your family tree!


Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Cousin Connection - Finding New Cousins

I love finding new cousins! My poor husband says that by now, I must be related to most of the residents of the United States. While that is a huge exaggeration, I do know many more of my cousins, closely related and distant, than he knows of his closely related cousins. And I keep in touch with many of my cousins, between e-mails, phone calls and Ancestry updates.

Chanda is my most recently found cousin. I haven't calculated exactly our kinship degree (first, second, removed), but we are at least third cousins. My great great grandfather is our common relative.

We connected while I was researching an old newspaper article on my great grandfather's family. I was trying to verify or disprove some if the information by searching for other documentation on Google. And Chanda's tree popped up. I contacted her via Ancestry. While she wasn't able to verify the information I sought, we were able to confirm that we are related. She descends from my great great grandfather's sister. Her grandfather lost touch with his family, so she doesn't really know too much about our family history. And I don't really know too much about her line, so we're both going to do some research on her line and see what we uproot.

I'm looking forward to getting to know Chanda and working with her on our shared family history.

Here's to uprooting the family tree!


Sunday, April 7, 2013


Welcome. I've been uprooting my family tree for a long time, and those roots keep multiplying and hiding from me. And the more I uncover, the more I find I need to discover.

Along the way, I've found family and made friends, many of whom I consider family. I work with cousins I've only met on the internet and spoken to on the phone.

Why am I now deciding to blog about my adventures? Because I'm finding that many people are encountering the same issues I've found and don't quite know how to proceed. I hope that by talking about how I worked through or over or under or around or shelved an issue, I can help someone else.

Plus, now that I've discovered so many new cousins, I can share some of the good stuff with them on this blog.

So, grab your shovel, notepad, hard hat, flameproof vest, flashlight and pc/tablet/smartphone and let's go uproot the family tree!