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!


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