The Importance of Researching Siblings
New Blog on the Importance of Researching Siblings.
His name was Valentine, and he was the younger brother of my great-great grandmother Eliza. Well, happy Valentineís day to me because his death solved one of the weirdest mysteries in our family tree and ultimately found a missing loved one. Ok, so it took me 2 years to figure it out, but my gut knew it all along, I was just slow in following thru.
Letís back up. My gg grandfather Henry was born in the small town of Grombach, Baden, Germany in 1841. I am fascinated by Henry. He immigrated with his entire family and has been fairly easy to trace. I have a picture of him and will say he looks like a cocky, I mean confident, gg grandpa. I guess you had to be confident when you are the type of person that would travel by wagon to the state of Nebraska in 1875, without a home, set up camp in a cave, and eventually become a wealthy farmer with hundreds of land acres at the time of his death in 1919.
But Henry had 2 wives. It wasnít until I uncovered a tattered letter from 1942, packed away in a box at my motherís house, that I discovered my gg grandmother Eliza was actually Henryís first wife who died at the young age of 24 in 1872. My line wasnít 2nd wife Margaret after all. First wife Eliza was the mother of my great grandfather Fred. In the letter, it told us where she was buried, along with a baby daughter that nobody knew about. I reached out to the cemetery caretaker and he helped me locate the headstone, which my sister visited and photographed last year.
It turns out the cemetery is in this dinkly little Illinois town of maybe 400 people today, so probably 20 people 142 years ago. Mystery solved, sort of. I had Eliza down, now I began work on her mother Martha. Crap, instant brick wall.
For almost 2 years, I searched for GGG Grandma Martha. She was born in Missouri and lived most of her life there until I found her living as a widow with Eliza and Henry in the 1870 census, near the town of Elizaís burial location in Illinois. But I never found Martha again - ever. I searched the 1880 census so many times it was almost ridiculous. No death record on file at the archives dept for the state of Illinois. I assumed she went back to the state of Missouri and where her 2 sons were living, but nothing. So I started chasing everything I could think of including her son Valentine and another son George. I also searched for their children, their childrenís children, etc. I chased what I think (but Iím not sure) are a few brothers, a probable father, and a couple sisters, but no luck. I even called the caretaker of the Illinois cemetery back to ask if he had a record of Marthaís burial. Nope.
Eventually, I obtained the death certificate for Marthaís youngest son Valentine in 1918. Hereís where it gets weird. Valentine died 47 years later in the same dinky little Illinois town that his sister is buried at, even though he lived all of his life in Missouri. His death certificate said he had only been in town for 3 days, a coronerís inquest was performed, and they could not determine cause of death.
Whatís that about? I will secretly admit I feared maybe he suffered from dementia, went to the grave of his sister and took his life. But I desperately hoped that maybe his mother Martha was actually buried there after all, and he was there to pay his respects.
Hereís another fun fact - Valentine died on my birthday. Maybe the universe was sending me a sign? Keep digging, Ellen.
It finally dawned on me that even though Valentine wasnít from this dinky town where he died, the suspicious nature of his death might lead to a newspaper article about the circumstances.
Ding Ding. His death made 2 newspapers in the area. It turns out he really was visiting his motherís grave. While trying to fix her broken headstone, he had what was most likely a stroke and fell over onto a pile of rocks. His body wasnít found for 24 hours.
Iím sorry Uncle Valentine, but I will be forever grateful to your stroke. Hallelujah, GGG Grandma Martha has been found. Now if I could only figure out where Marthaís parents are. The hunt truly never ends.
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on 2012-08-01 08:04:57
Ancestry Sisters are the youngest daughters of 10 kids from a small town in Central Illinois. Yes, we are part Irish. Yes, we are catholic. And so much more. The so much more part includes Bohemian, French Canadian, German, Quakers, Mayflower Descendants, English Nobility, poor, rich, troubled, etc. You get the picture. In our quest to figure out the so much more part, we stumbled into a deep passion for family history.
Family Surnames include Driscoll, Dempsey, Wagner, Benz, Brozicek, Slansky, O'Connor, Heffernan, Anderson, Cook, Barron, Hicks, Hester.