matthewkmiller on Family Tree Circles
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I knew the families in Lee County, Iowa, formed a tight-knit community with members of the various families marrying members of the other families at many different points. This meant that seeing a Menke, Groene, Fedler or one of a few other surnames meant you knew they were related, at worst, within a marriage or two to my line. I found some new information on Find-A-Grave, (which, I know, is a clue and not a source but in my experience, tends to be pretty accurate), that shows that they are more closely related than we thought.
It ends up that Maria Adelheide Menke, who was the daughter of the sister of my great-great-grandfather, Johan Diederich Menke, married Kasper Herm Groene, who was born in the same small town in Germany that she was, Schwagstorf. They then moved to West Point, Iowa. They are the parents of most if not all the Groenes in the area. In addition, their daughter married a Fedler and they are the parents of most if not all of the Fedlers in the area. So, these Fedlers and Groenes my mother knew when she was a child, even though she didn't know it, were related to her. I also saw a couple of Menkes marrying Fedlers and Groenes from these lines so it appears there are some "kissing cousins" in the mix, although they are pretty distantly related.
Note about this post: For those who are observant, you see that Maria Adelheide is the daughter of the SISTER of my g-g-grandfather, so why does she have the last name of Menke? The Menkes were one of the richer families and estate owners. When Gerd Herm Tobe, of Schwagstorf, married Maria Adelheide's mother, Margaretha Maria Adelheid Menke, he took her last name so the Menke name was passed down to their children.
While in the area for my uncle's funeral, I was able to stop in at St. James Cemetery, St. Paul, Lee County, Iowa. I found my great-great-grandmother's grave!
It is understandable that it flew under the radar of non-genealogists in the family, if they were even interested in finding it! She was born as Maria Elizabeth Geers, later her married name was Maria Elizabeth Menke. After Johan Diederich Menke died, she married a Schutte. I was looking for Maria Schutte or Maria Elizabeth Schutte. She was buried as "Elizabeth Schutte". Regardless, I found her grave and got some good photos of it to add to my database. I also wandered through the cemetery for an hour taking photos of graves that had familiar names and took some photos to fulfill photo requests for fellow Find-A-Grave users. I ended up taking about 80 photos there. I'm still working on going through them, cropping them, putting them in my database and submitting to findagrave.com.
In the meantime, Rest In Peace, Uncle Urban. I'm sure you were greeted at the Pearly Gates with "Well done, my son."
I finished making my way through the Find-A-Grave site for the St. James Cemetery in St. Paul, Lee County, Iowa. It ends up I don't have 75%+ of the people buried there in my database. I "only" have about 43%. I'm confident that several more of them are actually connected given their surnames but I can't confirm a connection. Regardless, this expedition allowed me to add dozens of headstone photos to people in my extended family tree.
I was looking through my direct ancestors to see if I had photos of headstones for those that could be available. I found that I was missing a photo of the headstone of my great-great-grandmother, Maria Elizabeth (born Geers), (married Menke), (later married Schutte). Her burial is supposed to be in a cemetery local to where my mother grew up. I emailed a cousin and she didn't have it despite looking for it a few years back. I went to www.findagrave.com and saw that her headstone hasn't been posted. I submitted a request for a photo of her headstone, then it occurred to me to "glance" through the site and see if I could find headstones of others in my tree "real quick" so I had all the information I could on my relations. It's such a tiny little town, there couldn't be that many people buried there, right?
Wow. Just wow. I've now been at it for a week, all the time previously spend researching has been used downloading headstone photos and sometimes filling out spots in the tree I was missing information on someone or even missing people. It's amazing how families in small towns inter-marry. No, there's no "kissin' cousins" but when you have a dozen or so surnames, each marrying into the others, it gets quite confusing. A simple little "let's get a quick photo or two" has turned into a major, "let's see if we can connect everyone in this cemetery". Since I'm probably halfway through the alphabet in this "small" cemetery, I think it's likely 75-90% of the people buried there are linked and will end up in my family tree. Although probably 60% were in there already.
I know it's not a primary or even a secondary source (I think I'd call it a backup confirmation and a few more details source), when the new information fits the information I already have, I'll take it as relatively reliable.
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