Thursday, January 3, 2008

Grandpa's Final Resting Place — Part One

(Note: Craig Manson of “Geneablogie” wrote a post on December 31 titled, “The Greatest Genealogical Find Ever …,” which you can read at his new blog Web site. The link for the post is (My real wish for 2008 would be that I could use hyperlinks like everybody else!) He challenged his readers with the question, “What is your version of the greatest genealogical find ever?” Below is part one of my answer.)
My grandfather died of a burst appendix at the age of 36. My dad was 13 at the time, and because his parents went through a very miserable divorce, my dad hadn't seen or talked to his father for a great many years.

Off and on, the subject of where grandpa was buried would come up. We knew he had been living in Toledo at the time of his death, and we had made half-hearted attempts to locate his grave without success.

At the time, November 1995 — five years BG (before genealogy), I knew nothing about death certificates — as for instance, they often contain the name of the cemetery where the deceased is buried. But I did know that obituaries sometimes included burial information. So, I called the information line at the Toledo Lucas County Library and explained that I was searching for the obituary of my grandfather. After being transferred to the correct department, they told me they did have my grandfather's obituary and for a small fee, they would fax it to our own Birchard Public Library.

When I got the call that the obituary had been faxed, I drove immediately to Birchard Library. Unfortunately, it did not give the name of the cemetery where grandpa was buried. Had I been more experienced, I would have realized that the name of the funeral parlor, which the obituary did provide, offered another avenue of information.

However, I remembered the story that grandpa had remarried and had four children with his second wife, and that one of the children had sadly died an accidental death. I knew the approximate year, but I did not have his name. I called the Toledo Lucas County Library once again. They were reluctant at first to help me with so little information to go on, so I explained what I was trying to do, and the very nice woman on the other end of the line agreed to help me. This unknown angel found the correct obituary and once again faxed it to Birchard Public Library.

This time the cemetery was listed. I reasoned that there was a good probability that the boy and the father would have been buried in the same cemetery. Also included in the obituary were the names of my Dad's half brothers and sisters. In addition to the boy who was deceased, there was one more brother and two sisters.

I knew these other siblings existed, but somehow seeing their names, they were suddenly real people to me. Another idea was beginning to take shape. What if I could find one of these half siblings?

I called my Dad, telling him what I had found. I told him I would be calling the cemetery to see if they had his father listed. I also told him the names of his half siblings, just to test the waters. I didn't want to do anything my father didn't feel comfortable with, and I didn't want to get any of his hopes up, so I said nothing about my idea of possibly looking for one or more of his half siblings .

He seemed interested in knowing his half siblings’ names. He repeated the names back to me to be sure he had the names correct and then gave me his blessing to call the cemetery to see if I could find his dad's grave.

I was ecstatic when the sexton said he indeed had my grandfather's grave listed. Success.
Then I asked if there were any other individuals buried there with the same last name — he checked. In addition to the young boy I knew had died, he read off the name of my grandfather's second wife. This was sad, but not unexpected. Then he read off the name of my dad's other half brother.

I can't begin to explain the sorrow that engulfed me when I heard the name of the second half brother. Though his death had occurred eight years earlier, for me his death occurred that day. How can you feel grief for someone you didn't know existed? I don't know, but my sorrow was real and so were my tears. I cried for myself. I cried for my father. And I cried for both uncles I had never known.

I called to tell my dad what I had found. I could tell he too was affected by the news of his half brother's death. I asked my dad how he felt about me trying to find one or more of his half sisters. I told him I would keep him informed every step of the way, and that I wouldn't make any decisions on how to proceed without getting his permission. He gave me the green light to proceed, and I hung up the phone wondering what I should do next.

Tomorrow: Part 2 of “Grandpa's Final Resting Place.”

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, January 3, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

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