Fall Break Part III – The Cemetery Tour: Hillary Clinton’s Gotta Be Pissed

We didn’t stay at the train station hotel our entire trip.  In fact, we were so very lucky to have some condo timeshare points donated to us by my sister!  She has a condo through Wyndham and some leftover points she would not be using, as she had just given birth to our new nephew.  Wyndham has a great place located in Stroudsburg, PA.  They were amazing, huge, and beautiful.  We had a two bedroom with a full kitchen, balcony, two bathrooms, a lovely view, and cable TV.  All for just the two of us.  At this point I really wished we could have found someone else to come with us to share these lovely amenities.

Our vacation home in the morning. Lovely.

Stroudsburg is a bit of a drive to Scranton, but not horrible.  It is, however, a delightfully quaint town.  I mean that in the least offensive way.  I just wanted to walk all around the town and window shop, chuckling at the clever names of the stores.  But we didn’t have time for that nonsense.  There was researching to be done.  I also was happy to be there because my great great grandfather, Bascom Taylor Lacey, spent his latter years in East Stroudsburg. Where he ended up at death is still kind of a mystery to me.

So after a full day at the library I decided the next day would be a half-cemetery/half-library day.  The weather had cleared up a bit and I thought we should take advantage of a clearish fall day.  The first stop we made was to Abington Hills.  This is a cemetery outside of Scranton proper that I learned at the library, the day prior, was where my great grandparents (L. Carlyle and Cora Motzenbacher Smith) are buried.  I was told by a woman at the library that it might be difficult to find people at some of these cemeteries because the man who owns Abington Hills also owns a cemetery in town called Washburn Street Cemetery.  He has been known to be neglectful of the cemeteries to the point of incarceration.  I wasn’t sure this was accurate information but I braced myself for a nasty trip.  We were the only people in the cemetery.  It really wasn’t horrible.  There were parts that needed some work and it could have used regular lawn mowing.  But most of the headstones were standing up.  I was unable to find a place with records or maps, but luckily I just happened upon my relatives driving by!  Now, this is when I realized how many Smiths and Jones there are in the world (or Scranton at least).  Holy crackerjacks. Every three seconds or so my heart would do a little jump because I would see a last name I needed and then would sigh, “oh, nope.”  This happened over and over, till I actually found them.

This is the headstone for William J. and Nellie (Jones) Smith, Louis Carlyle's parents. You may recognize their names as the ones on the birth certificate I posted earlier.

Here is the headstone for Louis Carlyle Smith and his wife Cora (Motzenbacher) Smith. They are my great grandparents who both died before I was born.

Cora and L. Carlyle sometime before 1960.

We headed out of Abington Hills and towards the city.  Washburn Street Cemetery was our next stop.  Keep in mind, this is the second cemetery owned by Mr. Neglecty Neglecterson we will have visited.  That is a hard name to say.

As we drove into the cemetery it started to sprinkle a little bit, which really just encompassed the entire feel of the cemetery, which I would call “sad and abused”.  This is a cemetery in the middle of town, an historic cemetery, where many of those who died in the Avondale Mine disaster (where over 100 people died in a mine shaft) are buried.  This is not a cemetery that is no longer burying people and has been abandoned, but you would never know it!

As I mentioned in an earlier post about the Scranton Lace Company, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s family is also from Scranton, PA.  In fact, some of her family and some of my family worked together at the Scranton Lace Company.  When I came home from my trip I did a little more research about some of the places we visited on our PA trip.  One of them was the Washburn Street Cemetery.  And who is buried there?  Hillary’s parents!  And her mother JUST died!  I am guessing Hillary Clinton was at the cemetery at some point recently and saw the state of where her parents are spending their afterlife.  It was appalling.  Some of the great things about said cemetery:

  • Knee-deep grass in spots.  Keep in mind, this is mid-October.  The grass is not ever out of control this time of year.
  • The man who was actually out mowing today was running into and over headstones.  It sounded like he was actually trying to kill the lawnmower.  Now, it was difficult to see the headstones, so I can hardly blame him, beacause…
  • They’re knocked over all over the place!  Very nice headstones ALL over the ground.
  • And holes that were actually trying to sprain my ankle…which of course I couldn’t see because of the grass.
  • The fence was a hot mess, which might explain how people are able to get in and knock down the headstones.
  • My favorite part:  The racing wheels someone is storing near the back of the cemetery.  Really?  Really??!?

Needless to say, I had a very hard time finding anyone in here.  I was looking for my Motzenbacher family (who I know are buried here) and only found one, David.  He’s a great great uncle.

A great great uncle of mine. Where is Sylvester? Who could ever find out in this hot mess of a cemetery?

Not what I was hoping for.

What I did find, and was very amused by, was this headstone.

A spot for visitors.

Enough about my rage over Washburn.

Our last stop would be Forest Hill in the Dunmore area of Scranton.  This is kind of a fancy suburb with cute houses (I’m not sure if I should use “cute” to describe some of the mansions but…) and rolling hills, with areas of scenic wooded areas.  The cemetery is one of those wooded areas.  Dunmore Cemetery butts up to Forest Hill and is easy to confuse.  We went looking for some of my Kinsleys and Laceys who I know to be buried there.  We took one lap around the place and decided this was crazy.  There was a phone number on the website for the cemetery and good old Andrew gave a call.  Turns out the lady answering the phone was at the service building at the front of the cemetery and was so gracious and helpful.  I loved her.

She pulled out the burial card for the plot and I learned a lot more than what I thought was there.  In addition to being the burial place for Charles and Marion (Lacey) Kinsley it is also the burial place for Marion’s brother (Turman Lacey) and mother (Emmaretta Foster Lacey).  All of this was paid for by Emmaretta’s husband, Bascom Taylor Lacey (AKA B.T. Lacey).  Here’s the weird part.  Bascom is not buried here and Emmaretta was not given a headstone.  She died suddenly in her mid 40s.  No headstone.  Everyone else in the bunch has a headstone, not Emmaretta.  So I asked if she’d EVER had a headstone.  Nope!  Never.  And where on earth is Bascom?  So after the lady gave us the information and instructions out to the plot we drove over.  This is what we found:

See the dark parts of those headstones? That was all mud Andrew scraped off. This is the point in the trip where Andrew said, "Someone hates your family." All that mud behind them? Those are the other plots in my family completely covered in mud.

We decided after taking a few pictures that we would stop by the front office again to let the lady know what a mess it was.  She said that they hire the guy from the other cemetery to do burials and it turns out they had a burial next to them recently and they never cleaned it up!  Great.  Cemetery success!  Forest Hill was still by far the nicest of the cemeteries we visited in Scranton, with the best help.

Fall Break Part IV:  We will visit the homes of my old relatives.  At least…we’ll try.  Maybe Andrew was right, someone hated our family.

Update on Scranton Lace

I have gotten a ton of hits on my site recently and when I check the search terms that people are using to find me a majority of them involve “Scranton lace” somehow. I thought that something must be causing this.  When I searched the web about it, I learned that a redevelopment project is in the works for this piece of history.  While I’m kind of sad that no one will be able to wander this amazing piece of history and see the old loom cards, I am glad the building will not be knocked down. Here is the link to the newspaper article:

Scranton Lace Project Approved

On our last trip to Scranton we stopped by the site of the old Scranton Lace Company to see what we could see.  It actually looked like they had installed cameras, had guard dogs, and Andrew actually thought he saw a person walking around inside.  We did not attempt entry.  We did take some pictures of the exterior.

Entrance door to Scranton Lace with missing letters.

Super cool clock tower we were not expecting to see there. Loved this older portion of the building.

Well guarded. Cameras, signs, dogs (supposedly), Oh My!

Fall Break Part II – Library Love

We got into Scranton late.  I was tormented during the entire drive by deer threatening to run across the road.  I mean it.  The entire drive.  They were everywhere, standing three feet from the road, taunting me.  And then there were the dead ones…everywhere.  They were reminding me every five minutes that I had a new car that did not want deer guts all over it.  Nor did I want to be scarred for life over killing an animal – despite the fact they obviously deserved it.  So I was a little physically and mentally exhausted when we got to the hotel. We reserved a spot on Priceline.com just that morning at the Lackawanna Station Radisson, which is an amazing hotel, but was once an amazing train station.  Unfortunately I was so tired that I was barely able to keep my eyes open as we stumbled up to the room (which seemed nice, but honestly I can’t recall).  The next morning I got up early to get started on researching as early as possible.  We headed downstairs to have breakfast at the restaurant, which used to be the main waiting area/terminal of the train station.

This is the dining area at the Lackawanna Station Radisson.

Check out the tiles that lined the entire room. I have not looked into how old they are. I was wondering if they were original, and there when it was a train station, but we decided probably not. I should have asked.

Andrew and I packed up our things and prepared to break up for the day.  He would actually be working from a coffee shop right on the square downtown, and I would be heading to the Albright Memorial Library.  Andrew has the amazing advantage of being able to get a lot of work done away from the office.  So on this trip it wasn’t necessary to take full work days off and use PTO.  On a dreary and rainy morning I dropped him off at Northern Light Espresso Bar where he picked out his spot upstairs for the next couple of days.  I proceeded to search for a parking spot near the library.  This proved to be harder than I thought it would be.  Scranton is a small city!  This should be easy.  Yeah, not so much.  The meters there take tokens and quarters only.  That’s right – tokens.  You may be asking yourself, “Is Scranton like a massive Chuck E. Cheese?”  And no, it’s not.  It is just as hardscrabble as Joe Biden described it, especially in the rain.  There are no keyboard playing gorillas anywhere to be found.  But yes, they use tokens in the meters.  And there were not a ton of meters available near the library as the school and downtown areas are  well-populated places during the day.

I finally ended up here:  Albright Memorial Library.

A rainy day outside Albright Memorial Library in Scranton, PA.

The library is an amazing old building and is well used.  The library was packed with people actually reading, checking out books, and researching.  They had the same “interesting” patrons that the Indianapolis libraries do (the oddballs in tin-foil lined hats that sit and read 12 newspapers over the course of 10 hours), but it was still a positive and productive atmosphere.  I headed upstairs to the research room and tried to figure out where to start first.

I decided on finding birth certificates or death certificates.  So I asked the lady at the desk where I might start.  She asked me for a specific date so I kind of scrambled and looked down my long list and found on that fit into the short parameters of what microfilm they had.  She then used that date to find a specific index list, which she searched.  She then used the number she found from that index to look for another number on another roll (which was kept in the back room where only staff could go) and then she pulled out a third roll which actually had the microfilm of the birth certificate.  I felt like a total dunce because I had no idea how she found it.  And it seemed to take forever.  So I got one good copy of a birth certificate of Louis Carlyle Smith.

Birth Certificate from 1897 of my Great Grandfather. This is the only birth certificate I searched for after realizing I only had two days in the library, not two months.

I decided that searching for birth certificates was going to cause both myself and the staff of Albright major headaches, so I focused on something much easier to search – obituaries.  I found an amazing amount of information between the obituaries in their collection of newspapers and the Public Directories.  Between the two I was able to piece together a lot of missing information, including a few death dates (which I literally found by scrolling through months of obituaries).  I usually found out the churches that people were members of, which if I have more time in the area should help me find information as well.  I was able to find burial locations which helped me later in the week.  I also learned that my family’s roots in Eastern Pennsylvania, and especially Scranton, were very deep.

At one point during my search, a crazy lady walking around with a half gallon of milk brought the copy of my great grandfather’s birth certificate to me.  He’s been dead since 1960.  I wasn’t really concerned about people seeing his personal information.  She came up to me and lectured me on privacy issues.  I should not be leaving this personal information out.  I tried to explain to her that it really wasn’t private, and that’s it’s literally in the public records.  She was not the type of person to argue with – she was carrying a half gallon of milk around a library.  I thanked her for saving me from people trying to steal my great grandfather’s identity and moved on.

Things I learned in the library:

  • My family is extremely diverse in its religious affiliation.  I suppose I already knew this from my immediate family.  But even within my Mom’s branch from Scranton they were very diverse.
  • Scranton is very Welsh.  I knew that my Welsh immigrant family members came through Scranton, but I feel like at least half of the immigrant population of this town was Welsh.  And they all had the last name of Jones.  Well, maybe half of them.
  • The Scranton newspapers in the olden days all had an obituary section but were never in the same place two days in a row.  I often see this in other papers as well.  You are lucky to have an entire section devoted to obituaries here though.  It’s even harder searching the old Indianapolis Stars.  Ugh.

Fall Break Part III – Cemeteries of Shame coming soon

Scranton Lace Company, Here I Come

Teaching is hard.  Like….really hard.  You may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything in two months!  Two whole months!  Sometimes I’ll sit down to the computer to write something out cause I have a great thought…and maybe…just maybe…a three sentence post is better than no post at all.  But I am honestly too tired to even begin to think about what to write.

I started teaching this year, full-time, US History and US Government.  I have had not a moment’s rest since the first day of school.  But today…I took a little diversion from grading bell-ringer worksheets and started planning my fall break.  I work at Indianapolis Public Schools and we are now on what is called a “balanced schedule”.  This means we go to school earlier in the fall, get out later in the spring, but have these amazing breaks in between.  So I have a lovely 2 week fall break coming up, and I can’t wait!

I am heading out east to visit some friends in NYC and do some family history research in Scranton, PA, FINALLY!  I am absolute delighted to be going to Scranton, where generations of Kinsleys, Laceys, and Smiths resided.  This is the town where my mom spent her young childhood.  This is also the town of the fictional Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company.  If there was a museum devoted to The Office we would be going.

While I got distracted, planning my vaca, I also took a little diversion onto ancestry.com (so naughty! I know!) and just did a general search for Charles W. Kinsley (my grandfather and also his father).  I ended up finding a new little tidbit of information about what C.W. Kinsley Sr. did as an occupation.  The 1936 City Directory had him working as a purchase agent at the Scranton Lace Company.  So I decided to Google the Scranton Lace Company to see if it was still in operation.  Sadly it seems that it closed in 2002 – but I was utterly delighted to come upon someone’s photo-blog of their urban exploration photos of this shuttered factory.  The photos are amazing, and have me dying to go visit.  If you’re into abandoned/urban decay pictures, you’ll love this:

The Art of Abandonment

As I was reading more about this company I came to find out that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s father and grandfather worked in this factory as well!  So I perused the R’s in the 1937 Directory and the one page that the Rodhams were on was missing!  Shenanigans!  So I looked to see if they had any other years posted and they did!  One year earlier, 1936.  So I looked up the Kinsleys first to make sure they were working at the factory then as well.  They were.  Then I found Mr. Hugh Rodham!  And yes, he worked at the lace factory with my great-grandfather.

1905 Scranton Lace Company Gold Bond Note

In addition to their place of employment, the directory also lists their residences.  It turns out these two fellows lived less than a mile from each other, both pretty close to the factory.

Whether you appreciate the Clinton’s politics or not, it’s pretty cool to have a link to a “first family”.


Black Sheep Sunday: Horse thief or son of a redcoat?

I’m not gonna lie.  I love a little family drama, especially when that drama that has LONG past.  Drama in my current living family?  Not quite as fun.

My Munn branch seems to have quite a little bit of it, including the guy who brought us to this country in the first place and presumably gave generations of Munns their last name.

Family crest for the Munn family of England.

The farthest back we have traced my Munn branch of the family is to a fellow named Thomas Atherton Munn.  What has been assumed and asserted by many is that Atherton was originally the last name of this family and Munn was added to disguise some sketchy life choices.

Story One

My dad says that this is the story that my great grandfather (John Darl Munn, Sr.) swears by:  Thomas Atherton Munn was actually born in England and was being held in a sort of jail.  Supposedly he had stolen a horse or something of the like.  He, along with 60 others, broke out from jail and he somehow escaped to the United States.  He swapped his middle and last name to avoid getting caught.  This is how he became a Munn and was no longer an Atherton.

Story Two:

Thomas Atherton was born in New York/New Jersey, and his father was actually a British Loyalist (redcoat) in the US during the American Revolution.  When his father deserted the British side he change his last name to his wife’s maiden name.

Other rumblings about the family/person of interest:

There was a horse thief in the Atherton family who was hung.  The family was so ashamed that they changed their name to a maiden name.

What do the facts say?

  • Thomas Atherton Munn lived in Bradford County, Pennsylvania in 1820, 1830, and 1840.
  • Thomas Munn was one of the early settlers in Litchfield, Pennsylvania.
  • He married Mary Wolcott and had 13 children.

If there’s anyone out there who has done research to come up with something solid about this horse theif/son of a redcoat, please let me know.   The problem is that multiple books written during or about this time have opposing facts.

For those of you who might be cousins out there, here is how TA Munn is related to me:

He is my 5th great grandfather.

Thomas Atherton > (son) Silas Munn > (son) John Parks Munn > (son) Willard Ord Munn > (son) John Darl Munn Sr. > (daughter) Gene Odelle Munn > (son) John Brown > (me!) Erin Brown

Wordless Wednesday – Assorted intimidating pictures of my grandfather, Charles W. Kinsley. Who was this guy?

Charles W. Kinsley, hunting. Of course.

I have no idea what those charts mean and don't want to know what those missle-shaped things do. Charles Kinsley (right), in Alabama.

Charles W. Kinsley (far left) with Governor Patterson (seated) of Alabama.

Charles W. Kinsley, downtown Indianapolis development, early 1980s.

Friday I’m in Love

As I was walking around the IU Auditorium with two of my besties (who both worked with me there in college) I began to feel sorry for anyone who didn’t go to Indiana University.  I fell in love with the campus all over again, just as I do every time I visit.  I don’t know that IU is the best school in the world, but it’s got to be one of the most beautiful, and I think that counts for something.

Yesterday was a day of loving all over southern Indiana…but let’s start at the beginning.

A few weeks ago, a couple friends of mine, who have both been mentioned in previous posts, decided that we needed to take a trip down to Bloomington.  We all worked there together during college at the IU Auditorium box office and we wanted to visit with our old boss and co-worker.  I could seriously go on and on about how working there was one of the best things I ever did in my life.  Most of us that worked there probably can.  I made amazing friends there that I can’t imagine not having in my life now.

Sorry, I’m gushing.  I told you.  I loved it there.

So we planned on Friday.  Of course, anywhere I go I have to figure out if there is some cemetery or site I can visit to further my genealogical study.  Well, it turns out that one of my friends, C-Dogg B-Dizzle, has her roots in Southern Indiana!  I have made some mention of her Bloomington connections in previous posts, but C-Dogg had never done any research with me herself.  This would be perfect!

Stop One – Yogi’s Grill and Bar, Bloomington, IN

Good old Andrew let me borrow his car (which is way nicer than mine) to take the trip south.  We got to Yogi’s just in time.  I kind of wish now that I had taken a picture of the alcoholic beverage menu board.  It was amazing.  I forgot how cheap it is to drink in Bloomington.  We met up with Marge and Stacy and had a great old time talking about who is doing what now and what is new in the Auditorium, Theatre, and ticketing worlds.  I had my “usual”.  It was awesome.

Stop Two – White Oak Cemetery, Bloomington, IN

I have already been to White Oak Cemetery, and was lucky to have already searched the whole thing over to find C-Dogg’s family here.  Her Brosman family had been in the area for generations and happened to be buried in a neighborhood I love, just blocks from the last apartment where I lived in B-ton.

She got out her own camera and started snapping away at Brosmans that just sort of littered the west side of the cemetery.

C-Dogg, getting shots of all her Brosman kin.

We noticed something strange about the headstones at the cemetery.  While many of the stones are professionally made, and have amazingly stood the test of time, there were quite a few that were definitely hand-carved.  Here were some of my favorites:

Florence Hunter born July 20, 1888 and died January 15, 1911. Cutlery (I believe they are all butter knives) is holding her headstone "in place". What is this all about?

Woodrow Minks, born Jan 10, 1915 and died Oct 25, 1926. Notice the backard 'S' in "son". Weird, right? We saw a few with the letters carved in backwards.

And we moved on.

Stop Three – Erin’s Dream House, West of Bloomington, IN

We hopped in the car and headed toward our next stop, which is sort of my dream house.  I have visions of retiring early and running a bed and breakfast in the country, but close enough to a big city or town that I don’t feel like I am necessarily separated from the wider world.  A few months ago I noticed a house in southern Indiana (we won’t even get into my house hunting obsession) that fits that description perfectly, and I want it, now.  It’s an 1890 Queen Anne that is begging for someone to love it up.  The interior is filled with original woodwork, staircase, doors, hardware on doors, hardware on windows, and then some.  It is for sale for only $65K.  I tried to convince C-Dogg to do it, since I could live vicariously through her…but she didn’t take the bait.  I think she was scared off by the fact that the home is currently uninhabitable and would probably take $50-$75k to get there. Maybe Jumwaltie would do it.  She seemed excited about it as well.

"Buy me, Erin! If you can't save me, I'll die!" This is what this house says to me.

Somebody tell me how to make this happen for myself.  Thanks!

Stop Four: Burch Cemetery, between Stanford and Cincinnati IN, on SR 225 N

I honestly cannot believe we found this place.  We had google map directions and everything and still drove right past it.  We initially decided that it must be in the woods, and in someone else’s property, and we might have to just give up on this one.  I’m glad we didn’t.

I’m glad I turned around.  As we drove slowly back we noticed this narrow gravel drive that looked like someone’s driveway.  “I guess I’ll try this one!”, I said, as we chugged up a very steep hill, gravel splashing out from the tires behind us.  And then there is was….out of nowhere.  It had a gate around it and everything.  Somebody must be tending the property cause it was not overgrown.  We were elated to find it.

We found a whole cemetery full of some of C-Dogg’s distant relatives in here.  Unfortunately the one we were really hoping to find, a man who had actually fought as a Revolutionary War soldier, was absent from the party.  C-dogg snapped some more pictures and we hopped back in the car.  We prepared for the steep descent and were on our way to the next stop.

Stop Five – Union Bethel Cemetery, Richland Township, Greene County, IN

After a few little wrong turns we finally found this quaint little cemetery.  We found C-Dogg’s ggg grandfather who moved with the whole family to Indiana from Pennsylvania.  It was one of the easiest to find headstones in the whole cemetery, in fact.

One thing we found strange about this cemetery was that there were ornamental plantings in front of a lot of headstones, which were actually difficult to move enough to see the inscriptions.  I’m not sure I understand the point of planting in front of a headstone.

We didn’t stick around in this one for very long because we mentioned to Stacy, our old co-worker, that we would love to come back to the Auditorium before we left town again.  We were running a little late.

Stop Six – The beautiful IU Auditorium, Bloomington, IN

If you haven’t seen a show here then you’re missing out.  The murals in the front halls, painted by Thomas Hart Benton are reason enough just to make a visit.  We were thrilled to hear that they turned the jankety old University Theatre (which had been closed for years after opening a new Theatre building) into IU Cinema.

Sadly, we didn’t make it back onto campus on time and missed seeing the inside of the new cinema, but I’m so excited that it exists.  On thing that was shocking and amazing was that they reopened along the north side of the Auditorium.  The entire time we went to school there this space was filled with fencing and construction trucks.  In fact, we were just reminiscing about the day a woman got stuck at the stop of one of the construction fences and was afraid to climb down.  Now it is cleared out and beautiful. There is even a new statue of Hoagy Carmichael (who is from the area) out there with some benches and beautiful gardens.

We all sighed, collectively, and were grateful for our alma mater.

Thanks, IU and Bloomington.  You’re kind of the best.

Stop Seven – Ice Cream on Kirkwood, Bloomington, IN


Stop Eight – Home, Indianapolis, IN

One of my favorite things about Bloomington was driving to and from Indianapolis, because it is a gorgeous drive.  It’s better to do it at certain times of the day.  Dusk in summer is the absolute best, especially on this most humid days when you can see the air just sit over the fields.

And the Weekend Has Yet to Begin…

I feel like I’m on a bit of a permanent vacation these days.  I know it’s not true.  I go back to work soon.   I’m also doing some work from home in between to keep us off the streets.  Not that my monetary contributions to the household really do anything but pay my students loans…

This sob story is for another time.

Anyway, I have been enjoying lovely little weekday trips.  I had one yesterday and one today…both with a little ancestry research in the mix.

Here is yesterday:

A few weeks ago I was at the Indiana State Library (which, as you remember, I have mad love for) and found out that a group of my ancestors, the Staudts, came from Wolfersweiler, Germany.  Is that not the best name for a town?  It might be.  So I also discovered that a woman by the name of Burgert had written a number of books and pamphlets over German immigration to the United States.  So I looked to see if the one about Wolfersweiler was anywhere in a library near me, and it was, kind of.  It was in Anderson.

Anderson is a sleepy little town NE of Indianapolis, known for a few things:

You might not know this about me, but I love the pony races.  I looked at this as an opportunity to take a trip and see some horsies.  I called up a couple dependable adventureres:  My younger sister, ‘Lil Amy, and my trusty friend in genealogy, we’ll call her Jumwaltie.  They were excited to join me on this trip.

We got to Anderson, drove through the downtown, and all got kind of sad.  It was a bit mopey.  The library was kind of awesome though.  And it was right next door to a Rax!  I haven’t seen a Rax since about 1990, which is when they all closed in Indianapolis.  I still get a little reminiscent and teary-eyed thinking about the plastic alligator cups that came with the kids meals.  They were so great.  Anyway…

We find the Indiana Room very easily at the library and I found my book within 2 minutes of stepping foot in there.  It is a very well organized space.  I got the information I needed…and then looked around to see what everyone else was doing.  Jumwaltie was looking up some of her own family from Bucks County, Pennsylvania and found some birth records.  Lil Amy was doing her favorite research activity, hunting down death records of absolute strangers.  She finds the way people died to be very interesting (and sometimes amusing).  The most interesting record she found was in one of the Marion County, Indiana books.  One little boy was killed by a streetcar right outside of where Lil Amy used to live downtown.  He was 6.  I’m guessing this sort of thing happened a lot.

We also found a very interesting book, which included the inbound and outbound records for the Indianapolis Asylum for Friendless Colored Children.  This was an institution that was opened in Indianapolis by the Quakers in 1870.  Some of the information in there was amusing, some was devastating.  Often children would be taken there if their parents couldn’t care for them (especially if they were sick).  So their in-date might be 3/21 and then on 3/23 it will say that they died.  This happened a lot.

Here is one of my favorite titles of the day, because it was just so tragically blunt:

I had to thumb through this one for a minute. You have to.

After getting some questions and a few dirty looks from a lady who worked in the Indiana Room, we decided to head to the track and get our betting on.

I won’t go into the specifics of how that part of the trip went, but I did come out a winner (and by “winner” I mean I broke even).  Julia won in one race.  Lil Amy won in at least one.  I bet on the girliest-named horse, just for Andrew (like he asked).  That horse did not win.

On the way home we were talking about cemeteries (because we would be visiting a few on Friday) and Lil Amy said there is a cemetery near Julia’s house that she LOVES to visit, and can we please go?  We will LOVE it.  It’s SO CREEPY.  So we agree to go.  Then she started explaining how we get there.  Then it started sprinkling.  I started to wonder if this was a good idea.  It didn’t matter.  She thought it was.

Directions for visiting West Cemetery in Hamilton County.

  1. Park at Walgreens at 96th and Allisonville
  2. Walk west down 96th street, and to be safe stay in the grass (which is not comfortable in sandles currently)
  3. Turn onto the gravel road
  4. Follow the gravel road till it kind of ends
  5. Follow Lil Amy down what seems to be potentially a deer path to the edge of some woods.
  6. Walk into the woods and look for a sort of clearing.
  7. See headstones and walk towards them
  8. Trip on a headstone as soon as you get into the “cemetery” because it is completely covered in overgrown 3 foot tall grass.  It does look as though someone has tried to kill the grass immediately surrounding the center of the cemetery cause it’s now 3 foot tall brown grass.
  9. Start flailing your arms wildly because you realize you are being attacked by giant mosquitoes that have never tasted human blood and are very intrigued.
  10. Look as quickly as possible at headstones that might be interesting and try to remember how you got in and desperately seek out an exit route.
  11. Exit out the obvious, open way that you did not come in because you couldn’t see it.
  12. Seek out a new deer path which hopefully doesn’t have as many stickers and itchy, sting-y plants.  Continue swatting the bugs that have followed you out of the woods.  Note:  These bugs will probably “bug” you till you get to your car again.

Now, I don’t want this all to be negative.  This would be a great place to go when it is not July.  It certainly reminded me of that cemetery search I went on with Andrew about a year ago, where we ended up climbing barbed wire just to get to the edge of a cemetery that was so overgrown we could hardly see anything.  This little bit of 96th Street is still amazingly beautiful.  They are probably developing it very soon, which makes me sad.  If they do I wonder what will happen to this little cemetery in the middle of the woods.  According to findagrave.com this little cemetery was part of the farm that once belonged to John W. Becker.

I wanted nothing more than to get in the shower.  I almost asked Walgreens if they had one in the back.  I figured I would be home soon enough.  I dropped off Jumwaltie.  Then Lil Amy wanted ice cream.  How do I say “no” to that?  I don’t.  We went.  Brics.  That’s all I have to say.  If you’re in Indianapolis, go here.  Now.  Put down whatever you are doing now, and go eat at this shop.

Then I went home…and showered…for longer than was probably appropriate.  It was a good day.  An adventurous day of research is always a good day, especially when it involves gambling at a horsetrack.


An Adventure for All Ages

We recently took a day trip up to Plymouth, Indiana, which is where Andrew’s maternal grandfather lives.  We just went for a visit (honestly we don’t get up there enough) and to start helping him look through his stuff because he is most likely moving to an assisted living facility.

So while Andrew took his grandfather’s floor-plan map and measured his furniture to see what was doable in the new place, I got to hang out with said grandfather and chat family tree!  I also got to check out some amazing pictures.

4 generation picture (1895, Plymouth, Indiana) - Back row standing: Maude (Yazel) Seymour, Nancy (Hippert) Yazel (Maude's Mother). Seated: Peter Hippert (Nancy's father), Edna Faye Reed (Maude's daughter and Andrew's great-grandmother)

This above picture was my favorite for one great big obvious reason (hello Beardy McBearderson!) but it’s also interesting  because it is one of those multi-generational pictures that people still take today.  Peter Hippert died just four years after this picture was taken.  Chances are that not many, if any, exist of him before this time.  Peter also did not live in Plymouth.  He still lived in Auglaize County, Ohio at this time.  He was just on a visit, which was probably quite the little journey at that time.

Earlier in the day, when we first got to the house, I mentioned our timetable and said that we might be stopping at a cemetery on the way out of town.  Andrew’s mom decided we should all go and have a little adventure.  She asked her dad, “Are you up for an adventure?”  He answered, “Well, yeah.”  And an adventure we had.

We all piled into the little Pontiac and headed out of town, toward a very small town called Bourbon, Indiana.  Actually, we weren’t headed for Bourbon, we were headed for outside of Bourbon.  The goal was Mount Pleasant Church of the Bretheren.

Andrew’s family on both sides were mainly Church of the Bretheren, and this area of Indiana is full of these little churches.  Unfortunately, according to Roy (the Grandfather), this one will be closing in the fall.  I might have to find out if they have any church records before things get handed off to ‘who knows where’.

Thanks to Google Maps and www.findagrave.com we were able to find the cemetery easily.  When we left the house in Plymouth we were all a little worried about the heat and how Roy would feel outside for so long.  As we drove the temperature dropped…and dropped some more.  We were followed by dark, menacing clouds the whole way.  When we got to the cemetery it was cool and breezy, still humid but so very comfortable.  The clouds were pretty much coming straight for us.

I knew we didn’t have much time, so I started snapping pictures of any headstones with Seymour, Stockman, or Yazel.  These are all names in that branch of Andrew’s family.  I even made sure to get a couple family pics.

From left to right: Gloria (Reed) Nelson, Andrew Nelson (posing?), and James Roy Reed. Visiting Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

The older part of the cemetery was across the street.  Roy was convinced that some of the earlier family members were buried over there, including Peter Hippert and a George Washington Seymour.  I don’t know anything about this GW’s plot, but I did find out that Peter is actually buried at a Horn Cemetery in Ohio.

Andrew and I headed back to the newer section, and immediately a lady in a fabulously comfy looking ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ T-shirt came out of her house next door to tell us that the weather map showed some nasty weather almost right on top of us and she didn’t want us stuck out there.  She said there would probably be hail.

Andrew’s mom rushed to get the car turned around so Roy could hop in.  The sprinkles started the second we got in.  We decided maybe would be a good time to eat, but we would have to get to a restaurant first.  This required driving through what looked like some sort of hell-mouth.  We did it, well Gloria (Andrew’s Mom) did.  The darkest part of the storm wasn’t nearly as horrible as it looked.  It was sort of downpour-y though, and when we got to the restaurant (where I proceeded to consume more carbs than I had in weeks combined) all of us got soaked.

We headed back to the house for a few minutes before we went along on our way back to Indy.  I sort of wish we had looked at a weather map before we left.  The “hell-mouth” we drove through earlier was nothing compared to the near-firestorm we drove through to get home.  I don’t know that I’ve ever driven in a lightning storm that was so prolific.  There was literally lightning every single second for about 15 minutes straight.  Once we finally got out of the storm it followed us home the rest of the way, behind us by about a few miles.  This is what it looked like the entire way home.  We were right on the border of heavenly and hellish weather.

The edge of the storm

I’m going to have to take a trip up north again, and maybe this time check the weather.

Ode to The Indiana State Library

Ok, so I’m not actually going to write “an ode” cause I don’t do poetry; but I want to express my love and gratitude for this place which gives me a place to nerd up when the weather and/or my car isn’t eager for me to travel very far.

Now, I’m not talking about the Central Library.  I love that library for a completely different reason.  In fact, sometimes I wish I lived in that library.  Everyone who lives or visits Indianapolis should go up to the 6th floor and just enjoy the view facing south towards the Circle.

Central Library in downtown Indianapolis. Amazing library. Go there now if you haven't been yet.

On the exterior, Indiana State Library seems like the frumpy sister of the Central library but there are amazing resources there.

Today is a great example of reasons I love the State Library.  This is what happened, in order.

1.) I parked out front on the street.  There is almost always street parking out front.  And the tops of the meters were removed!  There were no “no parking” signs.  So that means Free Parking!  And it was!  I did not get a ticket.

2.) I went inside and had no problem finding an open easy place to sit.  The library is generally known for being a haven for homeless people.  I don’t generally have a problem with this, but it can be an issue with space.  Downstairs the only usable computers are hooked up to genealogy research sites and THAT is the only reason they are used.  This is not the biggest hit with the homeless population of the city.

3.) I had been researching a branch of my family, the Staudts (or Stoudts…or even Stouts) and found a book on the internet that would be so very helpful.  It didn’t even occur to me until I got there today that the State Library might actually have this very random family history called “Stoudts and Allied Families”.  And they did!  And I used it.  And it was so very helpful.  For those interested, I found out that my Staudt family came from Germany, a little village called Wolfersweiler.  Sounds awesome, I know.

4.)  It sounded as if there was a scuffle in the entry way about mid-way through my research there, and I had no worries.  There are capable security guards at the library whenever they’re open.

5.)  I asked the librarian a question.  Now, this seems like a silly reason to like a library, but I’m kind of shy about asking strangers questions because I hate sounding stupid.  But honestly, everyone who goes to this library is so geeked out on genealogy it makes me feel more comfortable.

6.)  As I was leaving I noticed a flier with information about presentations they’ll be doing over the course of the next month.  What is really amazing is that it’s free!

In addition to what happened today, other things that get me all excited about the State Library include:

  • The insane collection of newspapers from pretty much every county in the state, and even some nearby states.  I use these regularly, especially for obituaries and marriage announcements.
  • The fact that it’s across the street from the Indiana Historical Society, which also has a small but pretty cool library.
  • Records, records, and more records.  I can get lost in all those deeds, wills, death records, marriage records…it’s all very exciting.  Most of it is sorted by county and very easy to find.

For those who are interested in visiting the Indiana State Library I recommend checking out their website because the hours can be kind of weird; and there are some days they are just not open.