The HOEKSTRA Girls

Featured in the February 23rd Edition of Terry Thornton’s “Harvest from the Blog Garden” at Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi.

I learned about George Geder’s Genealogy~Photography~Restoration blog through Craig Manson of GeneaBlogie, I think. George has been doing Wordless Wednesday posts for a while, both of his ancestral photos and of his fantastic own pix (he’s a photographer by trade). Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I thought I’d emulate his actions here.

These two little cuties are my maternal grandmother, Ruth Lillian HOEKSTRA, and her younger sister, Hope Mildred HOEKSTRA, taken as the captions indicate, in Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington in 1921, when Grandma was 35 months old, and Hope was 13 months. This would have been in December of that year, as Grandma was born on 16 January 1919.

Ruth and Hope were the oldest of three girls born to my great-grandparents, John Martin HOEKSTRA and Lillian Fern STRONG. Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, John, Lillian and Ruth came out West for a few years because John’s parents, Martin HOEKSTRA and Jennie TON, and his brother and sister-in-law, Peter Louis Ton HOEKSTRA and Reatha Pearl DONOVAN, had also relocated there for better job opportunities. Lillian’s parents, Charles Frisbe STRONG and Mary Lucy WRIGHT, were living several hundred miles south near Hubbard, Marion County, Oregon, with her brother Frank Charles STRONG. While the family was out west, Hope was born in Tacoma. The Hoekstra family returned to Michigan and remained there for the rest of their days. Mary Louise HOEKSTRA, John and Lillian’s youngest daughter, was born in 1923 in Grand Rapids.

Ironically, after Hope grew up and married, she moved to Tacoma with her husband, had four children, and died and was buried there in 1968…the same city in which she was born.

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The HOEKSTRA Girls

Featured in the February 23rd Edition of Terry Thornton’s “Harvest from the Blog Garden” at Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi.

I learned about George Geder’s Genealogy~Photography~Restoration blog through Craig Manson of GeneaBlogie, I think. George has been doing Wordless Wednesday posts for a while, both of his ancestral photos and of his fantastic own pix (he’s a photographer by trade). Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I thought I’d emulate his actions here.

These two little cuties are my maternal grandmother, Ruth Lillian HOEKSTRA, and her younger sister, Hope Mildred HOEKSTRA, taken as the captions indicate, in Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington in 1921, when Grandma was 35 months old, and Hope was 13 months. This would have been in December of that year, as Grandma was born on 16 January 1919.

Ruth and Hope were the oldest of three girls born to my great-grandparents, John Martin HOEKSTRA and Lillian Fern STRONG. Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, John, Lillian and Ruth came out West for a few years because John’s parents, Martin HOEKSTRA and Jennie TON, and his brother and sister-in-law, Peter Louis Ton HOEKSTRA and Reatha Pearl DONOVAN, had also relocated there for better job opportunities. Lillian’s parents, Charles Frisbe STRONG and Mary Lucy WRIGHT, were living several hundred miles south near Hubbard, Marion County, Oregon, with her brother Frank Charles STRONG. While the family was out west, Hope was born in Tacoma. The Hoekstra family returned to Michigan and remained there for the rest of their days. Mary Louise HOEKSTRA, John and Lillian’s youngest daughter, was born in 1923 in Grand Rapids.

Ironically, after Hope grew up and married, she moved to Tacoma with her husband, had four children, and died and was buried there in 1968…the same city in which she was born.

World-Famous Bear Has a Name: Alice Teddy

You just never know what tracing your family tree will lead you to!

First of all, I was doing some searching this evening for more information on George Bayard CRAPSEY (see previous post). Mike Kirchmeier had told me that he and his wife, Carrie, had died in Oregon. So I went to Ancestry and searched the Oregon Death Index. I found both their deaths listed in Jackson County. Carrie died 16 Apr 1941, and George died 12 July 1943. It appears that George may have remarried in the two years between Carrie’s death and his own, because there is also an Anna Mae CRAPSEY who died in the same county on 13 March 1985. Her birth date was 10 May 1890, and her spouse is listed as George. Since George and Carrie did not have any children, it is possible that Anna was George’s much younger wife, rather than a daughter-in-law. I Googled to see if I could find more information on Carrie, and did find her listed as “CRAPSEY, Carrie L.” in the Lincoln County, Wisconsin probate cases index. I’m fairly certain this was the same Carrie that George married, as the county seat for Lincoln County is Merrill, Wisconsin, and I had already found several pieces of information online about George residing in Merrill.

Seems like George’s rollerskating bear really was a globe-trotting show! First of all, I found this family history website by Thomas J. DALEY, great-grandson of John AKEY. AKEY was a personal friend of George CRAPSEY, and he, too, trained a bear to rollerskate. On the website is a transcription of an undated newspaper clipping from what appears to be the Merrill Daily Herald:

BEAR LEARNING TO ROLLER SKATE

MAKES GREAT PROGRESS WITH-IN LAST TEN DAYS. IS OWNED BY LOCAL BUSINESS MAN.

John Akey, the Second street business man, has been quite busy the past ten days teaching his bear to roller skate. Mr. Akey has only had the bear for about three weeks and for the past ten days has been teaching it to skate at the Union Roller rink. From the progress that has been made in that time, Merrill will undoubted be made famous by being made the home of two roller skating bears. Geo. Crapsey has traveled for several years with Alice Teddy; and is known not only in this country, but has also exhibited for the crowned heads of Europe.

Here’s another one from the same source:

AKEY’S BEAR AT PORTAGE

QUEEN WAS CAPTURED MAY 28, LAST, FIFTEEN MILES FROM THIS CITY.

The following article was clipped from a recent edition of the Portage Daily Register and will be read with interest by local people:

“The people who were about the streets Monday were given the unusual sight of seeing a bear driving an automobile. The sight was an unusual and much commotion was created to get a peek at this bruin at his new job. The animal was owned by John Akey of Merrill and is known about the fair and show circles as Foxey Queen. She drives a car us through the main streets, making all the turnouts and appears to be a cautious driver. Mr. Akey is seated with the bear on the front seat and she presides at the steering wheel absolutely, Mr. Akey pointing the direction she is to take.

“‘Queen was captured, May 28, last, fifteen miles from Merrill,’ said Mr. Akey, ‘and we have been busy domesticating her since. She appears to take a liking to humans and performs roller skating stunts as well as other tricks. We are touring the state giving exhibitions with Queen and expect to give the people of Portage a chance to see her perform.’

“Akey has a large collection of wild animals at his place in Merrill, a bear, monkey, porcupine, coon, wild cats and ferrets mingle with the patrons of his place at the northern city.

“Akey is a personal friend of George Crapsey, who was here at the fair a few years ago with his world famous “Alice Teddy” the roller skating bear which is now exhibiting Manitoba and has netted Mr. Crapsey over $55,000.”

I also found this newspaper article from the front page of the 1 Jan 1911 Greensburg [Pennsylvania] Morning Review at the Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania archives at RootsWeb:

Skating Bear A Wonder

Alice Teddy draws record breaking crowd at the big rink, will be here all week – one of the world’s animal wonders.

Amid the enthusiastic applause of fully two thousand people, Alice Teddy, the wonderful skating bear, made her initial appearance and performance at The Big Rink carnival last night.

To say that this wonderful skating bear is one of the most unique animal wonders of the world is merely stating a fact and voicing the verdict of two thousand people who saw her performance last night. Following is Alice Teddy’s history.

Alice Teddy, the wonderful roller skating cinnamon bear appearing here this week, was a tiny baby bear when captured in Oregon. Geo. B. Crapsy, her present owner, who also made the capture, says that at the time little Alice weighed four pounds. Today Alice is past two years old and weighs 215 pounds.

When Mr. Crapsy returned home to Merrill, Wis., he brought Alice along. Her remarkable intelligence prompted hi2m to spend his spare time in teaching Alice tricks. She readily learned to wear shoes, clothes, to walk upright and finally, after months of hard practice, to skate on ball-bearing rollers. Alice is the only bear in the world skating and dancing on skates.

So it appears that George found Alice in Oregon, and not Wisconsin, as Kirchmeier believed. Another archived RootsWeb source, DC Old News, has this article from a list of amusements on page 4 of the 4 April 1912 Washington Post:

AT THE ARCADE
Fourteenth Street and Park Road.
EVERY NIGHT THIS WEEK AT 9:20
JOE TURNER, Champion Middleweight Wrestler of
the World, Will Meet All Comers.
Agreeing to Throw in 15 Minutes or Forfeit $25.
THURSDAY NIGHT
Turner will attempt to throw in 15 minutes be???
HARRY FIDDISO?, ?????????
and VINCENT COSIMANO, “Young Greek” Of Washington
ALICE TEDDY The Bear That Skates on Roller Skates
EVERY NIGHT AT 9 0’CLOCK
Tues., Thurs., Fri. also Sat. Afternoon at 4.
ROLLER SKATING WRESTLING BOUT-ALICE TEDDY
ALL FOR ONE ADMISSION, 25 CENTS

At Google Books, you can download a copy of The Vaudeville Theatre Building Operation Management by Edward Renton (New York: Gotham Press Inc. 1918). On page 257, you will find the following line:

Alice Teddy, roller skating bear, lobby stunts.

You can also view some of the flyers used to advertise the act at various theaters. HistoryLink.org, The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History (a fabulous site, by the way!) has an image of a flyer from the Pantages Theater in Seattle in the 1910s here. And a similar one, c. 1909, for the Empress Theater (location unknown) sold on Hake’s auction website for $50.14 last year.

The Schuco toy company of Nuremburg, Germany, founded in 1912,

made a roller skating bear toy that was probably inspired by Alice Teddy, a real-life bear whose skating party trick wowed audiences in the United States before the First World War,

according to Christopher Proudlove at this online article.

I’m sure if I look at some newspaper database websites, I could find more. Isn’t this fascinating? As I said earlier, you just never know what you’ll find when you start digging through your family roots!

World-Famous Bear Has a Name: Alice Teddy

You just never know what tracing your family tree will lead you to!

First of all, I was doing some searching this evening for more information on George Bayard CRAPSEY (see previous post). Mike Kirchmeier had told me that he and his wife, Carrie, had died in Oregon. So I went to Ancestry and searched the Oregon Death Index. I found both their deaths listed in Jackson County. Carrie died 16 Apr 1941, and George died 12 July 1943. It appears that George may have remarried in the two years between Carrie’s death and his own, because there is also an Anna Mae CRAPSEY who died in the same county on 13 March 1985. Her birth date was 10 May 1890, and her spouse is listed as George. Since George and Carrie did not have any children, it is possible that Anna was George’s much younger wife, rather than a daughter-in-law. I Googled to see if I could find more information on Carrie, and did find her listed as “CRAPSEY, Carrie L.” in the Lincoln County, Wisconsin probate cases index. I’m fairly certain this was the same Carrie that George married, as the county seat for Lincoln County is Merrill, Wisconsin, and I had already found several pieces of information online about George residing in Merrill.

Seems like George’s rollerskating bear really was a globe-trotting show! First of all, I found this family history website by Thomas J. DALEY, great-grandson of John AKEY. AKEY was a personal friend of George CRAPSEY, and he, too, trained a bear to rollerskate. On the website is a transcription of an undated newspaper clipping from what appears to be the Merrill Daily Herald:

BEAR LEARNING TO ROLLER SKATE

MAKES GREAT PROGRESS WITH-IN LAST TEN DAYS. IS OWNED BY LOCAL BUSINESS MAN.

John Akey, the Second street business man, has been quite busy the past ten days teaching his bear to roller skate. Mr. Akey has only had the bear for about three weeks and for the past ten days has been teaching it to skate at the Union Roller rink. From the progress that has been made in that time, Merrill will undoubted be made famous by being made the home of two roller skating bears. Geo. Crapsey has traveled for several years with Alice Teddy; and is known not only in this country, but has also exhibited for the crowned heads of Europe.

Here’s another one from the same source:

AKEY’S BEAR AT PORTAGE

QUEEN WAS CAPTURED MAY 28, LAST, FIFTEEN MILES FROM THIS CITY.

The following article was clipped from a recent edition of the Portage Daily Register and will be read with interest by local people:

“The people who were about the streets Monday were given the unusual sight of seeing a bear driving an automobile. The sight was an unusual and much commotion was created to get a peek at this bruin at his new job. The animal was owned by John Akey of Merrill and is known about the fair and show circles as Foxey Queen. She drives a car us through the main streets, making all the turnouts and appears to be a cautious driver. Mr. Akey is seated with the bear on the front seat and she presides at the steering wheel absolutely, Mr. Akey pointing the direction she is to take.

“‘Queen was captured, May 28, last, fifteen miles from Merrill,’ said Mr. Akey, ‘and we have been busy domesticating her since. She appears to take a liking to humans and performs roller skating stunts as well as other tricks. We are touring the state giving exhibitions with Queen and expect to give the people of Portage a chance to see her perform.’

“Akey has a large collection of wild animals at his place in Merrill, a bear, monkey, porcupine, coon, wild cats and ferrets mingle with the patrons of his place at the northern city.

“Akey is a personal friend of George Crapsey, who was here at the fair a few years ago with his world famous “Alice Teddy” the roller skating bear which is now exhibiting Manitoba and has netted Mr. Crapsey over $55,000.”

I also found this newspaper article from the front page of the 1 Jan 1911 Greensburg [Pennsylvania] Morning Review at the Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania archives at RootsWeb:

Skating Bear A Wonder

Alice Teddy draws record breaking crowd at the big rink, will be here all week – one of the world’s animal wonders.

Amid the enthusiastic applause of fully two thousand people, Alice Teddy, the wonderful skating bear, made her initial appearance and performance at The Big Rink carnival last night.

To say that this wonderful skating bear is one of the most unique animal wonders of the world is merely stating a fact and voicing the verdict of two thousand people who saw her performance last night. Following is Alice Teddy’s history.

Alice Teddy, the wonderful roller skating cinnamon bear appearing here this week, was a tiny baby bear when captured in Oregon. Geo. B. Crapsy, her present owner, who also made the capture, says that at the time little Alice weighed four pounds. Today Alice is past two years old and weighs 215 pounds.

When Mr. Crapsy returned home to Merrill, Wis., he brought Alice along. Her remarkable intelligence prompted hi2m to spend his spare time in teaching Alice tricks. She readily learned to wear shoes, clothes, to walk upright and finally, after months of hard practice, to skate on ball-bearing rollers. Alice is the only bear in the world skating and dancing on skates.

So it appears that George found Alice in Oregon, and not Wisconsin, as Kirchmeier believed. Another archived RootsWeb source, DC Old News, has this article from a list of amusements on page 4 of the 4 April 1912 Washington Post:

AT THE ARCADE
Fourteenth Street and Park Road.
EVERY NIGHT THIS WEEK AT 9:20
JOE TURNER, Champion Middleweight Wrestler of
the World, Will Meet All Comers.
Agreeing to Throw in 15 Minutes or Forfeit $25.
THURSDAY NIGHT
Turner will attempt to throw in 15 minutes be???
HARRY FIDDISO?, ?????????
and VINCENT COSIMANO, “Young Greek” Of Washington
ALICE TEDDY The Bear That Skates on Roller Skates
EVERY NIGHT AT 9 0’CLOCK
Tues., Thurs., Fri. also Sat. Afternoon at 4.
ROLLER SKATING WRESTLING BOUT-ALICE TEDDY
ALL FOR ONE ADMISSION, 25 CENTS

At Google Books, you can download a copy of The Vaudeville Theatre Building Operation Management by Edward Renton (New York: Gotham Press Inc. 1918). On page 257, you will find the following line:

Alice Teddy, roller skating bear, lobby stunts.

You can also view some of the flyers used to advertise the act at various theaters. HistoryLink.org, The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History (a fabulous site, by the way!) has an image of a flyer from the Pantages Theater in Seattle in the 1910s here. And a similar one, c. 1909, for the Empress Theater (location unknown) sold on Hake’s auction website for $50.14 last year.

The Schuco toy company of Nuremburg, Germany, founded in 1912,

made a roller skating bear toy that was probably inspired by Alice Teddy, a real-life bear whose skating party trick wowed audiences in the United States before the First World War,

according to Christopher Proudlove at this online article.

I’m sure if I look at some newspaper database websites, I could find more. Isn’t this fascinating? As I said earlier, you just never know what you’ll find when you start digging through your family roots!

Even More About Sgt. Walter Scott

This afternoon, I had about an hour in the genealogy room of the downtown branch of the Spokane Public Library. I wanted to see what I could find out about Sgt. Walter Scott, even though an hour didn’t give me enough time to really do a lot of digging. First, I looked at the microfilm rolls of the Washington State Death Index for 1910 – 1919 and for 1920 – 1929. I was looking not only for Walter, but for his wife Josephine. There were many Walter Scotts listed in the WSDI, and I had to eliminate them by subtracting the age listed at death from the year of death to see if I could come up with a date of (or close to) 1847, the date Craig determined Walter had been born. I found only one Josephine listed in that 20-year-span, and her age was too young to have fit the Josephine found on the 1870 and 1880 Federal Censuses. I finally found Walter listed in the 1920 – 1929 WSDI, age 75, death on 6 January 1923 in the City of Spokane.

From there, I went in search of Spokane newspapers on microfilm for that week. In 1923, the city had three newspapers, The Spokane Press, The Spokane Daily Chronicle (which later became simply The Spokane Chronicle) and The Spokesman-Review, the only one of the three still in existence. Most people in those days did not have obituaries, unless they were prominent citizens or celebrities. Occaisionally, one might find a short “blip” of a paragraph or two tucked away behind the front page, notifying the public of the death of a well-known or beloved person in the community. Births, marriages, deaths, funerals, and cards of thanks were listed with the public notices directly before the advertisements, not unlike today’s paper.

In The Spokane Daily Chronicle of Saturday, 6 January 1923, on page 14, column 1, I found Walter’s death notice:

Scott – Walter. Age 75 years, passed away a E3604 2d avenue, January 6th. He is survived by his wife, Alice M.; a daughter, Eva M. Petway of Spokane; two sons, Miner [sic] L. of Seattle and Walter of Anaconda, Mont.; also a granddaughter of Portland. He was a member of the K. P. lodge and Reno Post. The body is at Smith & Co.’s funeral parlors.

The Spokane Press had a funeral notice two days later on page 7, column 2:

Walter Scott, Tuesday, 3 o’clock, from Smith & Co.’s. Rev. Johnson, Reno Post of GAR and Knights of Pythias to officiate. Greenwood.

There was nothing found in The Spokesman-Review. I ran out of time to check funeral home records, city directories, Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, and a number of records I could have accessed in the genealogy room, Northwest Room, or microfilmed newspaper section. On my To-Do list is to discover when and where Josephine died.

When I got home, I was curious to see what I could find on the Washington State Digital Archives website. I noticed that Walter’s wife was listed as Alice M. in the death notice, so I figured he had married again after Josephine’s death. My search for Walter Scott turned up many results, most of which were not the man I was researching. However, three were of interest: the 1910 Federal Census of Spokane County; a 1911 Spokane County (historic) marriage record to Alice M. Harris; and a Walla Walla Penitentiary record. The 1910 census listing is actually an index, and does not list other members of the household. Since Craig had already found this information (likely on Ancestry.com), I didn’t feel compelled to dig deeper here. The marriage record was definitely a jackpot, because one can view images of these historic records! It confirmed Walter’s birth in Ohio, and gave his mother’s maiden name: Sophia Hall, born in Kentucky. His father’s name was unknown. Alice had much more detailed information, including the fact that she was an octoroon, divorced, and her parents’ names and birthplaces. The record contained the Scotts’ signatures as well. I could not make out the last name of one of the witnesses: Belle Sear? The other witness was definitely a relative: W. E. Scott. They were married by F. L. Donohoo, elder of the A.M.E. Church in Spokane.

The penitentiary record was probably not this Walter, but may have been his son. A Walter Scott, Negro, was convicted of Grand Larceny in King County (Seattle) in 1915, and served time in Walla Walla.

There are certainly many more things I could research on this family. Currently, my curiousity has been satisfied. Perhaps having this information online may bring about a result for a descendant Googling Walter Scott’s name.

Even More About Sgt. Walter Scott

This afternoon, I had about an hour in the genealogy room of the downtown branch of the Spokane Public Library. I wanted to see what I could find out about Sgt. Walter Scott, even though an hour didn’t give me enough time to really do a lot of digging. First, I looked at the microfilm rolls of the Washington State Death Index for 1910 – 1919 and for 1920 – 1929. I was looking not only for Walter, but for his wife Josephine. There were many Walter Scotts listed in the WSDI, and I had to eliminate them by subtracting the age listed at death from the year of death to see if I could come up with a date of (or close to) 1847, the date Craig determined Walter had been born. I found only one Josephine listed in that 20-year-span, and her age was too young to have fit the Josephine found on the 1870 and 1880 Federal Censuses. I finally found Walter listed in the 1920 – 1929 WSDI, age 75, death on 6 January 1923 in the City of Spokane.

From there, I went in search of Spokane newspapers on microfilm for that week. In 1923, the city had three newspapers, The Spokane Press, The Spokane Daily Chronicle (which later became simply The Spokane Chronicle) and The Spokesman-Review, the only one of the three still in existence. Most people in those days did not have obituaries, unless they were prominent citizens or celebrities. Occaisionally, one might find a short “blip” of a paragraph or two tucked away behind the front page, notifying the public of the death of a well-known or beloved person in the community. Births, marriages, deaths, funerals, and cards of thanks were listed with the public notices directly before the advertisements, not unlike today’s paper.

In The Spokane Daily Chronicle of Saturday, 6 January 1923, on page 14, column 1, I found Walter’s death notice:

Scott – Walter. Age 75 years, passed away a E3604 2d avenue, January 6th. He is survived by his wife, Alice M.; a daughter, Eva M. Petway of Spokane; two sons, Miner [sic] L. of Seattle and Walter of Anaconda, Mont.; also a granddaughter of Portland. He was a member of the K. P. lodge and Reno Post. The body is at Smith & Co.’s funeral parlors.

The Spokane Press had a funeral notice two days later on page 7, column 2:

Walter Scott, Tuesday, 3 o’clock, from Smith & Co.’s. Rev. Johnson, Reno Post of GAR and Knights of Pythias to officiate. Greenwood.

There was nothing found in The Spokesman-Review. I ran out of time to check funeral home records, city directories, Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, and a number of records I could have accessed in the genealogy room, Northwest Room, or microfilmed newspaper section. On my To-Do list is to discover when and where Josephine died.

When I got home, I was curious to see what I could find on the Washington State Digital Archives website. I noticed that Walter’s wife was listed as Alice M. in the death notice, so I figured he had married again after Josephine’s death. My search for Walter Scott turned up many results, most of which were not the man I was researching. However, three were of interest: the 1910 Federal Census of Spokane County; a 1911 Spokane County (historic) marriage record to Alice M. Harris; and a Walla Walla Penitentiary record. The 1910 census listing is actually an index, and does not list other members of the household. Since Craig had already found this information (likely on Ancestry.com), I didn’t feel compelled to dig deeper here. The marriage record was definitely a jackpot, because one can view images of these historic records! It confirmed Walter’s birth in Ohio, and gave his mother’s maiden name: Sophia Hall, born in Kentucky. His father’s name was unknown. Alice had much more detailed information, including the fact that she was an octoroon, divorced, and her parents’ names and birthplaces. The record contained the Scotts’ signatures as well. I could not make out the last name of one of the witnesses: Belle Sear? The other witness was definitely a relative: W. E. Scott. They were married by F. L. Donohoo, elder of the A.M.E. Church in Spokane.

The penitentiary record was probably not this Walter, but may have been his son. A Walter Scott, Negro, was convicted of Grand Larceny in King County (Seattle) in 1915, and served time in Walla Walla.

There are certainly many more things I could research on this family. Currently, my curiousity has been satisfied. Perhaps having this information online may bring about a result for a descendant Googling Walter Scott’s name.

Connecting with Cousins on Memorial Day

Three years ago, my husband, children and I traveled across the state of Washington to spend Memorial Day weekend with my in-laws in Vancouver, Washington, which lies just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. I always enjoy this cross-state visit, as the longest leg of it–driving along the Columbia River on the Oregon side–follows both the Lewis and Clark trail and the Oregon Trail. I enjoy imaging the explorers and pioneers traveling the same route, and seeing Mt. Hood towering in the distance.

While in Vancouver, we went with Norm’s parents and sister to Park Hill Cemetery in Vancouver, to visit and photograph the MIDKIFF, TOLLIVER, DAVES (step-ancestor), LUKE, and CHAPLIN graves. The following year, 2005, we made the same trip, and I insisted that we were going to travel down to the Willamette Valley to visit and photograph the grave of one of Norm’s great-great-grandmothers, Rebecca Catherine (SNOOK) WESTABY, buried in Salem, as well as the graves of my great-great-grandparents, Charles Frisbe STRONG and his wife, Mary Lucy WRIGHT. Charles and Mary are two of only four of my ancestors buried west of the Mississippi River, and the other two are nowhere near my home! My paternal grandfather, Robert Lewis ROBBINS is buried at Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas, and a 4th-great-grandmother, Lura Ann (JACKSON) PECK CRAPSEY, is apparently buried in St. Paul, Minnesota. So to actually be able to be within a few hours of an ancestor’s grave is a big deal to me, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.

When we arrived at Belle Passi Cemetery in Woodburn, Marion Co., Oregon, where Charles and Mary are buried, we found that the graves had already been cleaned and decorated. They were surrounded by other graves, obviously of the family of their daughter, Ethel Melissa (STRONG) HASTIE, who is buried there along with her husband, the Rev. Ezbon Roy HASTIE. I remember visiting the widowed Aunt Ethel in 1979, when we first moved to Washington State, and remembered meeting her son.

We were rather rushed on that visit, and so I didn’t have time to try to find out how to contact the family. But on the way home, I had a couple of ideas that could work for you to help you connect with cousins on Memorial Day. Obviously, I could have looked up the Hastie family in the phone book in Woodburn, or on Dex Knows when I got home. But what if you are looking for descendants of an ancestor, yet you don’t know your cousins’ surnames?

First off, you need to know where your ancestor is buried. If their grave is in your hometown or nearby, you’re in luck. If you are like myself and live far from your ancestral cemeteries, it’s important to obtain death certificates and/or obituaries of your ancestors to determine their final resting places. I use Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness quite frequently to get obituaries of ancestors. They’re easier and less expensive to access than death certificates. Once I have the name of a cemetery in hand, I use Find A Grave, Interment.net, Dex Knows, or Cemetery Junction to find an address and telephone number (check out Cyndi’s List of Cemeteries as well).

My next step is to cold call the cemetery office during local business hours. I have had so much luck with this! You would be amazed at how helpful cemetery employees are! From phone interviews I have discovered the names of other ancestors and relatives buried in the same cemetery, the names of the funeral homes that provided services (I’ll post more about this in the future), the names and addresses of the lot owners (which may be obsolete, but may provide relatives’ names). I always try to obtain the lot number of the grave(s) I am interested in, and sometimes the employee will mail me a cemetery map. I ask the cemetery employee if it’s okay to send them an info packet that they could place on my ancestor’s grave (see following paragraph). In fact, I have been so successful in this type of research, that I’ve created a form that I use to help me remember all the questions I want to ask when I call.

The fourth step is to write a letter explaining that I am a descendant of the ancestor buried in that cemetery, and that I am doing genealogical research on the family. I leave contact information: a phone number, mailing address and e-mail address. This letter is folded and sealed in a zip-lock bag and then placed in an envelope which is addressed either to the cemetery office or to a volunteer in the area that I’ve contacted through the local genealogical society or Random Acts. The cemetery employee or the volunteer can then place the info packet (my letter in a zip-lock bag) on the grave, hopefully weighted with a small rock or wedged into a crevice of the headstone, so it won’t blow away. If this is done about a week before Memorial Day weekend, there’s a chance that I could connect with another descendant of that ancestor who has come to the cemetery to clean and decorate the grave! If the cemetery doesn’t allow an info packet left on the grave itself, ask if your letter could be placed in your ancestor’s file at the office.

So what’s the purpose of this? To hopefully connect with other relatives of a common ancestor and exchange information…photos, documents, stories, etc. It’s likely that the two of you have missing information that the other may be seeking. Perhaps you’ll break down a brick wall! Memorial Day weekend is only two weeks away, so I hope you’ll take advantage of this tip. Good luck to you!