Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hunting for Family Burial Information and Serendipity

For the past month I have been searching for information for a client who is looking to find information on her mother's grandfather's brother's family. The project entailed contacting various cemeteries, funeral homes and public libraries, while also doing some online searching for obituaries and newspaper articles related to the family. Out of those eighteen contacts made, there were several that provided valuable material about this family.

For the father who died in Auburn, California, we contacted the Colfax cemetery (where he was buried according to his death certificate), the County Recorder's Office, the County Clerk's Office and the Public Library. The two county offices and the library had no information on him. We are still waiting for information from the cemetery. The records are located in a storage unit and appear to be a challenge to access.

The oldest child/daughter eluded us until we received her sister's obituary and discovered that she had married late in life. With that information we contacted Morris Hill cemetery and the funeral home in Boise, Idaho. They had very little information, but did provide the name of her niece who took care of her affairs at her death. The telephone listings have not enabled us to contact her, so a letter is being sent.

The oldest son was living in Payette, Idaho based on the obituaries of his mother and sister, so we made contact with Riverside cemetery there and they directed us to two local funeral homes. The first funeral home was a hit and they provided obituaries for the son and his wife. The turnaround for these was a matter of minutes. We now know much more about his family. They had a son and daughter, and four grandchildren. He was survived by a brother and two sisters.

The third child, a daughter living in Oregon, was buried at Gresham Pioneer Cemetery which is managed by Metro in Portland, Oregon. Her married name came from her mother's obituary. The client made the final call to Metro, as they were more comfortable speaking to a family member. They provided the name of the funeral home and we are waiting for a response from them for results of their search. We were informed that her daughter, the niece mentioned above, also took care of her affairs at her death, so the letter will request information on both of them as well as the family in general.

The fourth child, a son living in Oregon, was buried at Willamette National Cemetery with his wife. The cemetery would only provide the name of the funeral home. After contacting the first place, we were referred to a second Wilhelm Portland Memorial, who has now referred us to a third place. We hope to hear from them soon.

The fifth child, a daughter living in Issaquah, Washington, was buried at Hillside Cemetery. The cemetery provided the name of the funeral home. The funeral home emailed her obituary within minutes. They also included some cemetery information. We now know she had three children and three grandchildren, as well as two surviving brothers and sisters.

Putting together a family that was buried in six different cemeteries is a challenge. When we started the client just wanted information on the father and the oldest son. My challenge to her was to investigate all of the children, which clearly paid off. From the two obituaries we were able to track the siblings and learn more about their families. While all five sibling's burials are found on Findagrave.com, the information included on those postings is limited to basic cemetery facts. Those very facts enable us to press forward to learn more about each one of the children in this family. Contacting living family members may provide the genealogical information the client is seeking.

So, while we wait for responses from three contacts to conclude this research project, we practice extreme patience. It is hard to know how hard to push someone who in reality is doing us a huge service. They all seem to have the best intentions, but having to go to another location to look up files on people who died some time ago is surely a challenge. Each facility has different rules and directives about the records they keep and how much they can share with people seeking information on distant family members. For this case the serendipity moments occurred when we received three different obituaries within minutes of the request. Both came from funeral homes, though in different states.

Persistence and patience seem to be the requirements for researching our families, wherever the records are located. May you all enjoy the pleasure of finding information that helps you piece together your families wherever they may be found.

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