Tombstone Tuesday: Arlington Abbey, Part 3

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

As I detailed in two previous blog posts (Part 1 and Part 2), the remains of three of my ancestors were once buried at Arlington Abbey Mausoleum in Arlington, Va. However, that site fell into disrepair decades ago and was subjected to vandalism and worse. When the Army Corps of Engineers tried to close the facility in the late 1990s, they couldn’t reach all of the families of those buried there. When I tried to find more information about my relatives, I learned that their remains were missing.

As I said in my last post, it appeared that one of three things had happened: 1) a family member removed my ancestors’ remains to another location during a time when records of such removals were not recorded; 2) the urns holding the remains were stolen or destroyed; 3) the remains were among a bunch of unmarked urns found scattered inside the mausoleum, with no way to trace them back to the crypts to which they belonged.

I’m happy to report that while discussing this mystery with my half-brother over the Thanksgiving holiday, we found the answer. In an old version of our father’s will (dated only a year after I was born), he stated that he had purchased a crypt at another facility for “ashes of deceased members of my family who bore the name Corley.”

I called that facility when I returned home Saturday afternoon. After giving them the names and dates of death of the missing ancestors, the facility called me back in short order to let me know that they indeed have their remains. I now have their exact location and I hope to visit the memorial park soon.

I’ve sent this information to the Army Corps of Engineers archaeologist who assisted me in my search for my missing ancestors. My hope is that now that we have found my relatives, this may help narrow down the possible identities of those remains found on the floor of the mausoleum.

Continue to Part 4 (Tombstone Tuesday: Corley).

The Christmas Tree

Post #1 for the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

My first Christmas was only a month after I was born. We were living in an apartment and my parents kept it small. Our tree was plastic, less than two feet tall and pre-decorated with plastic fruits, birds and other ornaments. It has made an appearance at almost every Christmas over the years, even if it wasn’t THE tree. I still have it and it will probably be my tree this year too. I love it.

My First Xmas Tree, Dec. '76

After spending Christmas morning at home, we’d usually trek to Alexandria, Va., for more presents, food and family at my grandma’s. She always had a fabulous tree.

Grandma Grace's Xmas Tree

After we moved into our first house, in the Woodmoor section of Silver Spring, Md., our own Christmas trees were of the live variety.

Christmas at Woodmoor

Our dog, Shadow, loved to lie on the Christmas tree skirt, until presents crowded her off of it. She always knew Christmas meant something special (usually in the form of more treats!).

Shadow Under the Tree (1988)

Over the years, my family switched from live trees to fake trees and back again. Several years featured multiple trees — a large one in the living room, a smaller one in the family room and then the tiny plastic tree would always show up somewhere.

Turkey with a Side of History

I spent my Thanksgiving holiday with family in Richmond, Va. The trip was chock-full of historical and genealogical fun and so I thought I would recap the highlights here.

Libby Hill Park

My sister and I spent quality time with my half-brother and his wife, family and friends. We stayed in their beautiful home in Libby Hill Park in Richmond. Their house is actually the former Libby residence. It was owned by Luther Libby, from whom the area takes its name. Libby also owned a warehouse that was turned into a rather notorious prison during the Civil War.

My half-brother, his wife and I managed to solve a family genealogy mystery, which I will describe in another post. We also went over family history documents and photos. I learned a tremendous amount.

Richmond Skyline

We participated in a slave-trail walk along the James River on Friday morning. Richmond was once a major hub in the slave trade. The two-mile hike started at Manchester Docks. We continued up the river and over the 14th Street Bridge, ending the tour at the site of the former Lumpkin’s Jail, or “Devil’s Half-Acre,” where slaves were kept before being sold. The tour was led by a National Park Service employee and was fascinating.

That afternoon, we toured the Virginia Holocaust Museum. One of the exhibits detailed the story of Lithuanian Jews who hid from the Nazis in an underground room on a farm. The nine adults and four children stayed in the room for nine months. One of them was Israel “Izzy” Ipson. He was at the museum yesterday and we had the chance to meet him after we toured the exhibit. There is a book about his family’s ordeal that I intend to read.

Not really genealogy related, but our main adventure during the holiday involved the discovery of a lost or abandoned puppy in my relatives’ yard on Thanksgiving morning. We spent the better part of Thursday and Friday trying to find his owners. Ultimately, we found him a new home. He’s so sweet, I can’t imagine anyone leaving him in the park. Unfortunately, that appears to be what happened.

Surname Saturday: CAMPBELL (Virginia, Texas)

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

My Texas roots include Campbells from San Antonio:

27. Josephine Susan Campbell (b. 1859  in San Antonio – d. 1922 in San Antonio)
54. William Wallace Campbell (b. 1828 in Virginia – d. 1862 in San Antonio)

William is listed as a master mason in the 1860 U.S. census, which I found on Ancestry.com.

William and his wife, Susan Elizabeth Smith (1830-1864), passed away while their children were still young. I found two of Josephine’s siblings living with relatives in the 1870 census, but haven’t tracked down Josephine’s location in that particular year.

The siblings were reunited and living together when they were in their 20s, according to the 1880 census.

William earned a mention in Daughters of the Republic of Texas because his wife, Susan, was the daughter of William John Smith (aka John William Smith, a prominent figure in the battle for the Alamo and the first mayor of San Antonio).

As of yet, I have not been able to discover the names of William’s parents, nor the area of Virginia from whence he came. There are a lot of William Campbells in Virginia around the time he resided there for me to sort through.

Josephine married Anson G. Bennett in 1881 and they had 8 children, including my great-grandmother, Susan Campbell Bennett (1884-1966).

Obituaries: Researchers Beware

This blog post is in response to the blog prompt for Week #46 as provided by Amy Coffin at We Tree (via GeneaBloggers): “Comment on obituaries in your collection. Obits come in all shapes and sizes. Share some of the stand-outs with readers.”

My lessons learned after writing, reading and relying on the information made available in obituaries includes that they can be chock full of useful information: next of kin, parents, burial information and of course, major life events, but they are not the most reliable sources.

I am a reporter by training and have written several obituaries, both for relatives and for complete strangers*. Not all obituaries are written by professional journalists, however (and much to my chagrin, even when they are, errors can be edited in later). Many obituaries are written by relatives of the deceased — they may or may not have gone through the rigors of checking original sources of the information listed in the obit. In fact, it’s not impossible to imagine that many may gloss over some facts in remembering the life of their loved one and they may, inadvertently or not, introduce errors into the listing.

Before she passed away, my mother requested that I be the one to write her obituary. This I did, including the names and places of residence for her surviving family members, including her three younger sisters, all in the state of Virginia. Even though I typed the information for the obit and emailed it (in copyable/paste-able form) to the newspaper for inclusion, the state of residence for my youngest aunt was printed as California and not Virginia. Sigh.

Another obituary in my collection is for my great-grandmother, Della Hayes. I had always assumed that her maiden name (Crow) was spelled with an ‘e’ on the end because that is how it was listed in her obituary. All records I have found since then point to a spelling without an ‘e.’ Similarly, her mother’s maiden name also appears to have been misspelled in the obituary (Gorley instead of Gourley, as I have found in other records). Whether these spellings were provided by the family incorrectly or were printed incorrectly for some other reason, I do not know.

Of course, not all obituaries are so error-ridden and they are good starting points for finding facts that should be confirmed through further research.

*Obituaries are often the first things that budding reporters learn to write. Therefore, I found everything had come full circle during my final stint as a reporter (I decided not to pursue a career in journalism shortly after graduating from college). My final article as a general assignment reporting intern at the Viriginian-Pilot‘s Virginia Beach bureau was  the obituary for G. Dewey Simmons, a minister who hailed from that area. He had gained notoriety by performing wedding rituals in unusual places, including one ceremony underwater. On my last day in the bureau–the day the obituary appeared in the paper–I had a voicemail on my phone. It was his daughter, in tears, calling to thank me. She said it captured his life perfectly. I can’t think of a better way to end my reporting career.

Interesting side note: the major news services pre-write obituaries for major public figures so that when these individuals do meet their demise, it is simply a matter of adding the details of death before posting on the wire.  I learned of this practical, if morbid, procedure while touring the Knight-Ridder library at the National Press Building during another reporting internship in college. It’s often the newsroom librarians who compile the facts for these canned pieces, before they are polished up by the reporters.

Surname Saturday: I’m a real WILD child (Virginia, Texas, Germany)

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

My mother’s maiden name was Wild, and I’m sure you can only imagine the jokes made about her and her three sisters as they grew up.

This particular name has German roots. I’ve traced back the line to Aibling, Germany, so far. Rumor has it that we’re somehow related to the original brewer’s of Becker Bier in St. Ingbert, Germany (now a Karlsberg brewery).

My mom and her sisters were Army brats and moved all over the world, but they spent a lot of time stateside in Northern Virginia, where my aunts still live, and in Texas, which is where our ancestors originally settled after leaving Bavaria.

Here are my Wild roots, in all their Ahnentafel glory:

2. Marcia Lea Wild (1949-2003)
6. Col. Herman Bennett Wild (1913-1978; Army accountant — he and my grandma met on the job at the Pentagon)
12. Herman Wild (1876-1928; lived in San Antonio Texas all his life, near as I can tell)
24. Fridolin Wild (1844-?: the German immigrant, from Aibling)

I found Fridolin and the elder Herman in San Antonio directories in the late 19th century, both working as salesmen.

My goal is to trace Fridolin’s family as far back as I can. In my research today, I discovered that his wife’s surname was HOYER and that her parents immigrated from Germany as well.

Touchdown Tales

Football has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of me in my John “Riggo” Riggins jersey nightgown. Yes, even in this miserable season for D.C. football, I can admit that I’m a born-and-raised ‘Skins fan. (Incidentally, it was several years before I learned that not every team had transvestite fans who wear pig snouts to every game. We’re special — that’s just for us.)

I must admit too that I didn’t quite *get* football at first. Touchdowns were irrelevant to me. The players on the field simply weren’t doing their job if there wasn’t a huge pile of players on top of each other when the whistle blew. That’s when I cheered. The bigger the pile-up, the better. Hence, I was usually rooting for fumbles/recoveries, no matter which team had dropped or recovered the ball.

I was 5 years old when I learned the true meaning of football. We were visiting my grandmother, who lived in a sixth-floor condo in Alexandria, Va. It was a gorgeous day and my cousin Lee (also 5) and I were not content to enjoy it from her balcony, so my uncle Rick agreed to take us to a grassy area on the grounds of the complex for a game of football.

The teams we fielded were small: two-man… no, actually one team had one and a half men (Rick and Lee) and the other team was me and Rick’s Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Jackson.

I don’t remember how the defining play began, but somehow I had the ball (Jackson passed it to me?) and I was careening towards the edge of the patch of grass that had been indicated as an end zone. Lee was only 7 months younger than me, but he was also seven inches shorter for quite awhile. He was firmly clamped around my waist (Jackson was probably sniffing something really interesting).

And so, my cousin dragging along beside me and my uncle hooting at the site of it all, I scored my first touchdown.

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Big props to Denise Levenick at The Family Curator for her Genealogy and Family History Bloggers Alamanac, which proposed “Touchdown Tales” as today’s writing prompt.

Surname Saturday: CORLEY (Virginia, Illinois and Iowa)

I have posted the various surnames I am investigating on Twitter on a few different Surname Saturdays. Today, I decided to be a bit more proactive and seek out others investigating the same lines. Today’s post will be about what I discovered about the CORLEY line in Virginia, where we can be traced back to the 1600s, Illinois and Iowa.

I tried some searches on Twitter specifically and didn’t find anyone else looking for Corley line information, but there sure are a ton of other Corleys of various ilks on Twitter!

I’ve been avoiding searches on Google lately now that I’m subscribing to several genealogy databases/services and because Google can often send you on a wild goose chase. Still, there are juicy tidbits to be found if you’re patient and know what to look for. The following are what I found via basic Google searches combining the family name, place names and sometimes the word ‘genealogy’ to help narrow results.

CORLEY (Virginia)
I rediscovered the Corley winery, to which I am assured I am related by other Corleys. Their site even refers to my immigrant ancestor, Richard Corley the Immigrant. I haven’t been to California to try the wine and have never seen it in stores out this way. There’s another Corley vineyard in Colorado, but I’ve never heard that we’re related to that one…

I found this link for queries about the Corley clan: http://www.cousinconnect.com/p/a/0/s/CORLEY

Learned of a new possible variation: CORLIES

I found new (to me) web sites about Richard the Immigrant: http://home.windstream.net/jimcorley/descend.htm and http://www.deboriah.com/wordofgrace/genealogy/corley/Ancestors%20of%20Oscar%20Thomas%20Corleyby%20RevCrowe.doc

Found partial text of a book mentioning one of my ancestors — Valentine — parish records from Cumberland Co., Va. The full text is available at the Library of Congress.

CORLEY (Illinois)

Found the following compendia of links, which may warrant further investigation later:
http://www.linkpendium.com/genealogy/USA/sur/surc-C/surc-Cor/sur-Corley/

http://distantcousin.com/SurnameResources/Surname.asp?Surname=CORLEY

This site mentions Corley’s Ridge (would like to learn more about this) and Corley Cemetery (which I’ve investigated in the past): http://genealogytrails.com/ill/shelby/placenames.html

Here is another site about Shelby County, Ill., where the Corley’s resided for quite some time and where an annual reunion is still held ever year (I haven’t made it to one yet). http://www.histopolis.com/Place/US/IL/Shelby_County/

CORLEY (Iowa)

The Iowa Genealogical Society: http://www.iowagenealogy.org/index.htm

These results reminded me that there is a Corley, Iowa (Shelby Co. there as well). I haven’t established a firm connection between my Corley clan and this locale.

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Additionally, I searched “richard corley ‘the immigrant’”

Yay for sources! http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mysouthernfamily/myff/d0059/g0000053.html#I3137

Found full text of a book mentioning Richard Corley Jr. in St. Paul’s Parish (Va.).

Another site listing Corley descendants (but its source is no longer online) — http://mattocks2.wordpress.com/category/generation-12/003072-richard-corley/

Tombstone Tuesday — Arlington Abbey, Part 2

In last week’s Tombstone Tuesday post, I wrote about Arlington Abbey Mausoleum, where my great-grandparents were interred in the 1920s. Over the following decades, the mausoleum’s owners abandoned the property when it failed to become profitable. Its government overseers were unable to keep a close eye on it and it fell victim to looters and decay.

I came across an article that mentioned Scott Watson, an Army Corps of Engineers archaeologist, who in the 1990s had been tasked with locating next of kin of those interred at the mausoleum. The military was moving all of the remains out of the mausoleum in order to close it down permanently. I left a message with Watson and was able to speak with him this past week.

Watson was able to verify that not only were my great-grandparents originally buried at Arlington Abbey, but my grandfather as well. I hadn’t been able to track down his gravesite yet, so this was a somewhat unexpected boon (I was hoping he had ended up in the same location, but hadn’t found any evidence of that yet).

That is the good news — the confirmed burial locations of three relatives. The bad news is that they have all since disappeared.

When the Army Corps of Engineers went in to Arlington Abbey to catalog the remains there and prepare them for removal, the crypt where my relatives’ cremated remains had been interred was empty. Watson made the following observations at that time: the shutter from another vault was propped up against the Corley vault, which was second up from the bottom of a six-vault-high stack (so relatively accessible). He noted there had been a fair amount of vandalism.

Watson did say that between the 1950s and the 1970s, sometimes relatives of those buried at the mausoleum had removed the remains for reburial. The mausoleum sometimes kept records of this, but not always. There were no official records showing my relatives’ remains had been removed. Watson said that they had tried to trace the next of kin of the Corleys — but they put the most effort into tracking down families for whom they had remains to release.

Finally, Watson said that they discovered several unlabeled urns containing cremated remains in a pile on the floor of the Abbey Mausoleum. They had no way to trace the vaults to which the remains belonged. These urns were reinterred in the cremation vault at National Memorial Park in Falls Church, Va. This is where all other unclaimed remains from the mausoleum were relocated as well.

So, there appear to be three possibilities as to the current location of my relatives’ remains:

1) Another Corley descendant removed the remains sometime between the 1950s and the 1970s.
2) The remains are among the discarded urns found in the mausoleum.
3) They’re just gone — stolen or destroyed.

Watson apologized for not having better news or more details for me, but he’s given me a ton of information. He’s mailing me copies of the original interment documents and other information that he has available.

It does sadden me that there was looting at the mausoleum, and that because of this, I may never find the final resting place of my grandfather and great-grandparents. Arlington Abbey Mausoleum was demolished in 2000, so I can’t even visit that location.

But I have to admit that I’m a bit fascinated by this whole case. The story surrounding the mausoleum is quite incredible and I’m glad that I’ve learned as much about it as I have. I’ll report back if there is more to be gleaned from the records Watson is sending me.

Continue to Part 3.

Photos and Lessons Learned from my First All-Day Crop

100_3818smOn Oct. 3, I attended my first 11-hour crop, Celebrate Northern Virginia, at the Fredericksburg Expo Center. What an awesome and fun experience! There were more than 900 scrappers – all Creative Memories consultants and their customers. I completed dozens of album pages over those 11 hours, attended classes, tried out new products and got tons of new page design ideas. I’m sharing a few of them here. Check out all of my photos from the day on flickr.com.

100_3819smHere is my four feet of table space at the crop. I worked on a 12×12 album about beach vacations my family has taken over the years and then I began work on an 8×8 Christmas album. I used the Power Layouts system before the crop to organize my pages and photos so I could quickly assemble the pages at the event.

100_3795smThere were hundreds of album page layout ideas on display for us to photograph. Here is a creative one that made use of Creative Memories’ puzzle-piece shape maker. The pieces are laid out on one of the Discover papers.

100_3796smI think this might have been my favorite layout idea. This page is gorgeous and uses Jewel Heritage paper and journaling boxes. This paper is available while supplies last…

100_3799smI am including this one because the little frog in the middle is the cutest!

100_3813smOne of my upcoming projects will be an album about my elementary school days and I really liked this layout idea for that kind of album. This uses Graduation Perfect Fit paper (also available while supplies last on my site).

100_3826smThere were make-and-takes stations at this crop where you could try out the different shape makers and other products. I tried out the new Stardust Maker and Precision Point Adhesive when I made this little Christmas tree.

100_3827smOne of the classes I attended was about taking advantage of small scraps of paper to make embellishments like this flower.


100_3824sm

Lessons learned:

  • Sort your photos ahead of time.
  • Take a pillow to sit on!
  • Attend the classes (my friend Sandra, above, taught one on using wallet-sized and other small photos in your layouts).
  • Walk around. Take pictures of layout ideas. This helped to break up the day and moving around kept me from feeling too stiff.

The same site has already been reserved for another crop on October 2 October 16, 2010 (new date!)I plan to attendlet me know if you want to join me!