Tombstone Tuesday — Arlington Abbey, Part 1

Several years ago, whilst investigating my father’s family, I learned that my great-grandparents (his father’s father and mother–Joseph E. Corley and Ida C. F. Corley), were buried in a mausoleum called Arlington Abbey in Arlington, Va., after they passed away in the 1920s. The mausoleum is no more, however, and all of the bodies have since been relocated.

At that time, I assumed this was because the former mausoleum bordered Arlington National Cemetery, which from time to time expands to accommodate more graves. Grad school intervened and I had to shelve my family research. Only recently, did I pick this trail back up.

It’s not a pretty one.

A helpful ancestry.com member responded to a post on that site a few years ago to tell me that many of the bodies formerly located in the mausoleum were relocated to National Memorial Park in nearby Falls Church, Va., especially when next-of-kin could not be found. I called there this past weekend and was told that there is no record of my great-grandparents at that cemetery.

Joseph and Ida used to live in Shelby County, Illinois, the location of a Corley Cemetery where a few of my ancestors and extended relations are buried. Thinking perhaps Joseph and Ida had found a way back home, I did some searching. I found an online list of the gravestones and Joseph and Ida are not listed. Scratch that possibility off the list.

Since these were my only leads, I decided to do some more digging into the history of the mausoleum. I turned up a couple of articles in the Washington Times from the 1990s. Turns out that the mausoleum used to be privately owned, but was not very profitable. The owners turned over control of the facility to the federal government back in the 1950s, but the government didn’t have the resources to oversee it closely. It fell into disrepair and was the target of vandals and apparent satanic worshipers. Bodies were removed from their crypts and valuable items stolen.

As disturbing as the above news is, the articles above include valuable information like the name of the company that originally owned the facility, the exact date when they turned over the property to the government, etc. Perhaps most importantly, I now know the name of the Army Corps of Engineers archaeologist who was tasked with investigating the families of the deceased to try and find next of kin when it was determined all of the graves had to be moved.

I was able to track down his contact information over the weekend and I’ve left him a voicemail to see if he has any information about the whereabouts of my great-grandparents’ remains.

He is not my only hope though. If I don’t hear back or he doesn’t have information about Joseph and Ida, I now have more details that I can use to perform further research. Luckily, I live close enough that trips to libraries in Arlington County, Va., or Washington, D.C., are feasible.

I’d be curious if anyone else reading this has also traced relatives to Arlington Abbey — have you had any luck finding out what happened to them?

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week. I hope to report back that I’ve heard from the Army Corps archaeologist.

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (A Day Late): Ahnentafel Roulette

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!

This is my first stab at Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (albeit a day late) — a concept championed by Randy Seaver on his Genea-Musings blog: http://www.geneamusings.com. This has been a really educational exercise to undertake — I learned about a numbering system I hadn’t been exposed to before, I further investigated a relative that I hadn’t spent a lot of time on yet and I found some interesting discrepancies in his census records that will require some work to clear up.

This week’s challenge is Ahnentafel Roulette:

1) How old is your father now, or how old would he be if he had lived? Divide this number by 4 and round the number off to a whole number. This is your “roulette number.”

2) Use your pedigree charts or your family tree genealogy software program to find the person with that number in your ahnentafel. Who is that person?

3) Tell us three facts about that person with the “roulette number.”

4) Write about it in a blog post on your own blog, in a Facebook note or comment, or as a comment on this blog post.

5) If you do not have a person’s name for your “roulette number” then spin the wheel again – pick your mother, or yourself, a favorite aunt or cousin, or even your children!

This post has prompted me to learn more about the Afhnetafel numbering system. I was a bad MLS grad and went to Wikipedia for a basic description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahnentafel

Shame on me, I know (actually, it’s even worse; first, I Googled it). Google also led me to this better explanation at ancestry.com. Note that there is a typo, and number 15 should actually be great-grandmother.

Following the rules above, the roulette number to investigate is 26. This is my mother’s father’s mother’s father, Anson G. Bennett (1859-1944). I had done some preliminary investigations online into who Anson G. Bennett was, but I didn’t have much information. Here’s what I’ve been able to glean, with some certainty:

1) He was born in October 1859 in Missouri.

2) He married Josephine Susan Campbell after moving to San Antonio, Texas.

3) His father was a merchant and Anson worked for him in his store before marrying my great-grandmother.

The above has been gathered from a family history previously compiled by a relative and by searching federal census records. The one sticking point is that the state of birth information for his mother varies — either given as Missouri, Tennessee or Virginia, depending on the census year. This could mean that I’ve been viewing the records of two (or more) different Anson G. Bennetts. It could also mean that a recording error was made or that the wrong information was inadvertently given to the census taker in a given year. Obviously, more work needs to be done to clear this up.