Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Solving a Mystery and Proving Some Family Lore

This past Memorial Day, my wife, Little Abbey, mother-in-law and I set out to explore some of the sights of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Having worked and lived near there for over five years, I was already familiar with it but wanted to take the trip anyway for two reasons. The first reason was to explore some of the lesser known or not as popular attractions that I have skipped for various reasons. The second was that the trip led me past several graveyards of buried ancestors and would allow me to visit them on a day we chose to memorialize the dead.

On the way up, I stopped once again at Riverside Cemetery in Charles City to visit with my 3G grandfather John whom I tried to find several years ago and wrote about in this blog entry. With the help of my newly obtained map, I found his grave without problems and had a short visit. I thought again of the backstory that I wrote about more recently and seeing the five small tombstones of the children. You hear about how hard it is on parents who lose one child and this guy lost five AND a wife all within a couple months. Yet he continues on with life, eventually remarried and had three more kids.

We drove down the road to another cemetery also named Riverside and situated on the same river where I got to visit the graves of one of John's surviving children, his wife and her parents, another set of my 3G grandparents. Once again my GPS unit led me there flawlessly but finding the gravestones in an immense graveyard is another matter. Fortunately my legwork had narrowed it down to one of a dozen blocks but not a row or lot number. But as we were wandering around, a lady drove up and asked if she could help me find someone. I asked if she had been the person to speak to me earlier over the phone and indeed she had. Seconds later I was standing at the gravestones. Although I would have found it eventually, she shortened the effort and more importantly, gave me a mystery to boot.

She said that in researching the location for this family of my 3G and 2G grandparents, she came across another lot registered to the same family but in the original part of the cemetery. There were four graves in this lot assigned to the names of a S. Cogswell, Mrs. Leigh, Martha L & Fred B. She had S. Cogswell of dying in 1893 & other than that, could offer little more information. After getting home and researching my notes, I'm about 95% confident that S. Cogswell is none other than Simeon Cogswell, my 4G grandfather. I had known that Simeon had moved from New York to Rockford in his later years and disappeared off records after 1890 but had forgotten this fact while standing in the cemetery. I also had forgotten that Simeon had almost a dozen children over the years, one named Frederick and another Marshal. Since Martha L. is just an interpretation of what is written in very worn lettering on the gravestone, it very well could have been Marshal instead of MarthaL. Mrs. Leigh I'm guessing is a married daughter, which one, I don't know. No word on Rebecca Bush his wife. It was my first 4G grandparents I had a chance of meeting and it was a terrific find. So far it is the closest I've gotten to my distant cousins Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

On our return journey home on Monday, I cancelled the idea of visiting a cemetery in Parkersburg, Iowa where another ancestor is buried since it had been wiped off the face of the map by a mile wide tornado the day before and was most likely closed to outside traffic. But my trusty GPS had another one in Cedar Falls to visit as a backup if only the office was open to help me narrow down my search. It was and I got to visit the graves of 2 sets of 2G grandparents and 2 sets of 3G grandparents along with confirming some family lore. My 2G grandfather John had remarried after his first wife and my 2G grandmother had died. He evidently upset his in-laws by paying for a divorce of another married lady and marrying her so soon after their daughter's death all of which I not to long ago wrote about. So they told him that they had no room in their burial plot where his wife and their daughter had been buried and he was forced to be buried all by his lonesome elsewhere. I did indeed find this to be the case. John's father is even buried one plot behind John's wife but John is half a cemetery away.

My system is working flawlessly and already I have made good progress on the "known" locations of my ancestors. I have dutifully taken a picture of their stones, made a map and mapped the actual GPS coordinates so that future genealogists, who share my ancestors and interest, can be told within feet of where the grave is located.

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