This photo shows the gravestone of Louis Grillot, my husband's 4x great-grandfather. As stated on the stone, he was born in Pareid, France, which is located in Northeast France's Lorraine region. In 1838, when he was 51 years old, Louis and his wife, Marie (Borin) Grillot packed up a few belongings and their seven (living) children, and sailed for America. They entered through the Port of New Orleans and made their way north to Darke County, Ohio, in the western part of the state. Ship manifest records indicate that Louis worked as a mason in France, but turned to farming in America. Louis passed away in 1861. He is buried in Holy Family Cemetery, Frenchtown, Ohio, along with many other French pioneers who settled in this part of Ohio.
Although Louis was born and lived by the name 'Grillot,' his sons adopted the name 'Grilliot' (or sometimes 'Grillio'). The story goes that Louis' name was misspelled on legal documents, and his sons continued to use that spelling instead of the original family name. Louis' birth/baptism record from Pareid, France is shown below. He is the son of Jean Charles Grillot and Jeanne Barbe Curély. His father's brother, Louis Grillot, and his mother's sister, Anne Curély, served as his baptism sponsors. (And because of those relations, we also know the names of Baby Louis' grand-parents, also listed. Aren't these French records wonderful?) These documents can be viewed online at this website. (Images 218-219)
This is the gravestone of two of my maternal great-grandparents, George and Ursula Bellan. George (born Beljan) and Ursula (born Benicki) were born in the 1870s in Croatia, which was at that time a part of Austria-Hungary. They came to America in the 1890s and settled in Cleveland, Ohio. They had eight children, three of whom unfortunately died as teens and young adults. Ursula passed away in 1946 and George followed in 1954. They are buried in Cleveland's Calvary Cemetery.
I requested a photo of this gravestone through FindAGrave.com. I was quite surprised when I saw it. My great-grandfather's first name is spelled 'Juraj,' which is the Croatian equivalent of George. (It is prounouned YOO-rahy.) On every census form, children's birth record, immigration document, obituary, etc. he is 'George,' so I find it interesting that his gravestone says 'Juraj.' What is even more interesting is that his Croatian first name IS engraved, but NOT his Croatian surname, Beljan. Did he choose this form of his name to be engraved? He passed away after his spouse, and since they oftentimes do the majority of a stone's engraving all at once, it IS possible that he chose this name. Also of note is that Ursula's birth year on the gravestone is incorrect according to other sources, such as her death certificate and census forms. The stone lists her birth year as 1874, whereas her death certificate and census forms put her birth year more at 1876-1877.
This week's gravestone is that of Anthony and Leona Schroeder, who are two of my husband's paternal great-grandparents. My husband was actually named after this great-grandfather and he also goes by 'Tony,' just as Great-Grandpa did. Anthony was born in 1895 in Shelby County, Ohio to Joseph Schroeder and Anna Bernhold Schroeder. He was Joseph and Anna's only son who lived past infancy. Tony married Leona Knob on May 6, 1919. She was the daughter of William Bernard Knob and Mary Watercutter, also residents of Shelby County, Ohio. Anthony and Leona had five children; four girls - Norma, Dorothy, Carol, and Barbara - and one son, Walter, who is my husband's paternal grandfather. The family lived in Sidney, Ohio, and Anthony worked as a molder for the Wagner Manufacturing Company.
The gravestone of Michael and Sophie (Krupa) Bodziony, two of my paternal great-grandparents. They were born in the southern part of modern-day Poland, in a region that was once known as Galicia. They immigrated to the United States separately around 1910 and were married in 1911 in Cleveland, Ohio. They had seven children, two of which died as newborns. They are buried with two of their children, Stella and Joseph, in Cleveland's Calvary Cemetery.
The tombstone of Jean François Aubry, my husband's 4x great-grandfather. He is buried in Holy Family Cemetery, which is located just northwest of the town of Versailles, Ohio in Darke County. Jean François immigrated to America from France with his wife, Anne Martine Drouot and his three living children, Etienne, Marie Anne, and Auguste. They arrived in New Orleans on April 28, 1840, and made the arduous journey northwards to Darke County in western Ohio, where they would settle and set up a farm. (The daughter Marie Anne married Jean Nicolas Grilliot in 1853.)
In census and other record sources, the Aubry family is often found under the surname 'Overly' or 'Obry.' The 1850 Agriculture Census shows 'John Overly' owning a small farm of only 50 acres, with 20 acres listed as 'improved' and 30 acres as 'unimproved.' He has two horses, two 'working oxen,' a handful of other cattle, ten sheep, and twelve swine. For the year 1849, he reported producing four tons of hay, 200 bushels of indian corn, ten bushels of oats, and forty pounds of maple sugar.
Jean François passed away April 26, 1873. The tombstone reads, "Priez pour son âme," which means "Pray for his soul" in French.
Jean François' birth record is below. He was born in the town of Herbeuville in the Meuse department of northeastern France. His parents were Nicolas Aubry and Anne Catherine Colnard. The birth record indicates he was born in 1802, which is fairly consistent with the ages listed on his U.S. census schedules. (Even if you CAN read French, don't try to find '1802' in the record below; the date is listed using the French Republican Calendar, and needs to be 'translated' to the Gregorian calendar to figure out that it is indeed 1802.) The tombstone lists his age at death at 66 years, and I believe that the stone is wrong in this case. By the way, you can search Meuse department civil birth, marriage and death records online at the following website: archives.meuse.fr (click on 'Etat civil' to search.)
A kind volunteer with the FindAGrave.com network recently photographed this tombstone for me. This is Mary Magdalena Bernard Rolfes, one of my husband's ggg-grandmothers on his mom's side of the family. (Rita Brunswick Tumbush was her great-granddaughter.) The gravestone is located in St. John's Catholic Church Cemetery in Maria Stein, Ohio.
Magdalena was the daughter of Joseph Bernard, a French immigrant, and Anna Maria Kemper, who, according to U.S. Census data, was born in Pennsylvania. They were married in Mercer County, Ohio on June 13, 1839. Magdalena was born in Maria Stein, but I have not yet been able to determine Magdalena's exact date of birth; her obituary from The Minster Post (below) states that she was 76 yrs, 2 months, and 7 days old at the time of death. That would put her year of birth at 1846, which may not be correct since her older brother's death certificate has 1846 as HIS year of birth. Magdalena's death certificate lists her year of birth as 1856, which is completely off.
Magdalena married Joseph Rolfes on May 2, 1865 in Mercer County. They lived and worked on a farm in Mercer County's Marion Township, right next to Magdalena's parents, and the two families are listed on the same pages in the 1870 and 1880 U.S. Censuses. The 1900 census lists her as having had 13 children, although I can find birth and/or death records for only 12. Unfortunately, her husband, Joseph, passed away in 1883 when he was only 41 years old. Her oldest child, Henry, was only 17 years old at the time and she had many other little ones to care for. Magdalena did not remarry and, with her children's help, must have kept the farm going, because in the 1900 census she is listed as a farmer and the head of the household. In her later years, she lived with her two daughters, Katherine and Caroline, and her son, Anthony. Katherine worked as a dressmaker to support the family and Anthony worked as a farm laborer.
This is the burial place of two of my husband's great-great-grandparents on his mother's side of the family. John M. Braun was born and died in St. Peter, Ohio, where he worked as a farmer his entire life. His wife, Louisa Kahlig, was born in Austria and immigrated with her family to America when she was about a year old. They were married in St. Peter and had ten children, all of whom survived well into adulthood.
©2012, copyright Emily Kowalski Schroeder
We went out this morning to a couple of nearby cemeteries to search for several gravestones that had been requested through FindAGrave.com. It was a bit chilly, but the kiddos didn't mind one bit, especially since there were so many leaves to play in! (We live in a newer neighborhood with few large trees and virtually no fallen leaves in which to play.)
Our trip to this cemetery was successful: I found the gravestone of a woman who died in 1860 and the best part about it was that her stone, though broken, was still mostly readable! (If you've searched for old graves before, you know how common it is to find old graves unmarked or marked with gravestones that have been weathered beyond legibility.) Her husband's name was listed on the stone, along with the date of her death and her age at death - which is great, because then you can estimate when she was born.
©2012, copyright Emily Kowalski Schroeder
Most people don't generally view cemeteries as pleasant places; some even consider them creepy or unlucky places. For a genealogist, cemeteries and the gravestones within them are invaluable sources of information about people and communities of the past. The information inscribed on gravestones - names, dates of birth and death, relation words such as "wife, "mother," or "son" - can serve as an important starting point in discovering when and where our ancestors lived. Gravestones can also help validate information about ancestors that may have been located in other sources or passed down verbally through the generations.
There is a free website called FindAGrave.com that is essentially a catalog of interments from cemeteries all over the world. It is completely run by volunteers who set up memorial pages for friends, relatives, or even complete strangers who have passed on. Once a memorial is posted, anyone can "request a photo" of any particular grave. Volunteers receive photo requests via email from cemeteries located near their homes, and then go out to the cemeteries, search for the grave(s), take photos of them, and post it on website. I found a photo of my great-grandfather's grave on the site, which was helpful to me, because he is buried in Arizona (where none of my family lives). It was taken by a complete stranger who assists in cataloguing cemeteries for the website, and she even managed to track down and post his death certificate as well.
I became a volunteer grave photographer a couple of months ago. I like to take photos, and it gives me something different to do with the kids outdoors. Sometimes, I actually think they enjoy walking around the big old gravestones and large trees that are often in the older cemeteries we visit. One day, I tracked down an older grave for a woman living in Kentucky. She sent me a very kind 'thank you' email that was so, so appreciative, it just made my day. She told me the story of how, in the post-Civil War era, her great-great-grandfather enlisted the help of his brother-in-law in discovering the fates of his southern family members. She was trying to find where this brother-in-law ended up and my photograph of his gravestone confirmed the location of his final resting place and seemed to give her some sort of peace. I felt like I had really made a difference in this woman's life.
Most of the photo requests I search for, I cannot find. This is especially true of people buried pre-1900. Weathering renders many stones unreadable and, oftentimes, broken stones are not replaced and graves simply become unmarked. Sometimes, it saddens me when I have to tell a person that I could not find the graves of their ancestors. Nobody wants to hear that a family member, even one from generations ago, has been forgotten or neglected, even in death. But still, most people thank me for going to the cemetery and looking, even if it was unsuccessful.
Just the other day, I received three emails saying that three of MY grave photo requests had been fulfilled. A volunteer in western Ohio visited three separate cemeteries in Mercer County and photographed graves of Tony's ancestors.
What I LOVE about these gravestones is that they are inscribed in German. Through my research, I already knew both of these men were German immigrants, but these stones give me a sense of the culture of the region at the time of death. Andreas Brunswick (first photo) immigrated to America in 1853. He lived for 45 years in western Ohio, yet his gravestone is written in German. So obviously, some communities in the region were still speaking German (or German/English hybrids), even as late 1898. The second photo is the grave of Tony's great-great grandfather, Theodor Tumbusch, who arrived in America in 1861. Unfortunately, he died quite young in 1870, so the only real what I call "life" documents relating back to Theodor are his immigrant ship roster and the 1870 U.S. Census. The gravestone has helped me confirm the spelling of his name and his dates of birth and death.
©2012, copyright Emily Kowalski Schroeder
Emily Kowalski Schroeder