Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Counting Them Visited: Thomas Gray (abt. 1844 - 27 March 1899) & Anna Hughes-Gray (Nov 1843 - 17 April 1904)

In my first wave of attempting to locate gravesites I had yet to visit, I took a cursory glance at my records on Ancestry. I store the bulk of my printed documentation in my office which is inaccessible to me right now due to the COVID pandemic. Yes, I keep my print records at work because I used to spend the bulk of my time there and I just didn't have the shelf space for the multiple large binders. So I just looked at what I had on Ancestry for my 3rd great grandparents, Thomas Gray and Anna Hughes-Gray - - no plot location. 

I did a few searches and still I could not come up with a plot location. So I sent an email to Aunt Ro. Aunt Ro is really my father's cousin but we grew up calling his cousins aunt & uncle out of respect. That can make for confusion when you grow up and try to research people who were called "aunt" and "uncle" but weren't really that relation but I digress.

Aunt Ro has been doing genealogy research my whole life and this is our shared line so I thought for sure she would have plot locations for this couple. 

She did! 

And so did I. Yeah, somehow I had overlooked that I had acquired their plot locations in Calvary Cemetery some years ago when I was researching Anna's brother, Edward Hughes. 

I wrote multiple big long blog about the circumstances surrounding his murder: Edward Hughes Murdered??? and Revisiting Edward Hughes Edward is interred with his sister Anna and her husband Thomas along with several other family members. I have even previously written about my experience of trying to find Edward's plot in Calvary Cemetery: Headstone Hunting I really did not recall having visited Anna & Thomas there though. I think that is  because, like so many of my relatives, they do not have a headstone.

In Calvary Cemetery, cemetery 1, section 3, graves 1-4 there are 4 small square tiles that are flush with the ground. They mark the perimeter of graves 1-4. And that is it! No marking of the corner stones, no names, no dates, you can hardly even see them. I never even bother to photograph them. That is, however, the resting place of at least 10 of my relatives:

  1. Terrence Hughes, my 4th great-grandfather (born about March 1800 - died 22 September 1873)
  2. Ellen Sweeney-Hughes, my 4th great-grandmother (born about October 1802 - died 12 March 1884) 
  3. Edward Hughes, their son (born about 1849 - died 24 March 1874)
  4. Patrick Henry Hughes, another son and purchaser of the plot (born about 1844 - died 25 June 1883)
  5. Mary Gray, also known as Mamie, daughter of Anna Hughes-Gray and Thomas Gray (born 22 July 1869 - 24 May 1929)
  6. Margaret Gray-Fitzpatrick, another daughter of Anna Hughes-Gray and Thomas Gray (born 25 January 1875 - died 20 June 1968)
  7. Michael Fitzpatrick,  Margaret's husband (born about 1878 - died 25 January 1956)    
  8. Elizabeth V. Gray,  another daughter of Anna Hughes-Gray and Thomas Gray (born 9 July 1875 - died 2 June 1970)
AND my 3rd great grandparents Anna Hughes-Gray and Thomas Gray.
  • Anna Hughes-Gray, my 3rd great-grandmother who sometimes appears as Anna M., Mary Ann, or Mary A. (born about November 1843 - died 17 April 1904)
  • Thomas Gray, my 3rd great-grandfather (born about 1844 - died 27 March 1899)
Interestingly, I have Anna's memorial card and I've written about that in the past too: Speaking of Memorial Cards...

The curious thing is that I was just at Calvary Cemetery with Aunt Ro's brother, Uncle Charlie, his daughter Cousin Kelly, and granddaughter Meri looking for the burial location of their great-great grandfather on their maternal line; not our shared ancestry. And guess where their great-great grandpa, Thomas J. Moore, is buried. Cavalry Cemetery, Cemetery 1, Sec 3. Different row and grave but in the same section as the Hughes-Grays. It is a small, small world and a really big freakin' section of an enormous cemetery.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

How I Tackle Ancestry Hints

 I recently have had several conversations with my cousin Peter about Ancestry hints. Yeah, if you are an Ancestry user I am talking about those shaking leaves that pop up on your tree. They indicate that a particular person has potentially been identified in records. 

Our conversations have been about how do you handle them. I mean, I literally have thousands. 13,777 of them as of this moment exist for my family tree which consists of 3,578 people. I also have dozens of other trees I maintain for friends and clients. Does anyone really have the energy to keep that number down to zero? I sure as hell don't.

So what I do is look at my tree in pedigree view and review any hints that pop-up for my direct ancestors back to my great-great grandparents. On Ancestry, when you look at your pedigree view with yourself at the far left it branches back to your great-great grandparents. I keep that section of my tree free of hints by reviewing every one that pops up.

I have found that if I didn't review the hints, and either add the resources to my person's record or dismiss it, that leaf would hang out there forever and I'd wind up reviewing the same hints over and over again never making a decision as to what to do with the record. Do I attach it or not? 

So now I review all the hints that come up for me, my parents, my grandparents, my great grandparents, and great-great grandparents; those 31 people. And what about the other 3,547 people? I get to them when I decide to work on a line.

Very often I find myself telling my students or clients that "you have to go out to get back." Everyone is so interested in getting their lineage further back in history but I have found that very often my direct ancestor is not as well documented as, say, their brother. And it's that sibling's records that give me the information to get a generation further back. I mean, after all, my tree does have 3,578 people in it. They aren't all direct ancestors. You have to look at the extended family. You have to! But when you get around to them. 

Additionally when you start to poke around on someone you have left untouched for awhile more and more hints seem to spill out. 

So this is my tip for tacking all your Ancestry hints: Pick a branch and stick. One line at a time. Make a decision about the hint the first time you review it. You can always come back to it in your "ignored" list which is on the individual's profile page on the hints page.

Friday, January 8, 2021

The Fays at Long Island National Cemetery

So this year's goal to visit all 56 great, great-great, and 3rd great grandparents' burial locations has begun. I have determined that I have already in my lifetime visited 25 of them, leaving me 31 to research and visit. As of today, I have the names of cemeteries and plot locations for 18 of those 31. I have also emailed two researching cousins to help me determine 6 gravesites. There are, however, a solid 8 that I'm really struggling with because I cannot find a date of death. Six of those people died in Quebec and one died in Ireland at a time when death certificates were not a legal requirement. The other one died in New York but its all really sketchy. Wait 'til I tell you about him. Anyway, I'm not giving up on any of them, I'm just not terribly hopeful that I will find them all or get to them this year given our current world health crisis.

Today's post is really about my visit to my great grandparents, James Aloysius Fay (11 February 1893 - 1 October 1964) and Mary Lily Prince-Fay (15 October 1893 - 17 July 1983). They are interred in Long Island National Cemetery in Pinelawn, New York. Their daughter, my grandma, Marilyn Irene Fay-Gardner is also buried there. 

Marilyn died before I was born. I frequently visit her grave. The cemetery is less than 2 miles from my job. When I wasn't working from home I would regularly take my lunch to the cemetery and eat in my car next to grandma. Like so many of my family members grandma is buried at the beginning of her row. 

I really love national cemeteries. I love the perspective caused by the uniform plots all lined up so neatly spaced. 

It is pretty, especially decked out for Christmas but man, it is a bitch to find a plot. Everything looks exactly the same! You can't be like, "oh the stone is white, about so high, right near a water spicket" because there are about 100 of those. They are all white marble, 42 inches long, 13 inches wide, and 4 inches thick. They each weight approximately 230 pounds. You have to know the Lot, Section, Row, and Grave, whatever way the specific cemetery records their locations.

James and Mary Fay are buried in section 2D, grave 704. Their daughter Marilyn is buried in section 2D, grave 1440. So I must have been to this grave before. Look how close it is to grandma. My car is parked right next to Marilyn there. Her parents are 19 graves north and 10 rows west in the same section. They almost line up perfectly on the angle.

James served in World War I. I'm not sure what his service entailed but that is why he is buried in a national cemetery. Grandma is there because her husband served in the navy in WWII.


It's a beautiful stone, isn't it? They are all made of the same marble but not all of them have this marble look to them. Most are just stark white. I love the gray veining running through this one.

I vaguely remember Mary Prince-Fay. She was the second to last of my great grandparents to pass. I was 9 when she died. She lived in Florida and I'm not sure why she was in New York when I met her. I must have been about 7. I just recall her being very confused as to who I was. She kept asking me if I was Mary; my aunt. I do remember when she died but I surely did not attend any of her services or the burial. 

Her name is inscribed on the back of the stone. The serviceman's name generally goes on the front of the stone; and yes, mostly its servicemen. I'm not sure I have ever seen a servicewoman's grave, now that I think of it but again, they all look the same in a national cemetery; maybe I have walked past 100s. Part of the reason I think the man's name is on the front is in part because women usually outlive their husbands.

Marilyn is listed on the front of her stone but that is because she predeceased her husband not because she served in the military, she did not see. Her husband's name is also on her stone even though he is not interred there. Grandpa, well, a portion of my grandpa's cremains are on my bookshelf.

So there they are, my great grandparents, James Aloysius Fay (11 February 1893 - 1 October 1964) and Mary Lily Prince-Fay (15 October 1893 - 17 July 1983). Two of my 31 graves to visit, 29 to go...


Thursday, January 7, 2021

Next Steps in Planning My Cemetery Visits

The first step in planning my cemetery visits to all my great, great-great, and 3rd great grandparents for my 2021 research goal was to inventory those burial locations which I had not been to. Out of the 56 individuals I have been to 25 of their gravesites already leaving me with 31 to find.

I placed all 31 of them into a spreadsheet recording their full name, relationship to me, date of birth, date of death, and notes about where I believe they lived at the time of their passing and where I suspect they are buried. 

The next step in planning is to pinpoint the burial locations. Some of them I am sure I have noted their burial location somewhere, in all likelihood it is mentioned on some document that I have just never really paid attention to. However, there are a few on my list that I don't even have their date of death. For some of them I have searched for years for those death dates for years. Maybe some focused attention will find the details though.

I suspect some of these are couples that are buried together which will help to speed along my visits but don't assume that. I know several sets of my ancestors are not buried together. Why is that, you may wonder. Well, some of them died very far apart in time. Widowed young, some remarried and are buried with their second families. My grandmother, for example, died in 1972. My grandfather passed in 2004. That's 32 years. Grandpa never remarried but he left New York State not long after grandma died. Grandma is buried at the local National Cemetery. Grandpa is - well a 1/5 of him, is on my shelf. Yeah, his ashes were divided among his children that were alive at the time of his death. Mom didn't want her share. She thought it was morbid. So, Gramps is on my shelf. 

I also suspect that several of these different family lines are actually buried in the same cemeteries. I'd prefer to make one trip to each cemetery if possible, rather than multiple visits into Queens or Brooklyn or Canada or wherever these folks are. Some of the different lines of my family lived in the same communities; um, that's how their kids met. And many were of the same faith. Lots of Catholics of Queens and Brooklyn are buried in Cavalry Cemetery which has - no exaggeration - about 3 million burials. So I can imagine some of my father's relatives being buried in the same cemetery as some of my mother's relatives. 

So now I am just going to work through my list and try to nail down their dates of death and then burial locations. I suspect there will be some calls required to cemeteries and emails sent to fellow family researchers.

I'll write about each visit after I make the trip. At that point I'll share the process I took to get there then. First up, I think, will be my great grandparents, James Aloysius Fay (11 February 1893 - 1 October 1964) and Mary Lily Prince-Fay (15 October 1893 - 17 July 1983). 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Finding Unknown Infants' Deaths

In my effort to confirm that I have been to the burial location of my great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth "Mayme" Sharp-Gardner, I found a hint for a death record for an 8 month old child of Mayme Gardner and Albert Gardner in Long Island City, Queens, New York on March 21, 1929. This would have been the younger sister of my grandfather, Clarence Albert "Whitey" Gardner; but I have never heard of her. 

May was born on July 4, 1928. Clarence was born on August 5, 1926. My grandpa would have only been about 23 months old when this sister was born and just over 2 1/2 years-old when she died. I am sure he had no recollection of her, even if he had been big on talking about family history. Did he even know he had a younger sister? He was a quiet man in that sense, never talked about the past. I suspect he lived a painful childhood but also, he seemed to me to be someone who lived in the present. And although others claim to have memories from their own infancy, I surely can't remember much before the birth of my sister when I was 3 1/2. Maybe he didn't know May existed.

My colleague Karen, who I recently coaxed into revisiting her family tree, shared the exact same experience with me today. She came across death records for infant children no one in her family knows about. Not surprising really; families don't generally talk about unpleasant memories and what can be worse than a child's death. I love my nieces so much I can't imagine what the death of an infant does to a family.

The 1900 and 1910 U.S. Federal Census records contain unique statistics regarding maternity. When this data was collected the census taker asked each adult woman how many times she had given birth to date and how many children were living. If you examine those two columns it is alarming how many women lost children. I have seen glaring difference; woman who gave birth to a dozen + children with only 1 living. This type of data does not exist for any other U.S. census records. 

It was through the comparison of those two censuses that I discovered a great-great grandmother had 3 deceased infants for whom I then found death records and visited their graves. That has prompted me to always search death indexes by a combination of parents names to see if other forgotten children show up in records. They often do but I certainly missed this one.

I wonder if my grandfather had more than two sisters now; his older sister Lois and this baby May. 

If I can't find Great Grandma Mayme's burial site I am going to find this infant Great Aunt May's grave, for sure. The record I have found indicates she is buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery. A quick call to them gave me her plot location; Block Forrest, Reference 9, Line 1, Grave 81B - whatever that means. I asked the very helpful woman on the phone, Natalie, if she could tell if the infant was buried with family or had a headstone - maybe Mayme is with her but I doubt it. It is also very unlikely she has a headstone, my family members rarely do. Natalie tried to answer my questions but couldn't tell from her database so, a trip to Cedar Grove Cemetery is now on my list.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Inventorying My Gravesites Visits, Part 2

Today I looked at the list of all my great-great-great grandparents (3rd greats or 3x). Some of them are likely to be buried in Quebec. I am not sure with this present worldwide health crisis that Canada will let me in to wander around graveyards this year but perhaps. One of my 32 great-great-great grandparents is most definitely buried in Ireland. It may be sometime before I get to travel back there. I am not a big worldwide traveler in general. I've driven through 49 of the states and 8 of the 9 provinces of Canada international travel is expensive and again, with COVID I doubt that will happen this year. 

However, although I may not be able to achieve my goal of visiting all of my direct ancestors' gravesites (great, great-great, and 3rd great grandparents) this year, I'm going to aim to get as many visits in as I can. I have some work ahead of me.

The stars indicate individuals whose graves I have already visited in my research.



Sunday, January 3, 2021

Inventorying My Gravesites Visits, Part 1

The first research goal I set for this year is "to visit the gravesites of all my great grandparents, great great grandparents, and 3rd great grandparents; at least those I have never been to before." So today I did an inventory of the graves I have visited of my great grandparents and great-greats, just to see where I stand with those two dozen souls.



I know for sure I have been to 15 of the 24 - and actually I think I have been to a few others among them but I'm not 100% sure so let's say I have 9 to go. As for the great grandparents, there are 3 I need to visit or re-visit as the case may be:

  • I think my great grandparents, James Fay and Mary Prince-Fay, are buried in Pinelawn National Cemetery which I frequent as my grandmother, their daughter, is interred there. However, I can't for the life of me recall seeing their headstone so I am keeping them on my list.
  • My great grandma, Mary Elizabeth "Mayme" Sharp-Gardner might be interred in a family plot I have been to but truth be told, I'm not sure. So I need to follow up on her.
Those 3 should be easy though as they are all certainly buried on Long Island where I live.

As for the great-greats, there are 6 I don't think I have visited. All but one should be in NY. The one I believe is buried in Quebec I have never been able to find a date of death for. I have been to her husband's gravesite in a small family cemetery in rural Quebec. I have assumed she is buried there without a marker but Lydia Maria McLean-Sharp is going to be an obstacle I just know it.

Then there is my great-great grandpa Abraham Earle that I am going to count as having seen his gravesite. He perished at sea on a ship called the Rise and Go which sailed out of Twillingate, Newfoundland bound for St. John's Newfoundland in the fall of 1890 but it never arrived. I have been to his cenotaph; which literally translates to empty tomb. So I'm going to say I did that one.

As for my 32 3rd great grandparents, I am going to have to take a much longer look at those.

My plan is to visit 3 per month, weather permitting; one every Saturday that I do not work. As soon as I make my first visit I will post about the experience.