Needle In a Haystack

cemetery 5Researching for my book (which may or may not be published someday) has become my favorite part. Delving into old records via Google and the variety of internet sources, not to mention old, old family letters and photos, has been like a giant puzzle. Super sleuth that I am, I love puzzles! 🙂 And I hoped I had found that final allusive piece – my grandfather’s burial site, his final resting place.

For reasons somewhat confusing and mostly sad, to say the least, my grandfather was separated from my family in the 1920’s.

A year or so ago, I believed I had found him. It was a simple death certificate written in the coroner’s hand with detailed facts. The one difference was, for some reason known only to him, my grandfather dropped his first name. The death certificate stated his name – using his middle name in place of his first given one, date of birth, place of birth and parent’s names. All were right-on accurate.

He died in Indiana.

It was a complete surprise as we knew his last location before the trail went cold, was Chicago; prior to that Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

How he ended up in Indiana we’ll never know.

But how excited I was! I told hubby the next time we are in Indiana, we need to track him down. I had the name of the cemetery, located in Ft. Wayne.

Last month we had our opportunity. After visiting friends an hour or so north of there, we headed south to Prairie Grove Cemetery. I’m thankful for GPS!

Finally, after driving around little back roads, there it was. Or at least I was hoping this was it. There was no sign, no office, no official entrance. But according to GPS, this was the place. We turned on one of the roads and finally found a sign posted which actually said “Prairie Grove Cemetery Association” so I was excited to know we were in the right place.

cemetery 1

There is a small old chapel on the grounds – built in 1850 – that has seen better days. It appeared to be locked and my research indicated that it had undergone major damage from a fire deliberately set in 2008. Apparently restoration was underway. The earliest recorded burial in the cemetery was 1834.

cemetery 5

Okay, so here I was, surrounded by a sea of headstones and a small chapel. Now what? How was I supposed to track down the actual location of my grandfather’s final resting place? Online, some of the named locations were listed as someone actually went through major parts of the cemetery and cataloged all they could find. But my grandfather was not listed. I assumed maybe no one had provided a headstone for him or maybe his part of the land was not yet recorded. But I knew somewhere – as in all cemeteries – were official records. I had hoped there would be a little office on the property, but alas, no. Not even a caretaker was present.

We drove back to that original sign posted by the Prairie Grove Historical Association and found a phone number. The lady on the other end of the line was very gracious and most helpful – to a point. Her first question: “What year did he die?” 1931. There was a long pause on the other end. Finally the kind lady informed me that there had been a fire in the records office in 1936 and all prior records were destroyed. My heart sunk. I questioned if maybe there was a certain spot where ones of that age were laid to rest? No. Apparently anyone could choose any place. I concluded that was true as I walked a bit around looking at old and new graves next to each other.

There was no way I’d be able to find my grandfather’s grave.

I was sad; I was deeply disappointed.

But then I thought about it and I felt a tad closer to my grandfather – someone who I obviously never met, and that made me smile. I’m encouraged that when I get to heaven and hopefully meet him there, he’ll tell me the rest of the story!

With some peace and the knowledge that I had tracked him this far, we drove away.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.

Trust in God, trust also in Me.

In My Father’s house are many rooms;

if it were not so, I would have told you.

I am going there to prepare a place for you.” John 14:1-2

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