Monday, June 18, 2012

Tripping on Research

I never anticipated a photo of me sitting on a stranger's tombstone looking up facts on my laptop, but here's the proof.

Old St. Joseph German Cemetery in Cincinnati holds my Wehrle ancestors, but finding them was a trip in itself.

Our recent get-away was part "live family" visiting and doing research on the departed.

And eating Cincinnati chili of course.

I'd read up on how to prepare for a research trip so I'd know how to be organized and make the best use of my time.  I thought I'd done a pretty good job getting ready -- until we got to Old St. Joe's.  Yes, the office gave us a map and a diagram of the graves we were seeking, but I found it's almost easier to just walk the rows and read the stones.  The papers we were presented didn't match up.  Then, too, many old graves have the inscriptions worn away, so some of those we figured might be my ancestors.

What we didn't foresee is that some graves have no markers at all.  If they're really old, the grass may have long ago covered any trace of burial.  Repeated trips back to the office finally revealed the grassy site where great great Grandfather Valentine Wehrle was interred.  But not by himself.  Appears a number of other family members share the plot.

Then I remembered my ancestors were poor people.  The costs of buying a plot alone probably was all they could afford.

My husband said we should buy a gravestone and list all of their names.  Once we find out who all exactly is in that grave besides Valentine.

In the empty space on this photo, surrounded by visible monuments, lie some of my ancestors from Germany.

My goal was to see the stones of Valentine and Maria, but I'm not sure great great Grandmother Maria is even buried there with her husband.  She outlived him quite a long time.  Time ran out for us on the trip, and I never found Maria for sure.

I also wanted to find my Grandma Clara Wehrle Dean and put that off until last because I knew that would be easy.  Wrong.

Again, the map made it harder.  Finally browsing the rows in order, I saw Grandma's stone.  I knew my Grandfather Frank Dean, (Grandma's husband) wouldn't be buried with her, since he'd been made to leave the home for abusive behavior and then married a different woman though he never got a divorce.  Grandma would not break the Catholic Church's rules.  So Frank was a bigamist.  

Imagine my shock when I finally found Grandma's stone next to a matching stone inscribed with the name Joseph Wald.  Who is Joseph Wald?  No one in the family knows.

My aunt had Grandma's marker inscribed "Mother."  This Joseph Wald person is labeled "Father."

With family history, there are always surprises.

I think someone bought the small plot next to Grandma and put their father there, even though that person wasn't part of our family.  However, I am of course researching Joseph Wald on Ancestry, so far with no luck.  Planning to try Family and a few others.

Also scouted out New St. Joseph, which primarily houses Irish and Italian people.  I wanted to find my paternal great grandmother (Frank Dean's mother), Nellie Cramer Dean O'Flaherty.  She must have been buried in one of the spots where the stones' inscriptions are no longer readable, or she has no marker.  Once again, the map and diagrams were of no help.

 I finally looked over the burial grounds and offered up, "Rest in Peace, Great Grandmother Nellie.  I care, and I came."  I just wish I knew more about her.

Next post will describe our jaunt to Orangeburg and Maysville, Kentucky, and the problems encountered there.  Then I've got history and photos of Cincy where my people lived, always "Somewhere Over-the- Rhine."

All together, I call the trip successful.


  1. that's really nice writing mrs betty

  2. I love that picture of you sitting on the tombstone with your laptop! That is something I would totally do. :)