Posted by: Laura Aanenson | July 4, 2015

A Show of Patriotism

Click on the image below to enlarge.

Warning – you may feel your heart swell with love of our country and appreciation for the service men and women who make our freedoms possible.

Happy Independence Day.


Oak Hill Cemetery Janesville Wisconsin – Memorial Day 2015

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | July 3, 2015

Give of Your Local Cemetery

gone graving.jpg

Graveyards of Chicago; the People, History, Art, and Lore of Cook County Cemeteries is a wonderful resource for genealogists, local historians, and lovers of the arts and social sciences.

I carried the first edition with me in April during my Thousand Mile Journey, referring to it before and after every cemetery visit. As soon as I returned home, I purchased the newest edition.

In her dedication of this gloriously revised and expanded book co-authored with Matt Hucke, Ursula Bielski writes in part, “…and all the neglected and forgotten dead.”

I was re-inspired by these and other phrases that summarized the need for cemetery preservation.

As individuals we may not be able to save an entire cemetery from demise. But we could do something.

We could each take just one headstone picture. Transcribe just one obituary. Remember just one family member.

We could all become advocates of the dead by adding a memorial to Find A Grave or another site that preserves our history.

Their history.

We need to do this sooner than later.

Because this

2015 07-03 image 1

2010 photo taken by Find A Grave contributor Sharon (#47194094)

turned into this


2015 photo taken by the author

in just five years.

Go graving this weekend.

Prevent another headstone from fading away.

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | July 2, 2015

Mother and Daughter Share Death Date

Coincidences abound in my family tree.

But this one made me do a double-take.

2015 07-02

My grandmother and her mother died on the same date – July 2nd – 29 years apart.

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | June 30, 2015

The Train Engineer

Legend has it that Gale Cramer gave his life to save the lives of the passengers on his train.

His sacrifice was memorialized in Chicago’s Oak Woods Cemetery:


You can read a little of his story here.

But why isn’t there a news story about this crash online?

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | June 29, 2015

Happy Camera Day!

This is a reminder to celebrate Camera Day by snapping a picture or two – of a loved one, your current vehicle or the place you live.

2015 06-29 Camera Day

Save those precious photos to a place your descendants can find them in 50 years.

Imagine how much the value of your snapshot will increase over time.

This picture of my grandmother and her aunt has become priceless.

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | June 27, 2015

Happy Sunglasses Day!

Daddy and four of his great-grandchildren

Sunglasses that make me smile

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | June 25, 2015

Peter Swanson 1848-1937

Peter Swanson 1848 to 1937

Peter Swanson 1848 to 1937

From the July 1, 1937 edition of the St. Charles (Illinois) Chronicle;


The passing of Peter Swanson of 1042 4th street south Friday, after an illness of several weeks, removes an olden time and respected resident who has lived in this vicinity for nearly 70 years.

Mr. Swanson was born in Sweden 88 years ago. He came to America in 1868. In 1879 he was married to Miss Lena Tolf, and they resided for many years on a farm west of St. Charles. Mrs. Swanson, beloved by all who knew her, for her great kindliness, died in 1930. Mr. Swanson retired from the farm and came to St. Charles a number of years ago.

He is survived by four sons, Roy and Harold of St Charles, Ernest of Woodstock, and Fred of Garden Prairie. The daughters are Mrs. Mabel Anderson of Aurora, and Miss Helen employed in the State Bank of St Charles. A son Harry, died in 1892.

The funeral services were held at the home Sunday afternoon with Rev. Theodore Peterson of Chicago officiating. Burial was in Batavia Cemetery by the side of his wife.

Mr. Swanson was a member of the Emmanuel Methodist Church.”

Peter died on this day in 1937. His wife Carolina is my 3rd great-aunt, the 4th of eight children born to my 3rd great-grandparents Carl and Helena (Åman) Tolf. The information above was located and added to my family tree because I practice cluster genealogy. From Peter’s obituary I learned more information about his and Carolina’s children. And that helped me connect with some wonderful new cousins!

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | June 23, 2015

No Mention of the Children

2015 06-23 02

Headstone of Maria Elizabeth Schmitt’s parents John and Mary Kauffman

“The many friends of Mrs. Mary E. Schmitt will learn with regret of her death, which occurred at her home, on Calhoun street, early yesterday morning.

Mrs. Schmitt was the daughter of the late John Kauffman, the brewer, who founded the Kauffman Brewing Company, and wife of Emil[e] Schmitt, general manager of the concern.

She was highly esteem[e]d by all, and was the prime mover in many ladies’ societies.

The funeral will take place to-morrow afternoon from the residence. Interment will be in Spring Grove Cemetery.” *

Mary Schmitt was born Maria Elizabeth Kauffman. She was my 2nd great-grandmother’s sister-in-law.

Mary and her husband Emile had four known children: Emil J., Carl Julius, Arthur J. and Alvina M.

Only the two youngest lived to adulthood and it appears both were in boarding schools when their mother died on this date in 1896.

Who, I wonder wrote Mary’s obituary? And why, I wonder were her children excluded? Was this typical of the time period?

(As I drafted this post, I realized I do not know the date or place of Mary and Emile’s marriage. I hope to locate this information before my next Schmitt-related blog post.)

2015 06-23 01Mary and her granddaughter Edith (Mueller) Caine share a final resting place in Spring Grove Cemetery.

Many thanks to Find A Grave contributor Lisa Ryan (#47206895) for the headstone photos included in today’s post.

* Obituary source: Death of Mrs. Emil Schmitt. Cincinnati Enquirer (1872-1922); June 24, 1896; ProQuest Newspapers: The Cincinnati Enquirer (1841-1922) pg.8

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | June 21, 2015

1892 Obituaries: April 18

Chicago Daily News April 18, 1892 page 9 - 1st of 3 images

Chicago Daily News
April 18, 1892
page 9 – 1st of 3 images

The following names appeared in the “deaths” column of page 9 in the April 18, 1892 issue of the Chicago Daily News:

Dagmar Anderson

Josephine Albertz (nee Bond)

Mary C. Becker

Charles Blakeley

Mary A. Carten

Charles Cochrane

Mary A. Carten

Mary A. Carten

Margaret Carroll

Louisa Clemens

G. Washington Coughran

Joshua Culp

Paul Dietrich

Baby Girl Deno

Annie Dierma

John Fleck

James Adden Gadsden

Hannah Green

George E. Hackett

Barbara Hepp

Elizabeth M. Higgins

John Huckin

Arthur Jefferson

Chicago Daily News April 18, 1892 page 9 - 2nd of 3 images

Chicago Daily News
April 18, 1892
page 9 – 2nd of 3 images

Luther Wickter Johnson

Henry Lampe

Mary McCann (nee Murphy)

Katie M. Murray

Hans McCartney

Ernestine Matthier

Amelia F. Myers

[Baby Girl] Marsh

James Murphy

Chicago Daily News April 18, 1892 page 9 - 3rd of 3 images

Chicago Daily News
April 18, 1892
page 9 – 3rd of 3 images

Margaret O’Brien

Samuel Pulvermacher

Elizabeth T. Russell

Susan Russ

Daniel Sullivan

Mamie Slavin

Posted by: Laura Aanenson | June 11, 2015

I’m Not Likin’ Lichen!

According to Wikipedia, lichens “are among the first living things to grow on fresh rock…”.

I’m accustomed to seeing headstones affected by lichen. But unruly amounts of lichen tend to be found only on older headstones. Or so I thought until I visited the Mauston City Cemetery operated by the Mauston Cemetery Association in Mauston Wisconsin.

2015 06-09 Mauston Cemetery satellite viewMauston Cemetery is located just outside of town and is divided in two by Attewell Street.

It was raining when I visited and families were paying their respects from under large umbrellas on the Sunday before Memorial Day.

The largest groups of people were on the east side of the street. To be respectful of those families, I headed west (shown on the left in the photo here).

The rain was coming down softly but steadily. The ground wasn’t quite saturated so puddles had only just begun to form.

I quickly realized the plus side of the rain – illegible words on headstones jumped off their granite canvases in the damp air. My camera picked them up clearly, making it possible to memorialize many more of the departed than I would have been able to do if the sun was shining.

But my rainy day thoughts quickly turned to amazement at how many headstones were affected by lichen.

Like this one:


and this one:


Some lichen-affected headstones were relatively new. Like this one:


and this one:


Lichen isn’t exclusive to this cemetery. It’s busy doing it’s destructive work in cemeteries around the world. What’s a taphophile to do?

Remember cleaning headstones is a delicate business. Enthusiastic washing can easily damage fragile stones. I wouldn’t want to risk damaging a stone that doesn’t belong to me in some way; i.e. a member of my family tree.

One way we can be stewards of these headstones is to photograph them before they deteriorate. Adding pictures and memorials to Find A Grave is a simple process and a worthwhile step toward preserving headstones as you find them.

This is a wonderful time of year to visit your local graveyard and virtually stop the hands of time.

And who knows? You just might find yourself immersed in local history, art and sculpture, and the serenity one finds only in a cemetery.

Happy graving!

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