Following the Bread Crumbs Left by My Clarkes

Every person bitten by the genealogy bug knows the danger/value of exploring collateral lines.

The Clarke branch of my family tree is a maze of interesting twists and turns. I often learn more about my Clarke direct line ancestors by focusing less on them and more on the people with whom they have connections.

I’ve wandered back in time over the years trying to determine their country of origin (I lean toward Germany, but don’t quote me on that yet). And I dabble in the present, occasionally bumping into another Clarke researcher, although ultimately their line and mine take us in different directions.

Alfred MUELLER, the subject of my Timeline Tuesday posts, married a Clarke. [Ellen] Gertrude CLARKE to be exact. Gertrude’s parents William Penrod CLARKE and Mary Ella LITTRELL are buried in a cemetery in Michigan. Maple Hill Cemetery in Hartford Michigan to be exact. And that cemetery as you may recall, was a planned stop on a recent genealogy road trip.

It was gratifying to be able to leave flowers for my great-grandparents:

DSCF8072 - Copy

Perhaps I should mention that William was not an only child. He was one of 11 children born to Morgan Henry CLARKE and his wife Susan Hammer SHANK. Although most of the girls stayed in the East, as adults most of the boys traveled from Maryland to the Midwest. And most of those boys ended up in Chicago, at least temporarily. Then one by one, with one exception, they left the Windy City.

When I was mapping our route to Michigan I couldn’t help but notice we’d be driving through Indiana. And guess what? There are a couple Clarkes buried there too!

So of course we stopped at St John St Joseph Cemetery in Hammond to visit Harry Orville and his son Henry O. CLARKE.

St John St Joseph Cemetery, as the name sounds, was originally two separate graveyards. They merged management, but are physically on both sides of a main street in Hammond. (And just down the block from Elmwood Cemetery which is in dire need of Find A Grave photo volunteers, but I digress.)

I was surprised at the size of St John St Joseph (it doesn’t look that big on Google Maps!). Clearly we needed help finding the graves. My prince of a husband went inside the office and returned with printouts and a man in a truck who literally (how nice was that!) led us to each of the graves we sought.

First we found Harry, William’s brother:

2016 09-23 Harry Clarke

Then we drove across the road to find Henry, Harry’s son:

2016 09-23 Henry O Clarke

I have to pause for a moment. Because standing in the cemetery next to each headstone, the names became people. My people.

And then (after taking a few hundred headstone photos for Find A Grave, c’mon – it’s what we do!) we went out to lunch. That’s where I looked more closely at the printouts my husband had gotten from the cemetery office. And realized they provided me with bread crumbs a way to contact other Clarke descendants.

Just before drafting this post I wrote old-fashioned letters to those other descendants, so please keep your fingers crossed for me!

6 thoughts on “Following the Bread Crumbs Left by My Clarkes

  1. Good luck! And yes, I also go down those rabbit holes of collateral lines—sometimes because I hope it will lead me back to my main lines, sometimes just because it is fun and I am always curious about the lives of people my family knew, married, etc.


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