I recently wrote about the unusual death of my 3rd great grandfather. I had hoped the death record might add some helpful information. I was able to find it on microfilm at the BYU Family History Library last week. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a let down. I suppose this record confirms that his cause of death was a skull fracture, that he died in the hospital and that he was buried in Momence. But, I already knew those details. I wonder if a record of ANY kind exists that might shed some light on the unusual circumstances surrounding Seth’s death? It looks like I have more stones to turn over!
In October, my oldest son started his Eagle Scout Project. Guess what?! He chose to photograph a local cemetery and upload the photos to findagrave. Does that just make your genealogy-loving-heart swoon or what?
We chose a very close cemetery. His plan was pretty simple. Hold two separate events – one to photograph the cemetery and a second to work on uploading the photos to findagrave. We knew there would be more photos left over so we made plans for those as well.
It was GREAT!
The day we started our project, the stats for the cemetery on findagrave were 10,568 memorials, 74% photographed.
The day we compiled our data, we could report:
We were able to take 6,173 photos. We were able to go through 3,832 photos.
Of those photos:
1,090 were added to existing memorial pages.
175 new memorial pages were created and photos added.
132 duplicate photos were added because the photo on the page was hard to read and ours was better.
5 photos were needed but couldn’t be added because there were already five photos on that memorial page.
2,430 photos were not needed.
167.25 total hours
After we turned in his completed paperwork, many individual volunteers have continued to go through the photos. Many more photos have been added and memorials created. We still have a few hundred photos to go, but those are being cared for by volunteers.
The day his project was approved, the cemetery stats on findagrave were 10,755 interments, 81% photographed. We are so happy to have helped bump up both of those numbers.
Shortly before Christmas, my son went before the Eagle Scout Board and his project and application to be an Eagle Scout were approved. So exciting!
It was a great project and one very close to my own heart.
For those who may come across this and want more details to help other future Eagle Scouters, I will elaborate on each phase of the project and share a few tips.
- We selected our cemetery by proximity, it was the closest to our home. We could see that much of it was photographed but we chose it anyway knowing that adding more photos and memorial pages would still be valuable and that a cemetery close by would be easier for us to manage.
- We chose a “photograph everything possible” approach for the photographing day as there is no simple way to determine what needs to be photographed. I would definitely do it this way again.
- My son wrote his project proposal and it was approved. He didn’t specify any numbers except for a total number of hours. Unfortunately, he typo-ed or something and the number that was approved was 150 hours! Holy cow. Somehow I missed that until we were about to type up the final project workbook. Thankfully we were almost there anyway and got some volunteers to do some more uploading to push us over the 150 mark. My advice here? Don’t commit to a number of hours, photos, or uploads because they hold you to what you propose. Do commit to a number of events – i.e. one session of photographing, one session of uploading or something like that.
- My son drove through the cemetery and familiarized himself with the different sections, roughly how many rows per section and headstones per row. He noticed which sections had mostly flat stones etc.
- We planned one day for photographing and a second day for uploading.
- We made a flyer for our photographing day.
- We scheduled our church building for our uploading day and arranged for adult volunteer helpers who could bring laptops.
- We tried MANY times to contact the sexton of the cemetery to ask permission to complete our project. We were unsuccessful. It wasn’t a problem for us, but each area is different so be sure to get approval if you can. The sexton was actually working in the cemetery that day and asked us how it was going and was delighted we were working on it.
- This day was announced in church, with my son’s scout group, and at the local family history center. We had volunteers from each of these efforts.
- We planned for a 3 hour window and explained on the flyer that volunteers could arrive anytime during that window. The back of the flyer had a map of the cemetery. The front explained the project, the date and time and included this information:
- Arrive anytime during those hours and help out for any length of time that works for your schedule.
Find (my kiddo’s name here) in the center of the cemetery (see map on back) to sign in and receive instructions.
Please bring something to take pictures with.
If you bring a camera with an SD card, we will download the photos to our computer before you leave the cemetery.
If you bring another type of device to take pictures, it needs to have the ability to email the photos to (my kiddo’s name here) at (my son’s just-for-this-project email address).
If you would like to help but don’t have a camera or device that will work, let (my kiddo’s name here) know ahead of time and he will have a device for you to use that day.
All helpers welcome & appreciated!
- Arrive anytime during those hours and help out for any length of time that works for your schedule.
- My son and I arrived 40 minutes early. We drove the cemetery and looked for signs of a funeral and saw none. We set up a table in the center of the cemetery with four chairs. We had a clipboard for volunteers to sign-in, sign-out, record their total time spent, number of photos taken, email address and camera type. We had pens, extra maps, water bottles, snacks, and a first aid kit. My son selected the first four sections of the cemetery we would photograph and placed sprinkler flags at the end of each row in those sections. The flags were laying on their side to be posted when the row was photographed. This turned out to be such a great help throughout the day. It made communication and completion a snap. We bought 100 flags from a local sprinkler company for about $11 – worth every penny.
- When volunteers arrived, my son had them sign in and gave the following instructions:
- He thanked them for supporting his project. He directed them to the area of the cemetery in which we were currently working. He asked them to photograph all sides of every memorial. He explained that photos should be close up with minimal white space. He asked that volunteers be respectful of any items placed on or near headstones. If they needed to be moved to take the photo to be sure to then put them back just as they were. He explained that gently brushing off grass clippings or other yard waste was fine, but please use your hands. Volunteers were asked to start at the south end of a row that hadn’t yet been photographed, photograph everything in that row including any headstones in between rows (better twice than not at all) and then when they reached the north end of the row they would post the sprinkler flag that was laying there. The flags indicated to volunteers that the row was completely photographed. He also explained that when an entire section was complete, a boy scout would remove the flags from the ends of the rows and post a group of three flags in the northwest corner indicating the entire section was complete. His last request was that the volunteer return and sign out when they were finished.
- I was tech support that day. I had my laptop and downloaded photos from SD cards and idevices before volunteers left the cemetery. We had a scout leader donate 7 iphone 5s for use that day. He is the VP at a local company and had access to the phones because the company had just replaced them for iphone 6s with a handful of employees. The phones were charged and empty. We checked them out to volunteers who didn’t have a device or camera. If I were to repeat this project in the future, I would do this again and try to round up even more devices. This made downloading so much easier as I was able to take them home and do it later that day. We had three volunteers who chose to share their photos after the event; three volunteers who used devices I could not download from and we had to work that out later; the remaining volunteers were easy to work with and we got the photos that day before they left. The best photos came from actual digital cameras but they were often too big and had to be cropped during the uploading portion of our project. The idevice photos would often turn the wrong direction and had to be manipulated before uploading so neither was perfect.
- My son had one additional job that morning that he shared with his younger boy scout brother. They used their long-boards to travel the cemetery quickly to check on volunteers, track progress, and move flags from a completed section to the next section we would be photographing. I was not at all comfortable with their idea of traveling this way as I felt it wasn’t very respectful. But we talked through their idea and I reminded them to ride very respectfully – straight line, no wild tricks or antics, no loudness, this was all about quick travel, not fun. I’m so glad I supported their idea, it made the day much better that they could travel around so quickly. They were able to get back to the center and communicate, check on volunteers, get answers to questions, provide needed supplies, all in a very timely manner. It made the day better for everyone.
- We had a nice stream of volunteers throughout our 3 hour window. I would definitely recommend this method. Some volunteers had only 40 minutes to give, others had up to 3 hours. In all he had 51.3 hours and 29 volunteers arriving and leaving at times that worked for them and 6,173 photos taken.
- My son and I took turns being at the table. One of us was there at all times while the other was photographing a row within sight of the table, moving flags, helping volunteers and so on.
- My son asked me to tackle this aspect of his project. It was definitely the most challenging. I downloaded everything to my computer and then backed it up on my external hard drive. I had one main folder and then sub folders that I named based on who took the photos. This wasn’t to give them credit but to help me and the way I think. I also created a folder on flickr as a second back up. Then I broke the photos into groups of 100 or 200 to be burned to CDs or DVDs for the uploading activity. I also created about 10 digital groups of photos on a thumb drive. That turned out to be really important as many volunteers brought smaller chromebooks that don’t take a disc.
One More Thing
- My son does not like making announcements, speaking in front of large groups, giving directions or anything like that. We knew it was important that he provide the instructions at our Uploading night so we created a video with all the instructions our volunteers would need.
- This was planned for the Wednesday night following our Saturday morning photographing day. We scheduled our local church building and it was the activity for the Young Men aged 12-18 that week. We provided pizza and skittles. The activity started at 6:30. Once enough boys had arrived, we served pizza and played the video. They ate and watched. The timing was pretty perfect. We met in a large room very close to the restrooms so the boys could wash their hands before starting.
- A few things to note:
- We once again had sign-in sheets to track our volunteers and the time they spent. This is needed for the finalized workbook.
- We had pens and half-sheet forms for our volunteers to tally the number of photos they went through and if they were: 1- not needed, 2- added to an existing memorial page, 3- a memorial page was created and the photo was added, 4- a duplicate photo added because ours was significantly better.
- Not all volunteers produce alike. Some catch on quickly and get a lot done, others barely accomplish anything. However, their hours count exactly the same and it’s a good experience for everyone. Just don’t expect a lot and be grateful for what you get. :)
- Having CDs, DVDs, and digital files on a thumb drive met every computer need we had.
- We had a few more boys than computers and many boys handled this well and worked in teams, a few did not and were a bit of a distraction. We had a much larger turn-out than we anticipated. We had 30 volunteers who spent 47.6 hours going through photos. I can’t find the tally sheets from that night but I remember thinking that I was able to go through more photos in 2 hours than all 30 volunteers combined were able to go through in 2 hours.
The Remaining Photos
- The remaining photos have been worked on by myself and several other genealogist volunteers from our local family history center. We are still working through the last few hundred photos. My son was still demonstrating leadership in this part of the project because he included his instructional video on each disc, communicated with these volunteers and delivered/picked up the discs.
A Few Last Thoughts
- Project approval in each phase went well. I have heard that where we live, any project that supports Family History or Genealogy seems to be pretty easily approved.
- The trickiest part of planning was figuring out who to have sign as the beneficiary. The true beneficiary is whomever comes across the photos and needs them in their genealogical research. We tried to get the signature of the sexton of the cemetery but couldn’t ever track him down. We settled on getting the signature of a local LDS Bishop as the project benefits genealogy researchers and the LDS church encourages it’s members to learn about their ancestors and work on their family history. This worked for us.
- We didn’t have volunteers sign any kind of release to use their photos. This should probably be done but since we were very clear on our intent to post all needed photos to findagrave we didn’t worry about having a release form. You may want to consider using one.
- If one of my younger sons were to choose this project in the future, I would make one big change. I would seek out a local historical society or family history center that was willing to deal with going through the photos and uploading them. I would have my son plan to photograph the cemetery and organize the photos afterward onto whatever media item the next group of volunteers preferred and then call it good. The scouts helped on the uploading night. We got through some photos. They had a good experience. I think any time spent on Family History is great for our youth. However, it was a lot of continuing work to keep getting photos to volunteers and track their work. Far beyond what is required for an Eagle Project. Plus, it’s a bit outside of the skill set of most young men of this age and more of the end parts fell to me to support more heavily than I would have liked. The photographing portion is very boy scout friendly. They can understand, explain, direct, and help with every part of that. The photo organization and tracking of which photos are complete, who has discs, what is left and so on, is a bit beyond most boys scouts way of thinking.
Several years ago my sister mentioned that she had come across this newspaper article about our 3rd great grandfather Seth Potter Maffit. I recently acquired a digital image of the article which reads:
“DIES AT HOSPITAL
Old Resident of County Dies of Injuries.
Seth Maffit died at Emergency hospital Friday morning from injuries received on the railroad last Tuesday. Deceased was asleep on the C. & E. I. tracks from Papineau to St. Anne, when he was struck by a train which reported at St. Anne as having killed a man. A party sent back found Mr. Maffit lying on the right of way with one foot cut off, his skull fractured and covered with cuts and bruises. He was removed to Kankakee, but never regained consciousness. Deceased leaves six grown children. His sister, Mrs. John Plummer, resides on Maple street, this city, and a brother, Charles, is a farmer in Aroma township. He was 69 years old and well known in the eastern end of the county, where he resided many years. One of his sons is a physician, practicing in Chicago. He came to Kankakee on notification of his father’s case and had charge of the injured man.”
Hmmmm… Who sleeps on railroad tracks and why?
No matter the reason, what a terrible, painful way to die.
I am interested in the line that states he has six grown children. I only know of five. Newspaper mistake? Another child?
So far, this is one of the more unusual deaths I have found in my research. Anyone else have ‘death by train while sleeping on tracks’? ;)
“The Saga of St. Anne”
This book was written in 1976 during the Kankakee County Bicentennial Celebration.
I have a branch of my tree that lived in Kankakee County, Illinois and the surrounding areas. Most importantly I have a 3rd great grandmother – Esther Brouillette, who is my current dead end – who most likely died in Kankakee County.
I think I know who her parents are. Now I’m trying to prove it. So I am rounding up all the resources I can. I found this little gem in the familysearch catalog and decided to track it down. Amazon.com had one copy and I bought it.
It has some great local history and a very lengthy article on Dollie Brouillette Benjamin. I think Dollie is Esther’s niece.
My new treasure has helped me clarify some information about a family I am researching to help prove Esther’s parents. It has also given me some great background on Kankakee County. I am so happy with my purchase! So far I have skimmed and read certain sections but now it’s time to read it cover to cover and see what else I find.
Hooray for local histories!
I felt so tantalizingly close!
I knew Maggie was somehow connected to the Douglas family. One strong possibility was that Maggie had married one of the sons of Alexander Marshall Douglas and Margaret Young. With this in mind I started researching each of those boys. I purchased their birth records first to get a precise birth date and full name. Then with this information I looked for death records for the boys knowing that the death records would list their spouses.
Slowly I was building the details of this family when I found this death record.
Alexander Marshall Douglas, son of Alexander Marshall Douglas and Margaret Young, brother of Barclay Douglas who lived on Dock Street in Yoker, died 2 February 1910. His cause of death was a comminuted fracture of the skull. He died in Western Infirmary in Glasgow and his usual residence was 19 Trafalgar Street in Dalmuir. He was 31 and a Journeyman Ship Plater at the time of his death. But the big deal, the cause for excitement, is that he was married to a Margaret Tait!
Margaret Tait just might be my Maggie Douglas!
My next step was to get Alexander and Margaret’s marriage record to compare her age to my Maggie Douglas.
Hot dog! Margaret was 20 at the time of her marriage in 1905 giving her an approximate birth year of 1885. Based on the travel document that started it all, Maggie Douglas has an approximate birth year of 1884. An excellently close match.
The last fact I could confirm was Maggie Douglas’ place of birth. On the travel document she listed her birthplace as Clydebank, Scotland. The record I needed to confirm that Margaret Leckie McPherson Dempster and Maggie Douglas were the same person was Margaret Leckie McPherson Dempster’s birth record.
It was pretty easy to find with that big old name. Margaret was in fact born in Clydebank. She was the illegitimate daughter of Robina Dempster and Archibald McPherson.
I found Maggie!
Maggie was born to unmarried farm servants. At the age of 20 she was working as a Machinist in Yoker when she married Alexander Marshall Douglas. She was married for 4 1/2 years before she was widowed. Her husband died in February of 1910 and in October of 1910 she left Scotland for America. She traveled with my great grandmother Mary Brown Young, Mary’s mother Catherine and other siblings. Maggie was traveling to her cousin James Young in Montana. James is actually the 1st cousin, once removed of Maggie’s husband. James is my 2nd great grandfather. Maggie’s husband Alexander is my 1st cousin 5 times removed.
So why all the fuss about Maggie?
She’s not one of my ancestors. She’s not even one of my relatives. She married into my family. Why does she matter?
She matters because I could feel her story. I didn’t know what that story was but I could feel it.
Here was a young woman who left the country of her birth bound for America in 1910. She traveled with my great grandmother who was 7 years old. Can’t you just see Maggie holding Mary’s little hand, helping her board the ship? Can’t you just see the little lot of them – Maggie, Catherine and the children – saying goodbye to their homeland, standing on the deck of a large ship watching the shore fade into the mist? I can see them. Maggie was part of Mary & Catherine’s story. Maggie helped my ancestors make it to America. Maggie matters to my story.
Since beginning my series on Maggie Douglas, a cousin of mine read my first post and sent me an email with the following details:
“When I was showing Mary [my great grandmother] one of the photos of the my grandmother [my 2nd great grandmother Catherine] and family, there was a lady dressed in a kilt. I had asked Mary Costello about her
and Mary said that was probably Maggie Douglas. She said that “she was always around”. She said the kilt (uniform) was her dad’s and that Maggie was wearing it. She said that Maggie moved to southern Idaho.
Attached is the back of a postcard from Maggie to my grandmother. Notice the post mark of Idaho and the date of 1914. I know my dad was interested in contacting Maggie as well and it seems to me that Hamer was mentioned.”
And here is the post card:
“Dear Katie, I have not time to write you I am so busy tell all the folks I was asking for them having nice weather hoping to see you soon Alex & Walter send their…”
Oh boy! Alex & Walter? I’m thinking Maggie may have remarried and had a child. I may have figured out who Maggie Douglas is, how she fits into my tree, when and where she was born and a rough idea of why she traveled with my family to America, but I don’t know the end of her story.
Maybe my cousin can dig up a few more clues for me from the family archive. Maybe the names Alex & Walter and Idaho will be enough for me to find an ending.
I have more research to do!
Maggie’s story definitely has more.
But for now I am so delighted that I finally know the answer to the question Who is Maggie Douglas?
Thank you to pastsmith who prompted me to write this series with her question: “Have you ever had to start midstream, so to speak, in research?”
I’m a big fan of helping others with their genealogy. I love offering help and I love receiving help. We are more powerful when we put our heads together, share our knowledge and spread some genealogy love.
I’ve been a member of the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Facebook group for a while. It’s pretty cool. But it’s a Facebook group so there is minimal ability to organize the help requests and offers. Sometimes it turns into a free for all genealogy conversation.
You can participate in two ways. You can volunteer and you can ask for assistance.
- Volunteers are asked to complete one task per month. You join, create a profile page that explains what you are able to do. People who need the help you can provide contact you through the website. You complete the task and send them the information. Done.
- You can ask for assistance by searching for a volunteer in the area you are researching, find one who can do the task you need help with, message them with your request and wait.
A few things to note:
- You choose your username which does not have to be your full first and last name.
- Your email address is not visible on the webpage. I actually created one specifically for this website just in case, still not a bad idea.
- You can sign up as a volunteer and if you get busy, sick, go on vacation or just need a break, you can switch to temporary status so you no longer receive new requests. Your profile still exists and you can turn it back on when you are ready.
- Everything about the website is volunteer driven.
- Still curious? You can view my volunteer page to get an idea of what you might consider doing.
I think this website is exactly in keeping with the spirit of spreading genealogy love – something near and dear to my heart.
Check it out. Maybe it will help you. Maybe you will find a way to help.
Let’s spread some genealogy love!
Maggie Douglas first appeared on a travel record for my great grandmother. She claimed to be the cousin of my 2nd great grandfather. That record began a research journey that has been both fascinating and frustrating.
In part one, I wrote about the travel record and the details I learned about Maggie. In part two I shared the search strategies I tried based on the information I had from the travel record. Sadly I found nothing and had to walk away from the Maggie Douglas puzzle. Today’s portion of the story is full of unexpected discoveries that bring me right to the brink of finding Maggie Douglas.
Time had passed. I wasn’t thinking about or working on figuring out who Maggie Douglas was. She had slipped to the back of the research files. Her puzzle had become silent in my mind.
And then, last Mother’s Day I enjoyed some quiet research time – heavenly. Even better were the results of that time. I stumbled across a mess in Family Tree on familysearch.org. A mess created by someone else. A mess that prompted me to fully source my, at that time, current end of line individual – James Young. In sourcing and sorting out the tangle, I ended up searching once again for his death record and I found it. This added another generation to my tree, another James Young and his wife Janet Robertson – my 5th great grandparents.
After pushing back a generation I did what I always do, I worked on searching for their descendants. I have identified 8 children. So far I have found spouses for 4 of those children, children for 3 of them, and spouses for several of those children. Among the children of James Young and Janet Robertson is a daughter named Margaret Young.
Margaret was born in 1845 in Renfrew, Renfrew, Scotland. In 1869, she married Alexander Marshall Douglas in Renfrew. The name Douglas caused a little niggle in the back of my mind. A niggle that wasn’t enough to bring to mind why that name mattered but a niggle none-the-less. I spent several days working on learning about Alexander and Margaret. Slowly I identified their children – 9 in all. I discovered that Alexander died at the age of 41 leaving behind Margaret and several living children. She lived 7 more years. At the time of her death none of her children were married.
I focused my research on their oldest son Barclay Douglas because of his less common name. I found a 1915 marriage record to a Mary Cameron Muir. Again with the niggling, Muir – not a name in my direct line anywhere but I have a few Muirs that married into my tree, I wondered if that was what I was thinking of…? I didn’t know so I returned my attention to Barclay. I found him on the 1901 Scottish census as the head of household with 4 of his siblings and a housekeeper. In 1911 I found him living with his younger brother William in the household of David & Isabella Muir.
There was that Muir name again. I wondered if David was brother to Mary Cameron Muir, Barclay’s future wife. After several records I was able to prove that David and Mary were in fact siblings. The proving also established that David’s wife Isabella was Barclay’s sister. A brother and sister from my Douglas family had married a brother and sister from a Muir family.
I went back to the 1911 census and studied it more carefully to see if I could identify any other siblings living on that street. First thing I checked was the name of the street – Dock Street, in Yoker.
And then all of those nigglings came crashing together. Douglas, Muir, Dock Street, Yoker. Maggie Douglas? Oh yeah, Maggie Douglas!
I started clicking like a mad woman opening up all sorts of tabs so I could compare documents and facts. I suddenly wondered if Maggie Douglas was the youngest child of Alexander Marshall Douglas and Margaret Young. Alexander and Margaret had a daughter named Margaret Young Douglas born 1877, died 1878. Maybe they had one more child at the end that they named Margaret? Maybe she was so young when her mother died she didn’t stay with her older siblings? I scoured the 1901 census looking for a Maggie/Margaret Douglas that matched the facts I had about Maggie Douglas from the travel record. No good matches!
And then after a feverish 45 minutes or so I more carefully reviewed that travel document again and saw that it said Maggie Douglas was married. Married?! Darn it, I missed something important again? Married. Douglas? Not her maiden name? I knew Maggie was somehow tied to this family. The Douglas family, the Muir family, and the Young family. But I didn’t yet know how. I was so close. So incredibly close.
Who is Maggie Douglas?
to be continued…