52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Tombstones

Imagine…there was no way to find them. They had simply vanished, ceased to exist, presumed to be heading into a brick wall. Not a clue left behind could be uncovered. No records could be found. What had happened to them? Would their resting places ever be located?

Sitting on this mystery for several years, the genealogist donned her detective persona. Were they buried near their children? Could death certificates provide any clues? What church records might be dug up?

The sought for couple, Benjamin Haffner and Julianna Beason Haffner, had lived in Martinsburg, Virginia, in 1860 (according to the U.S. Federal Census). This was the last information to be found. They lived in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley where General Thomas (“Stonewall”) Jackson commandeered the town’s railroad in June, 1861. Two years later, this area would break off from Virginia and become the state of West Virginia. They were living through times of unrest, unsettlement, and uncertainty…and civil war. At that time, every trace of them disappeared.

The genealogist located where two of their sons were buried. They could be found in a Lutheran cemetery in the suburbs of Washington, D. C. They had unmarked graves. Two of the daughters lived in the National Lutheran Home in Washington, D.C. Their death certificates were located but were no real help. The undertaker in Washington recorded that their bodies would be shipped by train to Martinsburg. No other information was given.

Finally, researching digitized newspaper articles, the genealogist found an article about the Saturday funeral (in 1912) of one of the daughters. The service would take place in Martinsburg. Rebecca was to be buried next to her parents in the old Norbonne Cemetery. Finally, here was a clue.

Unfortunately, the Norbonne Cemetery records were of no help and did not indicate where the family was buried. There were no markers, no tombstones to mark their final resting places. A mystery…a brick wall…information was unattainable. They had vanished into the mists.

Note: I was the genealogist who worked on this family. Benjamin and Julianna are my husband’s 3rd great grandparents while Rebecca is his 2nd great aunt. Will this brick wall ever come down?

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