I love all things genealogical. This (in my opinion) includes old newspaper articles, family trees, memoirs, histories, cemeteries and last (but not least) obituaries. For a lot of us who aren’t particularly religious, death is scary in its finality. I can only hope to live on in my good deeds, my offspring, or the occasional joke I’ve told. Or even better, the ridiculous things I have done. More people are remembered by their mishaps than the good they bestowed upon their fellow man. Poor Bill Clinton — will be remembered by an anecdote involving a cigar.
Enough said. Below is a collection of obituaries that I culled today from online sources, including “Google” and http://www.genealogybank.com
If you google “humerous gravestones” or “funny headstones”, or something similar, you will see that a lot of people planned on leaving one last joke behind when they died. I applaud them! Might as well add some levity to a sad occasion. I have taken the liberty of copying some of the best ones and posting them.
I’m still tracing my Pennsylvania coal mining roots. The Engle family and the Thomas family joined when Charles F. Engle and Anna May Thomas married in 1897. They were married in Taylor, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. The Engles were originally from Germany and the Thomas family was from Wales. Anna’s father’s John Thomas had to sign for her as she was underage. Charles Frederick Engle was my biological great grandfather, born in Pennsylvania in 1874. Anna May Thomas was my biological great grandmother, born in Pennsylvania in 1879.
I’ve had a hard time trying to trace the Thomas side because their names were so common. I found them all listed on the 1880 Federal Census.
Please note that the father, John, was a coal miner. My Great Grandmother, Anna Thomas Engle, is 9 months old at the time of the census.
If you think all of the old documents were this easy to read, please think again. All of the original records were hand written. Patient volunteers have generously given their time and skills to index the records and to make them digitally available.
Below is what the original 1880 Federal Census shows for the Thomas Family.
I have tried to trace the family forward, but the 1890 Federal Census was destroyed in a fire in Washington, D.C. in 1921. The first I can find the family again was in the 1900 census. I found Anna and Charles Engle (married) and Anna’s sister, Gwennie, living with them. I also found William. I haven’t been able to find the parents, John and Mary, or the boy James.
Something brought me back to the 1880 census and I noticed that James was listed as working in the mines. Because I couldn’t find him again in the 1900 census, I wondered if something had happened to him.
The mine accident reports have all been digitized and are easy to find on the internet. I did a quick search and found a listing for a James Thomas, age 14, who died in an 1884 mine accident. I can’t be positive that this is my relative, but the ages fit. His age was listed as 9 in the 1880 census and his age was listed as 14 in the 1884 report — he may have had a birthday.
I will keep searching to find out if this is the same James Thomas. I defy anyone to say that they had a crappy childhood in comparison to these little kids working underground in the mines.
I urge everyone to take up genealogy because it is an easy and personal way to learn history. The stories become your stories and mean more because it happened to your family.
R.I.P. little James Thomas.
I had guessed that George W. Engle’s father was Louis and that his mother was Philipine, but couldn’t prove it. Yesterday I received George’s death certificate, and even though it is hard to read, it definitely lists Louis as his father. His son, Peter, was the informant. Peter didn’t know his father’s birthday so he lists his age as about 60. His date of death was September 3, 1915.
You can learn so much from a death certificate. I had no idea where George Engle might have been buried, but his death certificate lists Washburn Cemetery, Scranton, Pennsylvania as the site.
I also received his wife’s death certificate at the same time. Her name was Martha Carey Engle. Martha lived longer than George and died on May 25, 1928. Their son Peter was also the informant on her death certificate. And she was buried in Washburn Cemetery also.
http://www.findagrave.com had no record of their burials, so I added their names as being buried at Washburn Cemetery. I did some fact finding about Washburn Cemetery. Washburn Cemetery is the site for the burials of some of the victims of the Avondale Mine Disaster. The cemetery has fallen into terrible disrepair and neglect. The Genealogical Society of Northeastern Pennsylvania has been working on doing much needed repairs. I applaud their efforts!
I copied the text below from the Genealogical Society of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s site —
The Avondale Mine disaster of September 6, 1869 united a region that consisted of anthracite coal mining cities and towns. Although there were most likely remembrances held subsequent to 1869, the first two in recent memory to honor the 110 men and boys took place in 1994 and 2005.
The 1994 remembrance was conducted by various Welsh organizations and included placement of a memorial plaque honoring the men and boys inside the entrance to Washburn Street Cemetery in West Scranton. This event was followed by a two-day remembrance on September 10 and 11, 2005 at the Avondale Mine site in Plymouth and at Washburn Street Cemetery.
From 2005 to the present much has been accomplished. At Washburn, grave markers were restored and a remembrance plaque was installed near the men’s and boys’ graves where spring bulbs were planted. Near the mine site in Plymouth a Commonwealth roadside marker reminds visitors and commuters of the disaster that occurred nearby.
Our most recent endeavor involved raising funds for the removal of two dead trees located near the men’s and boys’ Washburn resting places. The trees were removed on April 22, 2013.
As part of our continuing efforts to improve conditions around the gravesites, projects include, but are not limited to, placement of a memorial bench, installation of a Civil War remembrance in honor of the Avondale men who fought in that war and are interred at Washburn, as well as purchase of summer flowers and additional spring bulbs that will enhance the Avondale section of Washburn.
Contributions to help cover the costs of these and other projects are being sought. Any amount is greatly appreciated. Checks and/or money orders can be made payable to Avondale Restoration Project and sent to:
Avondale Restoration Project
c/o Linda Scott
514 Old Colony Rd
South Abington Twp., PA 18411
I googled to find out who has the Washburn Cemetery Records and found the answer at rootsweb. The records are held by the offices of the Rader Insurance Co., in Scranton.
Among the early interments on this plot were 69 victims of the Sept. 9, 1869, Avondale disaster, a mine breaker which caught fire just south of Plymouth, PA; 17 of these names are identified in the source one LDS list. Up until the 1930’s an entrance existed on the east side of the cemetery from Filmore street. As with many other cemeteries, ownership has changed hands several times, additional land purchased for expansion, and problems have resulted from some of these changes – lack of maintenance is but one. Official records are held by the offices of the Rader Insurance Co., Scranton, and are organized by plot owner. This office also handles Abington Hills and Shady Lane cemeteries.
Below are some photographs I found on the internet showing the condition of Washburn Cemetery. The photos are from the Facebook page titled “Clean Up the Washburn Street Cemetery”. If you are on Facebook, you can see more photos. Thank you to the person or persons who took these photos.