Most people think of the Genealogy and Local History Department at Muskogee Public Library as a place to do their personal genealogy.
But patrons visit and make contact for a variety of reasons. They may want to know the history of a piece of property, including their own home. Landmen often make contact who are attempting to find heirs. Researchers seek information who are working for the U.S. military looking for family members when attempting to return the remains of those killed in Korea or World War II. Historical, factual and fiction writers look for details to make their story or to enhance their work of fiction. More unusual patrons include ghost hunters and treasure seekers.
But we recently had a first when we assisted with the return of an orphan tombstone to the original owner’s great granddaughter.
The only evidence presented was the Georgia marble stone itself. In almost perfect condition, the small and lovely, expertly carved little obelisk bore the inscription:
H.M. Wife of
Born Aug. 7, 1855
Died Nov. 20, 1886
The person making the request had rescued it in the 1970s from some university students who intended to use it as a boat anchor. Using his powers of persuasion, he rescued it from its own watery grave. But this posed a problem. What does one do with a tombstone without a grave? So he stored it for several years until he contacted me to see if I could find where it should be and/or some descendants.
I mentioned the problem at a meeting of the society board and then sent the inscription, not sure if the surname was McCrady or McGrady. Muskogee County Genealogical Society member Mary Downing jumped on it as I also did some research. We did not consult with each other, but came to the same conclusion through using Ancestry’s U.S. Census Collection, plus other online resources. It was helpful that the surname McCrady is relatively unusual.
The H.M. were the initials for Hester M. McCrady. Her husband was David H. McCrady. They resided in the 1880’s in Lamar County, Texas.
The couple was first found as newlyweds on the 1870 Census in Maury County, Tenn. She was also found with several children on the 1880 U.S. Census living with her parents. The 1890 Censuses for Texas and Tennessee were destroyed, but the husband is found with his new wife and children from both marriages in Lamar County, Texas, in 1900. They were married in January of 1887, making the first wife’s death prior to that date.
The Lamar County Genweb site was quite valuable, yielding cemetery listings complete with photographs and marriage records. An index to Texas death records is available on Ancestry, plus images of the certificates appear on Family Search and Fold3. The marriage records provided the married surnames for daughters.
A simple Google search for the daughters led to a personal genealogy page which provided information on her family and their move to Grady County, Oklahoma. Online newspaper databases, Find a Grave, and other resources led to a great great granddaughter who graciously claimed Hester’s stone.
A lot of the resources used were free and available online including Find a Grave, Genweb, and Family Search. Others were databases provided at Muskogee Public Library such as Fold3 and Ancestry.
Free Beginning Genealogy classes are offered at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month in the Genealogy and Local History Department at Muskogee Public Library. Free Beginning Internet Genealogy classes are available on the first Thursday evenings of the month. Information is available by calling the library to reserve a place in the classes.
Nancy Calhoun works in the Genealogy and Local History Department of the Muskogee Public Library. Reach her at (918) 682-6657, Ext. 257.
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