When Grave Site Websites Aren’t Enough

When Cemetery Records Aren't Enough

Cemetery Records can lead to many discoveries. With FindAGrave and Billion Graves providing such an invaluable service, we sometimes forget that there might be a few more details in the layout of the family plot than can truly be shown on these websites. I was surprised that my mother left me a terrific clue from her research back in the ‘old days.’

In reviewing mom’s genealogical documents from the 1970s, I discovered one record that outlined the names of persons buried in the family plot where mother’s parents would be laid to rest (in the ‘vacant’ spots on this document). Now, this isn’t the original record from the cemetery but notes that mom created in 1976 after calling the cemetery.

Philip Smith plot in Green Lawn Cemetery
Mom’s Handwritten note detailing information about Philip Smith’s plot in Green Lawn Cemetery

Today, I’ll focus on the head of the family and how this record leads to the discovery of his parents. The following details I had gathered for Philip Smith:

Philip Smith
b. about 1830
d.  1916 in Ohio, last residence was Columbus
buried in Green Lawn Cemetery (has no stone)

He married Catherine Dague about 1852 in Franklin County, Ohio

Philip Smith and Catherine Dague had a  son Andrew Nelson Smith (1855-1933), who I have blogged about before (click here and here). He is buried on this family plot with his wives Emma and Marietta.

The plot record suggested that Philip had additional relatives that the family had forgotten in my grandmother’s generation.

wife:  Mary E Smith (1834-1899)
son: Orlando Smith (1865-1928) and his wife Clara (1869-1927).

In reviewing this note, I initially thought Mary E buried in this plot might be Catherine Dague but I soon realized that they were separate individuals. I wasn’t entirely sure if Orlando was the son of Catherine or Mary.


1870 US Census for Philip Smith in Franklin County, Ohio
“United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M629-NM3 : accessed 2 April 2016), Andrew Smith in household of Philip Smith, Ohio, United States; citing p. 38, family 300, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 552,699.

Andrew and Orlando were brothers according to the 1870 US Census with the mother as Mary. I discovered that Catherine Dague Smith lays buried in the Dague family plot in Smith / Union Cemetery. (I’ve written more about this here).  Catherine’s death date and a marriage record for Andrew and Mary indicate that Andrew was Catherine’s son and Orlando’s was Mary’s.

Ancesetry.com had a member tree that has Catherine and Philip on their tree. This tree was sourced and had a first name for Philip Smith as Leon. I used this as a clue to flesh out more clues. Guess what! That tree was right but neglected to mention how it was correct.

I searched FamilySearch.org for the actual image for Leon Philip’s death certificate. In examining the Ohio Deaths 1840- 2001 which contains the death certificates in electronic form, I found my clue.

Leon Philip Smith Death Record
“Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/F6VG-67W : accessed 2 April 2016), Leon Phillip Smith, 24 Aug 1916; citing Death, Columbus, Franklin, Ohio, United States, source ID 1916 fn 2500, County courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 2,032,535.

The informant is Mrs. Harry H Long. That is my 2nd great grandmother Lura Maude Smith! Lura and her husband Harry Howard had cared for Andrew Nelson Smith for a time after his second wife died. To see her name on Leon Philip Smiths’s death certificate confirmed that indeed he was my 4th great grandfather and had a different first name than I suspected.

Leon Philips’ death record provided me with two more ancestors for my tree: David Smith and Elizabeth Browning. Now, I may have to stop thinking of this man as Philip and use his first name of Leon.

Or do I? My grandfather Robert Victor Zumstein went by his middle name in his profession as a professor at Ohio State University. Maybe I can still think of this ancestor as Philip since he used that name often in his adult life.

4 thoughts on “When Grave Site Websites Aren’t Enough

  1. Have to like the notation "2nd wife?" next to Mary E. Smith. How lucky you are to have this set of clues! And a good post, reminding us to correlate our family's notes and knowledge with what we can learn from the cemetery and F-A-G.

  2. Thanks Marian. My mother never really understood who Mary Smith was. For years I searched for her last name to be something different. Sure enough Mary Smith was her maiden and married last names! But, I know so little about her and why she had a stone but her husband never did.

    BTW… What is F-A-G?

  3. Thanks Marian. If she were still living she'd say, "Ha. I told you I had great handwriting." Yes, I owe my love of genealogy to her. My personal handwriting did not take after her talent.

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