Why would I choose to post the brick wall stories of others? That is a good
question. I am a member of a few genealogy mail lists, as many of you
reading this right now are. One day, I received a message posted to the
Darke County Ohio email list. As I read the message, a light popped on in
my head. I had a similar situation to the author of the message. Thanks
to that person, I suddenly had an idea for possibly cracking a brick
wall of my own. I read the message over a dozen times or more. Finally,
it hit me! What if this story or another story of someone who had finally
broken their brick wall would give you or another researcher the
idea you hadn't previously thought of? Better yet, what if you took that
idea, put it into place with your specific situation, and it helped
you to crack your brick wall??
Well, it is in this spirit that I compose this page. I would like to personally
take this time to thank the author of that message. Jerry, this page
is possible because of a story you submitted to the Darke County,
Ohio email list. Please accept my deepest gratitude, for your story and
for the ideas that it has given me. Not only to break my brick wall,
but to create this page. Thank you so very much!
And now, I would like to begin by telling Jerry's story, as he posted it
to the Darke County List, in his own words. Way to break that brick wall,
Posted to the DCO List by Jerry Higgins
Friday, June 29, 2001
I wanted to share this with all of you , both as a thanks and an
encouragement. To the purists, I know this didn't take place in Darke
County, but for the rest of you, it could, and for you!
Some time back I had located a copy of the death certificate for Thomas
Patrick Higgins, my grandfather. It stated that he had been born in
Gleenwood Ohio. It also stated that his parents, Michael Higgins and
Mary Cogan had also been born in Gleenwood. I knew my dad was from around
Dayton, Ohio so I went looking in that area for Gleenwood. I asked several
people on the DCO List if they knew of Gleenwood. Some offered a town near
Dayton spelled Glenwood as a possible choice. Others searched 1800's vintage
maps looking for a town that seemed to no longer exist. Nothing was found
that seemed to make any sense so I left it lay, figuring someday I would
get back to it, possibly with more information then.
A few weeks ago I located the death certificate of Michael Higgins, my
great-grandfather. It stated that he was buried in Wapakoneta, Ohio. I
was confused, why if he lived in Dayton, would he be buried in Wapakoneta,
some 60 miles away. I left that lay also, hoping that some day I would know
more about the mystery.
Week before last, while returning from a trip to visit my sister in
Saint Louis, we decided to try a short diversion to Wapakoneta to find the
cemetery where my great-grand father was buried. Knowing that he was Catholic,
and hoping there weren't too many Catholic churches in that area, we figured
it wouldn't be too much trouble finding his grave. So off we headed to the
Wapakoneta area to look.
I had not been in that area for about 10-15 years and we were just taking
a leisurely drive up the back way, avoiding the Interstate. As we
approached an area southwest of Wapakoneta that I thought contained a cemetery
we could check, I missed a turn I had wanted to take. I told my wife Kathy
that I would just go down to the next road or so and find another route
going in that general direction.
When we got to the next road I notice the sign, Glynnwood Road. Cold chills
ran up my spine! Could this be the Gleenwood we had been searching for?
It was close to Wapakoneta. The proof would be a cemetery, and there in
the distance we saw a church steeple. As we approached we saw St. Patrick's
Catholic Church, Glynwood (this time spelled with one "n"). Across the
street was the cemetery. As we rolled to a stop in front of the cemetery,
there near middle, a whole row of Cogan's, my great-grandmother maiden name.
We searched the tombstones and while we did find two Mary's, either of
which could be my great-grandmother, we saw no Higgins's. There was one
tombstone that was broken off just below the name and all that was readable
was that whoever it belonged to was an emigrant of Ireland. My family
supposedly came from Ireland! Even though we had found the Cogan's I was
disappointed because we hadn't found a positive trace of the Higgins's.
I took pictures of the cemetery and an old building across the street that
could have been a school. I then decided to try the church door to see if it
was unlocked. It was. Inside I noticed the stained glass windows. I had always
been told to look at the bottoms of the windows because they often contain the
names of the "pillars of the church" that were responsible for building the
church and paying for the windows. After scanning all around the church and
finding no names that sounded familiar I was about to leave. There, at the back,
partially covered by a wall that had been added to enclose the confessional,
was another window. At the bottom, "Donated by Miss Catherine Higgins"! We
were there. My family had been here at one time. Miss Catherine Higgins
had been the person that supplied the information on my great-grandfathers
death certificate. I had found Gleenwood (Glynnwood)!
Kathy located a church news letter that gave names, addresses, phone numbers,
and email addresses. We will be in touch with the church to see if their
church records can add any additional information. I have great hopes
that we will find the trail again.
So, was it dumb luck, persistence, or divine intervention? Does it matter?
Just remember, don't ever give up. Your brick wall may dissolve to a vapor,
just as you make a wrong turn.
I just wanted you to share in the joy of our discovery!
Jerry and Kathy Higgins
Berks County, PA
I obtained permission from Laverne Galeener-Moore to add the next 2 stories to
this page. She is the author of the book "Collecting Dead Relatives". These stories
aren't directly related to brick walls, but nonetheless, there is a lesson here
for all of us. Don't give up on that long, lost relative, he/she is hiding out
there somewhere. With a lot of patience and perseverance, and maybe a little
stubbornness mixed in, you can find those elusive ancestors. On with Laverne's first
story. I regret to say that I copied this story into word and didn't save the
original email. So I don't know when Laverne composed it. I am almost sure she
did post it to the Darke County list.
Marge told us of her disappointment, arriving in Greenville only to find the Garst
Museum closed for the day. Her sad story brought up a happy memory for me. Years
ago my husband and I traveled by car all the way from our home in California to
Greenup Co., KY (after first going to Darke County and having unbelievable success
in finding records). We arrived at the Greenup County Clerk's office on a Wednesday
at about 11:55 a.m., raring to go. I started to ask the lady clerk for records. She
said, "Oh, honey, we close at noon on Wednesdays." I almost felt like pulling out a
six-shooter (although I wasn't so lucky as to have one) and demanding they remain
open. All that bloody way in a cramped VW and they were closing the !@#$%^&*()
courthouse! There was no way our schedule would allow us to stay another day, so we
left the building, with me grousing and unhappy. But when we got outside, we spotted
a tiny library across from the courthouse. Why not, we thought. Inside the library,
as small as it was, they had a genealogy section with local books and records.
I grabbed a book and started hunting for my UNDERWOODs, who I knew had lived there.
My husband, with nothing else to do, grabbed another book. It wasn't long before he
broke out in wild laughter, startling both me and the librarian. He calmed down long
enough to shove a local history book over to me, pointing to a major chapter
entitled, "The Underwood War." Yep! He'd found my family alright, and the whole 20-
year record of their escapades in terrorizing that part of eastern Kentucky,
killing wildcats, horse-thieving, murder, jail-breaks, etc., something I had
never heard about previously. I don't know what genie closed the courthouse on that
particular day, but if it hadn't happened I may never have found an extremely
colorful account of my family history. So if you ever find the major source closed,
you might want to try to find another source that isn't. Just a suggestion.
Laverne's second story is definitely one of persevering, no matter what the lady
at the courthouse tries to tell you! And while the first story isn't Darke County
related, this one involved the late Toni Seiler, Curator of the Garst Museum. So it
does connect to Darke County.
Years ago my husband and I found ourselves at a county courthouse in Missouri.
The old female harridan in charge could have been a standin for Adolph Hitler.
Not only was she ordering around everyone in sight, including some county judges,
but she very strongly gave the impression that her least favorable person on earth
was any form of genealogical researcher. So I tried the "meek approach" and asked
politely to see the death records. When she finally acknowledged my presence in front
of her desk, she firmly retorted that I simply wouldn't find any family records there
because they were only for a very few years since most of them had burned, along
with the old courthouse, in the Civil War. Well, her refusal transformed me into an
equally old female harridan and I drew myself up to full pouter-pigeon stance
and declared since they were public records and I was a member of the public that I
wanted to see the records. She stomped off into the vault, returning with some big
old books, which she grudgingly gave to my husband (who hadn't said a word and was
wishing he was elsewhere). I sat down with the books, bound and determined that I
was going to find a GALEENER or an UNDERWOOD, come h___ or highwater. As my usual
luck would have it, there were no UNDERWOODs or GALEENERs in the books, but I
suddenly spotted a HOUK!!! (not my biological line at all, but close). I said loud
enough to be heard in Kansas, "Oh look! Here they are!" My husband looked at the
surname, didn't recognize it at all, but was wise enough to not ask questions.
There were a number of HOUK records and I asked for copies of all of them. The old
battleaxe said I'd have to go down the hall to another office to get copies and my
husband would be required to remain there in her office (as a hostage) until I
returned with the books. So I was able to finally march out of that courthouse
in triumph, head held high, with a bunch of records for folks I didn't even know.
The story didn't end there. I'd been communicating with Toni Seiler, who was
then Curator of the Garst Museum in Darke County. When I wrote her about what I'd
done, she asked for the HOUK names, explaining she'd been trying for years to find
certain HOUK relatives who'd gone from Darke County, Ohio to Missouri long ago.
Yep! You guessed it! They were her HOUKs and we found they were even connected
Thanks for sharing Laverne!