IN THIS EDITION -- April 18, 2002

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Digging Up a Mystery in Kentucky

Construction workers unearthed a mysterious graveyard while clearing a Frankfort, Ky., city block for a new government building. More than 160 sets of remains were found on the site, just blocks from the former state Capitol, according to the Associated Press. The graves are not marked, and there are no known records or oral histories of a cemetery in the area. Archaeologists say the remains may date back to 1850 or even 1800, and could be the bodies of state penitentiary inmates, cholera victims or paupers. The remains will be cleaned, cataloged and analyzed at the University of Kentucky before being reburied.
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Take a Ride through Chicago History

Chicago residents probably don't think twice about what they see as they ride the "El," or elevated train, to work or home each day. But the Chicago Historical Society is offering a new guided tour on the El to show how it is a window on Chicago's history. "Life Along the El" is a series of guided tours aboard the Chicago Transit Authority's Ravenswood Brown Line, one of the oldest continuing lines in the city. From the downtown Loop through a dozen neighborhoods, the tour highlights architectural landmarks, key historical events, patterns of ethnic settlement and individuals who played an important role in Chicago's history. The two-hour Sunday afternoon tours run through July 2. For more information or to reserve your seat for "Life Along the El," call (312) 642-4600.
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Orphan Train Origins

 

This week's tip comes from Jane Santini:

"Many years ago when I started researching the family of one of my great-grandmothers (who resided in Wisconsin), I was told that she had been an orphan after both of her parents died in New York and that she had been adopted by another family. I always wondered how she happened to end up in Wisconsin if she was born in New York. One day while watching a television documentary on orphan trains, it suddenly clicked. She had to have been one of the orphan train children. I did some research and wrote a letter to the New York Foundling Hospital in New York City. Sure enough, I received a letter from them stating that my great-grandmother was in their care. They gave me her birth date, when she was brought to the hospital, date and place of baptism, and the date and name of the family who adopted her.

"She was, indeed, one of the many children sent on the trains to be placed with families out west. She had been brought to the hospital by her mother, but her mother didn't give them her own name, so I've hit the 'brick wall' there. There have been some success stories where these children were eventually connected with their other brothers and sisters. Today I am a member of the Orphan Train Heritage Society of America (OTHSA), which preserves the history of the mass relocation of the orphan train children. From 1854 until 1929, more than 150,000 orphaned, abandoned and homeless children were taken aboard trains, traveled west and were placed in new homes. If you suspect one of your ancestors may have been relocated this way, write the Orphan Train Heritage Society of America at 614 E. Emma Ave., Suite 115, Springdale, AR 72764 or visit www.orphantrainriders.com."

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Veterans Cemeteries

 

Soldiers who died prior to the Civil War were buried either in cemetery plots on posts and forts or right where the death occurred. Even after the Civil War, soldiers of the Regular Army, Union Army, and some Confederate Army and their family members were buried on military installations. Many of the remains were removed, however, to a national cemetery. Check the National Archives microfilm publication M2014, Burial Records for Military Posts, Camps, and Stations, 1768-1921. This two-volume register, part of the Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, Record Group 92, was based on each post's burial records or grave markers. Although there are some entries for 18th-century graves, most of the burials occurred between 1860 and 1890. Arranged by military post and rough chronological order of burials, you'll find name, rank, company, regiment, date of death, location of grave (section and number) and remarks, which may include the cause of death or a civilian's relationship to the soldier.

On July 17, 1862, Congress enacted legislation authorizing the purchase of land to be used as national cemeteries "for soldiers who shall have died in the service of the country." In that year, 14 national cemeteries were established:

* Alexandria-Alexandria, Va.
* Annapolis-Annapolis, Md.
* Antietam-Sharpsburg, Md.
* Camp Butler-Springfield, Ill.
* Cypress Hills-Brooklyn, NY
* Danville-Danville, Ky.
* Fort Leavenworth-Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
* Fort Scott-Fort Scott, Kan.
* Keokuk-Keokuk, Iowa
* Loudon Park-Baltimore, Md.
* Mill Springs-Nancy, Ky.
* New Albany-New Albany, Ind.
* Philadelphia-Philadelphia, Pa.
* Soldiers Home-Washington, DC

There are presently 119 national cemeteries in 39 states (and Puerto Rico), with more than 2 million Americans from every war-the Revolutionary War to the Gulf War-buried there. For a list of these cemeteries, go to the National Cemetery Administration Web site at www.cem.va.gov/listcem.htm. Additionally, the Veterans Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act of 1999 requires the Veterans Administration to establish six more national cemeteries in these cities and states: Atlanta, Ga.; Detroit, Mich.; Miami, Fla.; Sacramento, Calif.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Oklahoma City, Okla.

-Excerpted from Your Guide to Cemetery Research by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, $19.99. Reprinted here with permission from the publisher, Betterway Books. Available in bookstores or online at www.familytreemagazine.com/store/display.asp?id=70527.