Thursday, December 15, 2016

Not Finding a Grave

I've been searching for and not finding the grave of Elisabeth (Fast) Sudermann #26678 (1817-1892).  Sometimes even when there are a billion graves, you need the billion-and-first grave.  OK, enough of the bad puns.

Elisabeth Sudermann was my great-great-grandmother, and she died near Newton, Kansas, on 15 May 1892, on the farm of her daughter and son-in-law, John and Katharina (Suderman) Thiessen.[1]

Find A Grave says that she is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Newton, Kansas.

Tombstone of Elisabeth Fast Sudermann, #30387659, Greenwood Cemetery, Newton, Kansas.  Accessed at on 15 December 2016.

I quickly noticed a couple things - there is no photograph of the tombstone and no plot information.  Often records that are missing this information have problems, so a red flag went up.  After procrastinating on going out there for a couple years, I decided to go to the cemetery yesterday to see what I could find.

But first I did some research at home.  Her obituaries gave no information about her burial location.  The City of Newton has a really nice search function for the Greenwood Cemetery online, so I tried that.  It came up with a possible hit, Elizabeth Suderman, but the burial date of 13 January 1898, didn't agree with the burial date of 19 May 1892 in her obituary.
Search for "Suderman" at on 15 December 2016
When I clicked on the link for her name, I got an age of 60 years, 11 months, which would mean a birth date of about 1837, and I was hoping for 1817, so it's not getting any better.
But it gave me a plot number, so I could go out there and easily find the grave.

Using the same process, I did find her son-in-law, Jacob Thiessen, with whom she was living when she died.  I know it's him because his death date and age match and because he was a member at 1st Mennonite in Newton, which used the Greenwood Cemetery.  He was buried on 1 August 1910, in plot 1st Addition 12-30-5, so at least I know that the family did use the cemetery.

Then I went to the cemetery, and the sexton was very helpful.  We looked in the index book and found the same information as I had found online.  But he also had a card index that showed all the burials in a lot.
Index card, First Addition 5-29, Greenwood Cemetery, Newton, Kansas.
So the Elizabeth Suderman whom I found in the online index was buried in plot #8 (circled in red), along with what turns out to be her son and husband.  The top of Abraham Sudermann's tombstone had his parents' information on it.  I took a picture, but the tombstone was really worn, and it was cold and windy (enough excuses for the bad photo).  But the transcription says, "Elizabeth Sudermann geb. Ediger Jan. 21, 1837 - gest. Jan. 12, 1898."  "Geb." is geboren or born, and "gest." is gestorben or died in German.
Tombstone of Elizabeth Sudermann, died 12 January 1898, Greenwood Cemetery, Newton, Kansas, 1st Addition, plot 5-29-8A, photo by author on 14 December 2016.
She turned out to be Elisabeth Ediger, #104305 in Grandma, and her husband was Herrmann Sudermann, whose inscription is just above hers on the tombstone.  According to Grandma, these Sudermans are not related to my Sudermans.

I found all the people who were buried in this plot in Grandma, as well as those in her son-in-law Jacob Thiessen's plot.  None of them, other than Jacob Thiessen, were related.  I'm guessing that someone confused the Elisabeth (Ediger) Sudermann who is buried here with my Elisabeth (Fast) Sudermann.

The only thing that gives me pause is a little note in the lower righthand corner of the index card (circled in blue) that says (I think), "Space 5? POEncl 2/5/92."  Since my Elisabeth Sudermann died in 1892, could this be a possible reference to her?  I doubt it since I don't see a name, and the date is 5 February 1892, which is not the same as her burial date of 19 May 1892.  But I can't be sure.

What next?  I sent an e-mail to First Mennonite in Newton, where her daughter was a member.  Since she was living with her daughter when she died, perhaps they have more information.  I also want to go to the Harvey County courthouse to find the land records for Jacob Thiessen so that I can find exactly where their farm was - perhaps she was buried on the farm, which was a common practice in the early years after immigration.

[1] Johann J. Sudermann and Maria Sudermann, Letter to the Editor, Mennonitische Rundschau und Herold der Wahrheit, Elkhart, Indiana, 25 May 1892, p.1, held by Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

1 comment:

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