My Uncle’s Cousin is Buried in My Best Friend’s Backyard!
No need to call the authorities. The "deed" occurred over 100 years ago and under perfectly normal (and legal) circumstances. But, the title caught your attention, didn't it? The story is 100% true, but it is not what I intended to share in my first blog post. My original thought was to discuss how cool it is for a fellow genealogist to have a cemetery in their backyard, how peaceful the surroundings are, and how interesting researching the residents would be. The story took an interesting twist when I started sleuthing.
My first best friend, Kathy holds this moniker since we first met when we were about 18 months old after our parents bought starter houses behind each other in Dubuque, Iowa. We grew up together, were attendants in each other’s weddings, and still, see each other whenever we can.
Twelve hundred miles separate us now, but when we get together we reminisce about fun times, all-night parties, Barbie dolls, and Beatle records. Our passion for genealogy sprouted separately but we swap great finds, discuss brick walls and new research ideas.
So, about Kathy's bodies buried in her backyard. She and her husband Mark live in rural Sherrill, IA in a former Presbyterian church that was built in 1840. It has 3' thick limestone walls, with a 360-degree view of the most fertile luscious rolling farmland found anywhere in the world. As a bonus, the Presbyterian Church’s cemetery is in their backyard.
I admit as a genealogist, cemeteries intrigue me. Who's buried there? Who are their people? What was their life like? The people don't even have to be related to me to pique my curiosity. "Kathy's Cemetery" is especially intriguing, as many of the surnames appearing on the stones are those of Doug and my friends and neighbors when we too lived near Sherrill in the 1980s.
So, I decided to look into the life and family of Georg (e) Gabriel Wetter as he has the earliest gravestone in the cemetery. Additionally, our neighbor on South Mound Road, 30+ years ago, was Ralph Wetter. I was hoping I could find a link between Ralph and Gabriel, who was born in Germany in 1793 and earned his final resting place in 1864. The search was pretty easy.
Gabriel was Ralph's great grandfather. With a little more searching, I discovered nearly a quarter of the graves in the cemetery are descendants of Gabriel. Included in the count are Ralph's brother Carl, his grandparents Philip & Catherine, and parents Louis & Anna Wetter are buried there as well. I discovered Louis died tragically, at age 78, as a result of being struck by a falling tree.
Gabriel & Ralph's family were farmers, blacksmiths, wagon makers, and one built agricultural implements in 1880 using a 14 HP steam-powered engine.
So, here's where my Uncle Bill comes into the story. He's a spry 96-year-old who lives 80 miles from my best friend. So, it would appear that there is nothing to connect the two of them, except me, of course. Not so, it seems that Bill's uncle and a family-reunion-sized group of cousins are buried in Kathy's back yard!
How so? As I was researching Gabriel Wetter, I discovered he had a brother named Georg Ludwig and his mother's maiden name was Elisabeth Florentine Homrighausen. Stop! What?? That's Uncle Bill's surname! Hold my margarita! Elisabeth Florentine Homrighausen is Bill's 4th great-grandmother. Georg Ludwig is Bill's 3rd great grandfather, making Gabriel his 4th great uncle. Ralph Wetter is a cousin, as are about 25% of the people buried in Kathy's Cemetery!
Many genealogists would raise questions regarding the research accuracy of a grandmother whose maiden name matches her 4th great grandson's surname and I 100% agree. One would also not expect him to be a Homrighausen, but it is true. Oh, by the way, she's also Bill's 3rd great-grandmother, but I'll save his pedigree and the rest of the story for another time.