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.

Kathy's House, AKA Sherrill Presbyterian Church
Church Entrance
Sherrill Presbyterian Church Cemetery

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.

Georg(e) Gabriel Wetter
Georg(e) Gabriel Wetter, son of Georg Ludwig & Elisabeth Florentine Homrighausen Wetter

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.

My Uncle Bill
My Uncle Bill

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.


  1. Erin on January 12, 2022 at 1:54 AM

    Amazing story that I never knew, how cool!

  2. Ben Freeman on January 12, 2022 at 2:19 AM

    I love this story!
    I am into genealogy too.
    Got the tree back 400 years.
    But I am stuck on finding out one thing, my maternal grandparents marriage license.
    There is a story there I suspect.
    Tried the online sources, no luck.
    Any advice is appreciated.
    Ben, from Daily Walk class!

    • Cindy Foster on January 12, 2022 at 2:40 AM

      Hey Ben, glad you enjoyed the post. Go to the About page and send me a message with details and I may be able to help!

  3. Ann Dieringer on January 12, 2022 at 2:54 AM

    Love this! What a fabulous ‘graduation’ project. So interesting. Can’t wait to read more!

  4. Cindy Luttrell on January 12, 2022 at 3:01 AM

    Great story! Keep it up, and let me know details of genealogy course. I got my ancestry profile back and have some interesting news!

    • Cindy Foster on January 12, 2022 at 3:13 AM

      I look forward to digging deeper with you. 😉

  5. Anne Richardson on January 12, 2022 at 4:39 PM

    I really enjoyed your story! Cemeteries can tell us so much about the earliest settlers of an area. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Pam Lynn on January 12, 2022 at 6:09 PM

    Great story! I love your style! It was fun and interesting! And that’s a great picture of Uncle Bill!

  7. John Fleming on January 12, 2022 at 7:28 PM

    I love the story and thought it was very interesting and amazing that your uncle was related to most of the people in the grave yard.

  8. B Thompson on January 17, 2022 at 3:40 PM

    We share our inquisitive natures Cindy. Love your writing style…looking forward to learning more from you!

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