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10,000 Dead People

10,000 Dead People

For several years I have been working on a massive database of, basically, burials in south Logan County. It includes cemeteries from Hurlbut, Elkhart, Mt. Pulaski, Lake Fork, Laenna and Aetna Townships and two in Chester. Elkhart is not complete. I frivolously named it “10,000 Dead People.” Otherwise it gets a bit too close.

It is more than just a list of the burials. Jane DeWitt, who set up the original list, looked up these people in various sources and added information to the basic list. I have reduced it to the number of columns which fit on a landscape page. I have added information. There may be a maiden name, date of death and maybe birth, spouse, parents, cause of death, military, occupation and assorted other information.

It has taken forever to get it into a format that can be used on the web and then get it into consistent columns. I am still cleaning up columns. It is very time consuming. As I try to clean up each row I get distracted. I knew many of these people. It includes people very close to me. Further, as a genealogist, I want to add information. Finally I gave up, stopped adding information and just worked on consistent columns – all the military in the military column, etc.

At this point I am approximately one third done. Rather than wait until I am done I am going to be putting it online as it is and then continue working on it. I anticipate it will be up by January 1, 2011.

I anticipate there are many, many errors. Some are caused by the manipulations the file has gone through. Some are caused by errors in previous transcriptions. Some are caused by using old books with bad or faint handwriting. There was reliance on old histories which, as we know, were not necessarily accurate to begin with. If you see something in the database that you believe is incorrect do not hesitate to let me know. Please include why you believe it to be incorrect. Ideally the final corrected version will include citations where appropriate.

Ideally I will eventually link names to other things – printed obits, photos, printed bios, etc. I don’t know if that is feasible at this point but I hope it is.

Stay tuned.



A common question is “why can’t I find my ancestor’s birth/death/marriage certificate?”

The answer to no birth or death certificate is generally simple. The State of Illinois did not MANDATE such records prior to 1916. After that it is a bigger issue and the subject of a different post.

Marriage records were always required and yet many times they cannot be located.

Obviously, they may not have gotten married where you think they got married. For Illinois marriages prior to 1900 researchers are in luck. The State Archives database, online, free and searchable, lists most marriages prior to 1900. You do not have to know the exact year. You can search by bride or groom’s name, then by county or statewide.

Start your search here:

The State Archives volunteers are working on 1900-1915.

My great grandparents have no marriage record in Illinois. I have searched statewide by their real names and assorted different spellings. I have been to the county courthouse in the county where one would assume they married and checked the county courthouse where his obit says they married. There were no courthouse fires between then and now.

Their first child was born more than nine months after the marriage, almost two years before if you believe the one census that lists it, the 1890 census being lost. [I don’t.] I can think of no reason to hide or otherwise destroy the record.

They married in the winter, Valentine’s Day. There is a formal portrait of the couple, probably not taken on the wedding day but undoubtedly shortly thereafter, before her first pregnancy was visible.

Less than 20 years later he was dead and she was left with four sons. There are court records certifying her as the widow. So where the heck is that marriage certificate?

Perhaps the minister lost the return before he had a chance to turn it in. Perhaps the clerk lost it. Perhaps it was lost sometime in the next 100 years that passed before anyone noticed it could not be found. Maybe they weren’t ever legally married. I find that idea intriguing although if it true I don’t think they or anyone else in the family knew it.

This is one of those mysteries I don’t think we will ever solve.