Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Finding Carl

Location: Bay City, MI

There was a lot to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day -- Thursday, November 26, 1936. The Great Depression had, at least in the United States, just ended although the unemployment rate would take a bit longer to come down. In August, the world had been enthralled by the first live sports television broadcast -- the Berlin Summer Olympics. Earlier that month, FDR won a second term as President, defeating Alf Landon by a landslide. And an exciting new magazine, called "Life," had just published their first edition four days earlier.

So how did Carl and his daughter, Adele, wind up riding around with Frank Van Ooschop in the wee hours of the morning on Friday? Had they had a Thanksgiving dinner and extended the festivities? Was Frank giving them a ride home? Were they going to a new party, or a bar, or out for a really late dinner? Frank was probably drinking, and didn't see the little car being driven by 18 year old Marilyn Shanks. It wasn't Marilyn's fault that she hit Frank -- Frank had been making a u-turn and stopped. She thought he saw her and that was why he stopped; he obviously didn't as he began to finish the turn just as she was RIGHT THERE and she didn't have time to avoid the collision.

Carl died instantly, his back broken and his chest crushed. He was probably in the passenger seat where the front of Marilyn's car hit Frank's car. Adele, safer in the back seat, was treated and released. Frank was seriously injured, as were Marilyn and her passenger.

Carl was 50 years old. He was buried in an unmarked grave, and lost to the world.

71 years later, his granddaughter found him.

* * * * * * * * * *
Of course, that granddaughter is me. I have been trying to fill in my grandfather Carl's genealogical information, and have consistently hit a wall. I have no family documentation for him; there were no results returned on searches including cemetery listings; there are no relatives now who could provide more information; I only found one other researcher online who had him in their family tree, and the date of death they showed for him was "before 1963". He did not have a Social Security Number, so the Social Security Death Index was useless. To complicate matters, he lived in Michigan but was born in Ohio, so it was possible he had been buried there. The location of his wife's grave was known, and he was not buried there with her. He was not buried with any of his children. When did he die, and where did he go?

The Big Clue came when I was reviewing some information on Carl's father, John. In a hand-written family memoir, it was mentioned that John had bought 6 lots at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Bay City for about $83 in 1893. I didn't have a place of burial for John or his wife, Victoria, so I decided to find out who wound up in those 6 plots.

I had no idea where the plots were in the cemetery, so I checked at the office. To my surprise, I found out that there was only one person buried in any of those plots -- Carl! I got the lot number, and the "next door neighbors" from the office, and went to visit the site. Because I knew which graves were on either side, I was able to locate the plots that John and Victoria had purchased -- and there was nothing there but an a grassy plot with a tree growing on one corner! The man in the office confirmed that Carl was indeed buried there, and told me it was not uncommon to bury someone without a marker. He gave me the date of interment as 12/1/1936.

Armed with the interment date, I visited the Bay City Library and checked their newspaper microfilm for week before. I started with the Bay City Times on Thanksgiving Day, and only learned that Santa was now on his way! In the Friday, November 27th edition, I found a front page article about the accident that took my grandfather's life.

I still don't know what eventually happened to John and Victoria, or why their plots were unused except as a final resting place for Carl. But I did find out that the plots were more of a bargain than previously thought -- instead of $83 they were only $28.80.

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