Friday, September 3, 2010

Finding Granduncle Nelson: Another Find A Grave Favorite Find

NELSON A. TOWNSEND 1905 - 1980

My paternal granduncle, son of Andrew Melvin & Mary Ellen Lucretia Owen Townsend
Fairview Cemetery, Fayette Co., Illinois
Nelson's mother died when Nelson was about five months old. His father, probably feeling he could not care for a such a young baby, adopted Nelson out to his wife's brother, Benjamin McClelland Owen and his wife Sarah Josephine Sapp. This was the story told to me by my cousin Sharon Gerth and later the story was confirmed when I found Nelson living with his aunt and uncle in Fayette Co., Illinois in the 1910 and 1920 census. The Townsends had lived in Fayette Co., for several generations.

Nelson had four older siblings, one was my grandmother Illinois "Noy" Townsend Wallen. She was four and a half years old when her mother died. My dad had stories about his mother's siblings, all except Nelson. Cousin Sharon didn't know much about Nelson either and she lived with my grandmother for a good many years so maybe my grandmother lost track of her brother. Could it have been because he grew up in his Uncle's household? I feel certain there must be a story behind this apparent lack of relationship although it could be that Nelson simply found work away from family and was unable to return home often.

Over the years I had been unable to discover much information on Nelson. Did he marry, have children? Cousin Sharon thought he married someone named "Ann". I did find  an "Andrew N." Townsend in Cooke Co., Illinois in the 1930 census which showed a man of his age and birth place as married to "Helen" and with two young boys. Parents birth places were right. And I'd fully expect the "A" initial of his middle name to be "Andrew" after his father, but nothing concrete there.

Years ago, I found a listing in the Social Security Death Index that I thought might be Nelson, but this man was in Buckner, Jackson Co., Missouri when he died and so I wasn't sure. I kept the information in my notes, just in case.

Well, just yesterday I was filling in information on my Townsend Family listed on and was in the middle of adding their pages to the virtual cemetery I'd created for them when, to my surprise, I suddenly noticed Nelson's name among the few listings of Townsends in the Fairview Cemetery. It wasn't there before! I checked the date: August 2010! A new listing! Apparently when I put in a request for someone to photograph the tombstones of my great grandparents (which I knew were there because of listings with the Fayette County Genealogical & Historical Society in Vandalia, IL) the same guy that filled that request, also photographed Nelson's tombstone which was a later burial and would not have been included in the historical listing! The dates on the stone confirmed the SSDI listing for Buckner, MO. so now I have Nelson's exact dates of birth and death and I know where he was last living. Oh, and another surprising clue, Nelson was also a Mason according to the symbol on his tombstone!

I still don't know if Nelson had a family so there's more work to be done. I envy young genealogists who have living grandparents. All the times I tell myself I should have started this "way back when"....shoulda, coulda, woulda......

Tombstone photo courtesy of Find A Grave contributor Gary Feezel


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