Sunday, September 21, 2008

Family History Trip 2008 - Adelia Foy Short Story

In August 2008, I departed Phoenix Arizona on another adventure to locate my family roots. This trip was planned to be a 9 day journey across the plains of Colorado and Nebraska, searching for details of my maternal lineage, namely the Weber, Foy, Wood, Faber, and others. Of course, the trip would not be complete without my trusted companions and knowledgeable experts of the past (ie. my parents), so we met at the Denver airport for the start of a 1500 mile road trip.

The trip was broken up into 3 major stops - 1st around Sterling, Colorado, the 2nd in Curtis, Nebraska and the 3rd in Hastings, Nebraska. From these 3 locations it was possible to get close to the heart of key information sources - county court house, library, historical societies, cemeteries, previous homes and business locations, plus restaurants, hotels, and family!

More details will be plied about this trip in a later writing, but there was one story I wanted to capture as it relates to a combination of factors that has aided me in the past. Call it coincidence, luck, or just plain stubbornness, the fact remains that locating family details is a lot like a detective story - clues lead you along a path and hopefully you "solve" the mystery. In this case, I wanted to find my maternal Great Great grandmothers burial location and any other details (ie. my mothers, mothers, fathers, mother) - Adelia (Arnold) Foy.

Since 1975, Grandma Adelia (Arnold) Foy has been a bit of an enigma. I have had limited information and even less success in locating details on her. In fact, attempts in the last 2-5 years have led to a number of possible clues, via the internet ( etc), but all of the leads have ended up being inconclusive. This was one reason why a trip to Hastings Nebraska to find Grandma Adelia Foy was so important.

One crucial source of information in searching for family history is a cemetery. Not everyone is comfortable in doing this, but with some practice, you find it very rewarding connecting with your relatives and paying your respects to those who came before you. What our families endured in their lives can't be summed up in a headstone with dates, but knowing that they were on this planet adds validity to our research and most importantly, a chance to honor their memories. We knew where grandma Adelia Foy and family homesteaded and based on experience, we could assume she could be buried within a radius of 15 miles. When a survey of cemeteries was computed (from the internet), there were over a dozen in this radius, but 4 looked very promising. It was still going to be a bit of luck to locate the cemetery.

A compounding effect of history is that it blur's names. In the 1800's, farmers did not have a "street address". In fact, depending on the size of the town, if you lived in the "town limits", you likely did not have a house OR a street address. Anypost would be addressed to the person and the town (ie. Bert Smith Hastings, Nebraska). Additionally, people defined their residence based on the township (ref #2) and county, relative to a city post office. For grandma Adelia and grandpa Charles Foy, their homestead was in Little Blue township, Adams county, Nebraska, roughly 3-5 miles southwest of Pauline. The name Little Blue comes from the river that passes through Adams County. However, there is also a town called Blue Hill just across the county border in Webster County, about 15 miles away. Blue Hill town and Little Blue township have been "blurred" in my database so it is unclear which was which.

As we departed Hastings, heading south to find grandma and grandpa Foy's homestead in Little Blue township, we stopped along the way at 2 of the 4 potential cemeteries, looking for Grandma Adelia Foy. We were able to eliminate the first as it was a Mennonite cemetery and the 2nd as it had an index - Foy's were known to be Catholic. The next cemetery location was the furtherest away, located in Blue Hill (town) - this is in a different county (Webster), furthest from Hastings, and as the sun was setting, we quickly realized this cemetery would be the last stop of the day and would be a quick search.

Most cemeteries are small, have limited information about the decedent burial locations and the older they are, the less information is available. As we drove into the cemetery, it was big enough that the 3 of us could search on foot, but it would take about 1+ hour, which would put it past sundown. It so happened that there was a cemetery index, sorted by alphabet and locationally ided - this was a great find. We quickly looked up the surname Foy, but found nothing. A quick search for Arnold resulted in a few names, but nothing triggered anything. There were many other cemeteries we needed to investigate, and this was just the 3rd one so far, so we started back to the car, ready to return to Hastings and call it a day. Mom and dad were already in the car and I meandered over to look at a few headstones. Interestingly, I happened to find a surname that was related to my maternal line (Harper). I remember thinking, I should look at the Arnold headstones, just for potential help in the future, so I went back to the index/map and looked up Arnold again. This time I noticed an Adelia Arnold and told mom and dad that I would like to look at the Arnold site and I may have found Adelia. They got out of the car and together we looked at the map to find where she was at. We drove over to where the map showed us, but to our dismay, there were many broken and illegable headstones - perhaps they were buried here?? The sun was going down and we thought this was the best we could do, but we were eager to expand our search area a little bit more south. Still nothing! We started to head back to the car, when I thought I would head east of this location and within 50 yards, I discovered an Arnold, then another and then there she was - Adelia Arnold Foy.

So after nearly passing up this cemetery, we found her, but without a few hurdles - her listing surname was wrong, the map location was wrong, and the light was nearly gone, but yet with a bit of persistence (AND LUCK), we managed to find grandma Adelia Foy. The wonderful part of this find was that she was also buried in family plot, along with her parents - Oscar and Maria Arnold.

The sad story of her death was common in these times of hardship. In 1890, the banks had foreclosed on all their property, there was a serious drought and many people were losing their shirts. They had nothing and then within 4 monhts, Adelia gave birth and both died. Later, I discovered that the Arnold family had homesteaded south of Blue Hill town, in Elm Creek township, Webster county, Nebraska, so this was a central location for the Arnold's and Foy's. Oscar Arnold passed away in 1888 and Maria Arnold, Adelias mother was still alive.

It was very rewarding finding my Great Great grandmother Adelia Foy as well as my Great Great Great grandparents Oscar and Maria Arnold. Future trips will be made to honor these people and my hope is that I will continue to have the opportunities to share the memories.

Until next time.

Blue Hill Cemetery

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