I'd always known where my name came from, but it wasn't until I was a teenager that I began to really think about it more. Margel was my mother's sister, but my mother never knew her because she died before my mother was born around age two of spinal meningitis. At some point in my teenage years, I became very proud of carrying this family name and of being a living reminder of a very special little girl. As a teen, I remember asking my mother where she was buried. Why didn't anyone visit her grave? "Oh, her grave washed away long ago." my mother replied, "There's nothing to visit" I had visions of coffins floating down a river.
|Margel Florence Kennelly|
Calvary cemetery in Evanston and IT'S LOCATED ON LAKE MICHIGAN. It turns out that there was a scrap of truth to my mother's story of the grave washing away - it is located near water. Next, I called the cemetery to find out how I could locate a grave if I would travel there for a visit. The wonderfully helpful man told me that there was a kiosk that I could type in the name, and it would print a map of the grave location if I came during the hours the office was open. Fabulous! Now . . how could I talk my brother into traveling with me to the Chicago area to find her grave? I better get more information about other family members so that I could sell this as a package deal.
I began to assemble a list of Chicago family members and the cemeteries where they were buried. In addition to Margel, I found three ancestors who were buried at Calvary - Margret Kennelly Logan (my g-g-grandmother), John J. Kennelly (her son and my great grandfather's brother who was unknown to most family members), and Edward Kennelly (possibly my g-g-grandfather and Margret's first husband). Then last Fall, when I knew winter was fast approaching and I might have to wait another six months, I talked my brother into committing to a weekend in Chicago. Remember, he does the driving and at that time, had the only GPS. Besides, this would be way more fun if we could share it. This seemed like a good opportunity to also visit with another cousin of my mother's if she was available. We originally met at a funeral and so didn't have much time for conversation, but we emailed a few times, and she sent me a large brown envelope full of family photos, obituaries, and newspaper clippings. She told us that no one in her family wanted them, and she had already thrown some away. I was thrilled. Luck was on our side, and she was free on the Sunday afternoon we would be in Chicago. She would go with us to Calvary.
|Calvary Catholic Cemetery - Evanston, IL|
With a smile on his face he asked if he could help us find a grave. We handed him our map, and he walked us over to the correct area. My heart sank, still no headstones, only grass. He told us to wait, and he drove back to the office garage. A few minutes later he was back with a shovel, a brush, and a long metal rod. Quickly, he stepped off a measurement from the road then took the shovel and tapped the ground until there was a thunk. Using the shovel he revealed a circular stone marker with numbers which indicated the block of graves and explained how we could read them to find our block. Then he started to probe the ground, explaining that early graves would have had wood coffins that would have rotted away by now. It had rained recently and the ground was very soft. He took his shovel and again went along one side vigorously tapping the ground. Nothing, nothing, clunk! This would be a headstone, he told us. So he pushed the shovel into the ground feeling for the edge of the headstone. The level grass showed no evidence of a headstone below. When he had gone all the way around, he knelt down and peeled back the seven inches of grass and dirt to reveal . . . MARGEL KENNELLY. She shared a headstone with her great grandmother, Margret Kennelly Logan, and her uncle, John J. Kennelly. I couldn't believe it. The headstone looked like new. I quickly knelt down and started brushing the excess dirt from the top. It may sound silly, but it felt like I had reached into the abyss and pulled her out. Then I noticed the dirt and roots that had been peeled back. The names were clearly visible in the roots that had filled in their names. When I asked, how we could have the stone lifted, he told us to call the office and they would take care of it. "How much will it cost?" I asked. "No charge." What a nice surprise. As I looked around the grassy cemetery, I envisioned the multitude of stones hidden beneath the surface. I hope others will heed this lesson and check for sunken headstones before they give up like I almost did.
It was getting late, and we had to go. We had a long trip home and our cousin, Kitty, had dinner waiting for us at her house. The grassy plot of Edward Kennelly would have to wait for another visit. We never even checked for any other stones in our block. We were so excited, we didn't think about any others, but I noticed the headstones in the block next to theirs was O'Connor. Hmmm . . . Margret Kennelly Logan's maiden name was O'Connor. Do you suppose they're relatives? I took a few photos just in case, but that is another story.
The search for Margel was a roller coaster ride with a satisfying and exciting end. It was very late that night when we arrived back at my house, but this still remains one of my most emotional experiences. How can anyone think genealogy is boring?
Oh, who is that girl in the photo at the top you ask?? Why she is the third and original Margel. She was my grandmother's school friend at Mount St. Clare college, and so she named her first daughter, Margel Kennelly, after her. I don't know her last name, but this was taken at Lake Delavan according to my grandmother's photo album. This is a special photo for obvious reasons.