Monday, June 30, 2014

The Search for Minnie, part II

The mystery of who the adorable little girl with the blond curls in the picture was had been partially solved.  I finally knew her name was Minnie Wolfe, and she was a first cousin of my grandfather’s.  She was approximately the same age as my great aunt Florence, and passed away at the age of 14.  She was living with her great aunt and uncle, Lucina & Titus Decker, when she died. 
Last fall I reconnected with my second cousin, Leeann Coffin, after many years of little contact between our families.  She came to visit me and as, we were looking through old family photographs, we came across the ones of Minne, and she confessed to me that she was just as intrigued by Minnie’s story as I was.  We decided to put our mutual obsession to good use and try to find her final resting place, so we could go and remember her, so many years later. 
Armed with an Ipad and laptop, we set out to get some more facts about Minnie’s short life.  Going on the theory that Minnie was approximately the same age as her cousin Florence who was born in 1895, we checked the 1900 census. 
She was found already living with her great aunt and uncle at the age of 6 in Rensselaerville, Albany County, New York.  Her father disappeared sometime in the late 1890’s, and her mother was left with 3 children to support.  Emma (Jackson) Wolfe must have relied heavily on the kindness of her extended family, as the children, Edith, Adelbert and Minnie, lived with various relatives in the area over the years.  As a result, they grew very close to their grandparents, David and Mary Jackson.  Numerous pictures of the Jacksons with their grandchildren survive. 
The census states that Minnie was born in June 1894, making the year of her death at age 14 about 1908-1909.  A search of the 1905 New York State Census was made to determine her residence nearer to the time of her death.  She was again found in the home of Titus Decker in Rensselaerville, this time age 10 and described as a boarder.  It was surmised she may have died while living in Rensselaerville, and so might be buried somewhere out that way, perhaps in Livingstonville, Schoharie County, just over the border from Rensselaerville.
Next, a search was made of the Find-a-Grave website.  A useful tool for finding pictures of gravestones, it is a site that must be used with caution as not all entries are accurate.  For a visual reference, however, it is the best resource available on the web.  While there were several Minnie Wolfes (of varied spellings) in the database, ours was not among them.  Knowing that every grave is not recorded on Find-a-Grave, we still weren’t ready to give up.  Next, a search was made for Titus Decker.  This time, eureka!  An entry for his grave was found.  He was buried at the Town of Catskill Cemetery, Catskill in GREENE county, NY.  Odd.  The Find-a-Grave entry didn’t contain a picture of the gravestone, rather it had been entered from a source called “Gravestone Inscriptions of Catskill Village Cemeteries, Catskill, Greene County, New York” compiled and edited by Minnie Cohen. 1931.  Checking to see which other Deckers might be interred in the cemetery, a search was made of the Town of Catskill Cemetery for the surname Decker exclusively.  A surprise awaited us there, because there was a listing for the burial of a Minnie S. Decker, 1895-1909! 
So Minnie was buried with her great uncle Titus Decker, in Catskill, a place she likely never lived.  Titus in later life lived in the nearby village of Coxsackie, and Minnie’s mother was a resident of Catskill for many years, so perhaps it was thought to be a good place for her to be remembered.  Knowing the present condition of many of the cemeteries in rural Schoharie County, this was probably a good move. 
The next day, we had planned a trek to visit cemeteries of many of our mutual relatives, so we added a stop at the Town of Catskill Cemetery to attempt to find the Decker gravestone.  We weren’t prepared for how large the cemetery was, and, it being Saturday, there was no office open where we could ask for a plot map, nor was there one available online.  Nevertheless, we started walking it anyway.  Our first attempt on one side of the cemetery was fruitless.  Driving to the other side of the cemetery, which seemed to contain older graves, we split up and started more serious searching.  After about 20 minutes of walking, my husband yelled out that he had found it!  Very exciting to finally see where Minnie was buried!
The final resting place of Minnie Wolfe had been discovered.  Although buried under the surname Decker, she will not be forgotten by her family.  Genealogy is a lot like detective work, putting all the clues together to solve family mysteries is not so unlike the Nancy Drew Mysteries I used to read as a kid, although infinitely more rewarding!
In 2 weeks:  A couple more “Minnie” mysteries to solve!

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