Finding Ann Terwilliger

There are times when my job as a genealogist is just the coolest, ever. This weekend was one of those days and it wasn’t even to do with my family but I’m still super excited! I have been working on digitizing a massive set of cemetery records that is run by a local church. I’ve been matching up plot purchases to the burial records and then creating Find a Grave listings for the people interred there if they don’t have one already.

One of the names I came across in the purchases was an Ann Burnet Terwilliger who bought 8 graves but I couldn’t find dates for any Terwilligers in the burial records to match. I went out to the cemetery to view the actual plot to verify if they were buried there or if they had sold the plots to someone else, which did happen quite a lot I’m finding! Sure enough, there was a huge obelisk in the middle of the plot emblazoned with Terwilliger. Ann Burnet was there with her husband Granville, her son Alex, and their daughter Anna Mary.

Ann’s body was listed as “lost or destroyed.”

When I came back home, I researched Ann and Granville to link their parents on their Find a Grave listings that I was going to create for them. What I stumbled upon fascinated me! I found Ann on Ancestry with a link to a Find a Grave listing that marked her body as “lost or destroyed” and that she died in South Dakota. Intrigued, I was curious what happened to Ann that made people think her body was missing or gone when I knew she was here in Washingtonville, New York.

I started looking for articles but didn’t find any for her. I didn’t find an obituary either, but what I did find was a teeny, tiny snippet from the Middletown-Times Press on 13 December 1892 saying her son Alex was bringing her body home to Washingtonville for interment in the family plot. According to the family stone in my cemetery though, Ann died a year and a half earlier on 23 April 1891.

From the Middletown Times-Press, Middletown, New York, 13 Dec 1892, Page 2.

So what happened to her and why did it take Alex so long to bring her home to New York? From what I can gather with little bits here and there, Ann’s son George left to find his fortune out West in March 1879. Granville, Ann’s husband, died in 1884. Whether she was living out there West or just visiting, she died in April 1891. So why the large gap in time between her death and Alex bringing her back? A clue might be in the 1900 census where Alex is living with his brother George, now in Nebraska, working as a traveling salesman. Perhaps he was traveling for his work and couldn’t get there in a timely manner. As to what happened to her out West, who she was visiting or living with, and the circumstances of her death, well… I’ll leave that to her descendants to investigate for themselves.

In any event, I’m over the moon that I was able to “find” Ann’s remains that had been previously reported to have been missing, lost, or destroyed. I contacted the major Terwilliger researchers I found on Ancestry and Family Search to let them know I had verified the cemetery records, found the news article to show her body coming home, and photographed the monument in the cemetery. Ann is not lost any longer and that is one of the best parts of my job – reconnecting families with missing pieces.

Finding Ann Terwilliger