Tuesday, August 30, 2016

In The Land Of My Ancestors

Some of you may have been wondering where I have been the last year or so. Well, I've been a lot of places, including going through a company sale and then starting a new job last fall. I have not been very good at blogging during that trying time. Probably my lowest point since I started this blog 7 years ago. I think I did at least a couple of posts in 2014, but only one n 2015, and none in 2016 so far.

I am finally back to "normal." I have stability at the new job. Love the people I work with. I now actually have time to take a vacation. And where have I chosen to go? Well, to the land of my ancestors, of course....Williamson County, Illinois. I am on my way to the 2016 FGS Conference in Springfield, which is about 2-3 hours northwest of Williamson County. The first official day of the conference is Thursday, so I thought I would spend today and tomorrow exploring Williamson County, the home of my Marteeny/Mertena, Orth, Baiar, and Millhouse ancestors.

I am here with my parents, and we are going to the Williamson County Historical Society Museum in the morning. I am hoping to talk to the people there about the location of the Lithuanian-Masonic Cemetery in Shakerag. This is where my 2x great-grandfather's, John Henry Marteeny (1884-1956), siblings are buried. He had one sister and two brothers who died in childhood within 11 months of each other in 1882-1883. His father also died in 1884, supposedly the day after John Henry was born, but I have not found his father's burial location yet. John Henry always told my grandmother (his favorite and beloved grandchild) that he wanted to visit the graves of his siblings, but he did not know where they were buried. When he was about 2 years old, his mother remarried, and shortly after they moved to Oklahoma. As far as I know, they never returned to Illinois and he died not knowing their burial location.

I had no idea where they were buried either until 6-8 months ago when I was looking for all Marteeny's buried in Illinois. I was playing with different spelling combinations, and I happened upon them under the name Merteney. From what I can tell from census and marriage records, John Henry's mother, Carolina Cristina Orth, was from Williamson County. Her stepfather, John Brown, is also buried in the Lithuanian-Masonic Cemetery, and has Masonic symbolism on his tombstone. I believe he was likely a Mason, and this is why several family members are buried in the cemetery.

I wish I had more time here to do research here before the conference, but I am happy just being able to fulfill this long-time family wish to visit the graves of the long-lost siblings. I hope to be able to return one day. I found out from the waiter at the restaurant we visited tonight and the visitors guide at the hotel that Williamson County is mostly known for it's outdoor activities and nature, particularly the Shawnee National Forest. I look forward to coming here again for the 3 R's: rest, relaxation, and research.

Stay tuned for more blogging about the conference and more details about the cemetery visit...