St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

Search for cemetery records in Saint Clair Cemetery, PA at by entering a surname and clicking search:

Restrict search to


Monday, February 26, 2007

You're Related to President WHO?

There we were. Some of my dedicated distant cousins offered to go the
Carnegie Library with me while we were on an expedition to Pittsburgh.
I thought this would be fun. Together we could uncover more than I
would be able to do alone. Indeed, we did.

One beloved cousin, the one whose eyes remind me of my father, found a
book in the card file. He pulled the book and I thought who is this?
It started out with what looked like the correct information and then
it went off on a tangent about the White House and the 15th President
of the United States being an uncle. Hmm.. Can't be mine.... never
heard this before. But, as any good researcher, I copied a couple of
pages and put it in my files, just in case I wanted to look at it in
the future.

And then, one day, I really wanted to look at that book again. While
looking at some records on microfilm from the LDS library, I noticed a
statement about President James BUCHANAN's sister, Harriet. Hmm..
That name looked familiar. I had an uncle who had married a Harriet
BUCHANAN, daughter of James BUCHANAN and Elizabeth SPEER. Hmmm...
Wait a minute. President BUCHANAN's parents were James and Elizabeth.
Ok. Check the dates, and check the racing pulse. Yes, here it is.
Harriet E. BUCHANAN(1802-1840) married a Presbyterian minister by the
name of Robert HENRY, a son of my 4th great grandfather. And, yes, he
died early leaving one child, James Buchanan HENRY(1833-1915). Now
that book is a gold mine for me. By using the genealogy found in that
book, I was able to track down a living descendant of Robert and
Harriet. BINGO!!! And this wonderful new cousin was kind enough to
send me even more family history, which has led me to several more

President James BUCHANAN is listed in history books as spending much
time with his sister and brother-in-law. Upon their deaths, this
bachelor took in their one child and raised him, along with another
orphaned niece. James Buchanan HENRY became his uncle's private
secretary while he was in office. I also went to a site online about
President BUCHANAN and found mention of his brother-in-law, Rev. Robert
HENRY. Yet a statement there has led me to another brick wall. The
information states that President BUCHANAN purchased a slave from the
family of his brother-in-law Rev. HENRY, from Shepherdstown. I have
family there? Who is it? I regret that, to date, I have yet to
identify this alleged Virginia relation to my family. My inquires to
that area have sent me off looking at slaves with the name of HENRY.
So far, no one can tell me the name of the slave purchased by President
BUCHANAN or the name of the seller. But I shall continue to search. I
would suspect the surname would be HENRY or MCMILLAN. One day, with
patience and a lot of luck, I will uncover this name. In the meantime,
I just have to be satisfied that I am related by marriage to President
BUCHANAN and also by blood through another one of my lines, the
BUCHANAN who was my 5th great grandfather in Lancaster Co, PA.

Yep, I've got ties to the White House. Pretty neat in my book.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Digging Up The Family

Over the years, I have spent a considerable amount of time digging up
the family. Every time we go past a cemetery, my children ask, "Who do
we have buried here?" Yes, my children are used to playing in
cemeteries while I search for familiar names or sketch out locations of
family plots. They have even been responsible for uncovering a name
plaque of a long ago infant cousin.

One of the first steps you should take in digging up the family in a
cemetery is to research the area your family resided in. Look at their
religious preference and look at the available churches at that time.
For example, in the Pittsburgh area in the 1800-1806 time frame, there
are only three church cemeteries for me to choose from when searching
for family. It wasn't until 1806 that the church cemetery opened which
is now the final resting spot for many of my kin.

I just spent some time this week in looking at those three early
cemeteries. People researching the Pittsburgh area are blessed to have
several faithful genealogists who go and survey the local cemeteries,
and there is a central site online to go search for your names. The
downside to this is the lack of extremely old headstones which have
survived. I am fortunate to have in my possession a survey of one of
these cemeteries from 1940. The online list was performed by a boy
scout troop in 2000. Sixty years is a long time for weathering and
vandalism to occur. Many of my early family names are not listed on
the recent survey. So, I took my older survey and sent some names to
the online list. After all, if one is new to searching for cemeteries
online, and doesn't realize these surveys are not complete nor official
lists, one could easily think their kin are not there. It can take
input from many dedicated researchers to get a more complete list.
Unfortunately, should the church not have the records from long ago,
many people buried there are unlikely to be identified.

Another comment about online cemetery surveys is they put them in
alphabetical order. That does make a name search easier and it is
easier on the person maintaining the list. The inherent concern is
you have the opportunity to miss some names. If I had just looked at
the alphabetical names for HENRY, I would see several. What I would
miss are the names of others buried in their plots with them or
adjacent to their plots. Once again, many early families who were all
members of the same church would have their plots adjacent to one
another. Or, they could have buried their grandparents with them. An
example of this is the plot of Col. James GLENN of the Civil War. In
his plot are his DORRINGTON grandparents. A name I would have never
known had I not gone to the cemetery and seen this. The DORRINGTONS
were on the alphabetical list, yet I would have completely overlooked

My suggestion to you is to contact the faithful keeper of the list and
ask them if they have a survey of the cemetery as it was read. Many
researchers do retain a copy of this, especially when they also take
digital pictures of all the headstones. Another suggestion is to check
old genealogical society journals from the region. On the other two
old cemeteries we have looked at today, one of them has a survey
performed in 1926 published in a Pennsylvania journal. How exciting to
see this survey was printed in the order the researcher wrote them
down. Other clues suddenly emerge on names to look into.

Check online, check regional journals, check the old churches and local
written histories. Then go to the cemetery to see who is buried where.
Your kin will speak to you through the type of stone, stone patterns
and locations. However, it you are like me, they won't even get up or
bake you a cake. Even when you've come hundreds of miles to see them!!
Happy Digging.