St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Friday, August 31, 2007

It's Raining Kin

The forecast looks promising. Promising for those of us who have been
parched with thirst over the summer. The days where we could quench
our thirst have been few and far between. Is this a weather forecast
or a taste of genealogical research?

When I was younger and my dad's first cousins were still walking and
laughing among us, they took me to see my grandparents' graves. First
on our list was to find the graves. So, we stopped at the little white
house at the front of the cemetery, stepped inside and asked for
assistance. Old ledgers were pulled, dusted off, and I noticed my
paternal grandmother had bought four plots. These plots were adjacent
to the plots of her parents. Then a bolt of lightning went off in my
head. My eyes beheld a curious sight. A stranger's name burned up off
the pages. When asked about it, the red faced cemetery lady hemmed and
hawed, and could give me no explanation as to why someone I had never
heard of before was buried next to my grandmother. But my cousin
could. You see, he told me that there was a cousin of my grandmother
who had died and had nowhere to go. So, she allowed his burial in one
of her plots. Now I had to determine just who was this Austin M.
Brendel who died in 1935.

Census records uncovered his name was Austin McClain Brendel and he
was the son of my grandmother's aunt, Henrietta McClain Brendel. I
placed some queries and started my period of waiting for the droplets
of information to find me. A couple of years later, someone responded
that he thought Austin was his great uncle. We communicated, and I had
a flood of information pouring in.

It turns out Austin was working for the railroads in the mid to late
1920s. It appears he, with a lot of other unfortunate souls. lost most
everything during the crash of '29. He, like a lot of other
unfortunate souls, never recovered. He returned to Pittsburgh, his
wife divorced him and he died. Were it not for my grandmother, his
first cousin, we would not know of him nor of his fate. Thanks,
Isabel, for giving Austin and me rest. I also found his
great-granddaughter who tells me he was considered to be somewhat of a
lady's man in his time, thus the problems with his wife. We've even
uncovered the name of a daughter whose mother is not clear. Did he
have a daughter of which we were unaware? Did he remarry? Did he have
a child on the proverbial wrong side of the sheets? Time will tell.

I turn to the next cloud on the horizon. We hadn't found out whatever
happened to Henrietta. When did she die? Where was she buried? My
great-grandmother's obituary provided some clues. It looks like
Henrietta was living in Erie in 1919. Ok. My cousin contacted some
genealogical type folks up there and we waited, not unlike waiting for
some precipitation this summer. Yes, it was a long and dry wait.

Just this week, they were able to provide us with her last known
address in 1919. The next step will be to contact the state vitals
department, ship them some cash and give them a five year window in
which to search for her. The clues of Henrietta and her kin are
trickling in. Maybe one day, we'll have a storm of info. Until then,
I'll take whatever drops my way.

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