Just recently, I flashbacked to a childhood memory in which my father had me retrieve a box of belongings from his youth from our attic. Among the contents was a yellowed/tanned roll of paper about two-feet wide and held intact by two rotting rubber bands. He excitingly had me unfurl this supposed relic of family history. We laid it out on the dining room table, using random canned vegetable containers (cans) to hold taut the four corners. When revealed, I saw a depiction of my GGG grandfather's headstone from a cemetery in Delaware City, Delaware. My dad went further in explaining to me that this "depiction" was called a grave-rubbing, and that he had made this with charcoal in the late 1940s with assistance from his mother. He simply placed the paper against the stone and rubbed the charcoal against the recessed inscriptions on the stone.
This truly sparked my imagination to what the real gravestone looked like in "living color" and in context to its surrounding of other graves within a small Presbyterian churchyard. I would get my chance the following summer in 1976, as my father would bring my brothers and I to the actual gravesite while on a trip to visit my grandmother in Delaware City. I guess you could call it my very first "Find-a-Grave" experience.
Grave rubbings seem to be a thing of the past, especially when you think of the ease in effort and instant gratification brought about through smartphone photography technology. Besides, when it comes to the fragile nature and safety necessary in approaching historic stones, taking pictures is certainly a better option.
Last week, our Friends of Mount Olivet membership group hosted an interesting event, a “Find-a-Grave Day” at the cemetery. Now, that said, I know what you’re probably thinking, as this seems like we are the proverbial “Masters of the Obvious” here at Mount Olivet by seemingly putting on an activity a toddler could take part in and followed by like, nearby offerings such as Find-a-Baseball Day at neighboring Nymeo Field at Harry Grove Stadium and Find-a-Historic-Building, Find-a-Great Restaurant, or Find-a-Lily in Carroll Creek in Downtown Frederick.
I know genealogy is not for the faint of heart, but the internet innovations of Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.com, Fold3, and Newspapers.com have been godsends, allowing ease in time and effort in finding pertinent records and information. A giant in this field, and one that continues to grow stronger every day, is FindaGrave.com. Best of all, it’s absolutely free to all web users. This cyber-portal allows one to make a "virtual" visit to specific gravesites in a cemetery, anywhere in the world, as long as said graves have previously been documented by a Find a Grave volunteer.
Once here, the user can gaze upon the final resting place memorialized with a gravestone or plaque boasting the name of a long-lost ancestor. In some cases, you may also find obituaries, photos of decedent and links to other family members such as spouse, parents, children and siblings. The most important element, however, is that gravestone. And yes, there is an option to view the gravestone in a larger fashion.
The internet’s Wikipedia.com gives some historical background and particulars about the Find a Grave website:
“The site was created in 1995 by Salt Lake City resident Jim Tipton (born in Alma, Michigan) to support his hobby of visiting the burial sites of celebrities. He later added an online forum. Find a Grave was launched as a commercial entity in 1998, first as a trade name and then incorporated in 2000. The site later expanded to include graves of non-celebrities, in order to allow online visitors to pay respect to their deceased relatives or friends.
In 2013, Tipton sold Find a Grave to Ancestry.com, stating the genealogy company had "been linking and driving traffic to the site for several years. Burial information is a wonderful source for people researching their family history." In a September 30, 2013 press release, Ancestry.com officials said they would "launch a new mobile app, improve customer support, [and] introduce an enhanced edit system for submitting updates to memorials, foreign-language support, and other site improvements."
In March 2017, a beta website for a redesigned Find a Grave was launched at gravestage.com. Public feedback was overwhelmingly negative. Sometime between May 29 and July 10 of that year, the beta website was migrated to new findagrave.com, and a new front end for it was deployed at beta.findagrave.com. In November 2017, the new site became live and the old site was deprecated. On August 20, 2018, the original Find a Grave website was officially retired. As of May 2020, Find a Grave contained over 180 million burial records and 80 million photos.”
Now to get to the website, you can go “the long way” through a search on the international website in which you will have to enter state and county information. I always choose the more direct Google search engine method in which I go to Google.com and simply type in the following key words: findagrave Mount Olivet Cemetery Frederick MD. Voila, the Frederick Mount Olivet FindaGrave page and search engine comes up immediately and you can start plugging in names and vital dates.
I recommend that you simply type in the last name of a decedent and see how many with this particular surname come up in your completed search. You can also expect different variations on certain last names and keep in mind that if you don’t get the name exact in spelling or additional vital info, the search will likely come up empty. I’d simply type in the first three letters of a last name and see what happens in trickier cases.
You will see the number of memorials that have already been produced by volunteers all over the country, just for our cemetery. This number of photographs taken is mind-blowing as 75% of these have been documented visually on FindaGrave.com.
Here at the cemetery, we solemnly assume that in special cases of interments re-buried here from another former burying ground, we have the correct decedent, along with proper name and vital information. We have our own data system of burials to compare this info to, but have found at times that a Find a Grave volunteer may have made a mistake in his/her information about the decedent. And in other cases, we actually can add to our records the information a Find a Grave volunteer has included. In these latter cases, I have been assisted on many occasions in respect to my featured subjects in these "Stories in Stone" articles.
We had our Friends of Mount Olivet event to make our members aware of the Find a Grave site for several reasons. Yes, we want our friends to prosper in their pursuit of family genealogy and this is a great tool. But outside of personal use, we want to help others around the country and world in their virtual/online visits to Mount Olivet in search of family members and other notable gravesites.
So that brings us to our FOMO event last week, with a goal of assisting those hard-working volunteers who helped create our Mount Olivet presence. We actually scoured both our lot card records along with those of Find a Grave. We found plenty of names and decided to set our primary efforts in photographing statues and other special monuments in an effort we can remove or properly. We wanted to secure photos of memorial pages for friends, family or mere acquaintances. At current, there are 8,586 pages with no stone pictured.
Now mind you, some of our graves have no stones, but the typical user of the site does not know this fact unless it is included on the memorial page. This is easy for us to doublecheck against our lot interment cards. So with this data, we decided to zero in on Area B, a section that has had particular attention of late by one of my trusted research assistants, Marilyn Veek. She found nearly 200 photos needed for this part of the cemetery so participants were given decedent info and necessary grave locations to photograph. Afterward, we had all participants label their electronic image files and send to Marilyn for uploading to the Find a Grave site as she, along with another lead assistant of mine, Sylvia Sears, have been volunteers of Find a Grave for quite some time already.
While in Area B, I noticed one sizeable obelisk-style grave that I was curious in the fact that it had never been photographed for Find a Grave. It claimed the family name of Beck, and had an entry landing stone that read Osborn Beck (spelled unfortunately as Osburn), signifying the fact that this grave plot originally contained fencing or marble curbing. As I have stated in previous articles, lot boundary ornamentation of this kind was removed from most plots back in the early 1900s by the cemetery’s third superintendent Albert Routzahn who instituted a diligent mowing procedure with improved means-lawn mowers. He needed less obstacles for efficiency purposes for the staff and budget he possessed.
I became curious of Mr. Beck’s background, but didn’t find a great deal of information on him. He was born on June 17th, 1825, in the vicinity of Woodsboro from what I gather. I found a baptismal record of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Woodsboro from October 16th of that year which listed Osborn’s parents as Adam and Elizabeth Beck. I soon found that Elizabeth Beck was the former Elizabeth Gilbert as the couple had been married on April 15th, 1812.
This parental information led me to a Frederick County Equity Court record pertaining to Adam’s estate at the time of his death in May, 1847. He died intestate, leaving his wife and eight children (William, Ann (Shank), Harriet (Baker), Henry, Osborn, Ezra, James and Agnes, the last three being minors. The record stated that Mr. Beck possessed “Land - House and Lot #52 in Woodsborough with two-story log house and shop,” a place he had lived for 9-10 years before his death.
Adam Beck worked as a carpenter and son Osborn would follow his footsteps in the trade. Osborn worked alongside his father in the latter’s final years in the trade. I assume that he took over the business at his father’s passing as well. We can first find our subject by name in the 1850 US Census. Here, he is living in the Petersville area in southwestern Frederick County as a head of household which includes his wife, Rebecca, and newborn child, Laura V. (aged two months). Two other young men, both carpenters are living with Osborn at this residence.
Osborn had married Rebecca on March 31st, 1849. Ann Rebecca Gilds was born September 5th, 1824 and was a native of Adamstown, where her father, George, was the local shoemaker.
More children would come to the union: John F. P. Beck (1852-1934), Ida Elizabeth Beck (1856-1933), Fannie Olivia. Beck (1858-1941), and Emily Gertrude Beck (1861-1937). By 1860, the family was living closer to Rebecca’s family in the Carrollton Manor area on the east side of Catoctin Mountain. The Beck family can be found in Adamstown in the 1860 census. Osborn’s mother is living with the family as well.
The early 1860s must have been an interesting time for the Becks as they would lay witness to extensive Civil war activity in the area, including generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson leading their soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia up the old Buckeystown Pike toward Frederick in September, 1862. I could find no record of Osborn serving in the war, and son John was far too young.
I was amazed, however, to find an old article from 1917 in the Baltimore Sun newspaper in which Rebecca Beck took issue with our local Civil War heroine Barbara Fritchie. (This was published the day after her death).
Osborn embarked (a fitting term) on a lifetime of working with wood. Constructing houses, barns, furniture, I’m sure he lived by the famed motto I learned from my next door neighbor, a talented carpenter as well: “Measure twice, cut once.” Osborn doesn’t have much more written about him that I could find in old newspapers.
I found a brief business listing for Osborn Beck in the 1867-68 Maryland Gazetteer and Business Directory among the professionals to be found in Buckeystown. Also on this page was Adam Kohlenberg who served as postmaster and an Express agent, making him one of the best-known residents in the area. Coincidentally, Osborn’s first-born daughter, the previously mentioned Laura V. would marry Mr. Kohlenberg’s son, George Thomas. She too can be found buried in Mount Olivet in Area B/Lot 106 with her parents.
In the 1870 and 1880 census records we see the bulk of the family still intact and living together, save for the above-mentioned Laura. They remained in the Adamstown/Buckeystown area and of note, son John F. Beck is working as a telegraph operator.
I assume that John's sister’s father-in-law, Adam Kohlenberg could have had some influence here. Regardless, John F. P. Beck, also called “Pierce,” in younger days, would eventually marry in California and live out his life in the San Diego area. A memorial stone exists for him in the Beck grave plot here in Mount Olivet, but he is nowhere in our cemetery interment records. As the stone reads, he is buried in San Diego. By help from FindaGrave.com, I found two pages for this gentleman‑one for his memorial stone, and one for his actual gravesite in San Diego’s Greenwood Memorial Park.
From some business listings in the Catoctin Clarion newspaper of Thurmont, I learned that our subject, Osborn, also was involved in opening/closing of graves to go along with the fact that he made coffins. In 1891, he was at the top of the list of vendors for this service.
Osborn Beck, lived in Adamstown until his life’s end on October 21st, 1895. His obituary appeared in the October 22nd edition of the Frederick News. He was buried in Area B/Lot 106 the following day, joining his first born daughter who had been laid to rest here five years earlier in 1890.
I don’t know when the fine obelisk monument was placed, but Mrs. Beck would live until 1917. Two maiden Beck daughters (Emily and Fannie) are buried here also, Emily in 1937 and Fannie in 1941. Osborn’s remaining child, Ida E. Beck, would marry Richard Claude Dutrow and was interred here in Mount Olivet upon her death in 1933. Ironically, Ida’s grave had not been photographed for inclusion on her FindaGrave website page. That is, until now😊
Oh, and in case you were curious, I've got some family history documented in cyberspace. A definite upgrade from that grave-rubbing I saw as a kid.