Since I already knew that Johanna Flanagan Lee was buried in Chicago at Mount Olivet Cemetery—but knew, also, that the records I had obtained years ago of the names of those buried with her in that family plot would not be something I’d find easily now—I figured I was due for another long distance call to Chicago.
I hated to do that. Not only does it irk me that I can’t find that old file, but you have to hand it to those staff people at historic cemeteries. If genealogy is as popular a pastime as it is said to be, that must mean a lot of calls to a lot of cemeteries over the years. Surely, that could get tiring—at least from the point of view of the staff who end up answering all those calls. Yet, they seem to do it with, at worst, a taciturn grace.
Because I have to tap dance between time zones to fit my call in at just the right time, I thought before I’d get to that call, I’d do some behind the scenes checking, myself.
I went to that ever-faithful online resource, Find A Grave, to see what I could find.
I wasn’t surprised to find Johanna Lee pop up on the search results—with her maiden name spelled in that usual alternate rendering, “Flanigan”—but what I was surprised to find was a thorough listing of other family members, complete with hyperlinks. “Calculated relationships,” Find A Grave prefers to call them.
Someone—the Find A Grave volunteer listed at the bottom of Johanna's memorial page—had taken the time to insert eight of the Lees’ children, all with clickable links to their own page. Following through to each of those pages, I discovered yet more links. It was a chain of connections between one family member and the next, leading me to even more Flanagan descendants than I had been aware of.
I began to realize this wasn’t merely a super-charged Find A Grave volunteer—dubbed “Obsessive Journey,” by the way—but very likely someone related to that line, when I read the comment the volunteer inserted on the memorial page for Johanna’s daughter Lillie:
According to Thomas' obituary, Lillie died prior to him. I think she may have died in Indiana. This is based on the fact that Thomas' social security card was issued in the state of Indiana. Her obituary has not been located.
Okay. Maybe this was just someone obsessed with genealogy. But when I see work from those proverbial kind souls who just want to help the cause, their effort isn’t so focused on one extended family, nor does it generally offer opinions like “I think” such-and-so happened.
The more I thought about it, the more I felt I was staring at the work of a distant cousin and I wanted to connect! There is a way to do so, incidentally, by clicking on the name of the volunteer, listed at the bottom of the page.
That click brought me to a page of this volunteer’s statistics. Though the sheer number of services accomplished on behalf of Find A Grave was impressive, I discovered there was one thing missing. Clicking on the tab labeled messages, which would usually bring the reader to a page where messages can be sent to the volunteer, I encountered this statement:
This contributor has their messages disabled.
I was so disappointed! For sure, I thought, this was the missing cousin I’ve been wanting to meet for years!
If it’s not to be, it’s not to be. Moving on, I pored over the details provided by this nameless maybe-relative, appreciating the listings for at least eight of the children of John and Johanna Lee—and several of their descendants as well.
With my search supercharged and sent well on its way, I bid “thank you” to that unnamed Find A Grave volunteer, and hope he or she knows all that effort was greatly appreciated. May I, someday, in turn do the same for others.