Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Where Leon’s Buried

closeup of Leon Samuel Bean headstone at Oak Hill Memorial Park in San Jose CA
For those who make use of online resources like Find A Grave or BillionGraves, I suppose it’s one thing to grouse about not finding one’s own relative in the listings—and another thing to actually do something about it.

When it came to reconstructing my tracks and figuring out just where Leon S. Bean was buried, I had hoped—in lieu of looking it up in my missing research file from so many years ago—that I could just pull up the record on one of the cemetery sites online.


It turns out that, despite boasting thousands upon thousands of listings—or, I suppose, in BillionGraves’ case, millions at the very least—online sites do not actually have everyone’s listings. In many cases, it is only through the kindness of heart of a veritable army of volunteers that those records are virtually accessible.

Unfortunately, Leon Bean had not yet found his genealogical angel.

With an upcoming trip to San Jose in the works, I was starting to get desperate. I had no idea where the man was buried—except, of course, for that vague memory that it was “somewhere in San Jose.”

San Jose has come a long way since Leon last saw it, certainly—not to mention, it was a lot bigger than when I last visited Leon’s grave in the 1970s. All I could remember of the cemetery was that it was relatively large, and had some nice flower beds.

Of course, that meant I didn’t remember the cemetery’s name.

It turned out that the Find A Grave listings came in handy, after all. I did a search for cemeteries in Santa Clara County, leaving the field for name of the cemetery blank, naturally, because that was the part I didn’t know. And, voilà, there it was: the cemetery name I was seeking.

Of course, I had to wade through dozens of names of cemeteries around the county to find it. Thankfully, there weren’t that many for San Jose, proper. And the Find A Grave listings show how many interments there are, total, per cemetery, which helped eliminate historic or abandoned properties from my search.

So there it was: my target cemetery. After a phone call to inquire whether my hunch was on target, I had my final answer. The cemetery? Oak Hill Memorial Park, once known as Pioneer Cemetery.

Once I had the destination mapped out—the cemetery is on Curtner Avenue, to the south of downtown San Jose—the next step was to carve out some time to drive there and snap a replacement photo of the headstone. This became one of the first stops on our research trip to San Jose a week ago.

After grousing about the lack of entries on those convenient sites—Find A Grave and BillionGraves—I suppose it would be only right to do my part as a volunteer and add this little bit to the composite genealogical picture. And we actually did make that first attempt, right there on the cemetery grounds. Since my husband has the BillionGraves app loaded into his smart phone, standing in front of Leon’s headstone, he tried to do just that.

Would you believe, right in the heart of Silicon Valley, the error message we got back in the midst of our attempt was inability to ascertain GPS readings?! If there was anywhere I’d think the BillionGraves functions would fly, it would certainly be in the midst of the valley called home by such technology giants as Apple, Adobe, Intel, Cisco, and many others. So much for our good intentions.

Someday soon, I’ll hopefully add the information—manually (you know, the old fashioned way)—to Find A Grave. Then, if ever a distant cousin comes looking this way for family information, it will be there, ready and waiting—for the next person who's forgotten where she stashed those files.

Leon Samuel Bean born 1862 Redwood City California died 1928 San Jose California


  1. I can't believe the GPS wouldn't work there. Wow! It worked for me in all the little tiny towns in Indiana.

    Good use of FAG.

    1. Betty, I couldn't believe it, either. We got a chuckle out of the irony of it all...but I did also get annoyed with how ridiculous it all was!

  2. Amazing - technology fails when you'd least expect it.

    Imagine how things would have been different if this Leon Bean was Leon Leonwood Bean? :)

    1. Yes, that name is tantalizingly close. I'm still open to the possibility that they might have been cousins.

  3. Whodathunk? In moments like that when GPS wouldn't work in the most connected area of the world, you just want to look around for Alan Funt.

    1. Now there's a name I haven't run across in a long time! Well, if it was Mr. Funt himself, I'd like to know how he turned off the GPS system in a place like that!

  4. Replies
    1. Yes! On my (almost) old fashioned (digital) camera. At least I still have some level of control over whether that tool works!


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