Tag Archives: Restoration

Teddy’s Story: Decoding the kanji stones

This week’s guest post comes from Kristy Lommen whose website serves as a tribute to the Auburn area’s Japanese communities, both past and present. Over the past year, Ms. Lommen worked with Yoshiko Kato to decode as many of kanji stones as possible before they faded away. Here is one of their discoveries:

Photo courtesy Kristy Lommen

When Yoshiko Kato visited the cemetery to translate the kanji stones, I was particularly excited when she reached the fourth marker in the first row. Although the family surnames had been previously translated from most of the stones, this particular stone was marked on our transcript with only a mysterious, black question mark. We had, at that time, not even the least idea who might be buried in that grave.

Yoshiko kneeled in front of the marker, leaning forward and backward alternately in order to make sense of the nearly illegible marks. She resorted to using a finger to attempt to trace the kanji, gleaning by feel information that proved to be too faint to read by eye.

At this fourth stone she almost immediately announced that “Sato” was the family name, but the given name seemed to puzzle her. She was expecting a traditional Japanese name, but after studying the writing for some time, she reached a different conclusion. “Teddy,” she said, rocking back on her heels. “You know, like a teddy bear? It says Teddy. Teddy Goro.”

Photo courtesy Kristy Lommen

The image that “Teddy” brought to mind was that of a child, perhaps even a baby, who tragically passed away early in life (as was too often the case for the children of Auburn’s Japanese families).

A few steps away from Teddy Goro’s grave was another Sato marker. From this gravestone Yoshiko was able to read “Junko” as the given name and October 9, 1931 as the date of death. Were Junko Sato and Teddy Goro Sato related? On that sunny afternoon when Yoshiko visited the cemetery, there was no way to know.

Photo courtesy Kristy Lommen

Subsequent research eventually answered our questions about the Sato Family. We discovered that Komakichi Sato arrived in the United States in about 1907. He first settled in Tacoma and established himself there as a businessman—he operated a laundry in the city’s downtown district. His early days were otherwise shrouded in mystery.

There is some indication that he may have had a family when he lived in Japan, and that some of his relatives may have come with him to the United States. He was perhaps even widowed by the time he came to Tacoma. Nevertheless, we do know that he married Sayo Naikaido sometime around 1921. Their first child together was a son named Buell Kazuro Sato. Just over a year after Buell’s birth, Sayo gave birth to a second son, Crayton Akira Sato.

Sometime after Crayton’s birth, Komakichi turned the laundry business over to a young relative, Tatsuo Sato. Komakichi and Sayo then moved on, eventually landing in Auburn, Washington, where the family made their living by farming. They can be found there in the 1930 Federal Census with their older boys and two younger children, daughter Lena and son Yoshi. Sayo must have been pregnant at the time the census-taker visited the family. She gave birth to a daughter, Junko, on June 4, 1930.

As we learned at the cemetery, Junko passed away on October 9, 1931. She would have been a 16-month-old toddler. She was probably walking by that age and learning to talk too. She was certainly developing her own personality and learning, as toddlers do, to charm both beloved adults and total strangers. Her loss at such a young, enchanting age must have been a tragic blow to the family. Unfortunately, losing children early in life wasn’t unusual in those years, and, no matter what, life went on for the surviving family.

Two years later Sayo gave birth to another son, James. Daughters Reiko and Mitsuko followed in 1935 and 1936 respectively. Finally, on March 20, 1938 Sayo gave birth to her last child: a little boy named Teddy Goro. This little brother was, tragically, almost exactly the same magic age as Junko had been when he too died of unknown causes and was buried in the Auburn Cemetery.

Like all of Auburn’s Japanese, the surviving Sato Family was sent to internment camps in 1942 after the outbreak of World War II just a few months earlier. The Satos were sent first to California’s Pinedale Assembly Center before being sent on to Tule Lake.

After the war, the family did not return to Washington; perhaps they didn’t have the means to re-establish themselves there. Instead they put down roots in Hayward, California. They were there in the 1950’s when, after more than 40 years in their adopted country, Komakichi and Sayo Sato were finally able to petition for U.S. citizenship.

Komakichi, regrettably, lived only a few years after this momentous event. He died in California in 1958; Sayo passed away there in 1974. Both are buried in Mt. Eden Cemetery in Hayward, California.

Although Junko and Teddy Goro’s family longer live in Washington State, it’s comforting to know that their family, including some of their siblings and many nieces and nephews, continues to live and thrive even today. I’m sure both Junko and Teddy hold special places in their memories.

———-

A sincere thank you to Kristy and Yoshiko for their work in discovering this story behind one of earliest Japanese families in Auburn. For a more general overview, please see a previous Beyond The Ghost article, Auburn Pioneer Cemetery: a tiny cemetery with many stories.

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Illegible headstones? There’s an app for that

For those of you heading out on vacation this month, don’t forget that cellphones aren’t just for taking pictures.

Popular consensus seems to be that cell phones are far too prevalent in daily life. Tweeting, texting, music, surfing, games – the list is endless. Some might even say phones have become more toy than tool.

Aside from basic functions and some photo capabilities, it’s certainly not much help in old graveyards, right? Well, if John Bottorff has anything to do about it, cell phones might become a genealogist’s best friend.

Bottorff, the owner of Objecs, LLC, has developed three, cell-phone readable tablets suitable for both the new and old, illegible gravestones. Called the Personal Rosetta Stone, these tablets store selected personal data via RFID technology and are mounted on the gravestone. By touching the stone with an NFC-RFID enabled cell phone, genealogical information is then uploaded to the viewer screen.

What is RFID technology?

According to Technovelgy.com:

“RFID (or Radio-Frequency Identification) refers to a small electronic device consisting of a micro chip (carrying up to 2,000 bytes of data) and an antenna.

The RFID device serves the same purpose as a bar code or a magnetic strip on the back of a credit card or ATM card; it provides a unique identifier for that object. And, just as a bar code or magnetic strip must be scanned to get the information, the RFID device must be scanned to retrieve the identifying information.”

Earlier this week, I caught up with John to find out more.

RFID in tombstones? How did this get started?

Well, like many new business ideas, it branched off from something else. A Portuguese client thought our object hyperlink products might be useful for identifying the crumbling, 600-year old tombstones on his property. Ultimately, he wanted to share this information via cell phone. This was easy enough to do since European mobile devices are automatically configured to access information via hardlinks.

However, it’s a different story here in the U.S.

Why? Are American cell phones different?

American cell phones are typically locked and providers don’t offer NFC-RFID enabling at this time. At least not yet. Eventually, the technology will be incorporated and there are some who do have it now, but these are the geeks who bought the equipment overseas and brought it home. However, our tablets do work with all Internet enabled phones, but only NFC enabled phones can use our wireless touch technology.

Keep in mind, that the information can also be pulled manually.We know a third-party vendor that developed an app for iPhone users – yes, there’s an app for that. But it’s not ours.

When do you see our phones handling this technology?

I anticipate this happening around 2010.

How does the RFID chip get into the tablet/headstone?

There’s a way to embed the electronics but it’s a trade secret on how the stone mason carves it all in. I can’t elaborate any further.

The tablets have some kind of engraved symbols. Can you explain these?

We designed the Rosetta Stone to be an artifact, meaning the customer can choose symbols that best defined a person’s life. For example, we offer the scales of justice describe a judge, a badge to signify a policeman, or a sailboat to describe someone who liked sailing. At this time, we have a library of about 800 symbols, many of them developed through customer feedback.

What’s the most unique symbol?

The jail cell symbol (Check out #70 on the symbols list).

So, the customer picks a tablet, chooses the symbols, and then what?

The tablet and chip tag are then set into the headstone. Later on, a genealogist with an enabled cell phone camera and internet connection, could take a picture of the barcode (in this case, the tablet). This action triggers a link and redirection of the phone’s web browser to the desired URL target and related database information. (Here’s a more detailed explanation)

Your website mentions three types of tablets. What are they?

The three types are Millennium, Century, and Decade.

The Millennium class is the longest wearing because it’s made out of granite and the Century class is made from travertine stone. While the Century type is specifically designed as an indoor family heirloom, it can be used outdoors. The third is the Decade, a metal, polypropelyne (thermoplastic molding) marker. These were what we originally mailed to our Portuguese client.

What unexpected surprises have you encountered?

Actually, it’s the market. We initially approached this product assuming that our customers were the 55- and older, genealogy-oriented market. We’re now finding out that the age bracket is actually lower, ranging from 40-year olds, down to even 20-somethings.

What’s been the reaction from genealogy societies?

There’s been little to no reaction from genealogy societies. This has been surprising considering the amount of data out there that could be put to wider access. Perhaps there is a lack of knowledge about the product or skepticism about whether the particularly small, local info would even be worthwhile entering in this database? I don’t know.

What message are you hoping to send with this product?

It’s important to identify your place in time, regardless of who you are or your life’s story. Future generations are going to want to learn about the past and this is one way of helping them out. Today’s barber might not think his work is important but three generations from now, another barber might disagree.

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Replacing Damaged Civil War Headstones

Allan Day

Note: This is the second half of Tuesday’s post, Tracking Down Civil War Veterans.

Congratulations! You finally figured out the veteran’s name on that severely damaged headstone way over in the far ends of the old cemetery.  Now it’s time to finish the job by replacing the marker. It should be a piece of cake, right? After all, the Veterans’ Administration has that nice web page about how to go about obtaining a replacement stone.

How hard could it be?

Well, if you’re a family member of the deceased (and this includes both immediate and extended), all that’s needed is completion and submission of VA Form 40-1330. As long as the stone is damaged and unreadable, the VA will pretty much warrant its replacement.

The challenge comes when the family is no longer around to submit the replacement application, a situation David Waggoner and his wife, Barbara, know all too well. They’ve been working with Linda Hjelm to re-discover all the Civil War veterans buried in Hillside Cemetery up in Issaquah, Washington.

So far, they’ve found approximately 17 veterans, and David believes there are still several more out there.

However, “If there are no family members in the area, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist,” says David. In cases like this, he recommends checking local historical society records as a way to track them down, noting that this method paid off for 9 of the damaged stones.

Currently, David’s only received one replacement stone (see the photo at the beginning of the article). It’s a small victory, but David’s determined to obtain as many as he can. To that end, there are a few tricks he’s willing to share with those of us who might feel a little overwhelmed at the thought of taking on the VA behemoth.

Tips for completing the VA Form 40-1330

  1. When signing the form, attest that it was completed to the best of your ability.
  2. If no immediate or extended family members are around to submit the application, include a statement to that fact.
  3. Include a photo of the marker that clearly shows the damage and illegibility of the headstone inscription. Keep in mind that the VA does not consider a stone illegible if there is any lichen or moss on it. If this is the case, consider using a good cleaner or two, and move on to the next headstone.
  4. Send in the request, and keep your fingers crossed.

Tricks for adding ‘oomph’ to the request

Want to make a bigger impact? David suggests getting someone who’s directly connected with the VFW, American Legion, or Disabled Servicemen of America, etc., involved in the request because it tells the VA your group is taking the replacement seriously.

“Because I’m associated with a local VFW post and am a veteran service person, this designation’s been very helpful in expediting matters,” he says.

Another suggestion is to add a letter of support from local elected officials. For example, David writes a cover letter from himself (as a VFW member), and obtains a second cover letter from the mayor to attach to the application.

Right away, the VA is put on notice that this request should be taken seriously.

One final trick is to have a local funeral home attest the document and request that the replacement stone be sent there, and not to the researcher’s (or family’s) private residence, for proper storage and preservation until the actual replacement ceremony can occur.

Why?

Because it shows your desire to respect the stone through proper handling versus simply storing it out in the dusty corners of a garage or tool shed.

Appeal the initial rejection

Unfortunately, the VA often rejects the original request.  When this happens, don’t give up. Instead, consider sending an appeal that includes a statement regarding the amount of due diligence completed on the family, and why you had no luck finding them.

Next, get someone who’s connected with the VFW (or who is a local elected official) who can attest to your appeal if you didn’t do this with the first submission.

Ultimately, if you…

  • Do your due diligence,
  • Are persistent,
  • Use the local historical society and mortuary funeral home to find family members,
  • Clearly communicate the purpose of behind the application and why it’s being done, and
  • Don’t take the first rejection as gospel,

…There’s a decent chance of getting a spiffy replacement headstone.

Nevertheless

Still, more times than not, the VA will say no to your request/appeal. What then?

Well, just because you can’t get a new stone doesn’t mean the original can’t look as good as possible. In Hillside’s case, Eagle Scouts come in to clean and straighten stones under the supervision of cemetery restoration experts.

And lest the Girl Scouts feel like they’re missing out on all the fun, David adds that, “We’d also love to work with the Girl Scouts. The research, tracking, maintenance, restoration–it’s a wonderful learning experience.”

Success!

You did it! You successfully negotiated with the VA and now there’s this beautiful replacement headstone just waiting to be set into the ground. So what do you do with the old one?

Destroy it, of course. A good sledgehammer should do the trick nicely. And since many cemetery headstone re-setting projects have teenaged Eagle Scouts helping out, I’m sure they’re more than thrilled about this part of the task.

But I digress.

Burying the old headstone in the veteran’s grave is a big NO. Instead, the VA directs that the original must be completely destroyed, down to the pebble level.  Why? Well, what happens if someone digs up the grave and finds the second stone or if flooding causes the second stone to re-surface?

There’d be a lot of interesting questions swirling around if that happens.

Of course, the best thing about the reduction-to-gravel process is that when it’s complete, you can either toss the remains onto the grave or instead of concrete, use it as fill to help support the new stone when it’s placed.

It’s certainly a nice way of honoring the original stone.

If you do use the gravel, keep in mind that 1/3 of the stone goes into the ground while 2/3 remains above ground. Use a level to keep the stone straight throughout the process of putting into the dirt, pebbles, and water. Tamp it all down, rinse and repeat.

Then take a moment to admire your work.

P.S. #1. Many thanks to David and Linda for taking the time to share their hard-won expertise with the BTG readers. If any one else has some good hints that we missed here, please feel free to share them in the comments section.

P.S. #2. Ever wonder where the veteran headstone marble is quarried? Check out the profile on the Granite Industries of Vermont.

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Filed under Commentary, Damages, Restoration

Tracking Down Civil War Veterans

Hillside cemetery

Now that the snow and ice are finally beating a retreat, it’s time to start thinking about how to handle all those cemetery clean-up chores. Whether it’s hiring a herd of goats to clear out the underbrush, washing the stones clean, or calling in an expert for a day (or two) of hands-on restoration, I think everyone will agree that there’s never a shortage of things that need to be done where historical cemeteries  are concerned.

And if there’s ever been one on-going restoration/genealogical task, it’s the deciphering of all those illegible headstones to discover who’s really hanging out under there.

Several weeks ago, I had the unique opportunity to speak with Linda Hjelm and David Waggoner who are hard at work locating the Civil War veterans buried in the Hillside Cemetery in Issaquah, Washington. Linda figures out the names and hunts down the history while David and his wife Barbara, help with obtaining replacement markers.

Despite the worn out stones, transposed date of birth/death dates, and misspelled names, they’ve tracked down over 17 Civil War veterans at Hillside, and believe there are still more out there. In this post, Linda generously shares with BTG readers some of her hard-won detective wisdom.

Step 1: So who’s on the stone?

This is just common sense, yet before a search can get underway, you have to know who’s out there. Sometimes the headstone’s tipped so badly, the only way to get an idea of the name is to take as many pictures of it from as many angles as possible, and then use the zoom feature (either on the camera or through your computer’s photo program) to figure out the letters.

If the letters prove to be almost illegible, Linda suggests making a rubbing (using tissue paper and some sidewalk chalk) to make the letters ‘pop’ more.

Step 2: Prepping for the Plunge

Here’s Linda’s primary secret to researching that too many people (including yours truly) fail to keep in mind: There is NO replacement for looking at actual records, especially when you’re searching online indexes. Why? Because the quality of an online index is based on someone else’s typing skills.

Specifically, you might have the right person, but whoever entered the information into the index may have transposed death dates with birth dates. Be prepared to step away from the computer, roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dusty.

Step 3: The Deep End of The Pool

Now comes the fun part. You’ve got the veteran’s name and the burial site, so what’s the first step toward finding out more about your man? One or more of these hints should help you strike gold.

  1. Got a nice chunk of information on your veteran? Try using the paid military records search feature on Ancestry.com.
  2. Want to dig a little deeper? Search the 1890 Veterans Census site on Ancestry.com that shows both Union and Confederate soldiers and their widows.
  3. Don’t want to pay the Ancestry.com fee? Complete a family search on the Latter Day Saints (LDS) website. It’s got probably the biggest number of genealogical records out there, and it’s free.  Note: LDS also has family history centers scattered around the world which can come in handy if the information you need is on their microfilm. Right now, they’re in the process of digitizing it all, but if you have to go to the centers, you can rent the film at a low cost for a specific period of time.
  4. Check the May 31 issue or prior, for local Memorial Day newspapers that run the names of all the vets both living and dead. Many times, the papers even run photos of the veterans.
  5. If the Memorial Day papers don’t pan out, make a note of the death date and then pore through the local papers’ obituaries. Linda says she checks each year’s issue to see what came out prior to Memorial Day because many times, the families come back to put flowers on the graves and the newspapers mention those who came to visit.
  6. Check the state census records because some states take a census more than once a decade. Note: Just because a state says they don’t have a particular year’s census doesn’t mean you should stop looking. It just might be mis-filed. Linda remembers discovering an original census in a library.
  7. If the veteran comes from a small town, check with the local historical society. Perhaps there are some old letters or photos that could shed some light on the person and his family.
  8. Finally, if you discover that the veteran was born and raised in a particular town, see if there are any churches that date back to his time. There may be a chance that the vestry has family baptismal, marriage, and/or death records you can search.
  9. Last but not least, Google the name when all else fails. You’ll be surprised what comes up.

So now that we’ve gotten some new hints on how to search out veterans, let’s ask the most interesting question of all. Just what was it that got Linda started down this path in the first place?

The answer: A mystery.

The Hillside Cemetery Board was already researching faded headstones when a member decided to add in the overlooked Civil War veterans. The spark that hooked Linda was the enigmatic Charles Swartwood. “I couldn’t figure him out,” she said. “All the military records I’d seen for that time are on 5×7 cards that are pre-printed and done by hand, except for Charles’, and his records are typed. Perhaps he was a member of what passed for the CIA in those days.”

She’s still determined to find out.

P.S. Don’t’ forget to check back on Thursday when BTG readers can read some of David Waggoner’s tips on how non-families can get a veteran’s replacement headstone from the Veterans’ Administration.  Hint: It’s difficult, but not impossible.

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Just a reminder…

Restoration

Folks, don’t forget to check in this coming week for an interview with an intrepid researcher/restorer that snagged me some great How To tips. In fact, there are so many, I’m splitting it up into two posts. Look for the first one on Tuesday and the second on Thursday.

The first will cover how to research faded or illegible names on headstones. These are hints that are so obvious, all the historians out there will probably say, “well, duh!’ And while the focus is specifically for Civil War veterans, the hints are also helpful for any kind of name search.

The second article offers hints on how to get a replacement veteran’s headstone from the VA when you don’t have the family’s permission. Nope, it’s not always easy, but it’s still do-able.

See you on Tuesday!

 

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No. Just, no.

Duct tape usefulness reason #832

Duct tape usefulness reason #832

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Filed under Damages, Restoration

Broken stones and how to repair them

Broken headstones

Now that spring is finally in the air (multiple friends on the East Coast are now reporting crazed robin behavior), it’s time to begin thinking about possible stone repairs.

But before heading down to Home Depot for some cement mix, consider these factors: Proper and long lasting stone reconstruction of headstones depends a lot on the local climate. Is the environment humid? Pounded by scouring, dry desert winds? Or steadily worn away by damp, incessant drippy rain? Then there is the stone itself. Is it limestone? Sandstone? Granite?

Here are a couple of posts by Jonathan Appell to help you plan out the best way to restore the old stones in your historic cemeteries.

Broken Stones

Stone Infill

Enjoy, and if you want to show off the results of your repairs, shoot me an email with some photos. BTG would be happy to showcase your work.

 

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