Dell Rapids Tribune 3-4-2009 *note: Teri Fiegen is our Minnehaha County Coordinator and writes for the Dell Rapids Tribune.
In an effort to preserve the identity of gravestones in the area, a local person interested in preserving history, is participating in a statewide project headstone project.
“I believe we place headstones in cemeteries so that we can remember our loved ones and so others will know of them as well”, said Teri Fiegen, whose hobby is genealogy. “That is why I believe it is important to preserve the headstones, either physically or by photograph”.
Currently, Dell Rapids has 182 photos on the site and St. Mary’s cemetery has a test photo on the web site.
In the three weeks the Web site has been in operation, more than 2,000 photos have been submitted. “I would say that people’s involved in genealogy is the biggest reason they participate”, Brad Kellogg said. Kellogg is the administrator of the South Dakota site. To date, there are five county coordinators and 11 counties have contributed to the site. There are 23 independently licensed sites across the country.
According to Fiegen, those two cemeteries are the only ones in Minnehaha County to have photos on the web site. Fiegen hopes to add more than 5,000 other photos onto the web site.
Kellogg, who is also a member of the Nebraska site, said he is involved because of his love for genealogy.
“Older gravestones, as they age, they are deteriorating and it is hard to read the descriptions”, he said. “We are photographing every gravestone to have a permanent record. People in other parts of the country who can’t see gravestones can go on this Web site and find information about their families.”
In addition, Kellogg plans to contact South Dakota churches in the future to see about having congregations do it as a project and create a permanent record of their cemetery. Kellogg is looking for volunteers to help take photos at the grave sites and submit them to the Web site.
Mystery of Lost Gravestone Solved Press & Dakotan – Yankton SD Newspaper 9-14-2009
*note: This article was picked up by Associated Press and reprinted in newspapers across the mid-west.
It’s still a mystery as to how the gravestone of J.J. Hlavac ended up in Marne Creek. But it is no longer a mystery as to where the gravestone belongs.
It was returned to it’s original resting place in the ZCBJ Czech Cemetery just south of Tabor last week, thanks to the efforts of a Nebraska genealogy enthusiast.
And for that, Hlavac’s family is grateful.
“We are just thrilled that it is back where it belongs,” said Mary Ann Vanecek. Halavac was the grandfather of Vaneck’s husband, Alvin.
When Brad Kellogg called her recently about the gravestone, Vanecek said she felt it was nothing short of a miracle.
Kellogg is the administrator for www.southdakotagravestones.org, a non-profit Web site that collects photos of South Dakota gravestones for genealogical purposes.
The Wakefield, Neb., resident had been in Yankton photographing every gravestone in the Sacred Heart Cemetery when he was told of a stone that was propped up against a Yankton Parks & Recreation Department shed. The gravestone, which weighs hundreds of pounds, had been found in Marne Creek near 21st Street and Broadway Avenue several years ago.
“My boss asked me to get it out. We did, and it’s been here ever since,” said Chris Bornitz, caretaker of the Yankton Municipal Cemetery. “I don’t know how it got in the creek or how long it had been there.”
Kellogg became determined to find the rightful home of the mystery gravestone and posted a note about it on his Web site.
Before long, another genealogy enthusiast had matched the information on the gravestone to a record of burial at ZCBJ Czech Cemetery.
Kellogg had no idea when he contacted a source he had been given for the cemetery that his investigation would be completed so quickly. That source was Vanecek, who happens to be the secretary and treasurer for the ZCBJ Czech Cemetery.
“I called Mary Ann and explained to her what I had found,” Kellogg said. “She started crying and said they had been looking for the stone for a long time”.
Vanecek said she and her husband had read a news story several years ago about the gravestone being found in the creek. But they were preoccupied with a family emergency at the time and didn’t have an opportunity to follow up on it. They didn’t know what had happened to the gravestone since and didn’t know who to contact.
“All of a sudden we got this phone call”, Vanecek said. “It was a miracle”.
Kellogg and Bornitz loaded the gravestone into a pickup Thursday afternoon with the assistance of a skid loader. Kellogg drove it to ZCBJ Czech Cemetery, and the Vanecek family helped him place it back on the original slab with a tractor and loader.
“The reason the gravestone was taken from the cemetery originally was that Alvin’s mother (who was Hlavac’s daughter) bought a great big stone and put in foot stones after her son died in 1928,” Vanecek said. “It’s a mystery how it ended up in Yankton. It’s not something you can just throw in the creek. It weighs 500 pounds.”
Hlavac was born Feb. 17, 1871, and he died Feb. 10, 1910, of a heart attack. He left behind four children, one of whom was Alvin’s mother.
Kellogg said solving mysteries such as this one involving Hlavac’s gravestone is one of the reasons he has such a passion for genealogy research.
“When you can do something like this, it’s a lot of fun,” he said.
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