Everything’s Relative August 2001

By Family Tree Editors Premium

Better Late Than Never

Last August, when my brother, Louis Schwarz of Lafayette, La., visited my family, he brought an old letter from a Fred Griffin of Corydon, Ind., addressed to our deceased brother Fred in Durham, NC, dated Feb. 2, 1968. Fred Griffin had enclosed information on our maternal grandfather’s family and asked for information about our mother and her family. There was no indication of a reply by my brother Fred.

Even though the letter was 32 years old, I got Fred Griffin’s number from the Internet and called him. Among many other things, he said he was now 85 years old and had been accumulating family information since he was 14. He offered to give me information from his family history and suggested I visit him in Corydon. I told him my wife, Betty, and I had already planned a week in Ocean City in September and that we would try to visit him later in the year.

But then Fred told me that when his Griffin family had a dry goods store on the square in Corydon, strangers would regularly come in and asked how to find their relative. Fred said many times he replied, “Yes, I knew your relative. He died just last week.” After this little story, Fred suggested we visit him now.

Yes, Betty and I canceled our Ocean City vacation and drove to Corydon in September instead, where we had a wonderful visit with Fred Griffin, taped our conversations and received a copy of his family history of almost 400 pages. We identified many of our old photographs (such as the one shown here) and gave Fred copies of several photographs he didn’t have. Since then we’ve added over 3,000 names to our family tree and have about 1,000 more to go.

Silver Spring, Md.

It’s a Small, Smoky World

In researching the Sundermeyer surname, I came across a strange coincidence. My father had a cousin, Fred Sundermeyer, who had a son named Larry Sundermeyer. This Larry Sundermeyer lived on a farm in Michigan, and had two sons who tried to burn out a wasp nest on their barn. The barn caught fire and burned to the ground.

I also have a nephew named Larry Sundermeyer, who lives on a farm in Wisconsin. He has two sons who tried to burn a wasp nest on their barn. The barn burned down.

Neither of the two Larry Sundermeyer families ever met or knew of the other one’s troubles!

Fairmont, Minn.

One Leg Up?

In the 1830s, one branch of my Taber ancestors helped settle Marion County, Ark. Among the Marion county Taber cousins was Jesse Tabor. While researching the records of Midway Cemetery in that county, I was startled to find the first grave contained “Jesse Tabor’s foot.” According to the records, the foot was buried there after a hunting accident. Actually, it was more than a foot — it was his leg, and according to the records, it may be that the leg was dug up after the burial to relieve the cramps that the still-alive-and-kicking Jesse was feeling in his toes. This unusual burial gives a strange twist to the old expression to “have one foot in the grave!”

Ogden, Utah


Sure, your ancestor was a real clown — but what if he really was a clown? Greasepaint, red nose, goofy clothes, the whole works. Then you need to consult the Circus-Folk Genealogy Resource Page <>. As the site describes its mission: “Many of us have vague histories of ancestors and relatives who traveled with the circus and shows of the past. This Web [site] is an effort to bring together more of us looking for specific information about these shows and more importantly clues about our own family history.”

You’ll find information on circuses past and present, the Circus World Museum and the sign-up for a circus folk mailing list. And who knows? Maybe your ancestor was the bearded lady who married the circus giant — which would explain a lot about your relatives.
From the August 2001 issue of Family Tree Magazine