Visitors and Queries



Nancy Stammer from Manning, Iowa read Rick Blum’s post from 2014 on facebook about the James McGraths losing 4 children to cholera.  Nancy was looking for William Henry Denny BAKER, who was supposedly adopted by a family from the Walnut area with a name similar to McGrane.  Rick Blum forwarded the query to us and we researched the McGrath family, who are buried here at St. Patricks Catholic Cemetery.  They lost 3 children in 1878 and one in 1880, but we found no mention of William Baker.

Nancy believed that her great-great-grandmother Sarah Ann Denny Baker had died on November 22, 1878, causing her 2-year-old son to be given up for adoption.  We found that William was listed as being 2 and was with his widowed father, Charles Baker, in 1880 in Grant Township, Cass County, Iowa.  In the 1885 Iowa Census, William was not with Charles, only Charles’ new wife, Maria, and children Julia, 16, James, 14, and Martha, 2.  From that census, we learned the Bakers lived in the southeast of the southwest quarter of section 3 of Grant Township and found a map.

Nancy thought that Sarah Baker was buried in the Walnut Creek Township Cemetery, which we could not locate.  She had the 1870 Census showing Charles, Sarah and Mary J., who went by her middle name of Julia, living in Walnut Creek Township, Pottawattamie County, Iowa.  Could the family who adopted William be from that township instead of the town of Walnut?  Walnut Creek Township became Waveland and Wright Townships in 1873.

I sent the link to the Atlantic newspapers to Nancy and she found an obituary for Chas. Baker there.  He was born in Canada, moved to New York, then to Virginia; he lived in the Anita, Iowa vicinity for 25 years and died at Stillwater, Oklahoma.  Interestingly, William H. was still listed as his child in the 1910 obituary.  It said Sarah died in 1878, but did not give a burial location.

While searching on Ancestry, I happened upon Audubon County Burial Records that said Sarah Baker was buried in the Bowen Cemetery, which was not far from where the family lived in Cass County.  Both Sarah and her 6-year-old daughter, Emma, are on findagrave and buried in the Bowen Cemetery, where they have a nice gravestone.  That solved part of the puzzle, but who adopted William Baker?

I checked findagrave to see how common the name McGrane was and found 215 in Iowa.  Trying the spelling McGrain found 10 in Iowa, with 8 in Mapleton, but 2 buried in Highland Cemetery in Cass County.  Georgiana was married to John McGrain and died January 1, 1892.  I searched the Atlantic newspapers online and found that the John McGrain family had moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma in 1902.  Surely there was a connection since that is when Charles Baker also moved there.

I found William; he was with John and Georgianie MCGRAIN in the 1885 Census, living in the northeast of the southeast quarter of section 1 of Benton Township, Cass County.  Benton is just west of Grant Township, where Charles Baker lived.  The 1900 Census even listed William H. D. McGrain as an adopted son, 22, with John McGrain in Benton Township.  Mystery solved!

Once we had William’s correct name, we were able to find many vital records, including his death record from San Antonio, Texas.       

Thanks to Carol A. Harris from West Des Moines who gave us additional information by making about 70 edit requests for our society’s memorials that we maintain on They were all connected to the SIEVERS family that she is researching for her grandsons. I attempt to verify information before accepting an edit request and thank Allen Sievers for looking up information that he had in his family history.  WGS has had 549 edit requests for findagrave memorials that we maintain that I have accepted and 68 that I have declined, because they did not agree with our information.  859 edit requests that we sent have been accepted.  WGS maintains the memorials that Erika Lees added for the Layton Township Cemetery and St. Patricks Catholic Cemetery and the memorials that Barb Butcher added for the Lincoln Township Cemetery.

Heather Anthony recently made an edit request for the findagrave memorial of Clara JURGENSEN.  She had found the birth record for Clara, which indicated that her age at death was 11 days not 12 days as her gravestone says.  The Evangelical Church records also have 12, but it is in the years of age column, not in the days column.  Heather is also looking for information on Clara’s grandparents Fritz and Magdalene Jurgensen, who are also buried in the Layton Township Cemetery.  We found the family in the 1880 Census by browsing Layton Township.  Fritz Jurgensen was spelled Frits Gurgensen and Magdalene was Lena.  We found a death announcement for Magdalene and an obituary, which called her Anna M.  We believe that Anna M. is Ane M. listed on the Castle Garden immigration record and her age is 41, not 4, and she is the wife, not the child as listed.

Two sisters and a grandson from California needed help finding the graves of their ancestors Elvira SMITH, Nicklous & Mary BURGIN.  Fortunately, we were home and I have done research on both surnames.  Elvira’s stone has Mother on it and her dates, but says J. S. Smith.  Apparently, it should say “Wife of J. S. Smith.”  He has a nice stone at the Monroe Methodist Cemetery north of Walnut, but we believe that he is actually buried beside Elvira from dowsing at both locations.  One of the ladies will be contacting me to see what information we have on their families.