Judy Edwards, a genealogist for over a decade, recently authored her book entitled: Underground@Springsdale, volume one. This book is available in print (go to Lulu.com) and in ebook format (go to amazon.com). The book reveals the true stories of 38 individuals buried in the Historic Springdale Cemetery in Peoria. Much of the info in her publication can also be found on her blog site: http://springdale.blogpeoria.com. Edwards said her interest was sparked when she took Trolley tours through the Springdale cemetery. She noticed however, that those tours appeared to be more about the wealthy or influential people. She then set out to research the lives of ordinary people.
She began to revise the Springdale Cemetery index, which was really large. Evidently the cemetery has its own logical breakdown of where individual burial sites can be found. However, most people either did not understand how to make sense of the information or would discover there were missing records.
Cemetery plot location information was often written in longhand, and very often contained inaccurate information about the key dates of a person’s life. Tombstones would sometimes contain wrong birth or death dates or it had deteriorated so much that the person’s name and other relevant details were worn down. The website: http://cyberdriveIllinois.com gives exact dates, the county where the deceased lived, and where the death certificate was located. Also, a hand-held GPS, using latitude and longitude, can be used to locate the exact burial plot desired.
One of the individuals Edwards researched was Walter S. Bush, who was 108 years old when he died. He was buried in the Typographical section of the cemetery. Edwards discovered this information from his obituary in the Peoria Transcript. Using Court Probate records, Edwards discovered that a few years before he died, his family felt he couldn’t live on his own due to the loss of his mental faculties.
Walter S. Bush was a printer and the founding Editor of the “Peoria Gazette Weekly.” Information about The Typos, Typographer’s Union No. 29, can be found in an article written by Edwards, titled “Typos at Springdale” at the website: http://springdale.blogpeoria.com/2012/09/09/typos-at-springdale/#more-746. This Typos burial section is located within Division A of the cemetery.
Section A contains some deceased residents of Proctor Home, a living center for older adults. Families could look in the library “Proctor” vertical files where they might be able to collect some of their own family stories. Volunteers have put together some of this information.
In the Old Public lot, she discovered that children with no family were buried there. Also found in this lot, were neighborhood burial plots, or plots which contained collections of people who had connections in some way with one another, such as belonging to the same church.
According to the cemetery’s early history records, traditional funerals were not held during the cold winter months because they had no mechanical hole diggers. Deceased bodies would be placed in cold storage for up to a year. Some pretty elaborate funerals occurred for those not buried in the winter months.
At one time, cremations were not performed in the Peoria area. Those bodies were sent to Chicago for cremation. Services were held at the crematoriums and the ashes were then returned to the family later.
There is a Baby Land section for babies who were not given names. The tombstone would have the parent’s names. During early time periods of our history, it was rare to have a child named until that child was christened, if they lived long enough. Christening customarily took place at the time of reasoning, which was around seven years.
There is a also a section for death by drowning.
According to Edwards, the obituary is a good source to learn why a person died. An even better source would be the coroner’s inquest records, which are available. However, in a lot of counties, you can not obtain these records without proof that you are related to the deceased.
“Peoria Public Library archive information is very good, as it has a variety of research tools,” says Edwards. She can often be found in the Local History room. Older Peoria newspapers can be used to locate obituaries, which can be a difficult process because there is no index for those older obituaries. If the deceased was a wealthy city official, or someone important who owned a business, their obituary would be in the City Briefs Section.
Ancestry.com is available at the Peoria Public Library as well as other websites that are easier to research. One such site is the Latter Day Saints at: https://familysearch.org/. It contains a wealth of details about a person. City directories in the archives can be used to find a person’s occupation and where they lived.
Vertical files in the Local History room at PPL, contains newspaper clippings about a certain person, institution, or subject category. These files can provide unique and interesting information. Church records are another way of researching facts about the deceased. According to Edwards, it take quite a lot of pieces of information to flesh out a person’s life.
Edwards tries to be very precise in her research. She is an experienced professional genealogist for hire to research a deceased person’s life. She can be reached at (309) 229-9711or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edwards says “The more I write, the more people email me, or stop me for genealogical information.” She is currently researching the Typo deceased members of the cemetery.