Skip to main content

RunKeeper to the Rescue: How I Found Mr. Janes' Grave

I spent the weekend playing old-time music with friends who gathered in Iroquois County, Illinois and Sunday morning, on the way home, I stopped at the Onarga Township Cemetery to visit the grave of fiddler William Alonzo Janes. The long story of my connection to him is one for another post, but it's dear and finding his resting place was very important to me.

Onarga is a small town, population 1350 in 2009, and so my plan, small-town upstate New Yorker that I am, was to just wander the cemetery looking for Mr. Janes. One look told me that wasn't going to work.

I pulled out my iPhone, found my reading glasses, and looked at the Find A Grave entry to see if there was a cemetery section listed. No luck, but there was a clue. I noticed a thin line of gravel at the top of the image. The stone had to be on the edge of one of the roads through the cemetery. I drove around carefully, getting out to check a few likely markers, but I found no match. 

What to do? I noticed someone outside across the street from the cemetery so I asked if he knew where burial records might be kept. He was willing to show me where the sexton lived--I love small towns--but I didn't want to go knocking on a stranger's door after I'd been camping for three days without the benefit of a shower to wash my hair.

I made a quick trip into town to see if the library was open. It wasn't, so it was back to the cemetery for a second try. As I sat in the car, deciding how to cover the ground systematically so that I didn't miss anything, it came to me--RunKeeper, the app that I have on the third screen over on my phone for when I decide that I've had enough of the being lazy thing. I'd seen a Facebook post a while back about someone who uses the mapping feature to draw pictures and I realized that I could use it to record my path through the cemetery.

I drove the roads carefully with RunKeeper monitoring my every move. And at the end of 24 minutes, 8 seconds, I'd driven a mile, burned 137 theoretical calories, and still hadn't found the stone.

I saved the "walk" so that I could view the resulting map and it was then that I noticed that the large new section in the back seemed to be connected by a single road. It wasn't the way that I remembered it and I wondered if I'd missed a few of the sections around the perimeter of the nine-square box. I drove down the far left road and as I came up on the corner, my eye easily rested on the right stone. In that moment, I remember saying to myself with a quiet sense of reverent respect: "Mr. Janes."

This cemetery trip was a pilgrimage of sorts. Mr. Janes passed along a fiddle tune to Illinois fiddler Mel Durham who passed it on to California fiddler David Bragger, my teacher, who passed it on to me. I was there to bring Mr. Janes' tune back to him--to close the circle--and I did just that. It was an experience to treasure made possible by--of all things--the RunKeeper app.


Anonymous said…
You are such an interesting writer -- and creative problem solver!

Wonderful story of taking music to Mr J, too.

Catherine Green
Jean Hibben said…
We got it, we've tried it, I've added it to my Cemetery talk. And given you credit, of course. What a novel idea! Thanks. Play on!
Dana Leeds said…
What a beautiful story! And a creative way of solving the problem. I love that you played Mr. Janes' tune back to him. (Yes, I had tears in my eyes!)
Geolover said…
Thank you for writing about this. You had me connecting with Mr. Janes and Soldiers Joy and Queen Anne's Reel with a long run of notes to his place of rest.
Terri O'Connell said…
What a great way to find the grave. Definitely outside the box thinking for this! Love the last picture.
Thanks for all the positive comments! They mean a lot to me.
Dana Leeds said…
Cynthia, I remember reading this story & now we are in the writing group together! Small genealogical world! Although I'm trying to remember where I heard about the writing course...

Popular posts from this blog

Chicago Lying-In Hospital Birth Records

When I look at birth certificates, I focus on names and dates and places--information I can add to a family tree. When I look at hospital records, I come face to face with the realities of giving birth. I think the records from the Chicago Lying-In Hospital and its satellite clinics provide fascinating and important family history details and I believe they merit a closer look. The hospital records are listed in the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) as Chicago, Illinois birth records, 1896-1933 . The added author is Northwestern Memorial Hospital and I think the originals are most likely held by the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Archives . These hospital books document services provided by four clinics connected to Dr. Joseph Bolivar DeLee, the physician who founded the Chicago Lying-In Dispensary at Maxwell Street and Newberry Avenue in 1895. D r. DeLee was interested in improving birthing conditions and his clinics offered care to needy women while providing train

Chicago Telephone Books, 1878-1971

This morning my husband and I drove down to the Harold Washington Library at 400 S. State in Chicago so I could explore the resources available at the library for Chicago research—specifically telephone books and newspapers other than the Chicago Tribune . There was a public parking lot just around the corner from the library and the all-day weekend fee was $10.00. Not bad. (During the week parking would cost about $21 but it's easy and inexpensive to get to the library by public transportation, too.) This blog post will focus on telephone books. The first Chicago telephone book appears to be The Telephone Journal , vol. 1, no. 1, published in October 1878. (For a short history of the telephone in Chicago see's page for Illinois Bell Telephone .) The first book includes information about the telephone service along with a three-page “List of Subscribers”--names of businesses and a few individuals along with an address and numbers for “wire” and “call.”

Preparing to Retrieve Locked Images from FamilySearch

Once you reach this page, save the URL so it will be easy to get back to the image when you visit the family history center. Sometimes people email me to ask how to find the Chicago vital records that are indexed on  FamilySearch . Here's a quick answer to that question. The first step is to see if the record is available for free on FamilySearch.  Here's how to do that: 1) Find the index entry and click on the arrow to open the "Document Information." 2. Note the digital folder number and the image number. 3. Go to the FamilySearch Catalog and select Film/Fiche Number under "Search For." 4. Search for the digital folder number. 5. Click on the title link for the record collection that contains the digital folder. 6. Find the digital folder number. Is there a camera-with-a-key icon next to it? Good news! You should be able to find the record on FamilySearch . Click on the camera icon and read on! Is the camera icon missing? Then please scroll to the bottom