In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been going through a recent dry spell. After a slew of private messages asking where I’ve been, I thought I’d give you a quick update.tantrum

I think I’m going to jump off a bridge.

OK, not really. But I’m so frustrated! It’s not writer’s block really. It’s researcher’s block. As in—I have hit a brick wall, and despite all my efforts to break it down, I can’t. And, the OCD researcher in me just can’t drop it and move on to something else. As everyone who’s ever done serious genealogical research knows, brick walls happen, and I think this one is going to drive me insane.

I can’t find two burial locations and it’s driving me insane.

IMG_1782Smack in the middle of my Helen Martha Ekin Starrett research, it actually hit me that I know relatively little about her father, the Rev John Ekin DD, or her mother, Esther Fell Lee Ekin. I have exactly ZERO photographs of either of them, and as a photographer, this feels like a knife to the heart. But, as I have gone along in my research, a few missing details of their lives have (to me) turned into these huge gaping holes. Like, why does everything about Helen’s father talk about him and the girls, but rarely mentions Esther—who outlived him by about 14 years? Where is he buried? Where is Esther buried? The Xenia Gazette (Ohio) says in her obituary that she was to be buried next to her son, but she isn’t listed in the Woodland Cemetery there. Oh, and Helen had a brother? Yeah, she did. And four sisters. Actually five, but one died before she was born. But where is he buried? He died in Topeka, but I find no record of his burial there.


I’ve utilized Find a Grave exhaustively and located John Ekin’s parents, but not him. Oh, and his grandparents too. Just not him. Or Esther. Or Esther’s parents. I know that the Quakers had cemeteries, so this really shouldn’t be hard. But somehow, it is.


There are so many new and fractured details that I am having all kinds of trouble organizing my thoughts. The Ancestry users who just copy and paste whatever they find without verifying anything are NOT making things easier. And I am not just picking on the 21st Century genealogists either. I found a bio of John that lists him as the brother of General James A Ekin, Quartermaster of the Army—and says that he magically managed to squeeze in a “season” as a clerk in the quartermaster’s office with his “brother” sometime between pastor gigs, opening a seminary, and the onset of the Civil War. (One would think that if John had served with his brother, a Union General who gained fame from his role as a member of the commission who tried the conspirators involved in President Lincoln’s assassination, she might have mentioned it somewhere!)

So now, there’s this giant gaping hole and it’s making me crazy.

When I begin researching an ancestor, it’s got less to do with logic or sentimentality than it has to do with a feeling I get. If I was logical in my processes, I’d probably pick a starting point and move forward—that would definitely be easier than the path I seem to have chosen! What I do, basically, is research the normal names and dates, and when someone particularly interesting strikes my fancy, I follow that particular storyline back as far as I can.

HESfrom the OreJournalRight now, I am working on Helen Martha Ekin Starrett, my 2x great grandmother. It has always been a dream of mine to write her biography. But I keep finding myself drawn back to her parents and her foundation and why and how she became the person she became. And since I have these giant brick wall in John and Esther, I have found myself banging my head against it repeatedly.

For now, I have to keep plugging along, doing my best to fill in the holes with reliable and genuine sources. And, hopefully, relying on the kindness of fellow researchers out there who know something or have information they haven’t shared yet.

So, if you happen to know the final resting places of the Rev John Ekin DD and Esther Fell Lee Ekin, drop me a note and let me know where I can find them. In some cases, a person’s final resting place helps piece the puzzle back together a little better!

Who knows? School is out in a few more weeks. Maybe once the kids are out, we’ll load up the Crazy Train and go grave hunting up in Quaker Country. Or not. The hubs isn’t quite as into prowling around cemeteries as I am!
© Julie Dirkes Phelps

Photographer, Author, Researcher, Archivist, and Storyteller.

© Copyright 2015.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, reposting, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission. Be cool, don’t plagiarize. If you want to use something, just ask.