Last week, I hit a huge brick wall and I was frustrated. Like slam-my-head-against-the-wall frustrated. Like wrap-my-head-in-duct-tape-so-it-wouldn’t-explode frustrated. So I blogged about it. I sent my frustration up to the gods of discontent, walked away, watched a few hours of Mad Men reruns, did some laundry, and then came back to it.


But before I went through the same drill of entering the same names into the same search engines over and over and over again, I sat and thought. I hopped over to and read a few of the clippings I’d made and I thought. And I thought some more. And then I looked over my spiral notebooks filled with notes and timelines. (Speaking of timelines, I need to show you my timelines. They’re really helpful sometimes. And messy and confusing and awesome and fun and and and ANYHOW….)

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This death ran in the Lawrence Kansas Journal on Saturday, October 2, 1869 on page three. Variations also ran in several other newspapers throughout Kansas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. He had been a well-liked pastor, educator, and advocate of women’s suffrage.

And then it hit me. No two cemeteries are alike. NO TWO CEMETERIES ARE ALIKE. Some cemeteries just have a phone book listing. Some cemeteries just have a webpage with some pictures. Some cemeteries highlight famous people and list their brief biographies but don’t list anyone else. And some cemeteries–some AWESOME cemeteries have a full record of every single internment on their properties, complete with the section, row, and plot of the inhabitant.

So, since my great great great grandfather, the Rev John Ekin DD died while living in Topeka, Kansas, I thought maybe he might be buried there too. From my research, I’ve seen that people who died in the mid 1800s were rarely moved from the actual location in which they died. (Dr Bunn, who died in Lawrence several decades later was cremated, but since it wasn’t a common practice and his body needed to be moved, it was a BIG story in the news.) Since his obituary didn’t mention where his funeral would take place, I figured that I would just try looking around Topeka to see if I could find him. I had already tried everything else!

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So I googled “Topeka cemeteries.” The first listing was for the Historic Topeka Cemetery, and its abstract said that it was Topeka’s oldest chartered cemetery, dating to 1859. Since he died in 1869, I figured that this would be the best place to start.

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To my surprise, the Historic Topeka Cemetery has a tab that says “find graves.” So, cynically, I clicked on it. I was so used to dead ends with brick walls by now, so I wasn’t hopeful at all. I was used to clicking on these links and coming up empty.

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I simply typed in “John” and “Ekin.” I didn’t mess with all the other information because, honestly, I didn’t think anything else would come up and I was pretty sure I would hit another dead end again anyway, so, clouded in cynicism…..

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Great great great grandpa Reverend John Ekin DD you crafty guy! Being all sneaky and having yourself buried in the same city where you died 146 years ago! Sometimes the information is right there under your nose!

After all this time…. He was right there. Right there in Topeka! All the obituaries said he died there. Everything I had in my notes said he died there. I was just waiting for someone to tell me he was there. But I didn’t need anyone to tell me. Everyone already HAD. I just had to go find him!

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I’d like to send out a public THANK YOU to the folks at the Historic Topeka Cemetery. Most cemeteries want people to call to inquire about internments, but your easy-to-use website and online catalog of internments made this so easy. I didn’t have to wait until business hours to call. I didn’t have to feel like I was bothering someone to look up my information. By simply making your information available to people online, you are doing such an amazing service to families, friends, genealogists, and researchers. I can’t thank you enough. I hope other cemeteries will follow your lead and create an online database like yours. Now, instead of wasting time calling and searching, I can spend my time planning on how I am going to get up to Kansas to visit in person!

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Of COURSE I created a Find a Grave page for my 3x great grandfather! You can visit him here and leave him some flowers if you’d like to!

© 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.