Family Digs Up Old Grave to Find Family Bible and Claim Fortune

Over the past 50 years I have heard of many ways to source and document our ancestors.

Genealogists will “dig up” all types of sources but the solution that the Phillips family used has to be the most unusual.

I recently came across this, the most unusual genealogy sourcing story I have ever heard of. I found it in the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 15 April 1891, page 1.

Records Found in a Tomb newspaper article from the Plain Dealer 15 April 1891

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 15 April 1891, page 1

In 1891 the Phillips literally dug up their Family Bible that had been buried in the grave of a niece 25 years earlier.

This unusual story begins with Isaac Phillips (1766-1834), who was born in Easton, Massachusetts. He left his hometown in 1813 and moved to the South where he was “engaged in the slave trade and accumulated an enormous fortune.”  He kept his money—over $5 million at the time—at the Manhattan Bank of New York.

Isaac died in 1834, “his wife and only child having previously died.” For the next 70 years his relatives tried to prove their right to the fortune Isaac left behind. They had a lot of difficulty in tracking and documenting their genealogy and finally determined that the Family Bible had the answers.

But there was a problem: the Family Bible was buried in a cemetery. It seems that it was buried in the casket along with Isaac’s niece Susana Phillips, who died 4 June 1866.

The money was still safely in the bank, accumulating interest all the while. It was now worth more than $6 million—so the family secured permission to exhume Susana’s body and remove the Family Bible.

When they opened the grave the Family Bible was found and, although a little decayed, the family history “record [was] still perfectly legible” and gave them the information they needed to prove their genealogical connection and claim the family fortune.

Moral of the story: Keep an accurate and complete family history and preserve your documentation, like Family Bibles, that prove the record.

Patty Barthell Myers, 1930-2008

Patty Barthell Myers died 9 October 2008, at the home of her daughter, Lucy Bonnington.

Her obituary (San Antonio Express-News (TX) – October 13, 2008; Philadelphia Inquirer, 13 Oct 2008) simply stated her “life’s work was genealogy.” Well said.

She was the author of numerous compiled genealogies and reference works including:
Female index to Genealogical dictionary of the first settlers of New England by James Savage. (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2008).

Ancestors and descendants of Lewis Ross Freeman with related families : based partially on the work of Freeman Worth Gardner and Willis Freeman. (Camden, ME: Penobscot Press, 1995).

Cargill/Cargile/Cargal of the south and southwest : descendants of Cornelius Cargill of Virginia, John Cargile of Virginia & North Carolina, John Cargile of Virginia & Georgia, Andrew J. & John Cargal of South Carolina & Georgia. (Camden, ME: Penobscot Press, 1997).

Descendants of Joseph Barthel and his wife, Christina Lutz : who came to America 1830 on the Romulus and who settled in Erie County, New York. (Author, 1991).

The Hughes family from Virginia to Oregon. (San Antonio, TX: Burke, 1999).

Her lengthy obituary concluded by saying: “Her life was an example of overcoming enormous challenges, and making a difference in the world, patiently, quietly–and then there was the occasional wild rumpus. “

Her late husband, A.J. Myers had been a POW at the “Hanoi Hilton” at the same time John McCain was there.

San Antonio Express-News (TX) - October 13, 2008
Reprinted with permission GenealogyBank
Patty [Florence] Barthell Myers died October 9th, at the home of her daughter in suburban Philadelphia, where she was living and receiving hospice care since August.


Born in Evanston, Illinois on June 6, 1930, Patty was the third of four children of Harriet Lyon and Edward East Barthell, Jr. She grew up in Winnetka, Illinois, spending summers on Lake Michigan. She graduated from New Trier High School with honors and attended Northwestern University in Evanston.

She met her first husband, Louis Harold Cargill, Jr. on Lake Michigan and they married on Patty’s birthday in 1951. They had 3 children, Lucy, James, and Lon Cargill. Lou died in 1985 and Patty returned to San Antonio. Lon died in January of 1985. Patty married Armand J. Myers in 1988. A.J. and Patty met in 1965 when he was flying fighter jet missions over North Vietnam. He was shot down June, 1966, and was a POW in the Hanoi Hilton for 6 years. When he was re-patriated, his Air Force sponsor was Patty’s husband, Lou. Patty and A.J. married in 1988. A.J. died in 2002.

Patty’s life’s work was genealogy. In 2007, she published her FEMALE INDEX TO GENEALOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST SETTLERS OF NEW ENGLAND, by James Savage,1860.

She is survived by her brother, John Peter Barthell of Sequim, WA, sister Polly Barthell Clark of Orlond Beach, FL, brother Edward East Barthell, III, of Appleton WI, cousin Charles Arthur Carroll, of Manhattan, and cousin Elizabeth (Betsy) Barthell of Overland Park, KS. She also leaves her daughter, Lucy, and her husband Mark Bonnington, of Malvern, PA, son James Eric Cargill of San Antonio, her grandchildren Colin Mark and Cara Ellen Bonington of Malvern, PA and John Shaw Lynch, of Williamsburg, VA and his sister Ashley Lynch Rodi, and God daughters Kemper and Edyn Rodi, of Newport Beach, CA, and sister-in-law, Sally Dulin Shaw of Mexico City.

Patty requested no memorial service. Her ashes will be scattered on Lake Michigan, the pink beaches of Bermuda, and the coast of Oregon.

Her life was an example of overcoming enormous challenges, and making a difference in the world, patiently, quietly–and then there was the occasional wild rumpus.

Friends may call at her home in Oakwell Farms, 15 Campden Circle, San Antonio, TX on Thursday, October 16th, from 2:00 to 7:00 p.m. Donations may be made in her name to the nearest public library.
Copyright (c), 2008, San Antonio Express-News. All Rights Reserved.

How do I find an obituary in Newsday?

How do I find an obituary published in Newsday?
Simple: just click here to go to the obituary backfile at GenealogyBank and follow these steps:

Let’s say you are looking for the obituary of Elayne Singer who died in 2004.

1. Go to the obituary backfile at GenealogyBank.com
2. In the search box – type her name: Elayne Singer
3. Look just below the “Begin Search” button and click on Advanced Search
4. Under “Include Key Words” – type: Newsday
5. Click search.

Instantly your search brings up her obituary notice.

TIP: Use this same technique to narrow your search to any one of the 3,500+ newspapers in GenealogyBank – simply type the name of the newspaper in the “Include Key Words” box.

You may also limit your search by date, place of publication etc.

Elayne Singer sounds like a special woman – her grandson, Scott Resnik said of her: “She was the family matriarch and my best friend.”

It’s good that we have such easy access to the obituaries in Newsday and over 3,500 newspapers to remember what has been written about our ancestors. Click here to see a list of the more than 3,500 newspapers – that you can search.

Newsday (Melville, NY) – August 4, 2004
Elayne Singer, 80, bookkeeper, family matriarch
Agonizing that her older sister, Marion, had a matter of hours to live, Elayne Singer told her grandson, Scott Resnik, in a telephone conversation Saturday morning that she hoped her own death would be quick and painless.


Less than two hours after that telephone conversation, Singer, a liver transplant survivor, died at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow from injuries sustained in an accident on Sunrise Highway. Singer, 80, and her husband, Irving, were on their way from the couple’s Uniondale senior complex to the Merrick Long Island Rail Road Station to pick up another of Singer’s sisters for a farewell visit to their dying sibling Marion when a car slammed broadside into their Honda Civic. Her husband was hospitalized with two fractured ribs.

“She was the family matriarch and my best friend,” Resnik said of his grandmother. “I called her my hero.”

Singer, the youngest of five children, all girls, was born and raised in Brooklyn. She graduated from Jefferson High School in 1942. A fan of the big band music of the day, the former Elayne Lieberman was at a Manhattan dance hall, her grandson said, when she met Irving Singer not long after his discharge from the military in 1946.

The couple married two years later and subsequently moved to Levittown, where they raised two children.

When the children had grown, she became a career bookkeeper, working until she was almost 70 for a variety of local companies.

His grandmother may have been diminutive in stature, but she had a giant heart, Resnik, of Mastic, said.

As relatives fussed over her at a recent family barbecue, tripping over each other to cater to her, she just waved them off, insisting that there must be some tasks to which she could be assigned, Resnik recalled. “She was very petite but she had enough love in her to feed an entire city and more. She constantly wore a smile.”

In addition to her husband and grandson, Singer is survived by two daughters, Hope Martinsen of Afton, N.Y., and Cindy Nadelbach, of Levittown; three sisters, Pat Eagen of Manhattan, Marion Seplow of New Hyde Park and Bea Krebs of Brooklyn; and two other grandchildren, Josh and Lauren Nadelbach.

The funeral was yesterday at Boulevard Riverside Chapel in Hewlett followed by burial at Wellwood Cemetery in Pinelawn. Family will be sitting shivah in Levittown until tomorrow, relatives said.

Donations may be made to the American Liver Foundation, P.O. Box 5218, Toms River, N.J. 08754-5218.
Copyright (c) 2004 Newsday, Inc.


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