‘You Can’t Take It with You’? Nelson A. Brucker Did

We’ve all heard that saying before. Conventional wisdom tells us: “you can’t take it with you when you go.”

But Nelson A. Brucker of Deadwood, South Dakota, did. He made arrangements before he died to have his money buried with him in an unmarked grave “in a secluded spot in the hills near his cabin.”

Brucker had no wife or children to leave his money to, and felt that his relatives were “so neglectful and unkind” that he didn’t want to leave his life’s savings to them. As for friends, the old miner once remarked: “I have no friends who have done anything for me to justify my giving them what little money I have.”

Hopefully he has a genealogist cousin today who isn’t neglecting him and has made sure to document Brucker’s life in their family history.

Hmm…I wonder if anyone ever found that unmarked grave and the money.

Money Buried with Him, Aberdeen American newspaper article 25 April 1907

Aberdeen American (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 25 April 1907, page 2

Sinking of the ‘Athenia’: Mythical Family Survival Story Proves to Be Reality

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post, Scott tells how old newspaper articles confirmed his uncle’s incredible WWII survival story—a tale that Scott, as a boy, used to question.

One of the first precepts of genealogy that my mentor (Ginger Simek, president of the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International) taught me, was to always work hard to find out if the family stories I had heard over the years were mythology or, in fact, reality. Mythology may be fun and exciting, but genealogy is all about reality and the truth as we can document it. Recently, I found myself employing this rule.

I have to say that I was basically blessed with a great childhood. However, I have always found myself harboring a serious regret—one that, as a genealogist and our family’s historian, continues to haunt me to this day. This regret is that I never listened closely enough to far too many family stories when they were proffered to me by my elder family members.

However, just a short time ago I found hope for abolishing, at least in part, this regrettable behavior of my youth. Here’s the story.

photo of the Edwin and Margaret Cottle family taken in Launceston, Cornwall

Only known photograph of the whole Edwin and Margaret Cottle family, taken in Launceston, Cornwall, on a date unknown. The author’s Uncle George Bellemy Cottle, the subject of this blog post, is the fourth from the left in back, sporting the black tie. Family photo from the author’s collection.

As a child, I found that by pleading with my Uncle George Cottle using my best smile, my saddest eyes, and/or my finest “please,” he could be coaxed into telling the story of when he and his wife were on a ship that was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in the Atlantic Ocean, and how they barely escaped with their lives. The trouble is I was always focusing on the submarine part (to this day I still love submarines) and not listening closely for the details of this amazing survival story, such as which ship they were on, when they sailed, where they were going, why, etc.

When I began researching the life and times of my Uncle George for our family tree, I decided I needed to find out if “the torpedo story,” as we all called it, was true or simply a family myth. Naturally, I found myself searching GenealogyBank.com for help.

Using the search terms Cottle, torpedo, ship, and a few others I found that good old Uncle George was indeed telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! I found the ship’s name was the Athenia. Upon adding this name to the search terms, BINGO, I found myself reading about the sinking of the Athenia in over 300 newspapers from the Heraldo de Brownsville published in Spanish in Brownsville, Texas, to the Oregonian published in Portland, Oregon, and from the San Diego Union published in San Diego, California, to the Greensboro Record, published in Greensboro, North Carolina. I was also learning that the 1,347 passengers and crew were bound from the United Kingdom to New York in September 1939.

I found myself being entranced by the newspaper articles about the sinking of the S.S. Athenia in WWII, such as one in the Richmond Times Dispatch that reported the attempts by Nazi propaganda minister, Paul Josef Goebbels, to smear British Prime Minister Winston Churchill over the event.

Goebbels Charges Churchill Sank Athenia, Challenges Britisher to Reveal the Truth, Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper article 23 October 1939

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 23 October 1939, page 8

As I began honing in on Cleveland, Ohio, George’s home, I found a truly fantastic set of newspaper articles in the Plain Dealer from that city.

There I was looking at an old photo showing Uncle George and his wife Laura in a lifeboat on their rescue vessel, the Knute Nelson.

photo of George and Laura Cottle being rescued after the sinking of the Athenia, Plain Dealer newspaper article 11 September 1939

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 11 September 1939, page 20

This old photo brought a flood of family memories, and suddenly I was hearing my Uncle’s voice again as he related how he and Aunt Laura, after donning their lifejackets several decks below, headed up to their assigned lifeboat—where they were shoved out of the way by others clambering to get into any lifeboat they could to survive the attack. My Aunt and Uncle moved on to luckily find another lifeboat, the last one to leave the Athenia. They then spent more than seven hours at sea in their leaking lifeboat before their ordeal ended. As they were being rescued, they were horrified to see their originally-assigned lifeboat pulled into the propellers of the Knute Nelson and destroyed with a significant loss of life.

Here is Uncle George’s obituary. Notice that it mentions the sinking of the Athenia.

obituary for George B. Cottle, Plain Dealer newspaper article 27 January 1966

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 27 January 1966, page 61

In my memory, I can still hear my Uncle George telling his survival story of the sinking of the Athenia, and it makes me smile. He would always end this story by remarking “it was the first time in 28 years I went on the ocean, and I am not going again”—although he actually used a bit more colorful language!

Genealogist Obituaries – genealogists in 16 states pass away

Genealogists in 16 States pass away. AK, CA, DE, FL, ID, IL, KS, LA, MA, MO, OH, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI.

Bedgood, Pierrine Charlotte Claudine Cabral. (1938-2009)
Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA) – May 13, 2009

Cheng, Nelson Yum-Ping. (1920-2009)
St. Petersburg Times (FL) – May 14, 2009

Cox, Donald H. (1946-2009)
Lima News (OH) – May 16, 2009

Dawson, Elsie Carter Leonard. (1913-2009)
News Journal (Wilmington, DE) – May 17, 2009

Fortuine, Robert. (1934-2009)
Anchorage Daily News (AK) – May 14, 2009

Gerrie, Alfred Lind, Jr. (1931-2009)
Pasadena Star-News (CA) – May 14, 2009

Harden, Glenda. (1931-2009)
Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT) – May 14, 2009

Harding, Nancy Grotz. (1950-2009)
Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA) – May 17, 2009

Hess, Arthur Brackett. (1948-2009)
Landmark (Holden, MA) – May 14, 2009

Hunt, Edwin Simonds. (1915-2009)
Rockford Register Star (IL) – May 14, 2009

Krah, Gladys Thelma. (1913-2009)
Columbian (Vancouver, WA) – May 17, 2009

Krebs, Emanuel. (1916-2009)
Times-News (Twin Falls, ID) – May 15, 2009

Lasche, Martha Mae. (1912-2009)
Seattle Times (WA) – May 17, 2009

Osteen, Elizabeth Moore. (1917-2009)
Longview News-Journal (TX) – May 16, 2009

Raymond, Guy Raymond, Jr. (1925-2009)
Post-Crescent (Appleton, WI) – May 14, 2009

Roos, Diane. (1945-2009)
Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT) – May 17, 2009

Scott, Frances L. (1946-2009)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) – May 17, 2009

Shackelford, Patricia Ann. (1935-2009)
Lee’s Summit Journal (MO) – May 14, 2009

Stocks, Ina Sharp. (1919-2009)
Idaho State Journal (Pocatello, ID) – May 15, 2009

Strother, Mary McAvoy. (1923-2009)
Sacramento Bee (CA) – May 16, 2009

Yust, Frances L. (1920-2009)
Hutchinson News (KS) – May 16, 2009

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Chicago Marriage certificates 1871-1920 going online

It’s a great day for genealogy. There are only a small handful of Internet sites that are putting up sharp, clear digital images of genealogical records, the kind of resources that genealogists want to use and will rely on for their research.

FamilySearchLabs has been doing just that. They have just added Cook County (IL) Marriage Records from 1900 to 1920 and announced that they will expand these back further to 1871. Cook County – is more than just Chicago – it includes the townships of Barrington, Berwyn, Bloom, Bremen, Calumet, Cicero, Elk Grove, Evanston, Hanover, Lemont, Leyden, Lyons, Maine, New Trier, Niles, Northfield, Norwood Park, Oak Park, Orland, Palatine, Palos, Proviso, Rich, River Forest, Riverside, Schaumburg, Stickney, Thornton, Wheeling, Worth.

Here is a typical example: the marriage certificate of Wyatt Nelson Cronk (1877-1976) to Agnes Brunnell Garcelon (1876-1962). They were married in Oak Park, Cook County, Illinois on 28 March 1908.