The Hardest Part…

Sep 28, 2023 | 2 comments

Bethenia Owens-Adair — Teacher or Doctor?

I really am having so much fun researching these “Saints or Sinners” stories!  And, every once in a while, a reader tells me how much they are enjoying them and that makes it even better.  And then just today, when I called Pete Heckes with a question about the name of the slough near the Moby Dick — it’s “Paul’s Slough” — he straightened me out on few errors in my story about Peter Jordan — you know, the guy who was so badly hurt when he and a buddy overloaded the cannon they had in Oysterville in the olden days.  Blew it to smithereens. And very nearly themselves along with it.

Well, we got to talking, and when all was said and done, I never used the Paul’s Slough information as I intended and I turned in my story without it.  Oh well.  If I ever find a publisher for these gems, I hope I remember to fine tune a few things!

But finding the details of the stories isn’t the hardest part.  It’s finding the illustrations — preferably photographs of the characters I’m writing about.  When you get back to stories before 1900, it gets harder.  Today, I was looking for a picture of a man who died in 1877.  “Fat chance!” thought I!  After all, he’d come west in the 1830s and just how many photographers do you think might have been doing studio portraits around here over the next 40 years?

John Edmunds or John Pickernell?

However — wonder of wonders! — I found one!  Or at least it purports to be the very man I was looking for — on the Find a Grave site which, besides photographs, contains a storehouse of wonderful information.  Is it all true?  I think as true as any information that comes to us over the years.  The people I’ve met who gather information for Find a Grave seem diligent to a fault.

And while I’m at it, if you are a “Saints or Sinners” reader and have additional information for me, don’t be shy.  If I use the information and find that publisher, I promise I’ll give you full credit!


  1. Cuzzin Ralph

    Cuzzin Sydney, Find-A-Grave is notorious for having incorrect information—after all the credentials for those who submit information are non-existent. You always need to double-check against other sources. Generally speaking, if the information is based on the gravestone itself then it will be more accurate, but still beware. Here is an article that talks about the pitfalls of Find-A-Grave (the Dr. John McGinley Rankin of Kalamazoo mentioned is a relative of my Great-great grandmother Elizabeth Jane Rankin). Whoever submitted the info to Find-A-Grave is completely wrong about the good Doctor’s parents:

    The early Rankins of central and southwest PA are a particularly hard nut to crack (genealogically speaking): (1) they named their kids using a few common first names (William, John, David, James, Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, Susan, etc.) without middle names (2) different Rankin families settled in the same places, and (3) they avoided like the plague having family info recorded in public records!

    • sydney

      Yes, not only do I find numerous errors on Find-A-Grave, even when I know who the author was (as in the case of the Oysterville Cemetery) I get NO responses from my efforts to make contact. It’s maddening. I’d rather know nothing at all than be led to believe that I have at last found some factual information only to learn that it is bogus and have no way to correct it for the next researcher. Who are these people, anyway? Do they have ANY credentials or is there a vetting process before they are allowed to post erronious information on the web?



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