Friday, March 5, 2010

Finding Donald and Mary Livingston(e)

What a day this has been...Since last fall I've been trying to find the location of my great-great grandparents, Donald and Mary Livingston(e) (The "e" comes and goes through out the years) Since my Grandpa is still alive and knew them and some of their history, this should have been fairly easy.

I can get records as far back as 1800 but 1920's? Nope. They dropped off the radar after the 1900 census, but Grandpa went to Grandma Mary's funeral in Golden, Co in the late 1920's. They gotta be somewhere.

For six months friends of mine who are very very good at this, and I search the internet. Soon we know this is only going to be solved by a trip to Colorado in person to the vital records office. Last week I found out I was going on a work related trip to Denver! BINGO! I packed up my records with my business suit.

I started out by going to the Office of Vital Records in Denver with all my paperwork. It’s a very ancient, industrial, beaurocratic looking place with workers behind glass that looks bullet proof and a lot of people waiting to get their medical marijuana cards or to get the one they lost replaced.

Every public employee I dealt with there was beyond nice. Nicer than nice… stunningly NICE. The man told me it might take a while. I was thinking “We’ll mail them to you” or “Come back tomorrow” when he said. “It could be as long as 45 minutes” WOW. Okay. I brought both a laptop and a good book. It was over an hour. We had some trouble with Mary. They searched diligently and gave me the records they could find, which were enough to direct me to Crown Hill Cemetery on the other side of Denver. I called them and made sure my people were truly buried there (I still had no info on Mary but they assured me there was a Mary Livingstone buried next to Donald and we agreed it would be an ironic coincidence were it not his wife), before I took, what turned out to be, an $80 cab ride, (I should have rented the car before then….) across town.

We got there and the place was HUGE. The reason I had not found Donald and Mary before is it’s vastness and contents have not been cataloged for the Internet as of yet.

As a side note the day I got to Denver it was HOT. I brought only sweaters and so I bought a short sleeved shirt to wear. This morning it looked nice when I started out and so there I was in my short sleeve shirt as it starts to snow.

We (me and my 65+yr old Ukrainian taxi driver) go to the cemetery and they give me a map with an “X marks the spot” and off we go. I am happy and excited and trying not to be overly jubilant in the office as it is also a funeral home and people are mulling around for a funeral looking suitably sad. I see a man in a kilt and realize he's part of the funeral party so refrain from pouncing on him and asking questions.

Off we go to section 33 with my yellow highlighted section with the prominent “X” I spend a good 30 minutes searching with no luck. You would think certainly with a map and an “X” it would not take so long to find two people who have not moved in almost 100 years, my good sport taxi driver gets out and starts helping. (Yes he got a great tip) I finally call the office and explain that if they don’t give me a little more info me and my short sleeve shirt are going to be joining the rest of the clients out here shortly. We go back to the office and look at a big BIG map of plots. Then back to section 33. Now I am starting to get worried that I am lucky enough that they are going to be in that one part still covered in SNOW. I am headed back to the cab and……THERE THEY ARE!.....and the Livingston “E” is back in the picture., along with a Freemasons insignia! <----exclamation because this can be more helpful in obtaining info.

I take some pictures and start to load my frozen self back in the taxi. The funeral starts in the next section and the kilted man begins to play the bagpipes. I stand in the cold a little longer.

I found my people.

On Donald’s death certificate it says occupation “Quarry Worker” Location of death “Lyons, Co.” My intention is, since I am already in the state and can eek out two more days if need be, to find out more on the missing quarry info. I cancel my flight, rent a car and drive to Lyons.

The sunset over the crazily cloudy rockies is spectacular. I pull over to take pictures because trying to take them while driving is causing people to look oddly at me.

Lyons from what I have seen, so far, in the dark, is a little town. A very little town. I decided to look for the oldest homiest restaurant/bar in town and find me some long time locals to question. I get into town and see some jam packed Western bars and then I see “Andrea’s Homestead Cooking”, fits my criteria pretty well so in I go. Lots of wood and dead animals on the walls. There's a Scottish Highland cow in the entry. I take it as a sign. A dapper looking gentleman asks if I will be dining “alfresco” and whispers ‘That means alone.” I said I would be and he asked if I would like a table by the fireplace. I look at the tiny little bar with an older lady sitting at the end doing paperwork and said “If you have single malt I’ll sit at the bar and eat” (Greg and Joyce, you trained me well in one night!) The man’s eyebrows went up and he smiled, woman’s head popped up and she smiled and said “A scotch drinker, well, come over!

I was introduced to Balvenie Single Malt. Nice. The woman was Andrea and the restaurant authentic, fantastic, German food. I had veal brats, homemade kraut and German potatoes. (Goes dang fine with Balvenie and I am also sleeping alone tonight so no harm, no foul.) while Andrea broke out her rolodex and made a list on a napkin of the people in town I needed to talk to, to sort out the quarry mystery. Two quarry owners, the town historian and an ancient stone carver.

At present I am in my tiny 1940’s motel room, owned by Sue, where I was sent by Andrea to stay until morning when I am directed to return for breakfast to Andrea’s so we can then “Get on with these people.”

I feel lucky (blessed)

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