I love getting a bargain. Because of this, I’m a member of several local Facebook yard sale pages, and I check them regularly for things I need for my home or my children. However, this weekend there was a different kind of ad that drew my attention. A woman posted that she had gone to a yard sale where the people were selling the contents of a storage unit they had purchased. At this yard sale she found a folded up flag encased in a wooden frame, with a plaque that gave the name, birth date and death date of a soldier. It was the kind of flag the family usually receives when a veteran or active service member dies, and it also included a couple of medals this man had received during his service in World War II.
Wanting to find the family it belonged to, she purchased it from the yard sale, then posted on our local Facebook yard sale page to see if anyone with access to genealogy websites could help her identify the family. Within a few hours he had been identified in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) on Ancestry.com, where it was learned that he had died in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His marriage record was found in Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950 on FamilySearch.org, which gave his wife’s full name. With his wife’s name known, it was quickly discovered that she is also deceased (again, using the SSDI). However, using both of their names and their last known residence in Pittsburgh, an obituary was found for his wife at ObitsforLife.com that listed her surviving children, grandchildren, and even a great-grandchild – as of 2007. Using the names from the obituary, family members in Pittsburgh were found on Facebook and contact was made with them.
How this special flag belonging to a veteran from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ended up in an abandoned storage unit in a small Utah town will likely remain a mystery, but thanks to a bit of genealogy work, it will soon find its way home!
Quick tips for finding living relatives or living descendants of an ancestor:
- Search the Social Security Death Index for exact death information. A free database is located here.
- Search obituaries for named survivors. There are many obituary databases on the Internet.
- Use search engines and social media sites to find people by name in their last likely location.