For Christmas this year the Boss and I got each other Ancestry DNA Tracing Kits. You know, fill a tube with spit, put in a tube and send to Ancestry.com. When I received the results, months later, the biggest surprise was that my DNA revealed me to be 32% Irish. While I knew I had Irish ancestors, I didn’t realize that they were so dominate in my gene pool. I’m 52% Western European but the Emerald Isle is the biggest factor in my heritage, or at least according to my DNA results.
The Boss, whose maiden name is Collins, assumed she’d be the Irish one — short, freckles, reddish brown hair, but she was shocked she was only 8% Irish and 5% African. Fifty percent of her DNA was Great Britain and 20% Western European. She was also 6% Italian/Greek and 5% Scandinavia. She found out by Googling that Collins is also a Welsh name. The “s” on a name means “son of” in Wales and “son” on the end of a name means “son of” in England (her grandparents were Thompson and Wilkerson).
What was surprising to both of us was no Native American which both of us had thought was in the family tree.
I often put my name up online to see what pops up. I often find my name connected to places, organizations, and business ventures of which I have no previous knowledge. You might surprise yourself to see where your name appears. I recommend that you do this yourself. In February, I was doing such a search on Google. I went over to the image page under “Stephen Nicewanger” and looked at the pictures, most of which I had seen before. However, there was a new one. A picture of a gravestone which was very old and weather beaten. According to the caption, the headstone belonged to Stephen A. Nicewanger. I went into the Web site. It was posted by the Grant County Historical Society as a posting of all the cemeteries in the area around Marion, Indiana. Under the listing for the Salem Cemetery, I found the listing for Stephen’s grave. He was born on July 15, 1800, exactly 150 years before I was born to the very month. That’s 5 generations back. He was my grandfather’s grandfather. Stephen was the first of my forebearers to spell our last name as we now spell it N-I-C-E-W-A-N-G-E-R. It was originally Newschwanger. We had heard from an aunt who’s family had researched the family tree that Stephen’s siblings (14 of them) all decided to spell the name differently, so supposedly there are 9 versions from that family. The Boss looked up Nicewanger on a surname Web site and there are only 28 Nicewangers (including those married to a Nicewanger) in the whole country — most of them in Indiana, but a few in Wisconsin and Kansas.
That first Stephen Nicewanger was a drummer boy in the War of 1812. His father Christian Newschwanger had been in the Revolutionary War. He lived his life as a farmer in Grant County. Next to him lies his wife Asenath who was born on August 30, of 1804. He had his son William when he was 33 and I had my son Chris when I was 33. No pressure Chris, who is now 33 and not even married, but you are the last Nicewanger in this line. There are five other Nicewangers lying in this location.
This prompted me to plan a trip to Marion to go in search of my long past relatives. The Boss was up for such a journey and so it was planned that we would go to Marion, Indiana in search of my past.
The Salem Cemetery had been part of the Salem Congregational Church at one time but the church was torn down in 1936 and the land had been sold to a private concern. We drove up to Marion on a sunny Wednesday. Traveling up I-69 took about an hour and a half to get to the exit. We got driving directions from Google Maps and of course they didn’t jive with how the streets and roads were actually laid out. Marion is a typical small Indiana town and we drove through it before we realized that we had gone past where we were supposed to turn. We went back into the town and stopped at the courthouse for info. A very friendly and helpful deputy sheriff gave us some verbal directions although he was not totally sure exactly where the cemetery was but knew Elk’s Country Club was near there. The Boss followed his directions as best she could and we found the Country Club golf course where the cemetery was supposed to be. The Boss went into the clubhouse and found not a soul. She got back into the car and we started to drive away, but looking to the east, she saw what appeared to be headstones on a rise at the far end of the course. We got back on the main road and finally found the entrance to the graveyard.
The cemetery was cared for most likely by the golf club, but it had no identifying
markings of any kind. There were signs the graves had recently been visited (flowers).
We were able to determine that this place was in fact the Salem Cemetery for which we were looking. I had shown the Boss the photos online so she knew they were a set of two and half foot tall obelish shape. They were at the front of the cemetery facing the golf course. No engraving was visible. Sadly the graves had been vandalized and Stephen and Asenath’s graves had been turned over. We tried to fix them but the rod that held up the stones was missing. We found the grave of my grandfather’s older sister Lucinda (right next to theirs) who died in 1887 at the age of 25. My grandfather William was the youngest of 13 children and was born in 1877.He is entombed in Washington Park Cemetery Mausoleum here in Indianapolis.
We took note of the other Nicewanger graves and then made our way back to Indianapolis. The Boss made a rubbing of Lucinda’s gravestone.
I had a wonderful time and thank my wonderful wife, without her I never could have done it. firstname.lastname@example.org