Obituary Reveals Details of Family Tragedy

Mark has a new hobby, which he came by almost reluctantly. But as soon as he began looking, he was amazed about how much a person can find out about their family history if you just start – and the library’s a great place to start.

A few years ago, the library’s Obituary Index for the local newspaper was posted on the online catalog. It was a huge project, especially the hand entries from notebook listings previous to 1970.

Mark RustmanMark knew his parents were in the listings, but after the project went online, he got curious and decided to type in his last name. Something popped up which he never expected—a Mrs. E. P. Rustman obituary listing from a 1921 Topeka State Journal. Who’s that? Why is she in the Topeka paper? Then it hit him; the tragic family legend, and the reason why he had never met his paternal grandmother. In Hutchinson, she was struck by a car and killed. His father and aunt were with her, just children, but fortunately were not seriously injured.

Mark looked up the obituary and found out the reason the story had made the Topeka paper. His grandmother had been struck on Christmas Eve while waiting for a street car to take the family to a church service. His grandfather was working in a store—typical for Christmas Eve. The depth of the tragedy was greater than ever explained by his father; however Mark and his sister were glad to know the details. With the help of the Kansas Tombstone Project and Ancestry Library Edition, Mark was able to fill out the story and also discovered where his grandmother and her family were buried.

Mark started working on his family history and found immigration records for his great-grandfather. Census records helped Mark find his grandfather’s family and led to finding the year they immigrated to the United States, 1881. He put together the information he already had, then began looking for burial records at Once he was armed with that info, he was able to search for ship passenger lists and found a part of his family that he didn’t know about!

centraliacemeteryMark and his sister visited the Centralia Cemetery and found many relatives they never knew, plus an additional French blood line from his paternal great-grandmother unknown before. He found military grave markers and followed up on Ancestry, locating the corresponding military records. Mark now realized he has a great-great uncle who fought in the Civil War and a cousin who died fighting in World War II.

Mark is really excited about his family history as he continues to find additional members so that he can put his family story all together. You can too! Visit the Topeka Room (second floor) where we have reliable resources and expert staff who can help you find your family.

Sherri Camp

Being the Genealogy Librarian at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library is so much fun! As a veteran genealogist, I love teaching and sharing digital family history and genealogy techniques and helping people solve genealogy problems. My work is to promote a greater knowledge of family heritage.