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Photo of the Month
December 2007
See Previous Photos     Unknown Faces and Places


One of the hallmarks of Minerd.com is its passionate focus on conducting original, proprietary genealogical research on a national scale. In October 2007, for the 17th year, cousin-researchers Eugene Podraza and Minerd.com founder Mark Miner traveled to gather firsthand documentation. Their 2007 work was on the prairie of Central Illinois and involved time-tested procedures of visiting courthouses and libraries to obtain public records (wills, deeds and newspaper obituaries) and visiting cemeteries to find and photograph ancient and fading grave markers. All of these artifacts document the lives distant cousins who left the Western Pennsylvania region in the early to mid 1800s, never to return. 

The October trip included five days in eight counties in Central Illinois. It produced 600 pages of copied material -- to be added to the family archive of some 120,000 pages -- and resulted in 50 photographs of of old family grave markers. Here, Podraza pauses to pay respect at the grave of Elizabeth (Houser) Dillow, and her Civil War veteran husband William Baker Dillow, at the Deland Cemetery in rural Piatt County. This year's trip not only included work on the Dillows, but also the 19th century Illinois pioneer families of Francis Miner and his married daughters of Fulton County; William and Catherine (Knight) Younkin in Clark County; and Civil War veteran Chance Miner and his wife Martha (Jones) Miner in Marion and Clay Counties. 

Among the discoveries were: 

  • Identity of a "new" Civil War soldier among our cousins, the 98th one found, plus the paper trail and graves of two other Civil War cousin-veterans previously known;
  • Significant papers about a newspaper publisher who covered Abraham Lincoln's presidential campaign (and disliked him), successfully lobbied for railroad standards and women's rights; and later was ridiculed in Edgar Lee Masters' classic work, Spoon River Anthology
  • A Chicago trained entertainer who traveled the nation in the late 1800s and early 1900s performing stage shows; 
  • Documentation of poorly educated cousin-farmers whose graves and paper trail may comprise the few meaningful, tangible traces of their lives; and 
  • Names and contact information for all-important follow-up with long-lost cousins and historical/genealogical groups that may have other information to share.

Other years' voyages have been made to 50-plus counties in Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania plus the District of Columbia. These trips assure that data come from the best possible original sources, rather than purely relying on the work of others. Facts excavated from these paper archaeology "digs" are analyzed, written in People Magazine-like stories and uploaded to the Minerd.com website. The site is an encyclopedic, award-winning online museum of the family's more than 1,500 branches born before 1900, and just as importantly is an outreach to tens of thousands of current day cousins who google their family names and find loved ones on our site. 

Ultimately, we strive to make contact with living relatives who generously share data that broaden everyone's knowledge and deepen understanding. We also invite cousins to come to Western Pennsylvania for the family's annual national reunion each summer. Many cousins would have no other reason to attend except that they are deeply curious and interested in their ancient roots in the Pittsburgh region.

This is one in a series of photographic images published on Minerd.com in 2007-2008 to acknowledge the family's collective, long-term contributions to Western Pennsylvania, and to help the City of Pittsburgh celebrate its 250th birthday, an effort being led by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

Photo by Mark A. Miner.
Copyright 2007 Mark A. Miner