Have you experienced any strange coincidences in your family tree? By definition, a coincidence is a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection. This story is a perfect example of one such circumstance.
In April I wrote an article about my maternal great-grandmother’s sister Ann (Flood) McCulloch. I didn’t know if she had emigrated from Ireland to the United States. My answer was found when the New York City Municipal Archives released 9.3 million historical vital records to the public. Sure enough, I found a marriage record that confirmed that she did and was living in Brooklyn, New York.1
Ann died in February 1967. 2 While I was investigating the details of her life, I was not surprised to find out that she was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. 3 With over 570,000 burials, it is the largest and most popular cemetery in Brooklyn. 4 Green-Wood has an online database where you can find the location of your loved one. Ann is buried in section 4, lot 21072, grave 56. 5 Now that surprised me.
You might be wondering why. Those numbers were very familiar. I went into my database to check the locations of my relatives buried at Green-Wood, and there it was. Valentine Hendrickson, my GGGG uncle, his wife Charlotte (Caywood) Hendrickson, and three children, Alice, Emma, and Charles are buried in section 4, lot 21072 grave 59. 6 They are just three graves away from Ann!
Valentine Hendrickson was a fireman with Engine Company 10/110 with the Brooklyn Fire Department from 1881-1901. 7 He was born on 24 September 1847, the son of Charles Van Sise Hendrickson and Henrietta Babcock. 8 He married his first cousin (yup) Charlotte Emma Caywood, the daughter of David R. Caywood and Susan Emily Hendrickson sometime about 1876. 9 He and Charlotte had four children; William S. Hendrickson, Charles Hendrickson, Emma Hendrickson, and Alice M. Hendrickson.
Valentine would see his wife and three of his children die many years before himself. The youngest , Emma, died at 10 months old of cholera infantum on 23 June 1883. 10 Daughter Alice died two years later of tuberculosis meningitis on 9 October 1885. 11 Then Charlotte passed away just a few years later on 9 July 1888 of phthisis pulmonalis, also known as pulmonary tuberculosis. 12 At age 40, Valentine was left to raise the two boys, William and Charles, on his own. Just 12 days after his 19th birthday, Valentine’s son Charles died of pulmonary tuberculosis on 28 March 1899. 13
Valentine retired from the Brooklyn Fire Department in 1901. 14 For most of his adult life, he lived in the family home at 97 Carlton Avenue. 15 By 1910 and until the end of his life, he lived with various extended family members in Brooklyn and Queens. 16 On 28 March 1927, exactly 28 years after his son Charles died, Valentine Hendrickson died of bladder cancer at home in Glendale, Queens. 17
I have quite a few relatives buried at Green-Wood Cemetery. All of them are on my father’s side of the family, including my grandparents, great-grandparents, great-grandmother, and my great-great-grandparents. 18 My mother’s relatives are buried in Flushing Cemetery in Queens, including my great-grandmother, Ann’s sister Margaret (Flood) Knowles. 19
What are the chances that Ann (Flood) McCulloch, a maternal ancestor, and Valentine Hendrickson, a paternal ancestor, are buried next to one another in a sea of over 570,000 inhabitants of Green-Wood Cemetery? They did not know one another and were not relatives, neighbors, or friends. The only connection, it seems, is me.