Imagine spending a summer travelling across the United States with your spouse and dog in a 1974 trailer – bound for genealogy research destinations, with frequent stops to satisfy a hobby of collecting ‘rusty metal’ along country back roads.
Some might think it idyllic, almost romantic . . . that is of course if you don’t count the day in Keokuk, Iowa where Dave’s wife became locked in the cellar archive room when the library closed for the evening – researching his family. It was in this same town Dave located his great, great, great grandfather’s gravesite. By chance, the headstone had recently been replaced, and he bent down to collect a discarded piece from the original headstone. He continues to cherish this memento, along with a bit of sand he scooped up from the civil war battlefields where his great grandfather once fought.
Dave grew up in Santa Cruz, California, joined the military, then returned to CA. He recalls having met many people who married young, wished they could travel, but couldn’t because they had a family; or they travelled regularly and didn’t have time for a family. “So I always said I want to travel and have a family. Every 2 to 3 years I wanted to see something different.” As a result, along with his wife and children, he lived in Canada (17 years), Oregon, WA, and Iowa . . . pursuing family research wherever he went.
Through his research Dave has discovered, contacted and met relatives in Maquoketa, Iowa for the first time. He met a great aunt, the family historian who created a book compiling the family history of his maternal grandmother’s family (Blunt). This motivated him to pursue researching his father’s Norwegian family (Johnson) who came to America in 1880. Although he admits to having challenges with obtaining more information prior to 1880, he remains optimistic. “One little thing leads to another. Luck and perseverance is key.” Through research he learned his great grandfather arrived in Calumet, Michigan, then moved to the Chicago area where he married and raised a family. Most recently, he came upon his great grandmother’s maiden (Nottingham) name on his father’s side and is now researching that clue.
Research Assistance from the Historical Society
On several occasions, Dave has corresponded with local historical societies to obtain family records. While researching his great, great grandmother, he discovered at least 3 spelling variations of her name (Cappel). He wrote to the Historical Society of Sandusky, Ohio inquiring about research assistance and received pictures and information of nine generations of the Cappel family.
With a passion for travel and a desire to see the places his ancestors lived, Dave Burkett has been interested in family research for over 25 years. He maintains a keen interest in military history, and will provide a presentation of his Civil War research at the January, 2014 SGS meeting. He is the current President of the Siuslaw Genealogy Society.