Jacque Beck restores a forgotten identity
On the manicured grounds of Nuevo Memory Gardens rests a 12-inch-by-6-inch temporary grave marker. A single last name is stamped into the weather-worn concrete: Tritthart.
Ramona resident Jacque Beck stood above the marker and thought, “What is your first name?” She decided to find out.
At a recent meeting of the San Diego County Genealogical Association, Beck, who is the association president, told how she was able to find the identity and give back the first name to this individual.
“I always feel bad for people who have been buried and have no one who remembers them,” said Beck, who has lived in Ramona with her husband Darrell since the 1960s.
For 20 years she worked as secretary and bookkeeper at the cemetery grounds in Ramona, retiring in 2003. She has become the keeper of the memories of those resting there.
“I don’t think of it as a cemetery,” she said. “I call it an outside museum.”
According to Beck, Nuevo Memory Gardens cemetery was established in 1894.
“Local people formed an association and sold off blocks containing 12 burial plots per site,” said Beck.
At that time, families may have been responsible for handling all aspects of burials. It was up to them to dig the grave and provide a headstone. Records were not strictly kept until 1959, when the cemetery became a special district, the Ramona Cemetery District.
Beck is a master at blending her genealogical skills with those of an investigator. She started by looking at the names of other individuals buried in the same 12-lot plot.
“I noticed that one individual, David Hutton, had a large headstone with a death date of Feb. 28, 1937,” Beck said.
In this same plot was a temporary marker with the name Cora. In addition, another individual, buried one plot to the left of Tritthart, had the name Ethel Wininger. Beck decided to begin her research with Hutton and see if she could connect the lots in some way.
As a genealogist, Beck uses many tools for research. These include copies of the U.S. Census as well as referring to early editions of the Ramona Sentinel. She started her investigation by checking Sentinel obituaries from 1937, the year Hutton died.
“Many times, when you only use the census records, you can hit a roadblock,” said Beck. “Names can be misspelled, dates wrong or other incorrect information provided.”
Through the obituaries, Beck learned that David Hutton had operated a farm in the valley.
“I found he had married Cora Chilsholm in 1895 and had a daughter named Myrtle.” Could Cora be buried beneath the temporary maker in the Hutton plot?
Beck also learned that a David Hutton had once lived in Colorado. Using the U.S. Census, she began tracking back through time until she found Hutton listed in the 1920 census record. The file showed that David Hutton and his wife Cora lived in Colorado with their son-in-law Walter Tritthart, who was a widower.
“Suddenly I had a first name — Walter — that might be connected to the Tritthart marker,” said Beck.
But, was it really Walter buried beneath the temporary marker? More research, backtracking and investigation was needed, and Beck was determined to find the answers.
Using census records, she began tracing back the name of Walter Tritthart. In the 1905 census, she found Tritthart listed with his parents, Peter and Margaret, as well as a brother and sister. The 1910 census showed Walter still living with his parents. In 1920, Walter was living with his in-laws (Hutton) in Yuma County, Colo. The names of Hutton and Walter Tritthart were beginning to link.
“Continuing, I was able to find that Walter had moved to Adams County, Colorado, in 1930,” said Beck.
Tritthart was no longer listed as a widower, having married a woman named Ethel Chilsholm.
“I was getting excited,” Beck said with a laugh. “I had connected the names of David Hutton, Cora, Tritthart and perhaps Ethel Wininger to plots in the same burial site.”
Though she was sure that Walter was buried beneath the Tritthart marker, Beck needed to be certain. Additional research was required. With continuing investigation of the name Walter Tritthart, she suddenly found the answer.
“In the census for Idaho, I found a marriage license dated Feb. 14, 1914, for Walter and his first wife,” Beck said. “His first wife was named Myrtle. The Huttons’ only daughter was named Myrtle.”
Walter had been listed as living with the Huttons as a widowed son-in-law in the 1920 census. Beck had tied the names of Hutton and Tritthart to the plots.
“I still did not have a death date for Walter,” she said.
Beck knew that David Hutton had been his father-in-law and Cora Hutton had been his mother-in-law, but she was not sure that Cora was buried at the site.
“Sometimes owners of the plots simply had their name placed on a temporary marker to indicate where they planned to be buried,” Beck explained. Perhaps this was the case with the Tritthart marker, and all of Beck’s research, tracking and investigation would be to no avail.
Using the known dates of death for David Hutton (1937) and Ethel Wininger (1944), Beck began searching Sentinel obituaries.
“I knew from Hutton’s obituary that Walter Tritthart was still alive and residing in Ramona in 1937,” Beck said.
She found the Wininger obituary from 1944, and learned that Ethel had been preceded in death by her first husband, Walter Tritthart. Now Beck had positively connected three names: Hutton, Tritthart and Wininger. Ethel had remarried a Ramona farmer named O. Wininger. “Therefore, Walter had died prior to 1944.”
The search continued with backtracking the obituaries from 1944 to 1938. Then, in the Dec. 22, 1938, issue of the Ramona Sentinel, Beck discovered the last piece of the puzzle, with confirmation of the name Walter Tritthart.
“The 1938 obituary stated that funeral services had been held in La Mesa for Walter Tritthart, who had resided in Ramona for the past three years,” Beck read.
The obituary further stated that Tritthart was survived by his wife Ethel, two children named Lyle and Opal, and two stepchildren named Lloyd and Doris.
“The key to tying all the names together was learning that Walter was also survived by his mother-in-law Mrs. Cora Hutton,” Beck said with pride.
Through her tireless research and investigation, Beck was able to provide a first name and date of death to Mr. Tritthart.
“There are still some mysteries at the grave site,” Beck said. “We1re not sure if Cora1s temporary marker is really the plot where Cora Hutton is buried.”
Beck tracked down a death notice of a Cora Hutton who had been married to David Hutton.
“I learned that Cora had died in 1944 in Flagstaff, Arizona,” Beck said. “I’m trying to get further records to see if her remains are buried in Nuevo Memory Gardens.”
“We were notified by Jacque Beck that the ‘Tritthart’ temporary marker now has a first name and death date,” said Nuevo office administrator Ronda Guile. “A new marker is being made that will read: Walter Tritthart, Dec. 21, 1938.”
Beck was not able to get a positive birth date for Walter.
Beck offers a tip to would-be genealogists. “Always examine the names of those buried near your family members, as you never know who you might be related to. I knew there had to be a close link with the names Hutton, Wininger and Tritthart. It was just a matter of connecting the lots.”
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