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.