My aunt Cindi joined the Church when she was 17 and has been researching our family history ever since. She and my mom are the only members of the Church on that side of my family. When I was young I loved to hear her tell of the lives of different ancestors.
Despite my aunt's efforts, my third-great-grandmother, Rachael J. Buchanan McCullough, remained a mystery. Her husband, Hugh McCullough, is buried with his second wife in Kansas near other family graves. However, Rachael never made it to Kansas, and we could not find any information on where she died.
A few years ago, my family moved to Keokuk, Iowa, where my dad opened a bed-and-breakfast and another in nearby Nauvoo, Ill. In retrospect, the location of the move was partly coincidence but clearly also an answer to prayer.
Last December, a friend of my aunt was looking through the 1870 census and decided to look for Rachael. The census told us she was alive in 1870 and living in Hancock County, Ill. Cindi knew that Hugh remarried in 1874, so We knew that Rachael had died within five years, probably in Hancock County, which includes Nauvoo, Warsaw and the county seat of Carthage. What a coincidence that our non-LDS ancestor lived and possibly died in Hancock County, the 1840s location of the headquarters of the Church, and that we would discover this fact while we happened to be living just across the Mississippi River in Keokuk.
A few months went by, and it came time for my sister's wedding in Nauvoo. The day before the wedding,my friend and I visited historic Carthage Jail, and I decided to stop by the historical society to see what, if any, information they had on Rachael. I looked in the cemetery records and found a handwritten card with her name and indicating burial in Green Plains Cemetery. Evidently, someone had recently walked the Hancock County cemeteries and copied information down by hand; otherwise, we might never have found her. I went to share the good news with my mom and aunt, who was visiting for the wedding.
An hour or so later, we were headed toward Quincy on Highway 96, a road we had traveled many times. Green Plains Cemetery is on the side of Highway 96, barely visible from the road. No one has been buried there for decades. We looked over every stone but could not find Rachael's. As we were about to give up, Cindi found it. It was difficult to see because the stone had fallen flat to the ground.
I took her name to the Columbus Ohio Temple and was baptized and confirmed for her. I felt she was present, and as I sat there wet and shivering, with hands laid on my head in her behalf, I felt she was watching with gratitude. Careen Barrett, Provo, Utah