Searching for Baby Gleed

December 10, 2012  - by 

In 2004, my wife and I were eagerly anticipating the birth of our third child, a baby girl, whom we had affectionately named Rachel. By all appearances, my wife’s pregnancy was going remarkably well. There were no reasons for us to be alarmed. Ultrasounds confirmed our baby was growing and developing properly. And my wife was enjoying relatively good health. As she approached her third trimester, however, she started to feel a bit uneasy. The life that she had heretofore felt within her no longer manifested itself in the usual ways. Worried that something dreadful may have occurred, my wife sought comfort and reassurance from our doctor. After a thorough examination the doctor confirmed our worst fears, our baby had died. Tears were shed, hope was replaced with sorrow, and a season of heartache ensued.

Although the loss of our child was difficult, my wife found an added measure of strength and comfort to help her through her tribulations by turning to her ancestors. She learned during her ordeal that her grandmother, Carmen (Shaffer) Gleed, had undergone a similar hardship early in her life. She too had lost a child during pregnancy. Not only could my wife relate with her grandmother’s experience, but this knowledge helped to further solidify the bond that already existed between them. It also conjured up interest and curiosity on the part of my wife to find out all she could about her grandmother’s baby. This marked the beginning of what would become an incredible and emotional journey.

My wife learned that her grandmother, sometime during the late 1930s and early 40s, gave birth to a stillborn baby girl. Supposedly the baby was alive and well when Carmen went into labor. But things quickly took a turn for the worse. As a result of prolonged labor, a negligent doctor, and complications during delivery, the infant died. Carmen was devastated. Funeral and burial proceedings took place the following day, but Carmen, in her weakened condition was unable to attend the services. According to family sources, the child was not buried in the local town cemetery, but rather in a cemetery of a neighboring town. No burial marker was ever placed upon the child’s grave, a fact which Carmen later in life lamented, and the whereabouts of the grave was now somewhat of a family mystery.

According to my wife’s mother, Carmen had kept a small booklet with information about the child. The book was supposedly one of Carmen’s most treasured possessions. After her passing, however, the book had mysteriously disappeared. Family members feared that the book had accidentally been lost or yet worse, destroyed. My wife made every attempt to locate her grandmother’s book, but sadly, nobody, including Carmen’s children, knew of its whereabouts. Years passed, and so did any hope that the book would ever be found.

Hoping to learn more, my wife and I turned to the Historical Record Collections on FamilySearch. There we found among their vast online record collections a database of particular interest: Utah Death Certificates, 1904-1956. To our surprise, a search of the collection produced a death certificate for her grandmother’s deceased child. According to the certificate, “Baby Gleed” was born “stillborn” on 11 May 1939 at the Valley Hospital in Tremonton, Utah and later buried at Beaver Dam, Utah on 12 May 1939. Indeed, this was truly a remarkable find. Of course, my wife was overcome with excitement and eager to make the pilgrimage to Northern Utah to visit the cemetery to see if we could locate the final resting spot of “Baby Gleed.” But since no marker had been placed upon the grave, pinpointing the precise location would be a challenge.

Fortunately for us, an interview with my wife’s grand aunt supplied us with an important clue. She recalled that Carmen’s infant had been buried beside a child surnamed Bowcutt. Merlin Gleed, Carmen’s husband, descends from Bowcutt pioneers. Purportedly Bowcutt relatives offered the burial plot to the Gleeds for the purpose of burying their child. This would explain why they chose to bury their baby in a neighboring town rather than the local Garland cemetery. Regrettably, the name of the Bowcutt child could not be ascertained.

Additional clues emerged a short while later after one of my wife’s aunts passed away. As her children were rummaging through their mother’s belongings, they stumbled upon a small green picture book labeled, “Baby’s Pictures.” It was her grandmother’s missing book. By now, the book was old, tattered, and worn, but precious photos of the child, the grave-site, and other mementos had been preserved. Evidently, whoever had made the discovery did not recognize the significance of the keepsake. Hence, it was placed in a box full of items to be discarded. Fortunately, the item was rescued before it was destroyed.

When news of the miraculous discovery was conveyed to my wife she could hardly contain her emotions. She was so excited to view the book. Eventually, she was given possession of her grandmother’s relic. It  is one of her most priceless treasures. Not only has it helped to forge a tangible bond between them, but it has provided her with a special glimpse into the heartrending episode of her grandmother’s life.

Very little was mentioned in the book about the actual burial of baby Gleed, but one item in particular—a photograph of the burial site, provided us with a critical clue. Standing like a beacon on the outer left-edge of the photo is a distinguishable grave marker adjacent to the burial spot. The marker, if still standing, would serve as a visible reference point for finding the burial plot. As it turns out, it was just the piece of evidence we needed to solve our mystery.

Fittingly, on Memorial Day in 2010 as we celebrated our heritage, we took the recently acquired photograph and traveled to the Beaver Dam Cemetery to attempt to locate baby Gleed’s final resting spot. The cemetery, which is situated atop a prominent hill overlooking the valley, is truly a site to behold. One can hardly imagine a scene more beautiful and picturesque. The grounds, which were once overgrown and encumbered with weeds, are now lush and green, well kept, and perfectly adorned by hundreds of stone monuments; a proper and fitting tribute to all who have passed on.

It took only a matter of minutes to locate baby Gleed’s grave. Just as we had hoped, the gravestone seen in the photograph is still standing. It belongs, not surprisingly, to Grace Vernon Bowcutt, a sister of Merlin’s mother who had died at the age of ten. Standing there we couldn’t help but feel that we were standing on sacred and hallowed ground. Finally, after all these years, we had found baby Gleed’s grave. It was a solemn and tender moment that neither my wife nor I will ever forget.

 

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Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this tremendous story of love and dedication to an ancestor and her lost child. Certainly the experiences of our ancestors help us in many ways as we live each day.

  2. I would also like to thank you for this beautiful story. It should serve as a reminder to all of us to never give up when we are involved in any kind of Family History work. Answers seem to come to those that keep trying in many different forms.

  3. This is a tender and sweet story. Thank you for sharing it. I turn to my ancestors on a regular basis, they are always there, waiting for me to study their lives, and find them. They bring me great hope and joy.

  4. Our ancestors help us to find out who we are, and I thankfully embrace each new thing I learn abouit their lives. What a thrill that ending to your search must have
    been.

  5. I can so relate to this touching story. My wonderful mother in law also faced the sadness of a stillborn in 1947. She never spoke about it and I never wanted to pry into something so personal. But many years have passed since her death and I’m the family historian so I began my own search. In all of her papers I could find no birth/death cert. Nothing that would help. My only clue was a conversation many years ago when someone mentioned the cemetery. I traveled there last summer but to my dismay their was no marker. The grounds keeper had records of the burial plot but no stone was ever placed. The family must not have been able to afford one. I plan on returning next summer and have one placed. Little Paul was never forgotten.

  6. Thank you for sharing this touching story. I also lost an infant during my pregnancy. Your story brought tears to my eyes.

  7. Status update: My wife just finished raising money to place a marker on Baby Gleed’s grave. She is so excited. She has ordered the headstone from the monument company and is eagerly awaiting its placement at the cemetery.

  8. I was working on an image of a death record from northern Germany. Most of the form was empty and crossed out but there was a long marginal note. I had found names in marginal notes when one was not entered on the form so I spent some time trying to decipher the note even though there were no obvious names. I discovered it was a stillbirth. I was looking for instructions about whether to index stillbirths when I found this Blog. Because of a similar situation in our family I knew the record needed to be indexed.