Where Is My Cousin Really Buried?

In 1940, Donald Weil, my fourth cousin, once removed, was living with his parents, Adele Sigmund and Raymond Weil, working as the assistant manager of the lamp department in a store in Cleveland.1 When his father died in 1943, Donald was a lieutenant in the US Army, stationed in England.2 There is a record on Ancestry showing that a Donald J. Weil enlisted on October 15, 1940 and served in the Army Corp of Engineers; I am certain that this is the same Donald Weil as the record indicates that he was from Cleveland and that his civil occupation had been as a purchasing agent or buyer.3

Donald married Jane Weingarten in 1954 in New York City,4 and they had two children. By 1970, the family was living in the Orlando area of Florida. Jane died there on December 21, 1992, at the age of 67.

Death notice for Jane Carol Weil, The Orlando Sentinel, Orlando, Florida
23 Dec 1992, Wed • Page 28

And that brings me to the mystery of Donald Weil. There are two FindAGrave memorials for Donald J. Weil with the same birth and death dates, both in Florida, but not in the same cemetery.

The first can be found here:

It shows that Donald J Weil was born on August 28, 1916, which is consistent with the birth record I have for the Donald who was the son of Raymond Weil.5 This FindAGrave memorial reports that Donald died at age 93 on April 26, 2010, in Longwood, Florida, which is where Jane Weingarten Weil was living in 1992 when she died. It also indicates that Donald was buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park, in Gotha, Florida.

Most importantly, there is a long biography written by Donald’s daughter on this FindAGrave page. It provided the best clues as to Donald’s life after World War II—that he ended up working in a large retail store in Detroit. Searching for Donald Weil in the Detroit newspapers, I learned that Donald had purchased a store in Detroit in June, 1960. In 1970 the family relocated to Florida, as noted above.

Detroit Free Press, Detroit, Michigan, 19 Jun 1960, Sun • Page 38

I also was able to locate a death notice for Donald J. Weil in the Orlando Sentinel of May 6, 2010, reporting that Donald had died on April 26, 2010, in Longwood, Florida.6

So what is the mystery, you ask?

Look at this FindAGrave memorial here:

A Donald Jay Weil—with the same exact birth and death dates as “my” Donald. This one is also buried in Florida, but at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida, which is 80 miles west of Longwood, Florida. This Donald is definitely not Jewish. There is a cross on his headstone. Remember that Jane Weil’s death notice specifically mentioned that she was Jewish. But perhaps Donald was not. I have no record indicating his religious identification.

The headstone for this Donald shows he served in World War II and Korea; I don’t know if my Donald served in Korea, but we know he served in World War II. And the dates on the headstone are 1916 to 2010, same as my Donald. If not for those engraved dates, I would have just assumed that whoever created the FindAGrave memorial had confused this Donald with my Donald.

There is only one Donald Weil in the Veteran’s Affairs, BIRL database on Ancestry who was born in 1916 and died in 2010.7 I searched on Fold3.com for any Donald Weil who served in World War II. There were a number of men with that name, but no one else born in 1916 other than my Donald Weil.

A search of Ancestry for any record of any Donald Weil born in 1916 anywhere in the US turned up one, a marriage record for a Donald G. Weil born in about 1916, son of John Weil and Margaret Kuper, who married Helen Kennedy in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, on June 24, 1952.8 But further research revealed that in fact that Donald Weil was born October 3, 1925, in Kentucky, not in August of 1916.9 So that can’t be the Donald Weil buried in the Florida National Cemetery. In fact, that Donald Weil died in 1997, not 2010.

So who is the Donald Jay Weil buried at the Florida National Cemetery? Is he my cousin Donald with just a military memorial placed at that cemetery with his body buried at the Woodlawn cemetery? Or perhaps the opposite?

I called the Florida National Cemetery, and their representative said that Donald J. Weil is definitely buried there and that perhaps his body had been moved from Woodlawn cemetery and reinterred at Florida National. So next I called Woodlawn cemetery. Their representative searched for Donald and did not find him. Thus, I believe that Donald was moved to the Florida National Cemetery sometime after his daughter created the memorial at FindAGrave and that both FindAGrave memorials are for the same man, my cousin Donald Jay Weil.

 

 

 


  1. Raymond Weil family, 1940 US census, Census Place: Cleveland Heights, Cuyahoga, Ohio; Roll: m-t0627-03049; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 18-56, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  2. “Raymond M. Weil,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 3, 1943, p. 9. 
  3.  Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946. Original data: National Archives and Records Administration. Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946 [Archival Database]; ARC: 1263923. World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park. College Park, Maryland, U.S.A. 
  4.  License Number: 28246, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  5. Name: Donald J Weil, Birth Date: Aug 1916, State File Number: 1916067870
    Additional Information: Raymont, Ancestry.com. Ohio, Birth Index, 1908-1964. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946. 
  6. The Orlando Sentinel – 6 May 2010 – Page B8 
  7. Ancestry.com. U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010 
  8. Film Number: 002251850, Ancestry.com. Ohio, County Marriage Records, 1774-1993 
  9. SSN: 299168233, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 

22 thoughts on “Where Is My Cousin Really Buried?

    • My assumption is that they buried him quickly in the first cemetery to comply with Jewish practice (even if Donald wasn’t Jewish—his wife and daughters may have been). Meanwhile they applied for him to get a military burial, and when that came through, they moved him. I have not been in touch yet with his children.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. What a mystery! It would appear that Donald Jay Weir is buried in Florida National Cemetery and not in Woodlawn as you followed up by talking to persons at both offices. It’s not unusual to find burials on Find A Grave for the wrong cemetery or for one person in two cemeteries. Often well-meaning people create memorials for the deceased with information taken from a death record, a death notice or obituary. Sometimes documentation is not used and it is assumed a person was buried next to their spouse. I’ve seen different cemeteries listed on a death record in the obituary. A burial record would be much more reliable.
    Military headstones have been known to have errors. My 2nd great-grandfather’s grave is marked with the military tombstone of a man with a similar name. Later research showed this to be an error as my ancestor was not in the military and the man whose service was used died much later and without descendants, i.e. no family interested in obtaining the marker.
    The application form for a military marker includes a field to choose religious affiliation. Is it possible the applicant checked the wrong box and upon delivery did not bother to have the error corrected? I understand the markers are free but if an error is made by the applicant and a new marker is requested, it must be paid for.
    Assuming Donald was Jewish, was the family involved in placing the marker and were they aware of the error? I’m sure you’ve probably tried to get answers to all of these questions, Amy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I haven’t yet been able to track down the children to get answers to those excellent questions. My guess, as I wrote in reply to Sharon, is that they applied for a military burial after he was already buried at Woodlawn and then moved him once it came through. But your observation about the religious identification is excellent, and I do need to follow up if I can with the children as they would be the only ones to know. The only reason I think the cross may be correct is that odd statement in his wife’s death notice identifying her as Jewish—I’ve never seen that before, and I thought it was to honor her religious choice even though he may have converted.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Amy, wow, this is an interesting one. There’s always the nagging doubt until you can make contact with a descendant that there may be more to tell. It would be unlikely here in the UK for a body to be exhumed other than for forensic reasons. I hope you can find out more, and if it is just one Donald J Weil.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I came to the same conclusion as you – that he was buried in both places. What a fascinating story. Hopefully one day you’ll be in contact with his children. I can understand why they might have wanted him to have a military burial, though I’m not sure I’d move a husband away from a wife, even after death. But all families are different.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Friday's Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

  5. Evidently my ancestors had a need to have a headstone for family members in their local cemetery in Woodbury Connecticut. I have confirmed three headstones in the local cemetery are duplicates and family members were actually buried elsewhere. People were not buried, then reburied. The local headstone was placed as a memorial or Cenotaph even though there is nothing to indicate that on the headstones. In my case the death certificates all show the actual cemetery that the body was sent to. The local cemetery does not have any burial records for these three individuals.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have a similar situation with my 2x great grandfather. I have a newspaper article published days after he died in 1893 stating his body was being returned to Santa Cruz for burial yet I know he is buried in Oakland. I’m assuming he was buried in Santa Cruz and when his wife moved to Oakland, she moved him so he could be nearby. Or, after her death her children moved dad to reside with mom in Oakland.

    I hope you are able to connect with the children.

    Like

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