Honoring Martin & Frances Burns – From Their Great-Grandson

My Trip to Long Island National Cemetery

Farmingdale, New York

We are all descended from thousands of people. However, we don’t get to know all of them. For the ones we do get to know, there are some that we actually get to spend time with and there are others that we get to know through stories. Here is the story of my great-grandparents Martin and Frances Burns through the lens of their great-grandson, Shane Martin Oxendine.

By: Shane M. Oxendine

Everyone in the family always had good things to say about Martin.

They said that he was smart and that he was the sweetest man that they had ever met.

A true gentleman.

I’m proud to have his name as my middle name because it drives me to be a kind-hearted person just like he was.

Even though I never met him, I’m thankful for him and the picture that people painted of him. I honestly believe that he was a great man and I admire the way that he treated the people that I love today.

 

Nanny was also such a great person. She loved me very much and she always made sure that I knew it. There was never a day around her where I didn’t feel loved. I remember that she would always say that I reminded her of her husband. She always said that I was lucky to have some of his attributes.

Nanny also always made sure that I had nice stuff. I remember that she would always buy me new clothes.

SHE ALSO ALWAYS MADE SURE I HAD A CLEAN PAIR OF SOCKS TO WEAR. She would ask me almost every day if I needed socks because she knew it was important to me. She also said she didn’t want me to have “stinky feet” and that would always make us laugh.

I loved her so much.

She was always a sweet, beautiful person to me. She never once got mad at me or treated me badly. All she did was love me. She is a big reason why I take my family seriously. She showed me how to love my family without me even knowing it back then.

She also had a laugh that was really funny. I had to get a portrait of an angel tattooed on me with her name above it simply because she was an angel when she was alive and when she passed.

I’ll never forget her.

I’ll always love her and I’ll always miss her.

I’ve never met anyone like her and I probably never will again. I know that her and Martin are now together up in Heaven, and that’s what she wanted in the last of her time.

It’s depressing but she made that very clear. She loved him more than life itself.

I admire her for everything that she was. She was such a great person.

I promised you that I would take you to see them and one day soon we will.

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The Burns Family Plot

My Trip to St. John’s Cemetery

Queens, New York

Next on my list of locations to visit in St. John’s was the Burns. One of my more difficult branches to research (mainly due to the commonality of the Burns surname), my Burns ancestors were one of my favorite branches to conquer. It started with, of course, interviewing my grandmother (who was born a Burns). My grandmother remembers all sorts of stories about her grandparents, and one of the most interesting characters, was her grandfather Henry Edward Burns (1881-1963), who went by Harry. He was your typical jolly, hard-working, jokester of an Irishman who allegedly had to give his wife his paycheck every payday out of fear of blowing it all at the bar.

For the longest time, I was unable to pinpoint his birth record. Born in 1881, there was a good chance he may not have had a birth record. However, I didn’t give up running searches and rather than running a search with his first name, I simply ran one for the year 1881 with just the last name Burns. This is what I came across.

henry-burns-search

May 9, 1881 was his birthday. Charles Burns was his father. There are two records though? One of which has a death date of the same day? Did my 2nd great grandfather have a twin? I couldn’t wait to tell my grandmother as I was sure this was a piece of information she had never heard before.

I said, “Grandma, did you know that your grandfather Harry Burns had a twin?”

She replied, “Yeah, he did have a twin. Actually, he used to make a joke about how he kicked his twin to death because he needed more room.”

Maybe not the best joke to make about the twin he never got to meet, but that just goes to demonstrate the good nature of the man. Even the most tragic of scenarios could be infused with a little bit of humor.

Here is their birth certificate:

henry-burns-birth-record

This opened the door to another generation and led to a number of other discoveries, including where my 3x great grandparents were buried. Charles Burns was not buried with his first wife, Mary McCadden. Instead, I came to learn that Mary had passed away on May 22, 1900 and was buried in a plot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn presumably where her infant son was also buried.

Charles Burns remarried a couple of years later to Margaret Catherine Scally (1877-1939), and had two more children, Daniel Francis Burns, and Margaret C. Burns. All four of them are buried together in the plot seen below.

burns

Unfortunately, there are no names inscribed on this headstone – just the Burns surname signifying it is the Burns Family Plot. In that moment, I thought perhaps there used to be footstones marking each individual’s name. However, Margaret C. Burns (their daughter) had passed away in 1990 and Daniel F. Burns (their son) had passed away in 1982. According to my grandmother, Margaret and Daniel lived together their entire lives, never married, and never had kids.

Their father was first buried there in 1928 and their mother next in 1939. Why did they never get their names inscribed? Was it their wish for the stone to only say Burns? Why leave all of that space on the stone then? Did two earlier footstones exist? Who was responsible for their burials?

All questions I’d like to find out answers to. I can’t imagine they would have not wanted their names on their headstone. How would they be remembered? All it says is Burns.

Anyways, if it was indeed just due to the lack of follow through on the part of other family members, I want to make sure that I am one day able to get their names inscribed. In the meantime, they will be memorialized here.

Information found from Locate A Loved One that prompted this search:

Charles Burns

1855-1928

Section: 6 Row: L Plot: 85 Grave: 2

Margaret Scally Burns (Charles’ 2nd wife)

1877-1939

Section: 6 Row: L Plot: 85 Grave: 3

Daniel F. Burns (Charles’ youngest son)

1902-1982

Section: 6 Row: L Plot: 85 Grave: 3

Margaret C. Burns (Charles’ youngest daughter)

1906-1990

Section: 6 Row: L Plot: 85 Grave: 4

 

pop-burns-with-boys
Circa 1926-27: Harry Burns aka “Pop Burns” (right) with his children and half-brother Daniel Burns (left)           Courtesy of: My Grandmother

If you want to support my research and quest to make sure that all of my ancestors are properly remembered, please let me know. I started Flat Tire Genealogy to ensure that no one in my tree would be forgotten. So, anything you can do to help, especially if these people are in your tree too, would be greatly, greatly appreciated.

As always, keep digging.