Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Tribute to William Emry Burnes

My Grandfather, William Emry Burnes was an incredible man! A World War I Navy Hero, The city Sheriff,  a Free Mason, a violinist, a successful Business Owner, a Deep Sea Fisherman, an Honest man, Hard working & intelligent.

He was a young man who had carried the heavy load of his family through the death of his father during the time of the Great Depression.  He was the oldest of 8 children, and without hesitation,  he took on the responsibility to support his mother, brothers and sisters and their spouses through the painful years of the depression.  A second cousin confirmed this, stating “he even made sure his sisters and sister in laws had beautiful hats and shoes to wear.” At the age of 37, when all of his siblings were able to make it on their own, he married his first wife, Kathryn Fleig. The short marriage of 3 years ended when he noted in the divorce papers that he stayed faithful for the space of 3 years awaiting her return. The papers also stated this small but very important detail "no children were born to this marriage". For unknown reasons, she had left him and never came back. Heartbroken by this tragedy he removed himself from the "normal" way life should be, and focused on living an honest life as the local town Sheriff and Business Owner. It was eleven years later that he would meet Ruth Imogene Adams in Batavia, Iowa. He was 49 years old, she was 18, the perfect match separated by 31 years. They married a few months later and set off to start their lives far from home; in Napa, California. They had two children together, one son (my father) and a baby girl who died just a few hours after she was born. They lived a happy life together for 12 years, until his death in 1956. This was not the typical story for most of your grandparents, but this was mine, and one that I am very proud of.

The passion I have for doing genealogy is very personal to me. It defines the line between the truth and the unknown. It gives me hope, it gives me knowledge, but mostly it gives me the opportunity to link our ancestors together as one family. We live in a day in age, where we can learn the truth of our ancestors from many genealogical websites like;
Ancestry, Family Search, Findagrave, USGenweb, Google and so many more. My newly discovered lineage has impacted the way I view myself and every living and non living person. I know our loved ones who have passed on, are still here, just unseen to our earthly eyes. We can feel them close when we are in tune to them. We all have ancestors cheering for us, helping us daily, and strengthening us as we bear the burdens of this life. They have paved that rocky road so we can pay it back to them by keeping them alive, in us, and staying true to our family name and heritage.

A Tribute to William Emry Burnes:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

George Washington Burnes & Sarah Walker Burnes Portraits

Okay, I can't bottle my excitement any longer. Portraits DO exist, and my 6 year search is over. Presenting... George Washington BURNES, & Sarah Walker BURNES my Great, Great, Great Grandparents. 13 children, married 55 years, Christian, 700 acre farm, Hope Indiana, Norristown Cemetery. A HUGE Thank you for this photo goes to Gary Ziegler, my 4th cousin from Indiana!  It's so great to finally see their faces 6 years after I first discovered them. Thanks to facebook and the internet, my distant cousins are finding each other and communicating. GENEALOGY IS TRULY AMAZING!!!

There's finally a face to his name, George Washington Burnes my GGG-Grandfather

"Connect The Dots" -Sarah

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Power of Facebook. Guess Who I found?

Facebook isn't just for Social Networking! In fact, this powerful platform with more than 900 million users has helped me to connect with many people, including distant cousins. Yes, Facebook is awesome for more than one reason!!

As I began on my family history adventure, I was learning more about my heritage than I could ever imagine. After only one year of extensive research, I traced my lineage back 7 generations, which was quite the conquest, considering that I didn't know my paternal grandfather (father's, father), or anything about him. After discovering that my Great, Great, Great Grandparents, George Washington Burnes & Sarah Walker Burnes had settled in Hope, Indiana I was anxious to get out there. So, I booked a flight to Indianapolis, Indiana and left on May 18, 2007. After a successful trip of meeting family and transcribing headstones, my knowledge of my heritage had increased, and I felt closer to my ancestors.

Many of siblings have joined Facebook, but a few have not embraced the Facebook phenomenon. So I did a search for my brother JAMES BURNES, and the first person to show up was someone who resembled my brother, with the same name and spelling, but lived over 2,000 miles away; in Indianapolis, Indiana. The city he lived in was a clue that we could be related, so I wrote him a message and guess what I found out?

Here's the screenshot from our first conversation on Facebook:

As you can see, from our conversation above, we discovered we are 5th cousins, which means we share the same Great, Great, Great Grandfather; George Washington Burnes. From our connection, we have acquired many photographs and details about our ancestors that we never knew existed. More importantly, we have "CONNECTED THE DOTS" and our family continues to grow.

Give it a try!!
Start searching for distant cousins on Facebook!!

Find more BURNES info at

Monday, November 5, 2012

Original Fishing License of William & Ruth Burnes

I found a TREASURE!! In my home, I have my grandpa's old tackle box with old hooks, bobbins and weights, but I had no idea there was something more valuable inside; their original fishing license. This very small piece of paper that was folded inside a 1"x 2" fishing tag contained more information than I could imagine. I had no idea my grandpa was only 5'7"; crazy! Here's the copy of the original fishing license and tags:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why President George Washington didn't like David Burnes

A very fortunate man was David Burns, another of the original land-holders. His property was situated largely in what is now the fashionable northwest quarter of the city. Burns—" crusty Davie Burns," as he was called—was a very bigoted, choleric Scotchman; fond of controversy, and never known to agree with anyone in the slightest particular. He lived in a rude cottage near the river, and cultivated a large plantation extending over the spot where the White House now stands. The demand for his land made him very wealthy, and his only child, Marcia Burns, was known in all the country around as " the beautiful heiress of Washington." For some time Burns was opposed to the projected transfer of land to the government, and the President and the commissioners had several conferences with him in his cottage to explain the advantages of the plan. On one of these occasions, so the tradition runs, the testy old planter answered one of Washington's arguments by this outburst: " I suppose, Mr. Washington, you think people are going to take every grist from you as pure grain; but what would you have been if you hadn't married the rich widow Custis I" The usually sedate Washington at this audacious remark is said to have actually lost his temper, and left the house in indignation. He afterward spoke of the impertinent Scotchman as that obstinate Mr. Burns," and would never meet him again.

Sources courtesy of

David Burnes' written letter to President George Washington - Goose Creek 26 Feb 1791

Goose Creek 26 Feb 1791
To President Washington,

I presume to address you with great deference on a subject in which I think my own character and reputation and interest involved. Reports have been circulated here that some designing speculative men have been making you offers for the property which I among others gave up to you on certain conditions stipulated in a paper which we all signed giving you the power to make any advantage therefrom towards erecting the Federal City and I am the more induced to believe that speculation is in view from an offer which I have lately had for a further part of my property on the specious pretext that it will be necessary to give it up to complete your designs should you fix on the ground we have already offered you for the purposes aforesaid. To convince you that I do not withhold that farther part of my property from your application of it to the uses designed I am willing if it is your desire to add a further quantity of my land not exceeding 79 acres at any price not under 15 pounds per acre that you may please to nominate or I will agree to take every third lot of the said for the percent (?) of ground.

David Burnes 

Photo Credit: Barb Price - Genealogist - 8th cousin to Sarah Burnes Heiner
Research credit goes to Barb Price and her incredible discoveries.

Note From Barb Price:

This letter to the President was amongst the papers in the Van Ness-Phillips Collection.   I was not aware of this Collection until I stumbled upon an article written by Bob Arnebeck, he was in the midst of writing a book about the building of the Federal City and he had come across them.   The Collection totals 93 boxes, of which I was only able to search through the first 3, that took me 3 days!   I will have to go back to NY and search through the rest, eh?

David Burnes and President George Washington and the new Capitol City in Washington DC - How it all Started

Difficult Days in a City's Beginning
Carving Out the Capital Put Landowners in a Troublesome Spot
By Linda Wheeler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 28, 2000; Page T03

David Burnes, a veteran of the Revolutionary War who had willingly sold much of his land to the federal government for the new capital, prided himself on being a good citizen. So he was amazed when he was stopped from building a simple log cabin for his family on land he owned in the new District of Columbia.
"Our [approval] is necessary for the erection of any temporary building in the City of Washington," three appointed commissioners, the capital's very first bureaucrats, wrote him Jan. 20, 1792. "We yesterday saw one carrying on, avowedly under your authority, in which we were not consulted, and which we do not approve of, and to prevent unnecessary expense and trouble to you, we thus notify you of our sentiments."
Burnes, who had owned most of what is now downtown Washington, was outraged. A lawyer and third-generation American, he fired off letters to President George Washington, who refused to get involved, and to the commissioners, whom he later characterized as having "cringing meanness."
Burnes and others had sold their land to the federal government in 1791 in a complicated plan that was supposed to lead to riches for the sellers and a shiny new capital city for the government. President Washington himself had struck the deal.
The confrontation over the log cabin was just the beginning for Burnes, who spent the remaining seven years of his life battling the commissioners at every turn.
He wasn't the only unhappy resident of the new federal city.
Samuel Davidson was threatened with arrest by the same commissioners when he tried to erect an outhouse on land slated for use as a future street. They went after him the very day he began to dig the new privy near his home.

Today's Washington, with its broad avenues, sweeping Mall and magnificent buildings, reveals little of its rough beginnings -- when the nation's capital was carved out of a forested landscape dotted with small farms. Two ports -- Georgetown and Alexandria -- were purposely included in the 10-square-mile federal enclave, but the new city took shape in the undeveloped area.

Residents of the future District of Columbia, with the exception of those in Georgetown, didn't lobby for the privilege of hosting Congress and the president as had Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore. Congress struggled for years before making a final decision. In 1790, it passed the Residence Act, making Philadelphia the temporary capital for 10 years and mandating a move to the new, and then-unknown, capital in 1800.
Congress did not pick the site. President Washington was appointed to explore and evaluate a 110-mile stretch of the Potomac River. He visited Maryland's Hagerstown, Williamsport and Sharpsburg, asking for detailed real estate maps and a price for the land. At each stop, officials were left with the impression that their town was a strong candidate.

In Georgetown, then a part of Maryland, Washington was given a map and an offer to sell some land at $40 an acre. In December 1790, the Maryland government sweetened the deal by promising condemnation proceedings against any owners who refused to sell.

On Jan. 22, 1791, Washington named the three commissioners who would manage the acquisition and eventual sale of lots in the new capital. Two days later, Washington told Congress the capital would be built between Georgetown and the Eastern Branch, now the Anacostia River.
However, the president wanted to keep his choice secret from the local residents, fearing a jump in land prices if the news got out. In particular, he was worried about Burnes because his land was in the middle of the area that would be the capital.

Burnes was known as a shrewd businessman who had built up his family's holdings, ran a profitable farm and was a stickler about maintaining his boundaries. In 1784, he had evicted Dick Goosequill from what is now Third Street NW at the foot of Capitol Hill, calling him an illegal squatter.
In 1790, Burnes lived at what would become 17th and D streets NW, in a 20-by-24-foot plank house with a stone chimney. The tobacco house that also was on his property was "almost blown down," according to a description from one resident, and his land was "worn out, very much grubbed and washed." However, his house and the adjoining acreage was on the road leading from the Eastern Branch ferry to Georgetown -- a great location for capital planners.

Washington quietly sent two representatives to Burnes to make an offer for his property, approximately 450 acres that stretched roughly from today's H Street to Constitution Avenue between Third and 18th streets NW -- and included the land that would become the site of the White House.
He instructed them to act "in the most profound secrecy" and "to conduct themselves as to excite no suspicion that they are on behalf of the public."
Burnes turned them down.

Next, Washington had his city planner, Maj. Charles Pierre L'Enfant, begin his survey of the Eastern Branch area to fool Burnes into thinking the capital would be built to the east of his holdings.
The ruse failed, and Washington was forced to call a meeting in late March 1791 with Burnes and other major landowners -- 18 men and one woman -- at Sutter's Tavern in Georgetown. No one is sure where the one-story, wood frame tavern stood on what today is Wisconsin Avenue NW, but it was favored by traveling dignitaries and was where Georgetown residents cast their votes on Election Day.
Washington wanted the owners of properties with such names as "Widow's Mite," "Jamaica" and "Hogpen Enlarged" to agree to sell their land for about $67 an acre. That was to be the price for land reserved for buildings and other city improvements. Land designated for future streets was to be donated by the owners, and the remaining land was to be platted into building lots and divided equally between the landowners and the federal government.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

David Burnes Descendants

The Burns family has been traced back to a David Burns who died on 1762 in Princes George County, Maryland. He married Ann Fleming. She died 1764 in Princes George County, Maryland.  David's Probate was done on October 28, 1762 in Princes George County, Maryland and the will filed on October 5, 1737.  Ann Fleming Burns probate was on July 2, 1764 in Princes George County, Maryland and the will filed on March 31, 1764.  Children of David Burns and Ann Fleming are: James Burns, d. July 1772 in Princes George County, Maryland.  Marcia Burns married John Fleming.

James Burns married Jemima Brown about 1770. She died 1783 in Princes George County, Maryland. James and Jemima moved to Henderson County, Tennessee. Jemima Brown's probate was on December 20, 1783, Princes George County, Maryland, and her will filed on February 10, 1779.
James Burns and Jemima Brown children are:
a. John Burns, born in 1735, Princes George County, Maryland and he died in 1781.  He married Agnes Unknown. John Burns and Agnes children are:
1. Adam Alvin Burns, Senior, born on January 5, 1758, near Baltimore, Princes George    County, Maryland and died on March 5, 1842 in Mercer County, PA. He married Anne Magdalene Splitstone in 1780. She was born on April 2, 1759 in Maryland, and died on December 11, 1850. They are both buried in the Rocky Ridge Cem. in Mercer County, PA. Children are:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sarah Burnes Heiner 6 Generation Pedigree Chart

I am honored to know my ancestors, and for the change in my life that allowed my heart to turn to my fathers. I have attached my very colorful 6 generation pedigree chart as gratitude for those who paved the way for me. Looking at this chart makes me realize the importance of every single ancestor, and the important role they all played to get me here to have an earthly existence, to gain knowledge, so that I could return to my Heavenly Father again. For that alone, I am indebted to them.

Click image to enlarge.

Friday, May 4, 2012

George Ishmael Ziegler & Lillian Frances Burnes

George Ishmael Ziegler  was born on 12 Apr 1916 in Hendricks County, Indiana, USA. He died on 8 Oct 1973 in Flat Rock, Bartholomew County, Indiana, USA. He is buried in the Moravian Cemetery, Hope ,Bartholomew, Indiana.
George married Lillian Frances Burnes  daughter of Glen Washington Burnes and Anna Hazel Fox on 14 Feb 1937. Lillian was born on 16 Oct 1916 in Hope, Bartholomew, Indiana. She died on 20 Dec 1954 in Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana, USA. She is buried in the Moravian Cemetery, Hope, Bartholomew, Indiana.

They had the following children:

+          1 M        i.  Ronald Dean Ziegler
+          2 M        ii.  Gary Gene Ziegler 

George & Lillian (Burnes) Ziegler at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1954 (she died 4 months later)
Photo and details contributed by: Ronnie Ziegler & Gary Ziegler

Back: Lillian (Burnes) Ziegler. Front: Left: to right; Glen Burnes, Gary Ziegler Anna Burnes,Ronnie Ziegler About 1945. Photo and details contributed by: Ronnie Ziegler & Gary Ziegler

Lillian Burnes as a child growing up on the Burnes Homestead, about 1924
Photo and details contributed by: Ronnie Ziegler & Gary Ziegler

Lillian Frances Burnes, 8th Grade Graduation Picture in 1930
Photo and details contributed by: Ronnie Ziegler & Gary Ziegler
George Ishmael Ziegler, High School picture in 1934
Photo and details contributed by: Ronnie Ziegler & Gary Ziegler

Headstone of George Ishmael Ziegler & Lillian Frances (Burnes) Ziegler. 
Buried in the Moravian Cemetery in Hope, Indiana. Photo taken on September 8, 2009.

Online memorial for George Ziegler

Click on any picture to enlarge.

BURNES Homestead Aerial Photograph, Hope, Indiana

My last trip to Indiana was one I will never forget!! Mainly, because of the distant cousins I met while I was there. I enjoyed spending time with Gordan, Cathy, JoAnne, Ronnie & Frankie while they showed me around Shelbyville and Hope Indiana. I spent time with them exchanging family information and taking photographs of family heirlooms and historical documents. I had to photograph this aerial photo of the Burnes Homestead that is currently owned by my 4th cousins; Ronnie & Frankie.
I couldn't believe how generous and gracious all my cousins were.  I guess growing up in California took it's toll, because I didn't know people like this existed. I even came home from my trip and asked my husband if we could buy land in Indiana. He said "are you joking?!" I said "are you joking??!!" I am still working on him, he'll come around one of these days :) I have already picked out a spot in Carmel, Indiana.

I ended up staying in the Marriott Hotel in Carmel, Indiana. The location and hotel were beautiful, but the commute to Hope, Indiana everyday was horrendous especially because the main road to get to state road 9 was closed. I will be staying in Columbus next time.

My top 10 visited places while in Indiana:
  1. Norristown Cemetery, (located in Norristown, Shelby, Indiana)
  2. Shelbyville Library
  3. Shelbyville Antique Store
  4. Gordan & Cathy's Home
  5. Ronnie & Frankie's Home
  6. Carmel, Indiana LDS Church
  7. Original  Burnes Homestead 
  8. Lunch with Cathy & Gordan at some really cool deli in Shelbyville, IN
  9. Moravian Cemetery (located in Hope, Indiana)
  10. JoAnne Burnes' Home
Thanks to my cousins for making my stay away from home, feel like HOME.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Beautiful Quote about Ancestors

"Any living cell carries with it the experience of a billion years of experimentation by its ancestors"
-Max Delbruck

Photo: Samuel Burnes Family
(my Great, Great, Uncle) 1919

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ruth Imogene Adams Burnes Obituary 1923-2011

Ruth Imogene Adams Burnes Obituary

Funeral services for Ruth I. Burnes, 88, of Grass Valley will be held Wednesday, April 13, 2 p.m. at Hooper and Weaver Mortuary. She returned to her Heavenly Father on April 2.

Ruth was born on Feb. 22, 1923, in Arbela, Scotland County, Mo., to Gim William and Maude Ethel Adams. At a young age, her parents relocated and raised their 11 children in Batavia, Iowa.

She was united in marriage to William Emry Burnes in Carson City, Nev., in 1943. They built their home in Napa where she lived for 61 years before moving to Grass Valley. Two children were born to their union; Ronald E. and Sandra K. After her husband's death in 1956, Ruth went to work at Napa State Hospital where she retired after 22 years of good and faithful service.

Ruth enjoyed playing bingo and spending time with friends and family. When her son asked why she had never married again, she simply said, “I never found another man like your father.”

Survivors include one son, Ronald, 10 grandchildren, Christine, Julie, Jennifer, Ronnie, James, Sarah, Ruth, John, Lori, Michael; and 19 great-grandchildren.

Ruth was preceded in death by her daughter, Sandra Kay on Aug. 22, 1946; her husband, William E. on March 13, 1956; her grandson, William A. on March 13, 2006; four brothers, Everett, Clarence, Howard and Glen; and five sisters, Mary, Pauline, Hazel, Bessie and Betty.

“Don't cry because I'm gone, smile because you knew me.”

Published in The Union Newspaper in Grass Valley, California on Saturday, April 9, 2011

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ruth Imogene Adams Burnes' Life History

Remembering Ruth
Written By: Sarah Burnes Heiner

Ruth Imogene Adams Burnes, 88 years old, of Grass Valley, California returned to her Heavenly Father on April 2, 2011.

She was  born on February 22, 1923 in Arbela, Scotland County, Missouri to Gim William Adams and Maude Ethel Adams, Th 8th of 11 children. At a young age, her parents relocated & raised all of their children in a small farm town in Batavia, Iowa. She told me about how hard life was back then. Her father was a poor farmer trying to make ends meet, and with 11 children; that was a huge responsibility.  All of her siblings had hours of chores every day. Managing the corn fields, milking the cows, taking care of the animals, cooking, cleaning &  I asked her about Christmas morning and what type of presents she received. She looked at me in a strange way and replied “we never had gifts, that’s just how it was”. She told me her parents “gift” to the children was a huge dinner of potatoes, corn and butchered pork. I couldn’t help but to reflected on how much I take things for granted.  I asked her about what she did for fun when she was a child. She said “I loved playing hopscotch, horseshoes, and jump rope. Also, Croquet, Puzzles and cards, and with 10 kids in the family there was always someone to play with.”

Grandma remembers her first Jobs. She was selected to do a school job where she would walk to the post office to pick up the school mail and deliver it to the professor. She would also sweep the school floors, for only $1.75 a week. Grandma told me about her summer job as a water girl. She said “when I was 12 years old, I made .50 a day. I would take gallon sized jugs around to the local farmers working in the fields. In those days, there was one thresher machine that went from farm to farm and all the farmers helped each other until everyone’s field was harvested”  Grandma said “I would follow this thresher machine from farm to farm, offering water to these farmers. And one day, I was so excited because one farmer tipped me $1. It was a great job” . She also stated “ I did this job for 2 summers, but that’s all I could handle, because I didn’t want to mingle with those Old Dogs anymore.”

I knew it was a stretch, but I asked grandma if she ever had any boyfriends.  She quickly replied “no” giving me the look of death.  So I rephrased my last question and asked “ Grandma did you ever think any boys were handsome?”  Apparently, this was the better question. She lit up and replied “yes, Jimmy Creek. I thought he was so handsome, but we never went steady.” She replied

At the age of 18 years old, Grandma’s life would change forever. Grandma first met Grandpa at the local garage in Batavia, Iowa, that he owned. She told me she “fell in love” from the first time she saw him. She met the man she would soon marry; William Emry Burnes.  An incredible man! A World War 1 hero, The city Sheriff,  a Free Mason, A violinist, A successful Business Owner,  an Honest man, Hard working & intelligent. He was a man who had carried the heavy load of his family, through the death of his father during the time of the Great Depression.  He was the oldest of 8 children, and without hesitation,  he took on the responsibility to support his mother, brothers and sisters and their spouses through the painful years of the depression.  A second cousin confirmed this, stating “he even made sure his sisters and sister in laws had beautiful hats and shoes to wear.” 

A refined man of 52 years was finally ready to settle down and start a family.  The attraction between Ruth & William was mutual and he wanted a “fresh start” with his soon to be wife. He sold his business for $2,500 (equivalent to $32,000 now) and began their dream together as they jumped in his Ford car and took off across the country stopping in Carson City, Nevada to marry, and continuing on until they reached Napa, California. They built  their beautiful home there. Grandma was so happy. She told me about building the home with grandpa. She worked by his side, crafting the kitchen cabinets, framing the walls, and building the outside shutters.  With their home near completion, they gave birth to their first child, a son, Ronald Eugene Burnes on November 1, 1943. I asked grandma about how my father received his name, she told me “ I wanted to name him Jimmy, after my first crush, but grandpa told me he was going to name him Ronald after that famous actor; Ronald Reagan, and Eugene, after his nephew Eugene Henry; who was the son of grandpas sister, Nellie.” She then replies, “that’s okay, because I still got my Jimmy Burnes”. With a growing family on her mind, Grandma & grandpa gave birth to their second child on August 22, 1946,  This time a baby girl; Sandra Kay. And for a moment everything was perfect!  But, the fate of their first baby girl ended in death just a few hours later that same day. Grandma told me she never wanted anymore children after that. From the look in her eyes , it was very apparent to me that she suffered greatly during that time. She slowly recovered from the death of her child and focused on being a mother to her living beautiful boy. My grandparents spent much of their free time fishing & teaching their son how to fish.

I asked her “ What was your favorite memory of my father? She replied “your grandpa and I were so proud of Ronnie. He had the best manners. The school was even going to move him up in school because Ronnie was so smart.” She loved her boy!  After 13 years of marriage grandma was surprised to learn of her husband’s bad heart, and  he died suddenly on March 13, 1956 in their home. Widowed at only 32 years old, this amazingly strong woman whom I never remember crying, mourned for a moment, then “got to work”. She had a support group that helped her through this time. Her sister and best friend Bessie Mae lived only 30 minutes away. Her sister in law Nellie Henry  lived in Napa also, and her daughter Genevive known as Jenny  were two of grandmas greatest supports.

She educated herself through school to provide for her son, and went to work at Napa State Hospital where she worked and retired after 22 years of good and faithful service. Life was hard, but she was a hard worker. Grandma never remarried. A faithful woman to her man. When her son asked why she had never married again, she simply said, “I never found another man like your father.”

I would like to share with you what I remember most about grandma.  
  1. I remember spending time in the summer with grandma. My younger sister, Ruth and I would work for her, and for our payment, she would take us shopping for school clothes. I was so proud of my acid washed jeans and white tasseled boots as I walked down the halls on the first day of school. Thanks to grandma, I felt like a million bucks.
  2. I remember her incredible homemade stew. A simple recipe of beef, carrots & potatoes, but one I still haven’t been able to master.
  3. I remember her bag of candy she had waiting on her kitchen table on our arrival.
  4. I remember the distinct smell of Eucalyptus trees.
  5. I remember watching Jeopardy & Fantasy Island with her on her television.
  6. I remember her big warm hugs when we came to visit.
  7. I remember seeing her fake teeth accidentally fall out of her mouth and thinking she was a monster.
  8. I remember the 2 and a half hour long drive to get to her house that seemed like an eternity. While driving and almost there, I remember watching patiently for her very large tree that looked like dumbo the elephant.  
  9. I remember collecting snails that were stuck to the concrete steps and walls, and getting in trouble for it.
  10. When I was really young, I remember telling grandma she looked like Ronald Reagan. I’ll never forget it, because of the colorful words that came out of her mouth that day.
  11. I remember playing “Claim it” with my 2 older brothers on grandmas front porch. A game of  claiming the coolest car before the other person did. Yeah, we were pretty bored.
  12. I remember her pink shutters on her house.
  13. I remember how scared grandma was whenever we got too close to the road.
  14. I remember playing hide and seek outside grandmas house with my brothers and sisters and hiding in my favorite place; the bush that smelled like black licorice. To this day, I have a daily craving for black licorice, and eat it as much as I can.
  15. I remember our sleepovers at grandma’s house. Just image 11 grandchildren sleeping on her living room floor, this was quite a sight. Being very careful not to move while I slept for fear of disrupting my close by sleeping sibling.   
Here are a few more of the questions that I had the opportunity to ask Grandma.  I saved the best for last because they were the most important to her.
Q: Grandma, what really, really makes you Happy?
A: “ When my son comes over and we have a nice visit”

Q: What are some of the things you would still like to accomplish?
A: “To stay healthy, what else can I ask for?”

Q: What do you think is your best quality:
A: “I like most people, and I get along with most people ”.

Q: As you think about your life so far, what are you most proud of?
A: “My Son Ronnie!! And all my grand kids. Especially when you were all younger and you would come see me and stay the night.

Q: Have you ever had an encounter with Grandpa after his passing?
A: “I had a few. One time was when I was listening to a live concert. The performer was singing love songs and I could feel the presents of William on my right side and Carl on my left. The other time was when your brother William passed away. Grandpa was there that day in my room to take William home with him, I could feel him there, but I couldn’t see him.”

The name Ruth means: Compassion. Which fits her perfectly.

When my father called me to tell me of my grandmother’s passing, I was happy to know that she could finally be free from her pain and trials she was enduring very patiently.  Even when I spoke to her just a few months ago she was so worried about everyone else and wanted to make sure that we  were okay, even though she was in a great bit of pain.  I know that when she left this world that she was greeted by many people who loved her including her beloved husband William, her daughter Sandra Kay, her grandson William, her 9 siblings who passed on before her, her parents and many others.

We will all miss you grandma, and look forward to seeing you again. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

William Aaron Burnes Obituary

Click on the image to enlarge.

My Brother The Prankster. How Will Met Adrian: by Joell

Note before reading:
Adrian Columb is Joell Sweeney Columb's husband. Joell writes the story of how Will & Adrian met and immediately "hit it off" because of a mutual "wicked sense of humor" they both shared. It's a really cool story. I didn't know this about Will. Read on:

How Will met Adrian by Joell:
I wonder if I ever told you about the friendship that Will and Adrian shared.  Will first met Adrian when I (Joell) was working with him on another of his recording projects.  They immediately hit it off because both shared a wicked sense of humor.  In fact Will shared with Adrian one of his devious ideas about making up a sales sheet of exotic meats to post on the bulletin board of the very liberal, vegetarian store Mother Truckers.  Adrian went on ahead with the idea and the next time he saw Will he presented him with the flier, complete with a varied selection of Spotted Owl burgers, California Condor bites, Arctic Seal filet's...and various other meat products of endangered species.  Will couldn't believe that Adrian had actually taken the time to make this up for him...he was so excited, he posted it up straight away.  Will also really like Adrian's music and encouraged me on more than a couple of occasions to start a band with him.  I think this is why when I met Adrian again after Will's passing I felt such a strong connection with's ironic how things happen.

~ Written By Joell Sweeney Columb

Note from Sarah: This is the actual flyer that Will & Adrian posted on the Mother Truckers Store in Nevada City. Joell kept it all these years.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The "Will" Ball - How it all Started!

My brother William Aaron Burnes lost his battle to cancer on March 13, 2006.  He was a Commercial Fisherman in Alaska for 10 years. I give you this information for a reason; read on!

My husband Brady and our daughter decided to go golfing one day at the Cedar Hills, Utah Golf course (just 3 months after my brothers passing). While on the course, Brady takes a few practice swings and is about to tee off on the first hole when a guy about 18 years of age who worked at the golf course said...
"hey, do you need a golf ball?" 
Brady said "no I have plenty"
He responded, "here have this one",
and without further hesitation, the young guy threw the golf ball to Brady. As Brady caught it, he saw the word "WILL" professionally printed on the ball. As he turned the ball around he saw a picture of a bear with a fish in it's mouth with the word "Alaska" printed below the image. Brady was speechless and overwhelmed at that moment. He knew that my brother Will was still with us, and he wanted it to be known.  

I often wonder who that boy was, and why he felt so impressed to give the ball to Brady even though he refused his offer. I also wonder where that ball came from in the first place. Was this a ball my brother had professionally designed while in Alaska and somehow through his hands, it made it back to us? I wish I knew. Someday I Will.

As Brady relayed this miraculous encounter to me, I knew at that moment what I was suppose to do; I needed to find our ancestors and continue Will's work. I tried to rethink the impossible scenario and mend my thoughts of  inadequacy, but the only form of genealogy I had was a restaurant napkin that Will wrote a few notes on before his passing; something I will treasure forever!  I knew nothing about my ancestors, how to begin, or how to build our family tree, but I knew I had a responsibility, and Will would guide me. I knew this!

For the past 6 years, the "Will" Ball has been in my office with an assurance that my brother is close by.  Today, we have over 7,000 ancestors that we are proud of and feel a strong connection to because of Will.  I picked up where he left off in his research and I am honored to be the vessel for his great work. 

William Aaron Burnes 
May 29, 1967 - March 13, 2006
Semper Fi  (Always Faithful)
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