Sunday, January 15, 2012

John Earl Copeland - timeline from ancestry to identification of remains


Last year, I was contacted by a forensic genealogist who saw my information about John Earl Copeland. I put her in touch with John Earl's cousin George Clark Copeland (then age 92) and John Earl Copeland's granddaughter Taina Copeland, so that DNA samples could be collected and compared to remains found in New Guinea. A year later - success! John Earl Copeland's remains have been identified and will be buried in Arlington Cemetery. On Aug. 29, Taina and her daughter Belinda will receive John Earl Copeland's medals and ribbons at the Cherryvale Cemetery where her father, John Earl Copeland JR is buried. So wonderful to know that my genealogy work and outreach has helped bring John Earl Copeland home!

From the Montgomery Chronicle, Kansas.

Some people think genealogy and ancestry research is a hobby for those who have nothing better to do. Others think we are wasting time looking at the past. They forget that ancestral facts and photos may bring alive our ancestors and relations - and in this case, may bring the War dead home....

Let's start with John Earl Copeland's ancestry. You can find out about the Copeland family in this blog, as well as in my book "An American Genealogy: The Copeland Family of Montgomery County Kansas."

In Aug. 2011, John Earl Copeland's cousin Ralph Copeland died in Coffeyville KS. His estate left several wonderful photos, including young photos of John Earl's parents - Austin Hawkins Copeland and Rhoda Hancock.

Austin and Rhoda had one son - John Earl Copeland. Rhoda had been married previously and had 2 daughters - Ivella and Mildred - and 1 son - Robert. Robert died at age 18 of diabetes. Ivella and Mildred married. Ivella had 1 son who died childless. Ivella married Ralph Barnes SR and they adopted a son, Ralph Barnes Jr. Ralph Barnes Jr had a daughter that I met through ancestry researsh - Cheryl Salvi. She sent me many, many photos of Austin, Rhoda, and their family - including John Earl Copeland.
Ivella Stewart Barnes

None of the Copelands had many photos because once John Earl died, their  family photos went with Ivella.

John Earl Copeland's service photos

Austin Copeland w son John Earl, Ralph Barnes Jr, wife Rhoda and Ivella's children.
This was the crew photo for Poulsen's crew of the Hot Garters plane. All members were killed in action or after they parachuted to the ground. John Earl Copeland is center, bottom row - identification from Cousette Copeland based on his family and enlistment photos.

Just before the Copeland book was published, mission details were released from previously restricted files. They are in the Copeland book - appendix B.

Hot Garters plane and wreckage found in 2003

John Earl Copeland Sr's obit - mentions his next of kin as his aunt Dr. Ivy Hancock - that's because he lived with her while going to school in town. His parents were still alive on their farm.

Dr. Ivy Hancock, John Earl Copeland SR, and pregnant wife Betty Hopkins Copeland. John Earl never saw his son.
John Earl Copeland, JR who died in 1963 in a car wreck - at age 22, the same age as his father John Earl Copeland SR.
John Earl Copeland Jr married Linda Maher, and they had one child Taina Copeland. After John Earl Jr's death, Linda married Mr. Hammer and had many other children.

Taina Copeland as a baby

Linda Maher Copeland Hammer familyReunion2009

Belinda, Arlene and Ralph, and Taina Copeland meet for the first time in 2010 in Coffeyville Kansas.

Cheryl Salvi said that a woman in Oregon found some photos and contacted her, returning this photo. It is of Rhoda's parents - John and Ella Gilbert Hancock.
John and Ella Hancock, Ivy, Hawkey, Webb, Claude 1884

When the forensic genealogist contacted me, I checked my family tree for Rhoda. I found her mother. Then I found Ella Gilbert's sister, Louise. In Mr. Locke's family tree, I found this photo that identifies Ella as "Aunt Ella."
Gilbert family - Jake Steven Edward, Lois Louisa, Ella - Rhodas mother

When I contacted Mr. Locke, he said his mother was Lois Louisa's daughter, that she was alive, and willing to contribute DNA to help identify John Earl Copeland Sr's remains.

Taina Copeland hopes that identification will be possible so that the remains of her grandfather John Earl Copeland can be brought home to Kansas!

The Recovery Department has also contacted John Earl Copeland Sr's cousins - 93 year old George Copeland (who was a P.O.W. in Germany during WWII - see my Copeland book Appendix A for his amazing story!) and 83 year old Melvin Koons - both cousins have agreed to participate in the DNA project!

George Copeland - after his release from a P.O.W. camp in 1945. He had been shot down in June 1944. He is wearing a Canadian uniform - that's all that was available after his release. George Copeland in 2009.
Melvin Koons in U.S. Army uniform - Korean War. Melvin with granddaughter Jessie.
Without all the people who are interested in genealogy, without the Copeland and Koons relatives, without the Barnes and Gilbert relatives, without the work of forensic genealogist Linda Abrams - John Earl Copeland's remains might forever remain unidentified and unclaimed.
When DNA results come back, I will update this blog. Pray for a good resolution to this investigation!
Thank you!

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