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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Monday, January 2, 2012

John Earl Copeland's remains in New Guinea

I received an exciting email from Linda Hammer, mother of Taina Copeland - who is the granddaughter of John Earl Copeland who was shot down in New Guinea during WWII. It is possible that his remains have been located. DNA testing is required. I will let you know when I hear more!
Austin, John Earl, and Rhoda Copeland

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

2011 was an eventful year. Since 2007, I have been researching my genealogy. In 2009, I was able to visit Kansas and meet my Copeland, Finney, and McKay relations. From that point, I also corresponded with them via email and snail mail, as well as through phone calls. I also gathered more information from them, as well as from internet sources.

In 2010, I published "An American Genealogy: The Copeland Family of Montgomery County Kansas.

In 2011, I published "An American Genealogy: The Finney Family History and Genealogy."
In 2012, I will continue working on "An American Genealogy: The McKinlay and McKay Family Legacy" (tentative title) that will explore my grandmother Agnes Elizabeth McKay Copeland's family, including her father Benjamin Franklin McKay and her mother Margaret McKinlay McKay, as well as Margaret's parents Peter and Agnes Frew Miller McKinlay who brought their family from Glasgow, Scotland to Montgomery County Kansas in 1872!
Discovering my ancestry, finding genealogical facts and photos, and connecting with living descendants who are my distant relations has been and is a most rewarding part of my day-to-day life!
Happy New Year to one and all - love, Cousette Copeland

Finney Family History and Genealogy book - comments from author and response to critical critic

My genealogy books appear on

For 2011's "An American Genealogy: The Finney Family History and Genealogy", I provided the following author statement. There was a response from a reader/buyer that criticized my book as having missing dates of birth, dates of death, and mis-identified photos. My response to "wronginfo" post follows my author statement below.
As the author of "An American Genealogy: The Finney Family History and Genealogy" I'd like to provide more than the publisher's book blurb.

Rosamary High Finney wrote and published the first version of this book and distributed it only to family members in 1992. She used information from previously published genealogies, as well as letters exchanged with authors of those genealogys, and supplemented it with her own extensive research - resulting in a 190 page manuscript. She passed in 1996. Her husband gave me permission to update and publish this book.

With my updates, the book is now 500 pages - many of which contain new data on descendants, as well as photographs. These living descendants, mostly from the branch who descended from Joseph and Rachel Barkley Finney, also provided me with vintage photos.

In Aug 2011, Ralph Copeland (his grandmother was Samantha Jane Finney Copeland) passed. His estate left us with hundreds of vintage photos, many over 100 years old - which had not been seen by anyone outside of the immediate family. These photos included Finneys, Copelands, as well as their relations - Rayl, Ephlin, Weaver, Allen, Hinshaw, and so on.

From colonial days, Finneys were either Quakers or United Brethren, often marrying within their church, or intermarrying with the others in the other church.

On the internet, there had been a lively debate from Lynn Finney Stuter whose excellant scholarship insisted that all previously published Finney genealogies were WRONG. She stated her evidence and said that Joseph and Rachel Barkely Finney's descendants were NOT descended from Robert Finney, the presumed patriarch of colonial Finneys. Gerald Finney, who administers the Finney DNA Database program, helped gather DNA from various descendants, including that of Harold Finney. The results were astonishing - and my book is the first ever to publish those stunning results! This branch of the family is NOT descended from Robert Finney, as stated by Lynn Finney Stuter.

In addition to the photos in this book, I have been posting photos to my tree on ancestry web site as well as to findagrave web site - so that descendants might put a face to the names and dates in their family tree.

The intention of this book is to provide as much help to Finney genealogists as possible. I hope you enjoy this book! Long live the Finneys!


I wish "wronginfo" would email me with which names are missing information and which photos were mis-identified.

These photos were contributed by the living Finney descendants, who have had them in their family for generations. One last batch of very, very old photos (over 100 years old) came from the estate of a gentleman who passed in August 2011. They were ALL labeled, so I attributed them as marked.

Date of Birth (DOB) and Date of Death (DOD) may have been missing for 2 reasons - the living Finney descendants did NOT want that info published; those who passed may not have had anyone to give me that info. Remember that anything in "modern times" is not available to the general genealogist, only relations. I worked with census records, oral history, and other internet sources when possible.

190 pages of this book were complied by Rosamary High Finney who passed in 1997. I updated the book (500 pages in the end) and added a lot of information and photos gathered from living Finney descendants, as well as information I gathered in my research.

NO genealogy is ever 100 percent correct - as we found after a DNA project's result disputed ALL previously published Finney genealogies.

To "wronginfo" - if I offended you by not including your family line, or not having your family line info complete - I apologize. I worked on this book for almost 2 years - that is a short time compared to some genealogists who work on books for 20 years. I also posted on genealogy message boards asking for contributions so that I could gather and correct as much information as possible. BUT as you know, there hasn't been a Finney genealogy available to the public for DECADES.

As you could see from the book, the Finneys were prolific. I have had contact from many who were not involved in my research, and they were pleased to find "new" info and relations that they never knew existed. Best regards - Cousette Copeland