The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 6, 2013

Frankie Meyer: Old home sites treasures to discover

By Frankie Meyer
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — A few years ago Jim and I had the pleasure of geo-caching with Carol and Glen Roark, of Neosho.

The fun afternoon was spent jaunting from one public area to another in search of secret treasures hidden in waterproof containers of various sizes. Using GPS units, we followed latitude and longitude coordinates that Carol had downloaded from a website.

Since that time, the popularity of geo-caching has soared. More than 4 million people now enjoy the pastime. They have cast aside their old GPS units in favor of smart phones. Leaders at museums, parks and historic sites have taken notice of the craze and often include geo-caching in their programs.

We genealogists do a similar activity as part of our research. The treasures that we seek are old home sites. Instead of using GPS coordinates, we use clues such as the presence of rusted metal, cellar holes and vintage plants.

Cellars, which were once built beneath houses or nearby, provided our ancestors with a place to store food, as well as a safe place to go during storms.

The best time to look for cellar holes is in the winter. When searching for an old home site at Roaring River State Park many years ago, I quickly spotted the square hole that was about 10 feet wide and 5 feet deep.

During the winter, genealogists also search for old pieces of rusted metal. Sometimes the objects turn out to be saw blades or similar tools. A few researchers use metal detectors in their search.

In March and April one can often spot an old home site by looking for the dark green, narrow leaves of daffodils or the sword-like leaves of irises that peek through the decaying litter. The tough, vintage plants flourish because they have few diseases and can survive droughts. In addition, the plants are not bothered by wildlife or livestock because the animals find those leaves distasteful.

In late April and May, researchers also look for bright yellow blooms of daffodils, scarlet-red flowers of quince shrubs, pink blossoms of seedling peach trees and billowy, white thickets of flowering, wild plum trees.

Similar to geo-cachers, we genealogists also take great pleasure in sharing information about our treasured finds with others by using the Internet.

Suggestions or queries? Contact Frankie Meyer, 509 N. Center St., Plainfield, IN 46168 or email frankie