Begin New Search
Refine Last Search
Cemetery Lookup
Add Burial Records
Help with Find A Grave

Top Contributors
Success Stories
Community Forums
Find A Grave Store

Log In
Don Toms (#47529406)
 member for 4 years, 5 months, 18 days
[Add to MyFriends]
Bio and Links
Bio Photo As a lifelong resident of Lead and an avid genealogist, I have been interested in cemeteries, especially the local Black Hills area cemeteries, for a long time. My current major interest is the historic South Lead Cemetery here in Lead, Lawrence County, South Dakota and the approximate 3650 individuals interred there. This work was especially important since records at Lead City Hall only date from about 1914, while the cemetery itself dates back to about 1878. The missing interments, marked and unmarked, were pieced together from headstone inscriptions, mortuary records and newspaper obituaries.
Along with Darlene Burns of Lead, I was an organizer of the Friends of South Lead Cemetery group several years ago, which volunteered many hundreds of hours in the cemetery and which raised over $120,000 in grant money for restoration work there.
I have also always been interested in history in general, and for 19 years I was the director of the Black Hills Mining Museum here in Lead. I also have served on numerous boards on the local and state level including the Lawrence County Historical Society, Historic South Dakota Foundation, Association of South Dakota Museums, Lead Cemetery Board, Lead-Deadwood Chamber of Commerce, the Lead City Fine Arts Association, and the Hearst Library Board. I have also actively been doing genealogical research for over 35 years.
To me Find A Grave is one of the most extraordinary genealogy sites on the web. However, it is not without problems. Anyone wishing to contribute information might consider that the project is not a race to see who can get the most notches in their belt for adding memorials, especially if the quality of the memorials suffers because of it.
It is also frustrating to see the poor quality of some of the photos being taken - poor lighting, odd or bizarre angles, weird portions of headstones with missing parts, etc. I have also seen cases where the individual stood ten or fifteen feet from the headstone and took a photo! Is there a weed or some grass sticking up in front of the headstone? Reach down and remove it and then take the photo. Quality really does matter. Also, the inscription on the monument is certainly of great importance, but please don't just take a photo of the inscription. Family members would like to see what the entire monument looks like as well.
Is the photo that you took a little crooked or dark? Most computers these days come with simple and quick photo editing software which allows you to straighten and lighten or darken or crop photos etc. before posting them. All that is required is a little time and effort. It's fast and easy.
Making up cemeteries and pretending that various people are still buried in them, such as is the case with "The Historical Cemetery at Deadwood" is utterly ridiculous. Fortunately, that is more of a rare occurrence for the Find A Grave site.
In conclusion, racing through cemeteries wildly taking photos does not benefit the site in my opinion. If someone is going to create a memorial, he should take as much time and effort as possible to provide correct and adequate information and quality photos that a family member of the deceased would be pleased to see!
I hope that all contributors are also willing to transfer management of memorials they have created if asked by family members of the deceased if they are not a relative of the deceased themselves.
Leave Public Message
Contributions to
Find A Grave
 • 4,044 Memorials Added
 • 3,972 Memorials Managed
 • 17 Memorials/Week
 • 7,130 Photos
 • 1 Photo Request
 • 43 Volunteer Photos Taken
 • 5,959 Virtual Flowers
 • 3 Sponsorships
Search Contributor's Records

First NameLast Name

Messages left for Don Toms (125)[Leave Message]
RE: William Oates
Yes, I will send those pictures to you! Thank you! William was injured in the Homestake mine also and opened a candy store! I tried to find it, because my Mom was born there. GPS took me to 508 Prospect instead of 108 Prospect, it appears that the mining ate up the four blocks that are no longer there!
Added by RickNorine on Aug 31, 2015 8:43 PM
William Oates
Thank you for your work on the South Lead Cemetery and on my great grandfather's gravesite webpage on Find A Grave, including the information you added. I just visited his grave last week and found the footstone missing and fortunately found it laying on the corner upside down on an unmarked grave just below his. It was paid for by my Grandmother Mabel Oates mentioned in your work and said Father, the only damage was the F on the corner is broken. I dug a hole at the foot of the grave to the best of my ability to replace it. I've attached pictures from my collection of the original grave and recent pictures without and with the stone returned. Did not know who to contact at the cemetery to inform them of the replacement. I also sponsored his grave. My grandmother spoke a lot about her dad who died 100 years ago when she was only 19. She started me on a 40 year adventure in genealogy and was so glad to visit his grave and left a carnation in her memory and his. The flag bandana was from me and my son. I'm afraid several of the pictures posted sideways and not being website savy not sure how to fix that! Once again thank you for your work!
Rick Norine
Helena, MT
Added by RickNorine on Aug 31, 2015 6:52 PM
Thank you
We recently made the trek from Washington State to Lead with intent to see the property that my great grandparents settled on back in the 1890's. My parents still own the land today which is located on the backside of the Grizzly Gultch Mine and called "the Norway Lode". While visiting, we were thrilled to locate my great grandfather Peter Jacob Helgeland's grave in the South Lead Cemetary. I have an old photo of the original grave marker and never would have found his gravesite had it not been for your photos. Thank you for maintaining the cemetary and especially for caring for Peter's grave and the beautiful new headstone. The information posted about his death was appreciated as well...a few more pieces to add to our family history. Our son, age 23, was thrilled to have seen his great great grandfather's resting place. Thanks again for being our link to our Lead, South Dakota heritage.
Added by Linda on Aug 22, 2015 10:16 PM
A Horan
RE: Rice headstone
You're very welcome for the photos. Thank you for your nice message!
Added by A Horan on Mar 03, 2015 1:36 PM
RE: Rantanen
Thank you Don. It would seem from reading about Emil's sister that this family has had great sadness and I am part of that family. Thank you for the pointer and I will look into the transfer of the rest of the family to me. Shannon
Added by shannon on Jan 17, 2015 3:54 PM
Dear Tom, I never publicly thanked you for finding my great grandfather - Emil Rantanen. This finding has brought me so many answers, and therefore, many more questions. Do you happen to know if his parents and sisters were buried near him? As he died before my Grandfather was born, there is just memories which are helpful, but I don't know so much about this part of my family. Thank you, Shannon
Added by shannon on Jan 16, 2015 1:31 PM
Carol Allinson
RE: Allinson family
Hello! Yes, it is confusing! William was married before Margaret and had six children with that wife. She passed away in 1878 and is buried in Iowa. Then he married Margaret and they were in Lead by the 1980 census. I still need to find and verify death information for three of those children, but the remaining three are connected: Thomas Lincoln, William Sidney, and Emma Livinia. The obituary you posted is confusing to me because it lists a son named "Emmett". I'm thinking that must be John Elmer Allinson (also seen as Elmer John) who also lived right there in Lead and worked with William S. in his business for years. Elmer was a stenographer, I have a wonderful photo of him. I have tried for years to find more about him, with no success, but I know he died before Emma Livinia because her obit said all her sibs were gone before her (she passed away in February of 1952).

William and Margaret had five children. Edward Everett was the oldest, and is my grandfather. Robert Answorth, the youngest, passed away when four years old after swallowing a carpet tack. Margory married and stayed in Lead, but the other children moved away from the dakotas and are buried elsewhere.
Added by Carol Allinson on Dec 18, 2014 11:05 AM
Carol Allinson
Margaret Hildebrand Guisinger
Again I thank you for putting information on FindaGrave about one of my ancestors! I don't know if you recall, but I contacted you a few months back about Margory Shekell and her family. You were able to locate her in the South Lead Cemetery for me. She is the daughter of Margaret Guisinger, and I've been looking for Margaret's burial place for eight years. After finally finding a record of burial for her, I saw that she was buried in the South Lead Cemetery, but according to David Akrop, her location is lost through the progress of time. I don't know if she could be anywhere near her husband, William S. Allinson, the father of five of her children. William died nine years before Margaret and was buried with a son and grandson (we put a new headstone on his grave a few years back when we finally found his location). The newspaper articles you have put on Margaret's bio are a godsend for me - I am so appreciative! If it's alright, I'm going to add more photos of Margaret - she was so beautiful. Thanks again - Carol
Added by Carol Allinson on Dec 17, 2014 11:48 PM
FAG Memorial: #72546305
Hi Don....
You note that the above mentioned memorial is "unmarked". As such, I just want to confirm with you that there would be no reason to request a photo?

I just uncovered that John W. Burnside is my 2nd great grandfather on my maternal side. Quite a journey from South Dakota to Atlanta, Georgia!

Thanks in advance and certainly let me know if I can every do anything for you down south!
Added by Searching_bloodlines on Dec 09, 2014 11:51 AM
Karyn Zielasko Weingarden
Patrick Delaney
Well I guess I am just one of so very many that think you are wonderful not only to find a grave but to confirm with an obit. You have made my year. After a trip to Lead, SD during Sturgis MC Run (was great fun) I did extensive search for both Patrick & Mary Delaney and found nothing even though I had an obit & Death Record for Mary!
I had a great time in your city & took many pic but you did what I could not! Thank you so much it makes what I do for others so much more rewarding to see how happy its makes us! I would like to have Patrick Delaney & Albert B Heitler memborial and am a member of FindaGrave contributors so please just let me know how. Dispite many cemeteries I have filled in noone has asked me to transfer so I am clueless as to how. I would also like to place a tombstone on Patrick & Mary graves if I find her and can. Karyn Weingarden El Paso TX
Added by Karyn Zielasko Weingarde... on Nov 19, 2014 4:00 PM
[View all messages...]

Privacy Statement and Terms of Service