Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cemetery Visits--you never know what you will find

Cemeteries are places where you find those tiny details that you can't find online. You will see how the family plot is organized, giving clues to family and community relationships. Even better is reading the wording on the tombstones. Not only does it provide a moment of connection with those who walked before us, but it also sometimes provides details no one has reported or transcribed. There may be a birth year, a place of origin, a list of children.

 Find A Grave is rapidly making photos, and thus the information from the wording on tombstones,  more accessible than ever before, but there is no substitute for seeing it yourself.

In some cemeteries  I've visited I have been amazed to see family histories delineated. Leander, son of Henry and Sarah, born in___, brother to_____ and so on. Monuments can have very detailed and intricate wording. One of my ancestors, a naturalist, is the only one in her family to have a rock as a headstone, instead of the traditionally carved headstone. It speaks volumes.

A wonderful news story about a woman's visit to a cemetery in  Pennsylvania, and her discovery of the revolutionary war service of her ancestor is described in the following news story:, under the heading Genealogy buffs tour Tulpehocken region of Berks:  on the website A special gravestone was found there, in Tulpehocken, with an inscription in German, the kind of thing you are not likely to see included in a transcription record. The article explains , " In Christ Lutheran cemetery, they wandered among tombstones that predate the Revolutionary War."

Included was a stone dedicated to Regina Leininger, a child who was taken captive by Indians in 1755. She lived with them for eight years, and was identified by her family because she remembered a hymn her mother taught her.

"Allein und doch nicht, ganz allein," it reads.

Roughly translated, it means: "I am alone, yet not alone, for Thou art near."
(end citation)

Personally, my translation would be more along the lines of  "alone, and yet not completely alone."

For those cemeteries that you can't get to, Find A Grave (  has excellent cemetery and headstone information. It is a good first place to look online for this type of information. I keep checking back, and find more and more photos of gravestones AND information provided by descendants which gives relationships. Just today I learned that my suspicion that Esther, married to Robert Fenner of Fairfield, Herkimer, New York, had the maiden name of Fellows, was indeed correct. So I was able to update that branch of the family tree.
If you have a chance, you can also see if the cemetery you would like to know more about has its own listing of burials, either online or as a written record which can be viewed.

No comments: