Genealogy: Where you confuse the dead & irritate the living....

Surnames: Calaway, Dunn, Evans, Johnson, Lindsey, Rollins, Short & Williams

States: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, S. Carolina, Tennessee, Texas

Monday, February 23, 2009

Plan a Trip to a Cemetery.....

If you are like me, you have a few favorite venues that you like to do your research in....such as the Federal Census', Military Records, Death/Birth Certificates, etc. And we tend to get in a rut, so to speak. Being a creature of habit, we search the same records over & over again it seems. Which isn't a bad thing by any means....goodness knows I will spot something new in record's that I've looked at a million times before. Yet, as I said we get in a rut & tend to not spread out as much as we should in our research, tending to overlook venues that are just sitting there holding loads of useful information.

One of those venues that some will overlook is a cemetery! Hard to believe, but visiting a cemetery, that you have kin folks buried in, can be a genealogist dream. Those of you who have been a genealogy junkie for a while, will know what I'm talking about. And maybe any of you who are new to the world of genealogy will have a new venue to check out now. You can find birth/death/marriage dates, full names, spouse's name, parents names, children names, etc. Not that you are going to find all of that on each/every headstone, but some have been known to have all of that on them.

Just a couple of months ago, we made a trip down to one of the cemetery's that we have family buried in & couldn't believe all the "new" information I was able to discover that day. Plus, I don't know how to say this without it coming out as I'm a morbid type of person (which I'm not, by the, but I kinda felt closer to the relatives by being there. Up to then, most of them had just been a name I had down on my family tree. Now they were more real to me by me being with them at their last resting place.

Also on that trip I learned a couple of things that I wanted to pass on so you don't make the same mistakes that I did.

1. You'll definitely want to take your camera to capture a photo of their headstone. One thing I learned is to take the biggest/highest resolution of a photo that you can with your camera. I thought I would play it smart & take a small photo so I wouldn't run out of space on my camera's memory card. Big Mistake.... As I said, take the biggest/highest resolution photo that you can. You can always re-size a photo down but you can't always re-size a photo up!

2. Take your laptop with you if you are lucky enough to have one. For two reasons this is a good idea. One is, if you "should" fill up your camera's memory card, just download your photos onto your laptop -- then delete those off of your memory card & carry on. Second reason to take your laptop is, if you should run into a situation where you need to do a look-up of a relative, you'll have your genealogy program with you.

3. Another good idea to do is to take a few tools/supplies along. By that I mean, a pair of gardening hand clippers would be good to case the cemetery hasn't been taken care of & you need to clip back some of the growth/grass that might be covering up a grave marker. Also, take a soft brush (like a big paint brush) along. Many graves will have dirt & such on them & you'll want to brush it off to take your photo. A large garbage bag is good to have in the event the ground is wet & you need to get down on your hands/knees for cleaning the headstone or to take the photo. Don't forget to take a bottle of water, for drinking or to wash off a tombstone. One more thing that might come in handy is a big golfer's umbrella, if the sun is bright that day, you might need a way to block it from glaring on the tombstone. A lawn chair believe it or not. This will come in handy for taking some photos when you need to be at a certain angle. A spray bottle of water, this will be good to wet down a headstone (to bring out the engraving) if it is hard to read. A first-aid kit is always a good thing to have. You might be stung by a bee/wasp, cut yourself on one of the headstones, brush up against poison ivy.....just a lot of possibilities that might call for a first-aid kit. Roll of paper towels....they are always good to have along. FYI: Be sure & be on the look-out for Fire Ants! They are fast becoming a danger in our area (& the rest of the country) & are not to be messed with. I discovered several mounds of them up against the headstones in the cemetery I went to on my trip a while back.

4. If the cemetery is in a small town or way out in the country, think about taking a sack lunch. Believe me, you might be there longer than what you think. A trip to a cemetery is one that you don't want to rush through & take a chance of missing someone. Plus, taking a break to eat your lunch will give you time to re-evaluate your game plan & check to see who've found or haven't found yet. I wish I had done this on that trip we took. I could have sat down & took a closer look at the photos I had taken & discovered that some of them were out of focus & needed to be re-taken!!!

5. Be sure (& this is the most important hint of them all) to take someone with you! NEVER go along, sad to say nowadays it is never a good idea to go to a remote area by yourself. As well be sure to take a cell phone with you. Just as important also is to let someone know where you are going, the time frame you expect to be there AND the name/address of the cemetery. Play it safe...................

Hope any of you who have never been to a cemetery in your research, will plan a trip on some nice day in the future. I think you will be surprised in what you'll find & believe it or not, its a fun trip to take.

Later, Deb

One Last Thing....
One very important note to remember....never EVER do anything that might harm the cemetery &/or headstone(s). And please be respectful of where you are & act accordingly.

1 comment:

Rose Mary said...

Great tips, Deb! I love, love old cemeteries! Of course, they are one of the places I tend to get off track of what I'm looking for and start wandering around. I find old tombstones to be fascinating. I love the inscriptions and the interesting names.

And, sometimes, you'll find someone else buried in the cemetery near the grave you went to 'visit' that is a possible relative--another person to research!