Friday, December 12, 2008

Ever Visit the Cemetery of Your Ancestors?

When my genealogy search began, I knew that my Great Grandmother was a Kidwell and I knew that her family was from Oakton, Fairfax County, VA. At the time, I was doing most of my research at home (I still do for that matter). I don't remember exactly when I found out where my Great Grandmother was buried, but I knew that I needed to visit that cemetery! I took a day off work, so that I could have the day completely to myself and I ventured out to Oakton. I also knew that the library nearby contained the Virginia Room, a very large genealogical collection and much historical information on the county. Little did I know that there simply wouldn't be enough hours in that day to look at everything I wanted to see. Ah, being a beginner - it actually was a lot of fun! But, more about my visit to the library another day... I drove past the cemetery, and made a u-turn to head back in the right direction then I pulled in. It was a very hot day, and the cemetery had that smell of hot summer air. I so remember the heat! I ventured into the area among the headstones that bore my family name and instantly found my Great-Great Grandparents, Silas & Bertie Kidwell (pictured in post here).

Now, to find their daughter May/Maybelle/Mable... I looked and looked, couldn't see her stone anywhere. After wandering around a bit, I finally sat down in the shade of a nearby tree and had a drink of water, frustrated that I couldn't find her stone. I then thought maybe she didn't have one. Certainly she would be in the general area of her parents right?
It was at this point that I took note of the very large bush next to Silas & Bertie's headstone. I had already looked at the area from front and back... but... could it actually be in that bush?... YES! Her stone was completely engulfed in that bush! A bush that was no doubt planted by my Grandfather who LOVED flowering bushes. I was elated and amazed that I found her stone and returned in the fall to take a shot without wrestling with the bush.

As I wandered the Flint Hill cemetery, I photographed every Kidwell stone that I came across. Regardless of whether or not I had ever heard of the person. Come to find out, this was a very good idea, as most of those people were eventually connected into my line in some manner. With the use of digital cameras now, it's easier than ever to share what you've found with others and there's a great website called Find A Grave where people do just that. If you're no where near your ancestors home and would like a photo of their stone, go to the site and check to see if it's there. There are thousands and thousands of headstone photos there already. Everytime I visit an old cemetery I take as many as I can and upload them all to Find A Grave.

When you do visit the cemetery - take a camera, take some water and remember your bush trimmers (no don't do that - you're not allowed to do that!) but do remember to take notes of other family members in the area of your ancestors. Obviously family members are often buried in the same area of the cemetery (many plots are purchased together) and even if the names aren't the same, that guy buried next to great great grandpa might just be related by marriage or such. Also, if available you should attempt to get a copy of the records for the cemetery on your person of interest. The records will indicate if there are several plots together and who's buried in each.

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