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Volume 8, Number 21 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 November 30, 2016
Publisher's Notes In this article we discuss researching more about your family tree by going to the cemetery. I find it very interesting to go to the cemetery and find graves that may or may not have a connection to my family. You just never know what information you will find there.
As always, I enjoy hearing your comments.
James L. Douthat
GOIN' TRAMPING Now that the weather has cooled down, we need to turn our attention to goin’ tramping into the cemeteries where our ancestors are buried. This is not a trip down memory lane completely, but a fact finding exercise to help us learn more about those men and women who have laid the foundations for our lives.
A couple of things to keep in mind. First and foremost is you want to go after the first real freeze in the area. The weather usually warms back up for a while, and this is the time to get into the cemeteries. After a good freeze, the bee/hornets/wasps have disappeared in adult form and most snakes have gone underground for the winter. These pest are ones you do not want to encounter on your tramping through the cemetery.
Once in the cemetery, you will need to find the stone of interest or at least hope there is a stone to be viewed. If you are lucky, there is the name of the individual with dates of birth and death. If you are really lucky, you find the actual day for each event listed. If you find only the year given, then your search is just starting. With the year in hand, then you have to go to other sources for information on the death or birth. This is where a family Bible comes into play. Play your cards right and you will find a family Bible somewhere in all of your cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. The next trick is to get them to let you look at the records. Try to get a look at the original and not just a transcription as the transcriber might just miss the clue you need in your research. Sometimes a line is drawn from one individual to the other or there are brackets around two names that might be missed in the transcription. This might indicate some connection.
I can never emphasize enough to always see the original. As a friend told me about trying to find his great grandmother’s grave. A cousin indicated that he was a child at the funeral, but still remembered the site. The two of them when to the spot, but could not find the grave. The cousin stated that their father put a marker on the grave, and they knew it had to be there, but they could not find great grandmother. Later researching the newspapers, he discovered that great grandmother was married a third time at age 92. She and her new husband, age 96, died on their wedding night together. Great grandmother was in the cemetery, but under the name of her third husband.
Tombstones sometimes give a relationship with stones in the same family plot. The words “mother” or “father” are frequently put on the stone of each of the parents, but are buried some distance from each other. Frequently, there are burials in a family plot that do not seem to belong, but closer research can reveal the connection.
More frequently than most will expect, tombstones in a family plot will give the names, or at least the evidence, of small children who are born between census years and who did not make it to adulthood. Mortality was very high in our country as the pioneers moved further west and settlements and doctors became more infrequent. Even in the east, life was not much better as the young were often taken by disease and accidents. In many cases, you will not know the name of the child, but at least you know there was one.
In addition to children, you can also have adults that go missing in your family line. It happened to me as I had the early census records for my family and there were only numbers in a block on the page as in the 1820, 1830, and 1840 census. By the 1850, the family was pretty well dispersed and few names appeared with the parents. I had one man in a block who matured on schedule but was gone from home by 1850. He was a mystery for years until I received a telephone call one Sunday afternoon asking if I knew about a certain man who died in the Civil War. From his letters home, they had placed him in the block as my missing man. Later I received about 25 letters he wrote during the war to friends and relatives back home before he disappeared during the war. He mentioned nearly all of his siblings and parents more than once. This led me to mark him down as the “missing man” in my records.
Many other records can be found on the tombstones if you are aware of the markings. You can find information about military service, maiden names, fraternal societies, religious symbols, and even sometimes the cause of death.
Now let’s get ready to take a trip to the cemeteries and go tramping to further our research.
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