by Sara

My grandpa’s cousin (once removed), Sue, is about 80 years old now, and unable to get around well, but she alone knows the location of many of my southern ancestors' graves. Some are buried in forgotten family plots on the land they farmed 200 years ago, others with only a field stone marking the spot, and still others in long-abandoned, overgrown, hidden cemeteries. When Sue passes on, this information will be lost. She spent a good part of her life interviewing old-timers in the community, visiting extended family members, and accumulating all sorts of family lore. She was always very gracious to my family, her northern cousins, probably because we were more interested in history than some of her closer relatives. She took us to see those cemeteries in the 1980s and 1990s. We wrote down directions as best we could, but without a modern GPS unit and very little familiarity with rural Tennessee, we weren’t able to exactly record the location of many of these rural, remote locations where we hopped fences, forded creeks, hiked up hills, and down ravines to reach the grave sites.

I’ve decided that rather than continuing to worry about the possibility of losing this information, my mom and I need to take action and remedy the situation by scheduling a visit with Sue soon. At that time, we will try to get verbal directions from her and/or request that she send one of her kids or grandkids with us to access the graveyards. We will record the latitude and longitude of the cemetery locations via GPS. We will also document and photograph the tombstones and enter them on the free online grave transcription website Find a Grave.

Do you or a family member have special knowledge about your family that no-one else has? Now is the time to stop worrying about and make a plan to document it and preserve it for those who come after you. You could write it down (long-hand or typewritten) and give copies to all family members. Or, you could make a scrapbook or a recording (video or audio) with the pertinent information. Also consider donating a copy of your finished work to a local library or historical society. The Genealogy Center accepts many types of genealogical and local history donations. Contact us to find out more. Don’t let your memories and unique family information end with you.