I often visit cemeteries. There are so many interesting things to discover; so much history. Cemeteries can be peaceful, sad, beautiful, and sometimes – spooky, depending on the vivid imagination of the person walking through the cemetery.
Time for a cautionary tale. In tracking down my relatives, I have often visited graveyards/cemeteries – alone. I will confess that there have been times while planting flowers I have even talked myself into a “they’re coming to get you, Barbara” moment. But the most “standing-hair-on-the-back-of-my-neck” moment came a few years ago while planting flowers on my great-grandfather’s grave. And, this time I was not alone. Yes, I managed to drag my daughter along with me. She is what I lovingly call a “genealogy helper-whiner.” For those of you who do genealogy or research I know you are familiar with this type of helper. They’ll go along with you, but they’ll be bored or tired or complain or whine or sleep. But sometimes they are also the Voice of Reason.
One of the cemeteries I visit has a plethora of great-great-great-great-great relatives. Here’s the problem with this particular cemetery. It’s very old and located down a winding country road. It’s in a very isolated area along a river bank. Do you know what the ground is like along a river bank? It’s soft. So when one is walking in this isolated cemetery one feels as if one is walking on a sponge. Nothing creepier than walking in a cemetery where the ground has a bit of give to it.
Anyway, one day it was time to plant more bulbs, so I pushed my “I’m only going because I love you” daughter into the car and we were off on a road-trip to my favorite soft-ground spooky cemetery, trowels in hand.
We arrived at the cemetery, my daughter’s first comment, “Ewwww, this ground is soft. Ewww.”
That year I planned on planting Irises at my great-grandfather’s grave. Fighting off the devil-mosquitoes we began to dig. Clank! “Oh dear, what was that?” We struck something.
Me: “I hope it wasn’t a coffin.”
Me: “It’s not a coffin, they’re not that close to the top, it’s probably just a stone.”
More digging, this time with a little bit more trepidation. Something large and white started to appear.
Me: “OMG, it’s a skull, my great-grandfather’s skull!”
Voice of reason: “It’s not a skull. Probably just some cement they used for foundation.”
Me: “Nah, that’s not the same texture or color. Maybe it’s a buried treasure.”
Voice of reason: “Why would one of your poor relatives bury a treasure in a graveyard?”
Me: “Who knows…I’ve heard some interesting family stories. Let’s keep digging. Hopefully the graveyard police won’t show up.”
Voice of reason: “I don’t think there is such a thing as graveyard police.”
Flowers momentarily forgotten, we continued to dig. The object got bigger and bigger until it was fully exposed. Guess what it was. Another tombstone. It was in fact the original tombstone of my great-grandfather. Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure. I don’t know if every cemetery is like this one, but evidently the old stones are not thrown away if there is a replacement stone. But, there was also a bonus for this particular one – the dates on the original stone didn’t match the dates on the replacement. I guess research never ends – one step forward, one step back.
What did I gain from this experience? Actually, I gained a lot. I had a wonderful bonding experience with my voice-of-reason daughter and I learned that sometimes buried treasures are better than jewels. I also had a brainstorm that day. You know, there are a lot of tombstones in this particular cemetery which have large spaces between them. Could there be more buried tombstones? Could I actually find my missing great-great-great-grandmother? Just so you know, I have been talking to the cemetery's caretaker. I feel another project coming on....