Thursday, October 23, 2008

Rural Cemeteries

If you've ever been in the rural areas of eastern Tennessee, particularly near Carter or Johnson Counties, then you'll know what I mean by rural cemetery.

These are the cemeteries that have predominately one group of people, generally with the same surname, in the cemetery. A church is sometimes nearby, but other times the cemetery is hidden by the local terrain.

In Carter and Johnson counties, where my many of my ancestors are from, there are cemeteries that contain only 6-8 people in them. Often times they are located in the mountains, hidden by overgrowth of trees and plants, with only a select few people knowing they even exist. My great grandfather is buried in such a cemetery.

When my great aunt took me to his grave, there was no sign up naming the cemetery. The only road that led to it was a dirt road. There was a small house behind it, but it looked as if it was falling down. Infact, the GPS system we had in the rented car had no idea where we were.

But, apparently this is not uncommon. There are tons of websites devoted just to Carter and Johnson counties and they document these cemeteries. The local people go out voluntarily and map these cemeteries. They transcribe the headstones that they can, and they make sure the cemetery is given some sort of upkeep. These kind locals often do it because their ancestors are buried in those cemeteries.

So now the question becomes - how do you find the cemetery that your ancestor was buried in? Well - you start with the locals. Often times, there are people who still live in the area and know of the cemeteries around. Search through websites created by people with ancestors in the same rural area and start asking questions.

Then - start searching the cemeteries to see if you can find that person you are looking for. If you can't afford the expense, try looking on some of those volunteer sites where a volunteer will go search the cemetery for you.

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