Sunday, November 23, 2008

Doing Some Volunteer Work During The Holidays

During the holiday season, my mom and I always go searching for a volunteer project that we can take on to better someone's life or community. In the past we've done "adopt a family", where we buy presents for everyone in a low income family, sometimes we even make them a meal and buy them a tree. Other years we've made cookies for our local Boys and Girls Club (That was a 3 day affair of cookie making!).

Every year for the past two years however, I've been trying to find something that relates to genealogy. In the past I've done free look ups or helped people with their brick walls. But this year - I am not only putting a genealogy twist to it, but a cemetery twist too.

This year, I am going to go out and transcribe a small local cemetery with a friend of mine. Once I've done this, I will organize it into a small book that gives pictures, a general map of the cemetery, and a brief local history of the area. Then I will give the book to many of the local libraries in the area and the county, while also creating a website where that lists all the information in the book.

Mind you - this is no small task and will certainly take a lot of effort and time. But these days, the smallest things can brighten up our world. I'm sure someone out there will need the information.

So I call on all of you to find a cool way to volunteer for the genealogy world but with a cemetery twist. I've made a quick list of some ideas to get you started, but certainly anything you come up with will be pretty cool.

  1. Maybe you own a lawn mower and you don't mind cutting grass for a underkept cemetery. You could then go down there and make it look so much nicer while also making it easier to read all the stones and markers.

  2. Maybe you are a great photographer - you could volunteer to take pictures of your local cemeteries and send them to your local genealogical society or put them on a website.

  3. Do what I am doing - make a transcription and publish it.

  4. I find this to be extremely sweet: Clean up any dead flowers around the stones and then place a fresh flower on there.

Whatever you decide to do this holiday season - I'd love to hear about it. Drop me a line to let me know!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pets Get Buried Too!

I was talking to my dad today about my visit to my Grandpa in the summer of 2003. It was really the only time that I met my Grandpa ( least that I can remember. I met him a bunch of times when I was a baby and a toddler).

While I was out there visiting my grandpa in Elizabethton, Tennessee, I learned a lot about my family. One of the things I didn't expect to learn about was my Grandpa's love for his old dog, Jennifer (My little cousin was named Jennifer also...yet he never had a dog named Elyse! Well...that's a story for another time).

So as I am walking around his gigantic backyard (literally...HUGE) and looking at the gardens and trees, I noticed a big gravestone underneath a willow tree. So I approached it and began reading it: Jennifer - Beloved Dog and Loyal Friend. Now mind you - this was a beautiful gravestone with a small dog bone etched on the top corners and it looked like it was made of a beautiful granite.

In the middle of my admiring the stone, I was stung in the thumb area of my hand by a big gigantic bee (Did I mention I am terrified of bees?). I instantly started screaming and shaking my hand - but the bee remained stuck. So as I am running at top speed back to the house, screaming at the top of my lungs, no one even notices me until I get inside. I get inside, still screaming as loud as I can. My Aunt Deb (who took me to Tennessee) is the first to see me and as I put my hand up for her to see - she starts screaming also. My cousin Jen (who also came to Tennessee with me) walks in the room and starts screaming also. My Grandpa finally comes limping into the kitchen, grabs a paper towel, and pulls the bee right off of my hand.

I still remember it clear as day as he patted me on the shoulder and gave me a smile before turning to put the paper towel in the trash. My Aunt Deb began freaking out because there wasn't any neosporin in the my Grandpa took me into his room and poured a small shot of whiskey over my sting. (Oh...and did that one hurt!)

As we began talking about how I got the bee sting in the first place, he began telling me stories about this wonderful dog Jennifer. As he told them, his face truly lit up in a way that very few ever saw. I really felt like I connected with him over the stories he told....

Which brings me to my point - pet cemeteries are important too. The fact that my Grandpa was willing to bury his beloved dog who had spent so much time with him after my his wife died - it really showed how much of an impact that Jennifer was to my Grandpa.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

There Is No Way That Was Made In the 1700s...

Have you ever been online looking at a ton of websites searching for a picture of a particular gravestone? When you finally found a picture of a gravestone that had all of the right information on it, but the stone looks waaaaay too new to possibly be what you are looking for? happens. And no, you aren't going crazy. Often times, many genealogical societies will create a new grave marker or stone for a person who was influential to the area. Sometimes family members who are proud of their lineage will create a new grave marker for someone who either served their country in a war or who made a big difference in something.

If you notice something like this, don't sit there pulling your hair out in confusion...this is definitely something that happens.

This happened with me when I was researching an ancestor of mine named Julius Dugger. I was searching on Ancestry and knew I probably wouldn't get a picture of his grave stone because he died in the late 1700s to early 1800s (I can't think of the exact date off the top of my head). But I did the search anyway - and sure enough - there was the picture staring me straight in the face. Everything that I read on the stone only confirmed what I already knew...but I also knew that there was no way this stone was created in that time period. Well, a little more digging and sure enough, there was my answer: A genealogical society in the area had created it for him because of his influence in Carter and Johnson Counties, TN.

Having a new gravestone created for a gravestone that either no longer exists or is too hard to read is becoming more and more common. My only word of caution is to not take everything on that new grave marker as complete fact because the new grave marker was created long after the person died...and therefore, there is more room for mistake.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Access Genealogy - A FREE Website of Tennessee Cemetery Transcriptions

As I was searching the web today, I found a website that held transcriptions to cemeteries in Tennessee. This site is not just helpful when it comes to Eastern Tennessee - but the entire state.

Cemeteries are organized first by county (with one category for national cemeteries in Tennessee), then by cemetery name.

The transciptions are all done by volunteers and most of the indexes are complete (or were when they were transcribed).

I suggest that if you need to find where an ancestor is buried and you have a good idea of where the ancestor died, you might want to head over and check it out.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

When The Town Pitches In To Serve Those Who Have Lost

Often times when a family lost a baby or young child in rural Tennessee, the entire town got together and helped give the child a proper burial because often the parents could not afford it.

I realized this on a trip to visit my Grandpa in Carter County, Tennessee. I went to a cemetery to see where my great grandparents were buried. As I was wandering around the cemetery looking at all the grave markers, I noticed a small grave marker underneath an overgrown bush. After pushing the bush back, I found a small gravemarker with the words "Inf. Dau. of Monroe and Matilda Dugger". I thought it was odd since no one mentioned a baby girl that had died. I asked my Grandpa about it when I got back to the house, and he was shocked to learn that there was a sister he never knew about!

I later learned from a lovely elderly woman who knew my great grandparents that it was their second child. They didn't have much money to bury the child with a nice grave marker so the entire town donated money and time to help them. She said that many of the women in town helped care for the couple's first child while also making meals for the family. Many of the men helped dig the grave and multiple families donated money to help afford a beautiful gravemarker.

Once the child was buried, the town moved on and never spoke of it again. The couple never spoke of it again and never even told their children (as far as I know).

Isn't it amazing how after a huge loss such as that of a child, that the town will come together in order to ensure that the child has a proper burial?