As a little girl, I was fortunate to accompany my parents whenever they went to cemeteries. There was never a debate about whether it was "OK" for me to visit. It was part of life. I have always experienced a sense of awe during my time there. I realize not everyone shares my perspective; however cemeteries provide documented history and life lessons for all family members. Cemeteries provide an incredible amount of information and offer a respectful link to your family.
If it has been a long time since your last visit, verify family plot locations with the groundskeeper. Be sure to bring a camera to photograph headstones not only for the valuable information, but also to maintain a record of the location. Some people also will bring paper and pencil to rub the image of the stone.
Many organizations are also recording cemetery information and making it available online. One of my good friends, Scott Lewandoske, is researching the Lutheran Cemetery in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He photographs and records all of the information on the headstone and then locates the corresponding death notice in The Sheboygan Press. It is a slow process, but extremely valuable for the family historian.
If you have relocated and live too far away from your family's cemetery, consider a trip there in the near future. Or, visit some of these Web sites. You may uncover plenty of information before you actually need to travel.
Now, perhaps I am a bit odd, but there are three memorable cemeteries I visited which I can never forget.
- The Ferndale Cemetery in Ferndale, California is on quite a steep hill. The movie, "The Majestic" was filmed there. The cemetery rules posted at the front gate merit attention. http://www.victorianferndale.org/chamber/
- In Greenbush, Wisconsin, there is a cemetery at the top of the hill. By accident, my family drove up the hill and found ourselves in the spookiest cemetery we'd ever seen. And, it was in the middle of the afternoon. My father had to put the car in reverse and back down the hill in order to leave.
- And, last but not least, the McGavock Cemetery at Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee. For more details, read Richard Hicks The Widow of the South or visit the web site at http://www.widowofthesouth.com/