Monday, October 27, 2008

Dead Relatives Hunt

In my spare time, I'm the family historian. I've been working on it for a while--since I was eighteen. That's uh, well, it's a long time. There have been quite a few adventures in the dead relative's hunt.

My children grew up believing that everyone spent their vacations in cemeteries. The youngest one was shocked when her fourth grade class went on a field trip to a local historical cemetery and her classmates were afraid to get off the bus. She was the only one in her class who knew what a headstone rubbing was.

Cemeteries in the country are not in convenient places. Don't ask me why this is, but I can tell you that (at least in rural America) they're located on the narrowest road in the most out of the way spot possible. As a matter of fact... one of "our" cemeteries is located behind a rest area on a remote two lane road in Texas. Another one is in the poison ivy infested woods in rural Kentucky.

My family were farmers that moved on every generation. Most families had a bunch of kids. The girls married, but that still didn't leave much land to divvy up among the boys so usually the younger ones moved on in search of a little piece of land where they could farm. The earliest generations came into Maryland and Virginia in the 1600's and from then on, they were on the move. The Carolina's, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and finally my parents met in Arizona.

I suppose I come by my restless feet naturally. While my friends shudder at the thought of moving, I always look forward to new places and experiences.

In a couple of weeks I'll be heading out to visit my folks. They live across the country in Texas. On the way, we'll probably take a detour or two to check out a cemetery or library or town hall. We'll take pictures of the land and marvel at the tenacity and determination it required to move across the country with no roads in a wagon or on foot. And when I come home I'll have a renewed appreciation for my ancestors.

That's the real fascination of the dead relatives hunt.



  1. I spent a great deal of time after school typing up the history of headstones for the local historical society my mother was a part of...99% start off In loving memory....

    I have all my family hisory files and I must get them all on disc

  2. My family was a very large and extended one. We took trips out of town to visit the cemetaries where our relatives (two, three or four generations removed) were buried because it was our responsibility to remember them and to keep up their graves. Some of my favorite memories are from those trips.

  3. One of the churches I attended as a kid was a tiny Methodist one with a cemetary out back. We used to have Sunday School outside on warm summer days, and being kids, of course we ran and laughed and played among the graves. But I was always fascinated by the stories behind the headstones, even then.

  4. I too love to wander cemetaries but I haven't done it in a loooong time. My dad is buried in a small family cemetary in Oklahoma and let me tell you, it is out in the boonies. The headstones in many of the Oklahoma cemetaries are so interesting because of the Native American stones. Many will feature both their "Anglicized" name along with their Indian name. Very cool.

    Hope you have fun in Texas. I'll be waving.

  5. I love old cemetaries. Never did our family history but what little I do know is interesting.