Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday- Cemetery Kits Helpful

Visiting cemeteries is one of my favorite aspects of genealogical research, which often leads to some interesting facial expressions on those around me before I get the opportunity to explain my thoughts behind the statement. 

A cemetery to me is a sacred location, but it is not an untouchable or hands off place to be. Even in college when I was away from home and there was no time for genealogy, I would frequently take walks in a nearby cemetery from the campus that was beautiful and peaceful. 

Today when I visit the cemetery of my ancestors to take the photographs that are so precious to me I cannot help but stand there and go back in time to the day those people were buried. I imagine the friends and relatives  walking the land I am standing on as they grieve for the person they knew so well and now are losing, and the emotional sentimental fool that I am I always get a little emotional in the process. Genealogy to me is more than adding names to my database, and I am sure that is more pertinent because I knew so little about my family when I first began.

Last fall my parents and I were able to return to Ohio County, Kentucky for a couple days of research at the courthouse and to visit some local cemeteries. Ohio County is a key location to my maternal side of the family, and I was determined to visit one cemetery in particular that held several ancestors. 

The cemetery is at what is called Old Salem Church. The day we went I was a bit discouraged to find that part of the cemetery had been mowed and the part I needed to get to was under 3 feet of grass and weeds. What did I do? Turned to my trusty cemetery kit. My cemetery kit is actually a large tote bag that includes what I consider to be the necessities for anyone intending to make it a habit to visit their ancestral relatives in unknown locations. (Sorry, but despite my best efforts I could not find my photo for this post, but will put one up next week). 

Contents of my bag: Cloth diapers (for cleaning), water bottle for spraying onto unreadable text, kneeling pad used by gardeners, metal probe for finding parts of headstones under ground, clippers to assist in weed removal (I actually have a couple varieties), nylon brush and piece of styroform to gently remove lichen, hoe, garden gloves, trash bag and paper towels to clean up behind myself, piece of foam board covered with aluminum foil to assist with sun, tripod for my camera, first aid kit, bug spray, notebook paper, cemetery forms and clipboard. I know this is a lot and I don't always use it all, but the clippers, and bug spray came in handy this day. 

My parents thought I was nuts, but I knew that there were few opportunities to visit this cemetery and I didn't want to miss my chance, so out came the spray, I left all but the tools and the clipboard and my camera in the car, and off I went into the middle of the weeds and any unseen creatures.

Salem Cemetery, Ohio County, KY (property of ke)

I was delighted when I was rewarded, after trimming and pulling some weeds and grass, as well as spraying some water onto the stone to see it better, the long awaited location of my 3rd great-grandfather, John Raley. 

John Raley
Born Oct 8 1806
Died Aug 11 1884
Aged 77 Y., 10 M., 3 D.
Salem Cemetery, Ohio County, KY (taken by ke)


TCasteel said...

Yes - you were definitely rewarded for you work, and I bet your ancestor appreciated it too.
When I browse cemeteries I always feel the need to clear away dead leaves and weeds. It just seems right to do so.
Theresa (Tangled Trees)

Kim said...

I always find myself doing this, even those nearby of those with no connection. Someday someone will come to see that spot, and I would like to think it looks respectful for them.