I have always hated going to cemeteries. I had attended more funerals by the time I was in high school than I can remember. So although I went to cemeteries with my family, I never like the idea that there were actual people buried under the ground that I was walking on. I’m sure some of it also had to do with most of the cemeteries I went to were in wooded areas surrounded by trees and tall grass with nothing else nearby. So when I started this and started reading genealogy resource books, there was always a chapter on cemetery and funeral records. But I must admit I always skipped over that chapter because I didn’t see myself going to a cemetery walking around looking for gravestones. I was determined to find another way to get that type of information.
But once I really started researching, I knew there was no way I would be able to avoid going to the cemetery. So I had to get a plan together. I decided that my first trip to the cemetery would be in my hometown to photograph my grandparents headstones (you can read about that trip HERE). All four are buried in the same cemetery within close proximity to each other, so I knew I wouldn’t have to walk too far. I asked my dad and my husband to come with me. I knew I couldn’t go by myself. I brought my dad because he would know exactly where the headstones would be, and I brought my husband to actually take the pictures. I didn’t know if I would be able to stand still long enough to get good pictures. My plan worked out. I got the picture I wanted, and I was able to go to a cemetery on my own terms with people that knew that I would be way outside of my comfort zone. That was a good experience that gave me courage and confidence to visit additional cemeteries. It also was the first time I asked anyone to help me with my research.
I have been to a cemetery in a small town outside of Chicago. My Chicago cemetery visit was a little different in that we were in an unfamiliar city/cemetery, and I was totally unprepared for the actual cemetery. I had on the wrong clothes, shoes, and I didn’t bring any supplies like, a brush, water, gloves, or even flowers. That cemetery did have an office, so we were able to get the exact location of my great grandfather. But we had a hard time finding it because the headstone was covered with mud and grass. But once we located it, we needed to clean it off for the pictures. I found a couple of bottles of water in the car and a brochure from the car rental place and made that work. I now have a cemetery kit that I take with me, so I’m prepared for anything. You can listen to the Podcast about this trip HERE.
I have been back to some cemeteries in my hometown since then (you can read about that trip HERE). I have plans on going to a couple of cemeteries in St. Louis soon as well. Cemeteries are full of genealogical information including birth dates, death dates, and perhaps other family members information as well. I have come along way since that first cemetery visit back in 2011. I still don’t like cemeteries, but I can say that I have accepted that they will always be a part of my research. I am a little more comfortable walking around cemeteries now. But I will always have someone with me, and I will always go well before it starts to get dark. I knew this journey would allow my family tree to grow. But I didn’t expect this journey to help my personal growth. And this is why my journey continues…