I’ve been uploading images of graves from my local veterans cemetery on FindAGrave.com and trying to add obituaries. The headstone isn’t the only thing that matters; celebrating the life of the person is equally, if not more, important. Unfortunately, many of the obituaries have been “archived” and when you click them, most direct you to a new search for the newspaper or to a site where you have to pay to view the obituary. I am miffed and mystified by this. Should people have to pay to view an obituary? Where does this leave genealogists? Should genealogists for groups that create listings of obituaries that people can search for free? I’m thinking I may do just that.
Category Archives: Cemetery
Sadly, while photographing headstones for FindAGrave.com today, I came across quite a few gravesites that had markers made of paper or metal. They were clearly meant to be temporary, but one that is now rendered nearly unreadable is from November 2010, so it likely isn’t temporary. Unfortunately its waterproof cover is no longer waterproof and the paper with the deceased picture and dates is slowly wearing away due to weather. I wonder, will it be replaced with a headstone someday… before it is completely unreadable?
I wasn’t sure I understood people posting obituaries on Find A Grave … that is until recently.
As I discussed in last week’s post, I photograph headstones at local cemeteries (most recently at the Gloucester County veteran’s cemetery). When a person is not listed there, I create the memorial using information from the headstone that I’ve photographed. Then, as all good volunteers do, I search for the obituary on the New Jersey newspaper sites under obituaries to post with the stone.
Unfortunately, over time, the obituaries are archived. When that happens, when you do a search, most of the time you end up on a fee-based site where, if you pay, you can view the obituary. Now, I’m all for developing businesses and entrepreneurship, but I’m against paying a fee to view the obituary.
So, if you are a genealogist out there involved in services that post cemetery records, please do insert the obituary when available. People are more than the stone they leave behind, they had lives and loves and personalities, that only a good obituary can capture.
Now one might ask, why on earth do we do this? The first time you find the record of an ancestor’s burial, you will know the answer.
My genealogy activities lately have consisted of stolen moments on the internet between grading papers at night and, more frequently, a weekly visit to the local veterans cemetery photographing headstones on Saturdays. I have to steal these moments as well. If there are people there, I leave. If there is a service, I don’t even stop the car.
Even though my goal is to take volunteer pictures for Find A Grave, I feel like an interloper sometimes. When I see an elderly person, with head bent, standing before the grave of a loved one or friend, it nearly breaks my heart. I don’t want to invade those moments. I’ve had my share of loss and don’t want to disturb the mourning of others. So, sometimes I’m there and then, suddenly gone. Yesterday I was able to capture just over 60 stones, when two ladies came with flowers for their loved one. I put my camera in my pocket and walked away. I have no right to be there in a place so hallowed, while others remember what I cannot see in my mind’s eye – the face of the one they love.
I remember wandering through Ancestry and seeing the grave marker for one of my ancestors for the first time. When I traced the roots of the marker, I found it on Find A Grave. Someone had created a listing and posted the picture of the old stone on the site.
This occurred about the same time that I started to notice graveyards everywhere – most in placed that I never noticed before. As an amateur genealogist, I saw these now as not just curious roadside and churchyard places, but also as places that people could search for ancestors.
These stones are alternately called headstones, tombstones, grave markers, and memorials. I’m sure there are a few other names out there.
The net result was that I joined Find A Grave and began to photograph stones to help other genealogists find their ancestors. This was my way of giving back to others who had posted stones – my genealogy database now contains at least 20 stones of ancestors.
So, the last time I was on the site I clicked a local veteran’s cemetery and found that there were two requests for stone photos. I further noted that most of the service men and their spouses did not have photographs posted. So I began to photograph…
It has been a while since I reported about this sadly neglected cemetery. Since then, I’ve learned so much more, but still have so many unanswered questions.
My local historical society has been closed on the days that I’ve been off and able to get down there – it is run by one volunteer who can’t spend all of her time there. So, I proceeded to conduct a fairly exhaustive internet search. The only thing that came up matching the location of this sad place, was my own blog post and YouTube video about it. Just when I was about to give up, I made one last-ditch attempt to find it through Google using as many filters as possible. I hit pay dirt about two search pages in and found a link to a USGenWeb web page for the cemetery.
It turns out that this cemetery is called Old Lake Cemetery.* Once upon a time it was kept trimmed and neat, as is evidenced by photographs found on Find A Grave. Many, if not all, of the tombstones have already been photographed and posted on Find a Grave, and those photographs show short grass and clearly visible stones. The article, which is really only a listing of names, on USGenWeb (a free genealogy site) mentions that it was overgrown as of the date of its publication in the year 2000. Yet, the first picture of a headstone in this cemetery at Find a Grave, shows cleared grass in September 2010, ten years late. Just to make sure I was in the right cemetery, I looked up a few stones that I had photographed when I first made the sad discovery and found one of the stones and it matches, exactly the same stone. So I knew then that I was in the right place. So what has happened in the ensuring year? Why is this cemetery neglected yet again?
So, even though I have some answers now, I am left with more questions.
*the map on the Find A Grave site is wrong – this cemetery is at the intersection of Lake Road and Main Road. Anyone wishing to visit this cemetery should follow map quest directions to Lake Road school, which is located next to this cemetery.
I was out at an appointment today and took a back road toward home. In the corner of my eye I saw a tombstone. I had to find a place to turn around and encountered the saddest, most neglected place… A giant cemetery full of old grave markers and grass that was as high as my knees in some places. I’ve driven past this site a million times and never noticed it before. The genealogist (and history lover) in me finally made me take notice.
I took a video of the cemetery. It doesn’t look like much from the video, but deep in the grass are some small tombstones that have tipped over, and many low profile marks set low in the ground that you can’t see until you get close to them.
I walked through the high grass toward an obelisk style tombstone and found a couple that I could read.
This smaller headstone was near the obelisk. I was unable to read it, but perhaps blowing it up here may help:
This granite stone was in the same corner as the Jones stones – it is fairing better than the older stones. Notice also the tiny discolored stone behind and to the left of it.
And finally, this small stone was buried under live and dead, dried out weeds. I had to push the weeds aside to photograph it.
It was sad to see the state that this cemetery was in. Perhaps a visit to the historical society is in order. Before you can even begin to clean up a cemetery you need to find out who owns the land (there is no church nearby and no church sign) and get permission to clean it up.