Off on Another Adventure

I just returned from a research trip to Chesterfield and Darlington Counties in South Carolina, and then a visit to Savannah. The research portion had its highs and lows, but all in all it was a good time. I wanted to write a little about my adventures and give you some tips on planning a trip out of state for research.

We drove most of the day on Saturday (this was a 600+ mile trip). On Sunday, we drove around to cemeteries. I found my great-great-great-great grandfather’s family cemetery sitting about 50 yards into a pine forest. It was fenced and relatively well taken care of. We visited numerous cemeteries that day, and had a great time.

Day two, the small research library had hours on Monday from 1pm to 5pm. I had called two weeks in advance to make sure those were the correct hours. I told the volunteer who answered that I would be driving 600 miles and was assured that somebody would be there. Nobody was there. It was locked up with a sign on it that said “We’ll return at 1 o’clock.” Except nobody returned. So I went to the library in the same small town and was told that the research library makes their own hours. I sent them an e-mail later that evening to voice my disappointment at finding them closed after being assured they would be open and how far I had drove to get there. I did get a reply “Sorry for the inconvenience.” Oh, well. Moving on! I won’t be going back to that location any time soon! Funny note to this day. We stopped in a fabric store and during conversation with the owner, I discovered he was a distant cousin. We share the same ancestor who was buried in that little family cemetery I had located the day before! Small world!

Day three, we traveled to the state archives. It was a bit disappointing to find that most of the information I hoped to find was part of a “burned county”. Thank you, General Sherman. You might be considered a hero in some parts of the country, but I am not a fan. Burning those old wills from the 1700 & 1800’s really helped resolve the War Between the States, huh? With nothing else to look for in the archives, we headed on to Savannah.

Day four, we headed to Bonaventure Cemetery. If you ever get to Savannah, you must go visit this place. It is absolutely beautiful. Despite the interference from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the cemetery is like a peaceful painting. Old elaborate markers framed in looming oak trees with Spanish moss dripping from the limbs and hovering over the graves. Just gorgeous! I’ve added a few pictures to my “Favorites” section. Once we left here, we headed into downtown and jumped on a trolley for the tour. Another must if you visit. The city was beautiful, clean, and genuinely friendly. We finished our day with an early supper at Paula Deen’s restaurant. Yummy! It was like a trip back in time to family gatherings at my great aunt’s home in south Alabama. If you find fault with this place, you have never ate good Southern cooking!

Day five, we headed home. Looking back, I am not sure what I would have done differently. I know if the future I wouldn’t waste a day trying to go to a research library that didn’t open, and I now know that the archives will not be able to help me. (Again, thank you General Sherman). But I did get to find Noel Johnson’s grave, and I visited many other cemeteries. I guess don’t get your expectations too high when planning a trip out of state and always have a back-up plan. I would be furious if I had drove that far only to find the research library closed and that was my only planned stop. But we made the best of it and had a good time. If you are planning such a trip, research the area ahead of time so you can find something to do if your first plan falls apart. I have some good memories from this trip that will last a lifetime and if you take such a trip I hope you have the same experience!

 

 

Posted in April 2015 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Is it a Cemetery or a Graveyard?

Sometimes it’s called a cemetery and sometimes a graveyard.  Is there a difference, and if so what is the difference?  When looking online it almost seems that a lot of people have a distorted view of their definitions.  Webster.com defines both as “a place where dead people are buried,” so that generic description might be why there is so much confusion.

Technically a graveyard is beside or very near a church whereas a cemetery is independent of a church.  Many people refer to an old burying location, sometimes abandoned, as a graveyard.  Just the term sounds creepy and lonely while a cemetery invokes peaceful and caring thoughts.  Generally historical or genealogy societies use the term cemetery for all final resting places unless the location is commonly know as a graveyard.

For my website, I have used both terms as I find the names of cemeteries and graveyards.  I know that “technically” the graves right beside St. John’s Church is a graveyard and the Miller Family Farm graves are in a cemetery, but I’m not going to argue the small stuff with anybody.  I did find an article online that says church graveyards are rarely taken care of and the burials are all crammed together and cemeteries are always well taken care of and very spacious, which I found funny.  I have visited some beautiful graveyards beside churches and I’ve visited some pitifully neglected cemeteries, so that theory is not very reliable!

Either way, it doesn’t really matter what name is used.  To me, what is important is preserving our heritage and history of these locations so that future generations will know about them.

Posted in June 2014 | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Camp Chase Confederate Prison Cemetery

On Memorial Day my mother and I took a trip to Camp Chase Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio which was a Confederate Prison during the War Between the States.   Shortly after our visit I attended a cousin’s graduation and we were telling about our visit.  One of my cousins asked “Why would you go there?”

 Before I answer that, I must tell you about our visit.  The entire cemetery is enclosed with a brick wall about 4 to 5 feet high on the outside and 3 feet on the inside.  On top of the brick wall is iron fencing for another 3 feet or so.  The entrance is in the middle and is two iron gates.  Immediately upon entering, I was met by a large monument with a confederate soldier standing on top and a boulder beneath that says “2260 Confederate Soldiers of the War 1861-1865 buried in this enclosure.”  Surrounding this monument are the graves of those soldiers, all uniform, straight lines, lined up as if even in death they are still in formation.

As you walk through the cemetery, you can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of sadness.  Young men so far away from home, in a climate that they could have never imagined just a short time before.  And then when the end of their life came, they knew that they would never see their home again or their family. Unlike many military cemeteries, these men did not choose to be buried here.   I couldn’t help but feel their pain and sadness as I walked among the headstones. 

 And my family history adds a varied twist to this conflict.  My mother’s family is deeply rooted in the South, while my father’s family is just as deeply rooted in the north.  There are men buried in this cemetery from units formed in the part of Alabama where my family is from.  And then I also know that my paternal great-great grandfather was a guard at this prison.  I equally love both sides of my family and I am equally proud of their history, but standing in that cemetery that day, I truly felt a clash of differences that I had never felt before. 

 As I roamed the lines of markers, I noticed that other people were coming to visit the cemetery.  Many were families, some small children carrying little flags to place on these proud veterans’ graves.  It made me feel good that these soldiers are still honored with visits from perfect strangers.

 So to answer the question why would I go there, well the answer isn’t quite so simple.  And I knew that if I tried to explain it, I would not be understood.  So I politely replied, “It is an interesting piece of history.” 

Posted in May 2014 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Grandma Was Not Always Correct

I love researching my family history.  I also love helping others with their own research.  I have held or participated in many discussions regarding tracing a family’s history, and after listening to so many people as well as from my own personal experience, your grandma was not always correct!

 I became interested in genealogy when I was a young girl at my grandparents’ home.  There was a large chart laid out with a lot of names and circles and lines connecting one another.  There were also some handwritten notes by my great grandmother that indicated my great great great great grandfather had married the granddaughter of King George III.  Wow!  This was just the spark that a ten year old child needed to become interested in her family history!  I took that bit of information, and started on my journey.

 My royal duty as a Princess-in-waiting and 5,000th in line to the throne came to a sudden halt when I realized that King George III was only three years old when his supposed “granddaughter” was born.  So I stopped expecting a summons from the Queen of England, and began to look at what information I knew was correct.  At that point it really didn’t matter, because I had already discovered so many interesting facts about my family.

 I write this post simply for the fact that as a new genealogist it is very easy and very tempting to take undocumented information as the truth just so you can add another step back on your tree.  There are many family trees on the internet, and most are unsourced.  Even on Ancestry.com many people do not use the “hints” (the little green leaves that wave) properly.  These are hints and suggestions.  They are not absolute proof.  I keep getting a leaf for my grandfather’s service in WWII.  Guess what?   My grandfather was not in WWII.  There was another man with the same first and last name living in the same county who was in WWII, but not my grandfather.  And it wasn’t long before I found a family tree that indicated my grandfather was in WWII.  I contacted the owner of that tree and advised them that my grandmother was still living and said that my grandfather was not in any war.  The owner told me that my grandmother must be mistaken because ancestry told her he was!  Umm, ok???

 Libraries hold many self-published family histories as well as submitted charts and trees.  These also should be treated with caution.  Unless the information has sources listed (and some do) do not assume that the information is correct.

That being said, unsourced information can be a very useful tool.   It can be a guide as to where to look next.  I was once having trouble locating any information on my great great grandfather, and then a distant cousin wrote in a letter that when he came home from the war (Civil War), he was changed.  I used that bit of information to find a service record, which lead me to a birth year, which lead me to a census record when he was a child, and that put me back one more generation.  So these unsourced resources are not without merit, but they should be used as a guide.

Regardless what your purpose for researching your family, it will be much more worth your time if you follow the proof rather than look for information to fit into a story you are hoping to find.  If you want to join the DAR, follow your family line rather than look for a Patriot of the same surname and force your line into that Patriot’s tree.  People with the last name Jefferson are not all related to Thomas Jefferson.  Enjoy your own history and if you happen to fall into a category you are looking for, that’s great.  But just remember, every family has some really fascinating stories!

Posted in May 2014 | 1 Comment