Cemetery musings

I try to write at least one entry per week in this blog, and by that I mean I try not to let more than 7 days pass between entries. This week I have failed. I blame the holiday weekend; had I been at work those 3 days, I probably would have “stumbled” onto something I felt like blogging about. I’m always finding, or learning, something interesting. Such is the life of an archivist.

So, on Tuesday, I was thinking, What should I write about this week? Then, I began reviewing photos from the holiday weekend…and realized I had plenty of geeky history/library/archives fodder I could share – with photos! This entry is just going to be about snippets, but if something strikes your fancy and you would like to know more, drop me a line and ask for an elaboration. [Now there’s a great Latin word…]

On Saturday, my husband Matt and I took a drive to Columbus. First, we visited the Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery. (I bet you didn’t know there was a confederate cemetery in Ohio, did you? Well, there is, and now you know!)

Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery

We hunted around a bit for a Kentucky ancestor of Matt’s who is supposedly buried there, along with his son, but couldn’t find either of them. Either they are not really there (making the old “story” wrong), or they were not on whatever list was used when these pretty (new) white headstones were ordered. According to the story, the father was accused of being a “rebel sympathizer” (who knows if he was or not) and was hauled off to the prison camp; the son was a confederate soldier. It was still a nice visit, even if we didn’t find them. It was nice to see the stones all decorated with American flags for Memorial Day. Regardless of which side of the Mason-Dixon line you hail from, it’s good to remember we were (and are) all “Americans”.

I visited another cemetery on Sunday, but this one was a little closer to home. I was on my way somewhere when I passed the Polk Grove Cemetery at the corner of U.S. 40 (National Road) and Frederick Pike in Vandalia. I have passed it before but never stopped to check it out. So, on Sunday, I did. I took several pictures, including some that I “stitched” together using photo editing software, to make a panorama:

Polk Grove Cemetery Vandalia Ohio PANORAMA

The cemetery was established in 1825, according to the sign, so there were plenty of neat old stones in there.

You know, I had more “snippets” I was going to share, but since these two are both about cemeteries, I think I will stick with that subject.

It might seem strange that “I brake for cemeteries.” I always forget that’s not a particularly normal thing to do, but I’ve been doing it for so long, it seems normal to me. I’m trying to think back to how I got this way. It must be from genealogy.

My grandmother got me started on genealogy when I was 13 or 14 years old. Gravestone inscriptions are one of the many sources for genealogical “clues”. I went to many cemeteries, both looking for info, and also just to “see” my ancestors. There are probably few cemeteries in Scioto County, Ohio, that I haven’t visited at least once. Sometimes, if I passed a cemetery I had not been to before, I would stop just to see if there were any names I recognized.

I suppose those two reasons could explain the trips to two cemeteries this weekend: hunting for a relative (in Camp Chase cemetery) and curiosity of whether there were any names I recognized (in Polk Grove cemetery). Sure, I didn’t expect to find any relatives in the Vandalia cemetery, since none of my ancestors are from there. But hello! I work in a local history reference in an area that includes Vandalia – I’ve seen lots of those names before.

And if you didn’t already find me morbid enough — hmm, this is not made better by the fact that my previous entry is all about keeping dead people’s hair, is it? — I have one other reason that I like stopping by cemeteries: it’s comforting. That may no make much sense. Most of the time when people are in a cemetery, “comfort” is probably about the last thing they are feeling: they are probably burying a relative or friend or visiting that person’s grave because they miss them or want to pay respect to them. There’s not much “comfort” that comes with those things.

But I don’t really think of a cemetery as a big field planted with dead people. And okay, most of my experiences with cemeteries has been tinged with “adventure” or “treasure-hunting” or “discovery” rather than grief or loss. I’ve gone into cemeteries so many times, already knowing why, when, and how some of those people “got there” and some of the things they endured in the years (whether many or few) leading up to that final resting point:  cancer, tuberculosis, operations gone wrong, accidents, death of a child, abandonment, less-than-stellar parents, financial hardships, crappy occupations (or downright unemployment), long emigration voyages on rough waters, discrimination, frontier life, the Great Depression, war, floods, losing everything… I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

I can just sit down in the grass and stare out at those stones and “know” what hardships these people must have faced. Sometimes, I can “match” names and their relevant hardships together (like family members); but most times, 99% of the people I don’t even know, let alone what all they went through…but you could imagine. And it makes me feel like, no matter what is going on in my life, there’s probably somebody “out there” – in that field – who went through it before me (and probably suffered much, much worse). It gives me a weird sense of comfort. Plus, cemeteries are usually such calm, quiet places. It’s a good place to just sit and reflect. I like that about them, too.

Hmm, I was trying to dial down the “morbid” by explaining why I like to hang out in cemeteries, but I’m not sure I really accomplished my goal by saying more. Maybe you’d have to be a genealogist/family history buff to understand. Is anybody with me?

One response to “Cemetery musings

  1. It is exceedingly comforting to know that there are no new hardships in the world. I’m with you!

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