From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Find A Grave

Locating the burial places of ancestors


Graveyard, location unknown. Image source: fromoldbooks.org

Due to my recent obsession with family history, I've become a frequent visitor to Find A Grave, a free online repository of over 57 million grave records. Obviously, they don't have a record for everyone  -- there have been an untold number of us humans! -- but I have found burial information and even a few tombstone photos for some of my ancestors there.

The Scotten Cemetery, found


Emery Scotten was Great-grandmother Emma Hart's grandfather -- in other words, my 3x-great-grandfather. He was born in 1792 in Maryland and died in 1867 in Franklin County, Indiana.  I typed his name, places, and dates into a Find A Grave search and learned that Great-grandfather Scotten is buried in the Scotten Cemetery in Franklin County, along with his wife Mary S. and a dozen other family members and in-laws.

The Scotten Cemetery is described as "marooned in a cornfield on 200 North about 3/4 of a mile west of 600 West. The burial ground is recognizable only by a wooded area on the south side of 200 North, and the stones can only be seen during the winter months when foliage is gone." The last burial there was in 1878.

I can almost see the Scotten Cemetery in my mind, because there's an old graveyard like that, marooned in a pasture, just a mile from my house. When I hiked out there to look at it, on a winter day some years ago, I could hardly see the gravestones under all the fallen tree branches and tangled vines.  I would have been afraid to go there in the summer because of snakes!

It is sad to think that the Scotten Cemetery is not tended at all, but I do feel closer to that family, now that I know where they are buried. It should be quiet there most of the time, except for the birds and squirrels and rabbits -- and the snakes. I hope the wild violets and roses bloom on their graves. Maybe there are even a few daffodils that still come up in the springtime.

Helping Find A Grave


Find A Grave works because of volunteers -- people who donate their time and effort to research, key, and upload burial information. In many cases, the volunteers have gone to remote graveyards themselves and recorded the names and dates on old tombstones. The site is funded through advertising, donations, and a gift shop. You can read about the founder and staff on the "whois" page.

I've visited quite a few old graveyards in Christian County and I have a few dozen or more photographs of tombstones that interested me. I can't upload them to Find A Grave unless I know the names of the cemeteries where I photographed them -- and I don't remember.

However, I could go through my gravestone photos and search for those people's names and dates on Find A Grave. Then, if any of them were already listed in some cemetery in Christian County, KY, I could add my tombstone photo to the burial record. I know that someone, sometime, would be really happy to find it.

8 comments:

Ilona said...

old cemeteries are fascinating places. There is one closeby here that has become a prairie reserve. It is a patch of remnant tallgrass prairie kept from being turned into farmland only by the fact that early pioneer folk had been buried here.

Their graves told the tale of a bout of malaria that swept through the area,swampy before farmers drained the land.

RunAwayImagination said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I followed the link to FindaGrave and found a picture of the gravestone of my 5th great-grandfather Reuben Philips (1795-1887), who is buried in the Andrews Chapel Cemetery in Sylacauga, AL. Now I know where to look the next time we travel down that way.

Genevieve said...

Ilona, I think you are in Ohio? Today, it's hard to imagine malaria being a problem in Ohio, but that was a different era. The Ingalls family got sick and nearly died from malaria in Kansas, in the book, "Little House on the Prairie." In fact, Mary lost her eyesight from the high fever she ran. It is a terrible disease. It's no wonder that people of that day were so determined to drain the swamps.

DDT virtually eliminated malaria in the USA. (I realize that DDT caused other problems, but it did kill enough mosquitoes that malaria is no longer a major health threat here.)

Genevieve said...

Wow, that's great, Runaway! I'm genealogically thrilled for you, ;)

Jean said...

I have been a member of Find A Grave for almost a year now and have posted several old cemeteries and photos in Christian and Muhlenberg Counties. one in Hopkins County and two in McLeansboro Il. I have also found lost family members on Find A Grave.
You mentioned you have several old photos of tombstones in Christian County and don't know what cemetery they are in.
when I walk a cemetery and make photos-I print out copies, write dates, name of cemetery and any family information I can find on the back of the photo.
If I find an old untended cemetery that does not have a sign posted telling what cemetery it is, I check the Christian or Muhlenberg County Cemetery books. I have found two old cemeteries and thought I was in either Christian or Muhlenberg, but have found those cemeteries posted on the Todd County genealogy site.

Genevieve said...

I have been thinking about purchasing a Christian County cemeteries book. I think it is about $60, from the Genealogical Society.

You are right about documentation! However, when I took many of these photos years ago, I had no idea that I would ever consider making them available for family-tree research.

Isaac Netz said...

I used Find a Grave as a secondary source when I was writing my huge paper on Salem last semester.

Genevieve said...

I wouldn't have dreamed that you knew about Find A Grave, Isaac. I guess
it's a small world, even on the internet.

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