Tombstone Tuesday: St. James Cemetery

A couple of weeks ago, I drove a friend visiting from out of town to Tilghman Island. As we were passing through Sherwood, my friend spotted a cemetery. On our way back home, I pulled off the road so we could check it out — it was St. James Cemetery*. I was shocked at what we found.

The cemetery was completely overgrown, which isn’t too terribly shocking. The reason why it troubled me is that many of the graves we did find were really recent. We saw several graves from the 1990s to as recent as 2008. It was really sad to see them in such a state.

Grave from 1999

Grave from 1992

At first, I thought this cemetery was one that I’d been unable to find before, while fulfilling FindaGrave requests in the area last fall. Turns out this is a completely different cemetery. None of its graves are listed on FindaGrave yet. I hope to return when the weather is colder and the greenery has died back a bit. We briefly skirted around the perimeter of the cemetery on this excursion and got bitten by who knows what in the process.

We couldn't get back to these graves without walking through knee-high weeds to get there and we weren't dressed for the occasion this outing.

* I found the St. James Church on the Maryland Register of Historic Places (link opens PDF). I don’t recall seeing the church, but we weren’t looking for it either. There appeared to be a private residence bordering the cemetery, not a church. There were several tumbling-down shacks in the vicinity. I didn’t find anything else about the congregation on the web — maybe it’s no longer active. This could explain the sad state of the cemetery…

The Friends Album Has Found a Home!

I just received a call from one of the descendants of the Young family from the Friends Album. This is the gentleman to whom I mailed a letter with a photo of Cornelia Morris (his 4G-grandmother) and a copy of the family tree that I put together.

He said he just returned from out of the country and my letter was waiting for him amidst a huge stack of mail. He called me as soon as he opened it. He confirmed that I had the right family.*

He said both of his parents are still alive and in their mid-80s. He confirmed the family has strong connections to Danbury, Conn., and Yonkers, N.Y. (where this gentleman was born).

They are thrilled to have the album coming their way — I hope to send it to them this weekend. I can’t even describe how elated I am to be reuniting these photos with the family!

* Updated 7/1/2011: I spoke with Stanley Young III again last night and he said he was mistaken and he actually hadn’t seen the photo of Cornelia Morris before. Nevertheless, he now has the Friends Album and couldn’t wait to show it to his parents over the 4th of July weekend.

Tuesday’s Tip: Local History News Alerts

This past weekend, there was a huge celebration in the town of Easton, Md., surrounding the placement of a sculpture of Frederick Douglass in front of the Talbot County Courthouse. Douglass once gave a very famous address on the steps of that courthouse.

The events this weekend got me thinking about the likelihood of similar events taking place in towns across the country. With all of the patriotic holidays during the summer, there are many celebrations of local and national history throughout the country during this season.

Local newspapers tend to preview such events with articles about area history. What a great way to learn about the hometowns of your ancestors! Might your ancestor get a mention? Here’s one way to find out: set up a Google News Alert for your ancestors’ hometowns and add keywords like ‘history’ to the search string.

Use the AROUND operator to make results more relevant. When I did a search for “San Antonio” and “history,” the results weren’t what I’d hoped for. I changed the search string to ‘”san antonio” AROUND(5) history’ (meaning where ‘history’ appears within five words of ‘San Antonio’) and got much better results.

You can add other keywords to the search string too. Were your ancestors farmers? Miners? Play around with other keywords to narrow your results.

I had trouble getting relevant results from one of my searches. You can click on Advanced Search to narrow the results by source location OR by coverage of a certain location.

I tried out a Google News search for one of my ancestral hometowns, Elizabethton, Tenn. I typed ‘Elizabethton Tennessee history’ into the search bar. The results varied from calendar items for workshops at local history landmarks to an article on local sports history. I set up a news alert so that future articles about the area come to my attention.

When you set up the news alert, you are presented with a number of options that will affect the results you receive. You can have the alert cover everything from blogs to video. I usually select “Everything” from the Type drop-down menu. Likewise, I also select “All Results” under Volume.

I have dozens of news alerts set up for my day job, and I find it can be overwhelming to receive all of those emails. Since I already have Google Reader set up for keeping track of genealogy blogs, I elected to receive these local history updates in my feed there, rather than receiving still more email.

Don’t forget to navigate around the Google News results using the menu on the left. I hit Archives and found articles about presidential candidate Herbert Hoover visiting Elizabethton in 1928. Another article, from 1957, detailed the homecoming of conjoined twins (joined at the head, no less), who had been successfully separated just in time to return home for Christmas that year. Note that some of the archive hits may require payment to view the full article, depending on the publication.

None of these stories involve my ancestors, but what great snapshots of local happenings over the years.

It also pays to search for county names and not just town names. I found this article on a flood that swept through Elizabethton (spelled ‘Elizabethtown’ in this article, which is why it didn’t show up in my previous search) in 1901 by searching for “Carter County.” Surely my ancestors were affected by this flood.

Another interesting find was this reprint of a letter by Abraham Lincoln.

Another bonus to performing these searches is you may discover newspapers you didn’t know existed. This could lead to more fruitful searching later on.

Dear Mr. Lincoln, I Think We May Be Related…

In preparing a blog post involving Carter County, Tenn., I found this fascinating reprint of a letter by Abraham Lincoln, to a relative who had written him inquiring as to whether they may be related. The article, which originally appeared in The New York Times, can be downloaded as a PDF at no charge.

Stay tuned on Tuesday to see how I found this little treasure!

Treasure Chest Thursday: My House is on Fire

Some of the family items I would be tempted to grab in a fire: the flag presented to our family at my dad's funeral; photos of my parents; silly as it is, the horn my dad would try and play every New Year's Eve.

This week, Kerry Scott over at Clue Wagon asked what would you grab to save if your house were on fire (assuming your loved ones, pets, etc. were already safe and sound).

This reminded me that back when I was in high school, Oprah actually had a show on this topic. She encouraged everyone to have a firebox that contained everything they would want to salvage (within reason), so they could grab it in just such a situation.

I didn’t have anything of great monetary value to my name at the time, but I put together a shoebox and I remember dropping in a coin purse that I picked up in Ireland when I was 3 years old, a tiny photo album containing mostly school portraits of my friends with their notes on the back, and assorted other trinkets that meant a lot to me.

That box moved with me several times over the years. I believe I finally disassembled it within the past few years as I’ve started a massive scrapbooking project documenting my school years (so I needed that tiny photo album, to include the school portraits, for instance).

Now that I’m a bit older, I have quite a bit I wish I could save. I doubt I would try to grab only one thing. One of my friends, who is also a scrapbooker, mentioned that all of her scrapbooks sit under a window in her scrapbooking room. If her house ever were on fire, she’d throw all of them out the window, if she had the chance. I think I’d do the same thing. I’d pitch as many of my scrapbooks (especially the ones I did about my mom and dad) and other family photos out the window.

Almost everything else in my home can be replaced, and though I’ve scanned most everything in those scrapbooks and picture frames, there’s just something about holding the original, with an ancestor’s handwriting on the back, that’s irreplacable.

Tombstone Tuesday: Ernest HAWLEY Sr. and Cornelia YOUNG (Friends Album)

I previously posted an obituary for Ernest Hawley Sr. He was married to Cornelia Young, daughter of one of the subjects of the Friend’s Album, Frederick A. Young.

I had looked up Ernest on FindaGrave previously, when I was investigating him. No pictures of his tombstone were available, so I requested one. On Sunday, a kind volunteer ventured out to take a photo for me at Land’s End Cemetery (on Hawleyville Road!) in Newtown, Fairfield County, Connecticut.

One interesting date discrepancy — this tombstone says that he died on February 20. His obituary, however, ran on February 19 and indicated that he had died the day before (February 18).

As you can see, the same marker also contains information for Cornelia. She lived until 1975, so perhaps this stone wasn’t carved until that time. Whoever ordered the stone probably wasn’t around in 1905 when Ernest died. I’m guessing they had the wrong information regarding the date of his death.

As I reported a few days ago, I’m still trying to find more information on their son, Ernest G. Hawley.