Tombstone Tuesday: Bittersweet

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

Last week, I posted about a volunteer trek to several area cemeteries for FindaGrave.com. A friend of mine and I took volunteer photos of graves for family members of the deceased who live too far away to visit them themselves. This week is my first chance to write about the flip-side — I just received notification that someone has taken a photo that I requested.

My third great-grandmother was Susan Elizabeth (SMITH) CAMPBELL. She was born and died in San Antonio, Texas (in fact, her father apparently* was John William Smith**, the first mayor of San Antonio and a survivor of the Alamo).

I have never been to San Antonio, but I hope to go someday soon. While there, I plan to try and visit the graves of several ancestors, including that of Susan. Meanwhile, I posted a request on FindaGrave.com so that I could see the grave from afar. Another FindaGrave user accommodated my request this weekend. The results are bittersweet.

Susan’s gravestone is heavily damaged. At least half of it is just gone. It appears to have been broken, perhaps on purpose (vandalism in cemeteries is not uncommon) or perhaps courtesy of Mother Nature (trees fall on graves all the time). The rest of the stone is very dirty and worn. I can’t make out any details on the stone except two small flowers at the base on either side.

I appreciate the photographer having taken the time to snap the photo, but I can’t help but be disappointed that the stone doesn’t reveal more.

* I still haven’t definitively proved this to my satisfaction, but all accounts thus far seem to point to this being the case.

** John William apparently was born William John Smith, but flipped his first and last names along the way because it was easier for Spanish speakers to pronounce John. I hate to cite Wikipedia on a fact like that without verifying it, but that detail is just too fun not to mention.

Tombstone Tuesday: Holy Sh!t Edition

Used with permission from allsignsco.com

Bear with me, folks, as I share this story and vent, for I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir on this one and the true targets of the ensuing post shall never see this page:

This past Saturday, my friend, whom I shall call “Shelley” (name changed to protect the flabbergasted), and I decided to take advantage of some fabulous late-November weather (bright, sunny, near 60), to shoot some volunteer photos and fulfill photo requests on FindaGrave.com.

CHESLEY Memorial

We started out in St. Michael’s, Md., at Christ Church Episcopal Cemetery, where we snapped photos of the tombstones of the Rev. John William CHESLEY and his wife, Sarah F. VALLIANT Chesley. We also saw several supposed relatives of these two (or at least, we saw their graves) and so we photographed them too, for uploading to the site. A gentleman associated with the church saw us and invited us to check out the interior of the church as well, which was beautiful.

This particular cemetery and church is located across the street from several cute shops. “Shelley” had some Xmas shopping left to do and so we visited a couple of establishments before heading back to the car, which was parked behind the church. Suddenly, “Shelly” exclaimed, “That guy isn’t going to let his dog do that on the church lawn is he? He is!” And then I turned to see that, yep, a guy walking his dog was letting it do its business right next to the steps leading up to the church. Ewww. “Hopefully, he’ll at least pick it up,” I said.

After we packed up the car and were on our merry way to our next stop in Sherwood, Md., we passed the same guy and his dog, now on the other side of the street. “Hmmm, he’s not carrying a bag, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt — there’s a trashcan right there.”

“Nope, there’s a pile, right by the church steps. There’s a pile,” “Shelley” confirmed, as we drove by the church. Gross.

Several miles later, we missed the turnoff for our intended stop, but decided we’d hit it on the way back and proceeded to Tilghman Island, where still more graves awaited us. Google Maps had directed us to a small cemetery off a narrow road, nestled behind what looked like a house. I pulled over and we read over all the stones, but none of the names matched the couple we were supposed to find there. I felt weird, traipsing around someone’s apparent backyard (turns out it was the back lot of a business, not a private residence) and so I suggested we drive further down the road to see if we found another cemetery.

Less than a mile later, we came to a United Methodist Church and there was a large cemetery behind it. Bagpipes played in the parking lot — there was a funeral about to begin. We didn’t want to interrupt and parking was at a premium, so I turned around to see if there were any other places to check out in the meantime. That’s when I smelled it. That’s when “Shelley” uttered the phrase you never want to hear: “Um, I smell poop. I hope one of us didn’t step in it.”

I was back on the road at this point, trying to look down at my shoes to see if I was carrying the offending substance. Not me, so far as I could tell. I pulled over in an elementary school parking lot. “Shelley” had apparently stepped squarely in a pile at the previous cemetery.

“Poop seems to be the theme for the day,” I said.

We scavenged some sticks from under a nearby tree and between that and some water I had in the car, “Shelley” was able to clean most of the offending substance off the bottom of her shoe. We couldn’t help but laugh. “I deserve hazard pay for this!” “Shelley” joked.

After much giggling, sticks and “ewws!” we decided to drive back to Sherwood, to find the cemetery we had overshot earlier. We found the church, but it was on the tiniest of lots and we didn’t see a cemetery anywhere nearby. This was a Methodist church too. I said I was willing to bet that the graves we were seeking were probably at the larger Methodist church back in Tilghman. We returned to find the cars from the funeral departing. I parked and we started scouring the cemetery, now looking for the names from the Sherwood request and the Tilghman request.

We quickly found the Larrimores (the Tilghman request), and apparently FindaGrave had them at the right location, but Google Maps had sent me to the wrong cemetery. “Shelley” and I decided to split up the remaining graves because we were beginning to lose the light. We didn’t find the names from the Sherwood request (I’ve since asked another FindaGrave volunteer for directions to the cemetery so I can try again).

What I did find, after scanning the gravestones of my section, was still another, very large, pile of dog crap. The ancestors of the dog that produced this pile must of have bred with a horse.

What is wrong with people these days? When did it become acceptable to let your dog do its business on the lawn of a church or in a cemetery? Okay, let’s say your dog really, really has to go. Pick it up! Like you should anywhere your dog goes. Gah!

Carnival of Genealogy: Volunteerism

This post is in response to Carnival of Genealogy #88: Volunteerism.

ipl2: Information You Can Trust
I am a volunteer reference librarian with the Internet Public Library. As with a brick-and-mortar library, the service provides resources to which patrons can help themselves or they may submit questions to trained librarians for help.

I have a Masters in Library Science — all volunteers on the IPL either already have an MLS degree or are MLS students in reference services classes around the country. I learned about the IPL through such a class in library school and really enjoyed helping out IPL patrons. After my class ended, I stayed on as a volunteer. Volunteers must work on practice questions and have their answers evaluated before they can answer real questions from the public. We are trained to answer questions from kindergartners, Ph.D. candidates and beyond.

The IPL receives questions on all kinds of topics, but of course, I especially enjoy answering the history- and genealogy-related questions. I’ve helped genealogy-focused patrons track down elusive obituaries and find free resources for getting started in genealogy research and for mapping out their family trees. On the historical end of things, I’ve dug up information on 1950s Andean railway motor cars, an 1800s insane asylum in Pennsylvania and the religious leanings of a U.S. president. In an “Antiques Roadshow” moment, I got to help a patron identify what type of pottery he had (Blue Willow, in case you were wondering). You never know what patrons are going to ask for next.

The best part about answering an IPL question is not just finding the answer a patron needs, but teaching them how I found it so they can find facts more easily next time. We don’t just give you an answer, we point you to it. And for any concerned parents or teachers out there, rest assured that we only use trusted sources.

I’ve relied on some of the IPL’s aggregated resources for my personal research. Of interest to genealogists: the General Reference section on the Pathfinders page.