Friday, September 16, 2011

Grave hunting

Nothing like a day in the cemetery.

Over the past couple of years I have been involved in doing genealogy research on both Joanne and my families. It is amazing how much information can be gleaned from the Internet on some family members and, on the other hand, how little can be found about others. Also, some states have done a great job about making their public records available on line while others give very little information. Minnesota, where Jo originates from, is one of those states that makes it easy to find family information. Oklahoma, my home state, has very little information. There is some cemetery information, along with grave listings, on some of the cemeteries in Oklahoma but this has been provided by private individuals or organizations and is not organized by the state.

In conjunction with this research I've gotten involved with a website called Find A Grave. This is a very large data base of grave sites. Each entry is put in by volunteers, often times a family member, and each entry has it's own page. This is a free site and anyone can set up an account to help in expanding the data base. It is fairly easy to search the data to see if your ancestor has been listed. Normally the person who originally enters the page can then add information about the person including pictures. One of the standards entries is a picture of the individuals grave marker. Often times the person doing the data entry is in a different part of the country so they may post a request for a volunteer to take and upload a picture of the marker. I have entered several people, including graves in other areas, and have a few request out there. I've also signed up as a volunteer to take pictures in the local cemeteries for other people. Some volunteers may "adopt" a whole cemetery to get them listed in the data base and get the marker pictures posted. My older brother, Chester, has done this with the cemetery where many of the Stone clan are buried in Byars, Oklahoma. (This is where we buried my mother this past May and where Joanne and I will end up. Our lots are directly between my parents and my favorite Aunt and Uncle.)

Last month, while we were in Duluth, Minnesota, we took a full day and sought out the local cemeteries where Jo's family members were buried. We got pictures of both sets of her grandparents along with some Aunts, Uncles and cousins. To the left is the marker for the graves of her maternal grandparents. Since we returned home I was able to get down to Byars to take some pictures of some family members and also to fulfill some of the request from others that were posted on the Find A Grave website. (Due to the extremely hot weather we've been having my brother had not been able to get all the pictures taken yet.) This past week I've been working a couple of local cemeteries to fulfill some other request from the Find A Grave site. On Tuesday I went to Resurrection Cemetery, where Jo's Dad is buried, with a list of 16 grave sites. On that day the local temperature was 102 degrees. The cemetery office was helpful in looking up the section, block and plot numbers but, unfortunately, their numbering system out in the cemetery is not the greatest. By the time I needed to head home I had found only half of them but was exhausted and soaking wet with sweat. Was able to finish up the next day and then temps were only in the 90's. In addition to the list I was working I also came upon graves of some old friends and some distant relatives that had not yet been put into the Find A Grave data base. That evening I got them added to the data.

Yesterday I went a little further down the road to the Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery, this time with a list of 13 grave sites. Again, the cemetery office was very helpful in looking up the locations but also had very detailed maps of the different sections. In about an hour I had 12 of the 13 spaced located and photographed. There was one listing that they could not find in their records and another that did not have a headstone. This info helps in that I could then notify the original poster of this so they can attempt to clarify their records. Fortunately the weather was much better with temps in the high 60's and with a light misty rain. Of course, that is Oklahoma for you. As our favorite son, Will Rogers, once said: "If you don't like the weather in Oklahoma just wait a minute and it will change".