As a child I had routinely visited my Great Aunts, the sisters of my Grandfather. I would sit and play all the while listening to the conversations as they talked and reminisced about times past. It was those early conversations that sparked my love of genealogy and history.
I was in my early twenties and still visited my Aunts on a regular basis. By this time they were elderly and presumably looked forward to visits from younger members of the family. I started asking questions of my Aunts and jotting down the answers and suddenly realized that I wanted to plug the gaps in their knowledge and learn more about the family that I was part of.
My maternal family is from Surrey England. Indeed it is the County where I was born. As I started to research it was evident that for about 300 years my maternal family had moved no more than a 40 mile radius across the Counties of Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire. It was only after both my Grandparents had deceased that I established that they themselves were 6th cousins. I wonder what they would have made of that?
The day I spotted my Great Grandmother on the England Census for 1881 was truly amazing. This was the Great Grandmother that I had visited and sat with aged about 3 years old. Quite remarkable and I knew then, I simply had to know and read all I could about the ancestors and family members that I had helped me to be come the person that I am today.
I like cemeteries and memorials, they are the link from the present to the past and deserve to be treasured in whatever form that takes. I am always saddened when I see a grave, neglected because time has passed and now there is no one to care for the grave and as time passes it will become unreadable and perhaps unloved.
This is the case for one set of my Maternal Great Grandparents.They are buried in a Cemetery in Guildford Surrey. My Great Grandfather buried in 1931 and my Great Grandmother in 1937. About ten years ago I was emailed by a fellow genealogist, we share several surnames the same, but can not find any connection. Anyway, had I seen the notice about The Mount Cemetery? I replied that I had not and in due course a photo of the sign was emailed across to me. On my next visit to Surrey a few weeks later I went to the Cemetery, located the plot and photographed the grave. The plot had been purchased by my Great Grandmother on a lease for 75 years. That had been what the notice was about. I pondered and upon my return home I contacted the cemetery office and laid claim to the grave and asked that the grave now be placed in my ownership. In doing so, the plot can not be disturbed without my consent and I am responsible for any repairs necessary.
On the same visit, I attend the grave of my other set of Maternal Great Grandparents. The grave was purchased in 1943 when my Great Grandfather was interned and then in 1971 by Great Grandmother passed away. At the time, one of my Great Aunts visited the grave weekly and created a little garden on the plot. There was no headstone. Since then my Great Aunt has passed away and although there are family members who care, and remember my Great Grandparents they are removed from thinking about the grave. I wandered around the cemetery looking for the plot, tricky with no headstone, just by vague remembering. Eventually I phoned my Mum who likewise could not really recall the plot anymore than I could, but asked had the little block of wood with a number on, made by my cousin been removed. I remembered the little block with the number on it. But could I see it, yes, but the grave didn't look the same. I enlisted the help of the Cemeteries department who confirmed with me the grave number and directed me to the plot. The plot was not where the block of wood was. It was the row in front. I had a horrid sinking feeling had we been visiting the wrong grave all these years? When I got home I had a chat with my Mum and we established that while my Great Grandmother and Aunt had been alive we had been visiting the correct plot. However, once my Aunt had been too infirm to visit it was the task of the next generation to visit and tender the grave. Mum recalls being directed to the plot by another of her cousins a lovely man, who had the family tendency to be slightly vague and I suspect that this was the root of the problem. So with some amusement and sadness the wrong grave has been tended for more the 30 years. Ironic that the very grave in front should not have a headstone either. The question for me is what is worse to be loved and remembered with no headstone so that errors like that one happen or to have a headstone that no one visits?
Over the last 20 years I have taken lots of photos of churches, memorials and graves, simply because it was a lovely church, or a family grave or maybe just because the surname was one of my family surnames and perhaps might fit into the genealogical puzzle. By taking the photos it is recorded in time, as it deserves to be. I spotted a link to Graveyard Rabbits on someone's blog and was intrigued. Over the festive period I had chance to have a further read of the website and thought it was a fantastic way of utilizing the digital photos that I had currently on Flickr. So I decided to enlist the help of my husband. I showed him the website and asked him to help me think of a nice suitable name. He did and Grave Encounters was created. The plan is now to go through the piles of developed photos and upload them to the blog site, a rather large task for 2011.
What better way than to spend a lovely sunny day, not too much sun or it will affect the photos! and wander around your local cemetery. Take photographs and upload them to an online blog and become a Graveyard Rabbit. I recommend it! I have not had any formal photographic training, I have a camera that is nice - the point and shoot variety, but I have been known to use my iphone for taking photos if I have seen something that I want to record. Work at your own pace and record for future genealogists what maybe lost over time. Why not stop by Grave Encounters and see how we are progressing.