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Using Cemetery Records for Evidence?

The other day my family & I went hiking here in the Ozarks up at Busiek State Park. We really didn’t do our research & just headed out on the first trailhead we could get to the fastest. Later, with the handy iPhone, I discovered that there was an old family cemetery here in the park. Well, as you can imagine, naturally we were headed out looking for this cemetery! What else would a budding genealogist do? While many people fear cemeteries, we hunt them out!

We got lost! I wish I were lying. With a 3-year-old in tow on foot & no carrier, we get lost! What a trooper that little man was! 4+ miles & and didn’t hardly whine! After another small tiny leaf covered trail & a sign that says, “End of Public Use”, we decided we would give up & head home. We were too far off the path at this point to continue to get lost as the sun was starting to fall in the sky & water was running a little low. So we very frustratedly just head back to the car.

My family actually finds so much fun in them just reading names & dates & setting things back up right if we can. The kids have a lot of fun trying to not be crave jumpers & walk around the plots that no longer hold a definitely border.

As we very tired & sore hike back to the car on the main large path we run across all kinds of college kids with big smiles. And there are artifacts all around of old rock indian bowls, most of them split in half. We never found an arrow head, but there were all kinds of little flints from where arrowheads were made in various parts of those old trails. We just keep trudging. The exhaustion was just too much to stop & care to teach more than just point it out. Low & behold, if we don’t stumble upon that cemetery on that big main path!! Carter Cemetery.

We took our rest & found energy in the cemetery. However, I noticed something odd. There were two Mary’s! Two EXACT Mary’s! Why? How?

One Mary had an old barely able to read stone in the far back corner, still standing but with a good lean to one side. The other Mary had a new stone! A brand new modern headstone. Either someone made a new stone & toss the old one off in the corner, which is highly unlikely since the old stone was in the ground rather well & most monument companies take the old ones with them when they replace it with a new one. Or the good old fashion good intention got a little confused.

While I’d love to think that the replacement was to honor Mary, I think that they misunderstood without old records to clearly draw out the plots. Some of the stones were old fashion blank big rocks! It was that poor & country of a cemetery.

However, it just reminds me of a fun story of another family historian I ran into one day doing research. He learned the value of actually keeping his census records. He had thought he had traced his family online to a plot in Texas. We was so certain that it was his family. They were great pioneers! So he went down there & erected this huge monument in honor of them with the family history all scribed out & for others to follow. What a noble act! And how great of a find would that be had you stumbled up on something like that in your research?

Long story short, he had the wrong lines connected! Once he got back home, and was looking at new information, he had crossed them by making a misguided conclusion based on family lore & not actual documentation. I can’t help but wonder if this is what happened at the Carter Cemetery.

Cemeteries are a great resource. They will remain a great starting place for many. When you have no other place to start, no connections left to ask… a cemetery can be the only evidence you have to launch your research. They hold so many great clues. But NEVER use them as absolute evidence! NEVER! I usually search cemetery records last, after I have documented as much as I can everywhere else. However, I had to start a few times with the few dates I found on a stone. You have to remember though, it was not [too often] that the deceased created their own stone. It is word of mouth. Birthdates are always fun for me here in the Ozarks. Women die younger than they were born every day! Men always seemingly don’t die until that stone is erected verses that actually death or burial date. Some of them are a year off from their death certificate.

Be careful & heed caution when using cemeteries as your evidence, or you too may be doubled in your afterlife! LOL!


About Genesis 1:29

I am just one woman trying to praise God, raise a family, and help others. If I help anyone, if I reach anyone through Him, then I have fulfilled my purpose.

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