Note: Instead of posting this yesterday on actual Valentine’s Day I forgot and spent it with my husband. So, here is Tombstone Tuesday…ehh…I’ll have to call it Waiting to Find the Dead Wednesday.
It’s not every year that Tombstone Tuesday falls on a holiday and even rarer that it falls on a holiday that is all about love. Genealogy and family history in many senses is all about love. We meet, we fall in love, we have children. Time after time and again and again.
This week, I’ve decided to focus this edition of Tombstone Tuesday on gravestones that I’ve encountered that have a couple buried together or side-by-side. All of these gravestones were taken from Bayview Cemetery in Bellingham, Washington. You can see more of my cemetery photography work at my Find a Grave profile located here. If you ever need a photo of an ancestors tombstone, be sure to message me!
What are your favorite “couples” gravestones or tombstones? Share in the comments below!
Today’s interview happens to be with a long-time high school friend, Kirsten (Graff) Beyer. Kirsten and I became friends when I moved friendless to a new state, a new school, and a new life at the beginning of my 9th-grade year. Kirsten was always kind to me and even though our interests and passions have changed over the years, Kirsten and I remain friends with a common issue. Read on to find out more.
1. How did you get interested in genealogy?
As a child, I was always fascinated by history and antiques. My love for genealogy though came specifically at age 10. I remember sitting out on the front porch with my mother one evening, talking and reminiscing about family memories we had. She shared stories of her father (who passed away when I was just a year old), and her grandparents. I remember feeling intrigued and wanting to learn more.
Sensing my excitement, she asked me to wait while she went into the house. A few moments later she returned with a box full of files, papers, photos, and books. She shared that before her father passed away, he gave her all of the genealogy information he had, and asked her if she would keep it and continue the work for him.
As we searched through the box, we came across an old, worn book that appeared to be a ledger of sorts. She explained that it was the journal of my great-great grandfather! I was utterly mesmerized as she slowly thumbed through the pages full of letters and photos and handwritten passages. I loved the feel of the book in my hands and the smell of the old paper. From that night on, I was hooked! I was determined to learn as much of my family history as I could, and I have loved it ever since!
2. Do you think your experience as someone who cannot have biological children colors your interest in genealogy?
I’ve always been a very traditional person by nature. Very much “by the book” and believing that there is a natural order to things. My 8+ year struggle with infertility has been deeply painful, and has colored every aspect of my life. I think its that very traditional part of me though that mourns the deepest. Feeling like I have thrown off the natural order of things, or “broken the family chain”. That desire to “keep things going” is hard to reconcile when you are just not able to do so. The empty family chart under your name can be a stark reminder of what your missing.
Despite not having any children of my own though, I feel especially driven to work the family history for my nieces and nephews. As the oldest of 5 children, I was the only one to take a strong interest in genealogy growing up. Many stories and experiences have been passed on to me, and I know that should something happen to me before I preserved them, they would be lost completely. I also had the beautiful privilege of traveling to Germany to meet my great-grandmother several years before she passed away. I was the only one of my cousins ever able to meet this amazing woman in person; to sit at her feet and hear her stories in her own voice.
The only one who knew what her hands felt like, and what her laugh sounded like, and what she smelled like when you hugged her. I’m the only one of my siblings that has seen the village my mother was born in, and heard the stories from those relatives there that are no longer with us. Genealogy is important to me because I feel an obligation to share those things! To share my memories and my knowledge and my experiences with my family members, particularly the children. Knowledge and insight into your past can be a powerful tool. I feel that obligation to my nieces and nephews to preserve those stories.
There’s great power that can come from knowing who you are and where you come from, and the lessons that can be learned. Whether I ever have children or not, I still feel like these stories are worth sharing. Stories of faith and fortitude; of strength and resilience; of love and beauty; of courage during dark times—I suppose, in some ways, that’ll be a type of legacy I’m able to leave behind. The gift of their stories. The gift of my family history.
3.What is your current study or area of passion?
I am passionate about my family, particularly my sweetheart husband Sean and my little nieces and nephews! They are the sunshine in my life. I also love being Mama to my fur babies. We have a 7 yr. old cat named Paw, a 6 yr. old corgi named Moe, and a 7 month old bunny named Kaylee. I’m passionate about traveling, and love studying history, cultures and languages from around the world. I’m passionate about reading and my husband would attest to the fact that I own more books than I have space for! I also love spending time with friends, cooking/baking, philately, crafting, writing, party planning, kayaking in the summertime, and of course, genealogy!
4. Tell us a quick little story about your family history!
Growing up, we regularly heard the dramatic tale of my grandparents marriage. My grandmother Christel was the oldest of 7 children, and the only daughter. Her family lived in a small village in southwestern Germany. She met grandpa Richard while he was serving in the military and stationed near her village. They courted and fell in love. When they went to her home and announced their engagement, her mother became furious! Here was her only daughter, announcing her intent to marry to a recently divorced man that was an American soldier and who was not Roman Catholic. Talk about scandalous! It’s said that great grandma was so outraged at the news that she broke a china plate over her head! She told her daughter that if she married that man she would be cut off from the family. Christel loved Richard though, and was determined to see the wedding through. It wasn’t long before they were married, and soon after she became pregnant with my mother.
Fast forward 42 years–my mother and I were in Germany touring that small village. Grandmas brother Georg took us to the house that she and Grandpa lived in after their marriage, and the people that owned it kindly gave us a tour. Georg verified to us the validity of the story, and how upset and heartbroken great-grandma had truly been. He said though that the morning of the wedding, she had a slight softening of heart, and allowed young Georg to go alone and be there at the wedding. Even though it makes me sad that Grandma had to suffer without the full support of her family, I’m happy that she had one sweet, familiar face from home to share in the joy of her special day.
5. What advice would you give to genealogists?
First — Write things down!
If something important is happening in your life or in your family, take the time to record it. Stories, special occasions, photos, meaningful conversations with loved ones. I first learned this lesson at age 14. My beautiful grandmother Mary was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and had been slowly losing her memory over several years time.
One weekend shortly before she passed away, she came to stay with my family and we enjoyed having her company. I took the opportunity to take her for a walk around our neighborhood one afternoon.We walked quietly for a while, and then suddenly she began to speak. She shared memories from her childhood and the small town she grew up in. She verified her birth place, offered thoughts about her family members, gave me pertinent advice, and shared beautiful memories of when she and my grandfather were dating and he would take her dancing. She spoke clearly and surely, and I was both amazed and shocked, partly because I had never heard these memories and facts before, and partly because Alzheimer’s had stolen most of her ability to carry on a conversation in this way.
It was if she was given a few moments of clarity to share what was on her mind, and it was an amazing thing to witness. I was aware something special was happening, so I made it a point to pay close attention and write it down as soon as I got home. I’m so grateful I did! I always admonish people to take the time to write things down. Don’t wait until it’s muddled and fading or lost. Record it as soon as possible!
Second–Always double check!
Whether you’re verifying records, or desperately searching for a name, or sorting through belongings of a deceased loved one, always double check! I remember after my grandfather passed away in 2007, I was helping grandma clear old boxes and trash out of his room. Before I left, she handed me a small box of old 4th of July lights to drop in the dumpster on my way out. I got outside, opened the garbage lid, but before I dropped it I decided I would just double check. I opened the lid and was shocked to find an assortment of amazing treasures I’d never seen before! There was an old journal from 1935, a couple of small naval ledgers, a pocket knife, receipts, some jewelry and pins, a dog tag, and much more. For some reason, Grandpa had chosen to stash these old keepsakes away in this light box, and had I not taken the split second to open that box and double check, those treasures would have been lost to us forever.
Third–Pass your love of genealogy along!
For me, there’s something beautiful and exciting in sharing the joy of genealogy with someone, especially a child. To watch the spark in their eyes as they discover new and amazing things about who they are and where they come from. I had an awesome experience just last year of sharing the joy of genealogy with a young lady in my church.
While sorting through some family records online, we discovered a small, private family cemetery on the east coast where some of her direct ancestors were buried. It was hidden away, had been largely forgotten, and when asked, her family had no knowledge of it. We reached out online to a genealogist in that area, and she verified that the cemetery was indeed there, and she was gracious enough to take photos of the tombstones so that we could verify names and dates and make the connections. To say my young friend was excited is an understatement! She fell in love with genealogy that night, and I felt privileged to be able to share that joy with her.
6. Why is genealogy important to you?
As I mentioned before, it’s important to me to pass it along. It’s important to me that my nieces and nephews know where they’re from and who they come from. Connection to your past offers an incredible sense of self worth. It’s an awareness that you are part of something greater. That in a never ending sea of names and dates and faces, you are unique and rare and precious. That realization is a beautiful gift.
Also, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I believe that the relationships we have with our family members are eternal and that we are all brothers and sisters connected in one long family chain. Genealogy is about building bridges, making connections, and reaching out in love to those that have come before you, and those that are following behind you. I suppose, in its essence, it is both a labor and a legacy of love.
Why females? Most of the time when you find headstones, it tends to downplay the significance of the females in these worlds until very recently. In the past, female-identified individuals either shared a stone or plot with their spouse or family (if they were unmarried) and didn’t have one of their own. The first one we will start out with today is the marker for my late Grandmother’s grave. She now has a headstone but I haven’t had a chance to go check it out.
The next photo is my favorite because it has a particular symbol that you don’t see very often on gravestones. If anyone can identify the symbol, please leave a comment below!
Whether it be the designs, names or people, gravestones will always fascinate us as they are the last communication from the dead to us as genealogists. What are you favorite gravestones with female names? Share a link in the comments below!
This week’s interview is with my good friend Patrick Barrett. I met Patrick years ago on an online discussion forum and we’ve been friends ever since. Read on to find out more about Patrick and why genealogy means so much to him.
1. As a gay man, how do you think your experience in genealogy differs from others?
I think the thing about being a gay genealogist is that, naturally, you wonder who was gay. Most of the time, you can’t really know. You can’t assume that the old spinsters and bachelors in your family were gay, not at all. People stay single for lots of reasons.
Up until within my lifetime, most gay people married people of the opposite sex, brought up children, and had their same-sex companions ‘on the side’ — if at all. Because of bigotry and anti-gay laws, they were usually very afraid of being found out, and they tried not to leave any clues.
They could be targets of violence, and they could be imprisoned. They could easily lose their jobs, their families, everything. Even in the 1990’s, I had a gay landlord who warned me never to mention anything about gay bars or gay people to his son. ‘I’d just die if my grandchildren found out I was gay.’
Sometimes there seem to be clues. Sometimes you think, ‘Well, he may not have been gay, but he seems to have known all the gay people in town.’ Or, ‘He really seems to have been unusually affectionate toward that one friend.’ But it’s mostly guesswork, and I don’t guess in writing, especially if the people involved have children or grandchildren still living.
Most people, even today, don’t want to hear that Mama was a lesbian, or that Grandpa was gay, and when you speculate without proof, I think you’re in danger of stirring up ill feelings that can be detrimental to both your family relationships and your research. I wouldn’t bring it up except with a relative I knew to be open to the subject, and even then, I’d be cautious.
It’s tragic to me that these people’s stories are lost because of the bigotry they faced. Not just the stories, either. Most of the time we don’t even know who they were. They survived by keeping their true selves secret, and now all they’re lost to us. We know about people like Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman, but most of the gay people of past are secret people, and we’ll never know about them.
2. What is your current field of study or passion in genealogy right now?
For the last ten years or so, I’ve grown very interested in houses and neighborhoods. Not just local history, but neighborhood history. It’s not genealogy, strictly speaking, but I think it helps flesh out our ancestors’ lives. I’m not just interested in names and dates; I want to know who my ancestors were, and what life was like for them. Neighborhood history is easier in cities, and until relatively recently most of our ancestors lived on farms, but either way it’s interesting to me.
Families now are more insular than they used to be. For many families, all the adults work outside the home, and everybody goes everywhere by car, so you might not even know your neighbors, but it wasn’t that way until recently.
When I was a kid in the 1960’s, we knew everybody on our street and most of the people on nearby streets. Kids played and roamed unsupervised. We made our own social connections, without play dates and apart from organized activities, and our parents, too, socialized with the neighbors. Neighbors were much more significant in our lives than they usually are now.
So I ask questions like:
1. Who lived next door? Down the block? 2. When was this house built? What families lived there over the years? 3. What businesses operated in the neighborhood? 4. How far was it to church? Who was the priest or minister? 5. How far was it to the grocery? To the park?
Sometimes — quite often, in fact — you find that a neighbor down the street was an aunt or a cousin, but mostly it just helps you understand the setting in which your ancestors lived. It gives you a better sense of what their day-to-day lives may have been like. For me, that’s what it’s all about: Understanding who they were and what their lives were like. It’s all about stories.
3. When did you first get into genealogy and what spurred that?
When I was ten years old, we had to make a simple pedigree chart, back to great-grandparents, in school. I had to get my parents to help, and I learned that my maternal grandmother wasn’t just Edna, but Stella Edna. I learned that my paternal grandmother wasn’t just Hulda, but Hulda Hedwig Barbara. I learned new names and surnames I’d never heard before, and it all seemed intriguing.
My father’s mother took me to the newspaper office and showed me how to find obits on microfilms. (The local paper had been indexed, so it wasn’t just scrolling through microfilms for hours.) She also took me to the courthouse and showed me how to look up vital records, and she took me to the cemetery and showed me where her father and her grandparents were buried.
She had already done some research on my grandfather’s family. When my great-grandmother was dying, she placed her four youngest children in Catholic orphanages, and they were eventually discharged to three separate homes. Grandpa’s brother Ray was adopted by a couple named Stutz, but later resumed the surname Barrett. When he died in 1966, my grandparents weren’t sure if his legal name was Barrett or Stutz. They never did find any evidence that he had legally changed it back, but it turned out not to be a problem. Along the way, Grandma found out a lot about Grandpa’s family.
So suddenly there was all this new information, all these things I had never known, and there were still lots of loose ends and mysteries. I felt I had to find out more. I still feel that way. I’ve been doing this for forty-six years, and I guess I’ll do it as long as I’m able.
4. Tell us a little quick story about your family history!
I like the stories about people who pushed the boundaries of propriety a little.
My great-great-grandfather, Maney Rominger, was the son and brother of Methodist preachers, but he was never baptized. When he was a little boy, they held a baptism at the river, and Maney was supposed to be baptized, but he ran and hid in the rushes instead. He never did get baptized. He died young, in his late thirties, and when he was on his deathbed his mother begged him to be baptized before he died. Maney refused, declaring, ‘I’m a close to heb’m as any ob ‘m.’
Maney’s wife, Margaret, had a sister called Josie. Josie was never married, but she had six children — which, as you can imagine, was pretty scandalous in the late nineteenth century. A neighbor once brought up Josie’s situation to my grandmother’s Aunt Martha, who was Josie’s niece. Aunt Martha replied, ‘I don’t agree with the way she’s a-livin’, but she’s my aunt, and I’ll stand by her.’ Josie died a few years before I was born, so I never knew her, but I’ve talked to relatives who knew her. One of my Mom’s cousins told me, ‘I admire Aunt Josie. Anybody can have one child out of wedlock, but when you have six, you just don’t care what anybody thinks.’
5. What advice would you give to genealogists?
Talk to your old people, and do it soon.
They know the stories, and when they’re gone you might not get another chance. Ask questions, too. If they say, ‘My cousin and I … ‘ ask them which cousin that was.Who were his parents? (At the same time, don’t get in the way of the stories. Let the narrative flow, and ask follow-up questions.)
Sometimes you might be surprised at what you don’t know. Sometimes people go through their whole lives never thinking to mention to their grandchildren that they had a brother who died young, or that before they met Grandpa, they had a fiance who died in the war.
When you get older, you say, ‘I wish I’d asked … ‘ But then it’s too late.
Also, don’t limit yourself to just your grandparents. Their siblings and their cousins have stories, too. Maybe your grandmother didn’t know her grandparents, but she had a cousin who knew them well.
Even younger people might have stories about your ancestors. Maybe your great-grandfather didn’t talk about his family, but he had a brother who did, and that brother’s grandchildren know stories that are lost to your branch of the family. Try to find those people.
You can only push it so far, of course. When your relatives are telling you that your ancestor from 250 years ago was the younger son of a duke, or that he was one of seven brothers who came to America after the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie — well, those stories might be true and they might not.
If you take them too seriously, they can lead you down a lot of false trails and impede your research. But write them down, anyway. Even your family’s myths are part of your family history. Sometimes they even turn out to be true.
6. Why is genealogy important to you?
The stories are very important to me, of course. You also gain a much greater understanding of history when you see how it played out in the lives of your ancestors, and when you find that things were never as simple and clear-cut as what you learned in school.
Beyond that, genealogy teaches you, and then constantly reminds you, that we’re all connected. We really are all biologically related, and beyond that, we have all kinds of other connections. I’ve heard from a woman whose ancestors owned the factory where my great-grandmother worked. I’ve heard from people whose ancestors came over in the same ship, on the same voyage, with my ancestors. I’ve run into people whose ancestor was a close friend of my sixth-great-grandfather. My great-grandfather’s cousin was a nun, and I’ve corresponded with a nun who knew her.
All our lives mingle. There’s no clear line where your grandmother ends and your mother begins, or you do. They’re part of you. It’s more like gradual shading and blending. All our lives blend into other lives.
Once you get enough perspective, you see that humanity really is one big community and one big family and — in a way — one big organism. We’re all parts of one another.
As some of you might already know, over the last month I’ve been working incredibly hard to build my genealogy business up to something that can get clients and produce work that both they and I are happy with. All this hard work has finally paid off and I am proud to announce the grand opening of Life Stories Transcription Services.
Life Stories is a genealogical and family historian website where I help you transcribe Grandma’s journals or listen to Aunt Susie talk about her time as a nurse during World War 2. With all of this my goal is to preserve the memories of your family and keep them in a format that you can share with all. With that news, you are the ones who get something special this month.
That’s right! You get 15% off of any services at Life Stories Transcription if you book your service before the end of the month. Be sure to share this with family and friends — you never know who will need it! Be sure to follow Life Stories on Facebook here and take a look at our website.
Tombstone Tuesday has quickly become my favorite genealogy prompt from the Geneablogger with Thomas MacAntee. Last week it was the first edition. I’m a sucker for cemeteries (I have well over 500+ photos of gravestones on my hard drive right now). Each week of Tombstone TuesdayI’m going to feature different stories, ideas or facts about cemeteries, tombstones and anything related to the field of death and burial.
Military tombstones and graves are quite unique among gravestones in general. They typically have a uniform look that is the same in almost any cemetery that you will visit. There are three types of headstones and markers available — the upright headstones, the markers, and the medallions.
While I did share the above picture in the last Tombstone Tuesday, I just love the visual representation of the winter ice on this picture. This was John Peter Watson, born in 1895 in Minnesota and died at the age of forty-one in Bellingham, Washington. This is an example of an upright marble headstone. These measurements are uniform 42-inches long, 13-inches wide and 4-inches thick. The stones are about 230 pounds or 104 kilograms (according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs) There may be variations in the stone color, but in general, all the stones are going to look the same.
These following gravestones are all of the upright marble headstones:
The next type of military marker you are going to find is the flat-type marker. These have become more common over the years as marble has fallen out of style. These markers are bronze and are 24 inches long, 12 inches wide, with 3/4 raise and weigh about 18 pounds or 8 kilograms. These are most commonly seen in cemeteries since the late 60’s and 70’s.
Because the markers are bronze, they can oxide and turn bright teal and aquamarine like Max M. Jenkins below.
The last kind of gravestone or marker for members of the military is a medallion. You’ll rarely see these on individual gravestones. They are typically located near a selection of military gravestones like this one in Bayview Cemetery.
What other military markers have you seen? Thank you to Life After Death Photography for lending their photos to this post. Be sure to follow us on Facebook here to keep up with the latest blog posts.
Genealogy. When you hear it most often images of older folks or Mormons come to mind, but put that aside for a moment. Genealogy is so much more than dates and places. It is people, it is lives, it is stories that we shouldn’t forget.
In this series, Genealogy in the Works we will be interviewing genealogist of every background. This includes gay and queer genealogists. What it means for the family tree when you are a transgender individual or how to approach issues of sensitivity like slavery and indigenous tribes. All of this comes together to create an intersectional view of genealogy and family history.
This series really wouldn’t make sense without explaining who I am first, so here goes:
Who are you?
I’m Becks Campbell. I run The Hipster Historian blog and am the sole owner of Life Stories Transcription Services. I’ve been an amateur genealogist for most of my life and in the last year have decided to go into my favorite hobby professionally. I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for 12 years and live in the Pacific Northwest.
My mother is a professional genealogist and has been for well over twenty years. As a child growing up in the Mormon Church family ties and genealogy was emphasized heavily to me and after I left the church the passion for genealogy still stuck around. I’m completely obsessed with the stories of the past and who we were and who we will become.
What does it mean to be a genealogist?
Loaded question. Genealogy, by definition, is the study and research of ancestral lines. But in reality, it is so much more than that. We as genealogists, are tasked with finding long-lost loved ones, records that may not exist and people that don’t want to be found. We pour through years of directories and censuses, and in some cases, it can be quite sobering what you’ve found.
Right now there are so many amazing blogs to follow but I would highly suggest checking out Geneabloggers by Thomas MacEntee. It is the biggest source of networking and genealogy related blogs on the web right now.
What is your current field of study or research?
After several friends with Italian heritage asked me to research their history, I got hooked. I’m currently researching the Sorrentino’s, Serago’s, Pescatore’s and Bugni’s. In addition because most of my work has been coming from that area I am slowly (but surely!) learning Italian. It is a big task, but I’m ready for it.
I was so excited to see the Tombstone Tuesday writing prompt from GeneaBloggers and have decided to make it a permanent feature here at The Hipster Historian. Why? I love cemeteries. I visit one at least once a week and try to take as many pictures as I can both for photography practice (see here) and to help upload to one of the biggest gravestone photo repositories on the web — Find A Grave.
Today’s post will be about the different types of tombstones I’ve seen in my travels and trips to the cemeteries I’ve been too. Most of these photos come from my local cemetery, Bayview with the exception of the last photo taken at Mills and Mills Memorial Park in Tumwater, Washington.
Note:This post is not endorsed nor paid for by Ancestry.com, but is for the use of genealogists and those interested around the world to keep up-to-date on the newest in the field.
Ever since my first DNA test taken years ago, I’ve been fascinated by what historical geneticists could tell me about my past. It always struck me that family members can bend the truth, written records can lie and the origins of an individual can be obfuscated. But, beyond all of that, I knew that science of DNA couldn’t lie.
Science and the study of genetics give us the plain and dirty facts of where we came from without the lens of humanity attached — we get to do that later. But we can discuss that later. Today’s post is all about how to take Ancestry’s DNA test.
Taking a test that can tell you your heritage can seem a little daunting, and even though I wasn’t the one doing it today, I was still nervous. But, Ancestry makes it really easy and the directions are straightforward for anyone looking to find our their past.
STEP 1: This step really should be that you have purchased a kit from Ancestry here, but I’m going to assume you’ve already done it. Surprise! It arrived in your mailbox and it looks like this.
STEP 2: Make sure before you start spitting to enter your activation code (found on the plastic vial underneath the barcode) into Ancestry’s website here. This will help you connect your results of the DNA test to your family tree online at a later point.
STEP 3: This is the second most important step, make sure to lay out AT LEAST 30 MINUTES to do this test. Make sure you have not smoked, drank or eaten in the last 30 minutes. In order to not compromise the test, you will need to follow these directions to the letter. It helps if you set a timer on your phone like I did below.
STEP 3: Once you get to the point where you are ready, get set to spit! And I mean spit. You will need to fill up the vial to the wavy line. This looks like a lot, but it reality it is only half the vial. Once you’ve reached the wavy line without too many bubbles it is time to cap it.
STEP 4: Flip the cap over, make sure it is good and tight, you don’t want any of your spit coming on out (gross, I know!). Once the cap (with the blue liquid) is on tightly, hold firmly and shake for 5 counts. If you are confused, don’t worry, Ancestry has also put out a video just for you!
STEP 5: You are done! Put it inside the inside packaging (the black baggie) and seal it, then insert into the pre-printed box (you don’t’ even need to put stamps on it) and pop it in the mailbox. You are done!
Note:This post is not endorsed nor paid for by Ancestry.com, but is for the use of genealogists around the world to keep up-to-date on the newest records being added the database. I create these images for the use of other genealogists.
I love finding out that new records are available via Ancestry.com and because of that, I’ve created the Records Rave posts in which I highlight the new (but not updated) records to Ancestry. Take a look below and let me know if I missed any!