Making the Most of Your Research Trip – Part 7

Originally published on on 31 Aug 2016.

I was on the way to visit the home of a minister who had old cemetery records from a previous church that was no longer in existence.  I’m a farmer’s daughter so driving down country roads and acclimating myself to finding directions isn’t that big of a deal to me.  I was pushing the speed limit, though, as the Reverend had not wanted to meet with me today as he had other plans and I didn’t want to hold him up.  In about 20 minutes I whizzed past the turnoff.  I call it a turnoff because it wasn’t a named street.  It was a gravel drive that appeared to belong to one family but after making a 3 point turn I realized that several families lived on this lane.  An elderly gentleman flagged me and I rolled down the passenger side window and asked him if he was the Reverend.  He asked why I wanted to know (so clearly, he wasn’t or if he was, he had a serious case of forgetfulness.)  I told the man I had an appointment with the Reverend.  He looked skeptical and pointed down the road, informing me that the Reverend lived behind the barn.  I drove off and was soon flagged down by an older woman who looked like she stepped out of the 1800’s.  I again rolled the passenger side window down and told her I was meeting with the Reverend.  She shook her head like she didn’t believe me and pointed behind her.  The lane curved slightly between her home and the large barn.  I came to the end of the lane and parked; I knew this was the Reverend’s place as I recognized the truck from that morning when I had been in the cemetery.


I was

There was no doorbell so I knocked firmly on the door.  No answer.  I knocked again.  No answer.  It dawned on me I should go to the back door and not the front door.  I walked around the house and the Reverend was coming in from the field.  I gave him a perky hello but he was not too keen to see me.  He immediately said, “My wife looked and didn’t find the people you wrote in your note.  They aren’t buried there.”  I told him I believed his wife had done a great job but I wanted to see who was buried next to the Pentz’s as I had found the people I was looking for in the cemetery that morning.  He looked surprised.  I whipped out my phone and showed him the tombstones.  He shook his head and invited me in.

The Mrs. Reverend and daughter were baking and it smelled wonderful!  I said hello and mentioned how good it smelled.  Neither responded.

I followed the Reverend through the dining room and into the living room.  He told me to sit at a table and he would bring the maps and book.  We looked through the book and found no one named Pentz.  He asked me if I was sure that I had been in his cemetery and not some other cemetery.  I was not only sure, I produced the Find-a-Grave page for the people I was looking for.  I pointed out the background that clearly showed the other church so it had to be his cemetery.

He was quietly pondering how this could be when he asked me to point on the map he produced where I had found the graves.  He asked me if the plots were near the apple trees.  I hadn’t noticed apple trees.  I told him it was close to the smaller, fenced cemetery, three rows in from there.  He replied, “Well, that explains it.  I don’t have records for that part of the cemetery.  That’s the old cemetery.  My records start in 1897.”  The tombstones I had photographed were from prior to that.

I asked where I could find the older records.  He said there weren’t any.  Huh?  Evidently Price’s Church kept no records or if they ever did, they were long gone.  He said they all knew where everyone was buried or married to so they didn’t need records.  Great!  So I would not be finding a marriage record for my Ancestor 1’s sister, either.

The Reverend could see I was deeply disappointed and asked me why it was so important that I find this information.  I told him I was a teacher and was going to be retiring soon and was planning a second career as a genealogist.  I needed the records for a paper I was writing to become certified.  He informed me his daughter was also a teacher.  He thought for a moment and said he had been told by elders that there were no burial spaces remaining in that older section.  It was possible that the stones for the people I were seeking were sunken, which would have explained why the area looked depressed to me.  He said there had been several problems with sunken stones in that area.  He suggested I go back and look carefully at the ground to see if any remaining part of a monument might be visible.  I mentioned that the stones had deteriorated a great deal since the picture had been taken and placed on Find-a-Grave.  He suggested I spray the stones with bleach water and lightly brush the lichen off.  I thanked him for his time, said good-bye to the family, and was on my way.

I stopped back at the cemetery and kicked with my foot into the ground to see if I could feel a stone.  Nothing but the area was clearly sunken.

I examined a tombstone closer and could see that it had sunk:

When I had visited in the morning I thought that the stone was on a pedestal but that’s not the case.  Upon closer inspection, and moving the dead grass off the base, I discovered that the death date is below the ground level.  I would return with bleach and a brush first thing the next morning!

On my way back to town I stopped at a third cemetery – Burn’s Hill – hoping to check records in the office as I have never been able to reach anyone by phone.  When I arrived I realized why – there is no office.  I drove through and found lots of Harbaugh’s but the stones were all newer than what I was looking for.  On to the library…

I made one last walk through of the stacks to make sure I hadn’t missed anything from the visit yesterday.  The volunteer genealogist still hadn’t come in and there was no telling when he would. There were different librarians on duty so I asked them where I could find the Union Cemetery records.  Checking the database I wasn’t surprised to get the same response as yesterday – we don’t have them.  I signed on to a computer and finished searching the newspaper archives that had been digitally uploaded.  Nothing discovered.  I asked where I could find the newspaper that had been mentioned on the pedigree chart in the museum.  They had no idea.  I was calling it a night.  Hopefully, I’d find something tomorrow.

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