Monday, April 4, 2011

Cemeteries and Roots Travel

If you are like me, you enjoy looking through the cemetery on your roots travel, hoping to find the grave of an ancestor. The search can be incredibly exciting when you find the gravestone you are looking for, or it can be vaguely disappointing if you don't find what you are looking for.

My favorite memory from a cemetery was when I found an ancestor's grave from the early 1800s in a cemetery in Linlithgow, Scotland. I was searching around the cemetery when I came upon the grave of Mary Glenn. I couldn't believe my eyes. But there it was, and the death date matched. I took a photograph and some video. Then, as I walked back to the car, people were coming out of the church, the men dressed in kilts. Apparently there had been a christening that morning.

I thought about Mary Glenn. Most likely she attended that church and may have been christened there (all I had with me was the names and dates of death). It was humbling to think I might be walking the same ground my ancestor did so long ago. I had touched the gravestone, and in doing so I touched a piece of my personal history.

The roots traveler isn't always so lucky. At two or three other cemeteries I went to in Scotland, I didn't find any of the people I was looking for, although I did find graves with the same last name. They may have been cousins and that thought made the trip worth it.

So if you're planning on visiting a cemetery during your roots travel, make sure you do your homework before hand. Finding a gravesite of an ancestor is worth the time and research you put into it beforehand. You may still not find the grave you are looking for, but the search is part of the fun.

Have you found an ancestor's grave while roots traveling? If so, what did the experience feel like for you?

Old Church Cemetery, Cobh, Ireland


  1. I'm actually planning at trip tomorrow to visit a few cemeteries a few hours from home. One I've been to before, but it was very early in my research. I realized years later that a lot more of my ancestors were buried there than I thought at the time. At another cemetery I'll be photographing my GG-Grandparent's graves, which I've seen photos of online. There's just something about going in person that makes such a difference. I'll also be looking for the grave of a Great-Uncle who died in infancy. Graves of children are usually the saddest.

    I also plan to visit the local library's genealogy department to see if they can help me find the "lost grave" of my GGGG-Grandfather. I've seen a photo of the grave - but no one seems to know where it actually is!

  2. Wow, that's great! I hope you find the "lost grave" too! While the internet and FindAGrave have made getting photos of ancestor's graves easier, seeing them in person is definitely the way to go.

  3. I have not traveled more than an hour to a cemetery recently but I understand the feeling of standing there, where your ancestors stood looking at some of the same scenery they looked at, it is an amazing feeling. I felt that way visiting my G-G-G grandparents graves which includes the grave of their son who died in the Civil War. It gave chills thinking they stood in the same spot when their son died in the war.

  4. Thanks for the comment Ravenswick. The nice thing about roots travel is it doesn't matter how far you have to travel. Whether the cemetery is one hour away or a day's travel, you can have a great experience.

  5. When my Mom and i traveled to a cemetery in Maryland, we knew the information, but just wanted to see the headstones. One small headstone, leaning against, what were her parents, identified her as wife of... Next to her was the headstone of a child. We had thought, per the census that he was a late in life child. Turns out, because of the headstone, his grandparents were raising him, because his mother died shortly after he was born, and his father a few years later. He only lived to be 4 years old. What a story those headstones told!