Spending time in the cemetery

Created: Thursday, 07 April 2011 Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 February 2014 Written by Nathan Zipfel Print Email

It seems that recently I have been doing a lot of work with cemetery transcriptions and tombstone photos.  I think I've always had a fascination with cemeteries.  It must have started when I was just a child visiting a cemetery that my grandparents were buried in and it has grown from there.
 
I remember when I was 11 or 12 and attending a church camp near Kane, McKean County PA with one of my great-aunts. One afternoon us kids went off exploring the woods that surrounded the camp and we came across a tombstone that was just off of a farmer's field into the woods.  The place seemed to be a cemetery of sorts for old farm equipment that was no longer used.  But there surrounded by that rusted out equipment was a single tombstone.  The tombstone if I recall correctly was for a child.  Even at that age I wondered why they were buried there, where the current owners of the farm related to the child, what did they die from.  It wasn't long after this that the genealogy bug really got me and I began recording my family history.

Allen, ByrdIn recent years I have been busy photographing and transcribing cemeteries because I've learned that many of the old tombstones are quickly eroding and the inscriptions are no longer readable.  I get pretty excited when someone contacts me and tells me they want to transcribe or photography a cemetery because I know that they are helping to preserve the records of that cemetery.  I realized how important that is just a couple of years ago.
 
I had been researching my great, great, great grandfather Cyrenus Jackson and based on Census and Tax records I knew where he lived and a family biography provided his death date along with that of his wife.  Unfortunately there was no record of where he was buried.  A search of the cemetery records for the area yielded nothing.  I was visiting my sister and she wanted to take me to a little cemetery that was in an older guys backyard.  She thought it was a neat little cemetery that overlooked the Clarion River.  You could tell that there were a number of unmarked graves or graves marked with just fieldstones.  The few actual tombstones didn't have any names we were researching.
 
Later in the day we stopped at the local historical society and I was flipping through their cemetery books and came across a two page record for the cemetery that we had visited.  It was odd to me that they had it since the cemetery was in a different county and the book I was looking in was for their county.  The list had been prepared many years earlier by an elderly lady who had grown up there by that cemetery and wanted to preserve the names of the people who were buried there.  I scanned down through the list and the last people that she listed were my Cyrenus Jackson and his wife.  She even recorded what homestead they lived on.  Mystery was solved.

If you have time, take your camera and visit a cemetery and photograph the stones.  Help preserve the cemetery for future generations.  The inscriptions that you can read today will probably be gone in the years to come and people will be left wondering what it said.  If you need help getting started with a transcription project, please contact me and I'll set you on course to get it done.

Some of the cemetery work that I've been doing lately includes the following:

Forest County, PA - all known cemeteries for Howe Township have been transcribed and photographed.
Cameron County, PA - all known cemeteries in Gibson Township have been transcribed
Indiana County, PA - published transcriptions of five (5) cemeteries
Clarion County, PA - published transcriptions of six (6) cemeteries along with photos from the Shippinville Methodist Cemetery

Mona Anderson who is a like-minded cemetery person has been very busy.  I just finished posting 7,036 tombstone photos for cemeteries in Mifflin County, PA along with transcriptions of 49 cemeteries there in Mifflin County, PA.

Enjoy!

Nathan
President, PA-Roots.com