I have come to the realization that my practice in this sociological science we call genealogy, would most likely be frowned upon by the professional purists: those that view adding names to the family tree as the end result of genealogical research. But that is not how I am driven. As I have spent hours, days, weeks, searching through archived documents, I have been struck by something much deeper than names on vital records. It's my ancestor's souls. And since I introduced my great great grandmother Rebecca to you last week, I feel compelled to share my journey with her further. The telling of how I have discovered a tiny bit of Rebecca Crawford's soul.

With the placement of Rebecca's maiden name on my Ancestry.com family tree, further information began to spill out. I was overwhelmed with the new records popping up. Names were being added and I felt quite pleased with my genealogical accomplishment. And as I searched further, I discovered only one other researcher with Rebecca's name attached to their tree. Just one. I clicked on this other individual's tree and I was suddenly presented with an attachment. Not of a vital record but of something that sent a chill running through my bones: a photograph of Rebecca's grave.

As I stared at the photo of my great great grandmother's headstone, I immediately felt connected to her. I was filled with a swelling of emotion that all of us get from time to time during our discoveries, but this one was special. It was if she was calling to me, directing me to look at her. Rebecca's descendants are few, most likely only seven or eight of us, and subsequently her life has been long forgotten. So looking at the only 'photo' left of Rebecca, her headstone, was one of the most thrilling discoveries of my research.

For me, wandering through cemeteries and browsing grave markers of family members and ancestors, provides a feeling of comfort. Perhaps tagging along with my family as a young child to the cemetery, created 'grave viewing' as a normalcy for me. Death is a part of life and visiting our ancestor's graves keeps us connected to them. A bond that is perpetuated as we stare at their grave and lay flowers on their marker.

And as a family historian, I am struck by all of the volunteers in genealogy who stroll tirelessly from cemetery to cemetery, photographing grave markers and providing access to these wonderful discoveries. Contributors to websites such as Find A Grave, US GenWeb and even Ancestry.com. Gravestones not only present some of the most critical genealogical proofs such as birth, death, maiden name and names of family members. A gravestone ironically, brings life to our ancestors. A connection to their souls not found with any other genealogical document.

As I viewed the photo of Rebecca's headstone, a selfless gift from an anonymous fellow genealogist, I passionately forwarded an email. With a simple but emotional response, I wrote: 'Dear researcher....thank you, thank you, thank you!'


Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl


 


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