Memorial Day comes with many family duties. In our family, although I am now the only one who lives in the state where the bulk of our family members are buried, the duty falls on my brother and his wife, who come up from Florida for the summer and stay with her family. (They live closer to the cemeteries.) John and Jan visit each grave, prune rhododendron bushes planted by my grandmother 70 years ago, clear off gravestones, and plant flowers. They then e-mail digital photos to the family.
A lot different from the days of our grandmother, who had an enormous bed of iris plants (really enormous), and who with my grandfather visited every cemetery as far and wide as they could – the majority of the family being buried within 70 miles of Boston. The first trip each year would be a few days before Memorial Day to do cleanup around the lots and leave masses of freshly cut iris in tin vases by each grave. A week or so after, the second trip would pick up the vases and dispose of the wilted flowers.
In the 1950s they took photographs of every family stone. One of my goals is to digitize these photographs and compare them to anything that has been posted online. Sixty or seventy years can make a great difference in the condition of gravestones, so I was prepared for damage. I was not prepared for missing stones. For example, my DAR ancestor Bernice Crane and his wife Joanna were buried in Fox Cemetery in Berkley, Massachusetts. Copies of my grandparents’ photographs are reproduced here.
Findagrave has Bernice’s stone, which appears to still be in good condition; in fact, the modern photo shows the grounds-keeping has definitely improved. However, Joanna’s stone is not included. Billion Graves has neither. On RootsWeb, I located photographs from the Fox Cemetery taken in 2008 and again found Bernice – but not Joanna. I am pretty sure this is just a matter of Findagrave not having complete coverage of the cemetery, as there are other family stones they do not have, so this summer I have an excuse to go out to Berkley and see exactly what is there.
I have not been to the cemetery where my parents are buried for almost two years, not since we buried my brother, David, but I will be there in June when we bury his son, Steven. When I wrote about them in my Vita Brevis post, Three Argonauts, we thought that Stevie’s ashes would be scattered at sea off Oregon, where he died. However, after much thought, the family has decided to bring him “home.” Stevie’s ashes are scheduled to arrive at my house early this week, and he will be my guest for several weeks until the burial ceremony. I would not be surprised if we had some good conversation while he is here. Having ghosts in the house doesn’t bother me – after all, I am a genealogist, so I live with ghosts all the time!